Part 3 – STOKED!
For the entire duration of our stay there, we could just count the days we saw clear sunny skies. 3? 2? 1 ½? It was a photography enthusiast’s worst nightmare, and a beach bum’s ultimate enemy. The surfers found it troubling too because the water was unpredictable and too feral even for them. It was like all the natural elements were against us. We managed to keep our chins off our hands though. There’s always that window of sunshine somewhere.
Despite the fact that freakishly grey clouds loomed overhead in about 90% of all our shots… despite the fact that we got sick with fever for a full day… despite the fact that our plans of going crazy in other awesome places besides the beach took a turn for the worst… despite the fact that we often got trapped indoors because there was a thunder storm outside (sometimes to the point of completely ignoring our empty stomachs)… and despite the fact that everything was pretty much overpriced… we still got to surf. This meant the world to us.
Who’s complaining now!
What other places can I visit while in Siargao?
- Guyam, Daku and Naked Islands –GL; these 3 are the most popular for island hopping excursions. Each island is unique and easily accessed by boat from the take off point at the GL pier.
- Naked island resembles huge sandbar (and is devoid of vegetation, hence the name),
- Guyam is rocky, lined with coconut trees and has a solitary hut
- Daku is the biggest one amongst the 3, has a small village and is also a surf site.
All have fine white sand, clear indigo-blue waters… and everyone’s favorite… the air of exclusivity.
- Magpupungko Rock Pools – Pilar; about 1 Hr 30 min drive on a motorbike give or take. Upon seeing the beautiful rock formations and natural lagoons, you will thank the heavens for helping you get there. Swim, snorkel, dive and everything else on low tide. Just on low tide.
- Caub Island – del Carmen; This island can only be accessed by boat on high tide. Kayaking is a favorite amongst these waters.
- Twin Islands La Janoza and Mamon –easternmost islands of the Philippines; lined by pure white and powdery sand, perfect for snorkeling and surfing.
- Bucas Grande Island – 2 hours by boat from GL; major island of Surigao but not as well know as Siargao and Dinagat.
- Sohoton Cove – declared one of the top 10 protected areas in the Philippines; an emerald maze of limestone cliffs, thick plant life, indigo blues and greens of untainted water accessible only on low tide; from January to September it is teeming with stingless jellyfish, besides being the home of a variety of exotic marine animals.
- Dinagat Islands – considered as one of the holiest places in the archipelago and has christened itself the “The Mystical Island Province of Love”… love is right— it is a paradise for adventure aficionados; it is blessed with caves and rock formations, waterfalls, hot and cold springs, lagoons and tidal flats, forests, dive and surf sites, lakes and white beaches! WHITE beaches. Tons. And all yours.
- Del Carmen Swamps – del Carmen may be well-known for manananggal folklore but chances are this was spread around by the townspeople just to hide the fact that they have the most breathtaking mangrove forests inhabited by the biggest species of saltwater crocodiles in the country; otherwise known as the Crocodile Sanctuary of the Philippines
- Santa Monica Waterfalls (Taktak Falls) – Sta. Monica; you can never go wrong with a fresh burst of this loving tranquil water in a virginal forest.
Writing this part of the entry is bringing tears to my eyes (in my head) as we haven’t really gotten the chance to explore each during this trip. Jake has been there in the past though so I’m throwing him applause bombs.
In our desperation, we boarded a habal2x to another surf spot on the island… Giwan in Dapa. This was where all the surfers congregated during that time month when the waves out at Cloud 9 could get all blown out and unridable. Also dubbed as being kind to beginners such as myself, we took the chance to trek through a muddy forest of coconut trees with our rented boards in hand and the instructor trailing by. On our first visit, instructor man blew our hopes by saying it was too dangerous to hit the waves since it was low tide and the rocks were being a**holes. He refused to let us ride. Instead, he told us we better head back to GL so we could take a boat out to Daku Island where the waves would be better.
Naïve as we were, we returned to GL and asked some pump boats to take us there. Most, if not everyone around, told us it was too risky to go over there as the water was unpredictable and quite turbulent. When we looked around for our instructor… Poof! Gone. He sent someone else to assist us instead. Instructor #2 came to our rescue and told us instructor #1 went home because of a stomach ache.
Belle: What a douche. I bet he only wanted to go island hopping. And now that he can’t, he evaporates like pee on a sidewalk.
Jake: Guess what. He left his surfboard.
Belle & Jake: *sly grins*
Our new instructor told us Giwan is indeed the best spot to practice… so yeah, we went back a second time after grabbing lunch. Bellies all fattened up and heads threatened by a food coma, we resumed with our seemingly endless undertaking. As we were approaching the site, a whole bunch of people were already heading out the opposite way.
Random Foreign Brah: Bail out! You don’t wanna go there, man!
Random Local Brah: There’re about 400 people in the water!
He was right. It felt like the entirety of Siargao was there. Surfers, their bunnies, spongers, gremmies, even (dare I say) posers. The water teemed with heads and bodies… it was crazy! And we thought we went at off-season. Pssh.
Belle: Are we missing something? Is there some sort of convention or what?
Jake: So… you gonna abort operation kowabunga?
Belle: Oh heyz noez! Let’s party!
With that, we stripped off anything that wasn’t made of nylon/spandex blend fabric and dove right in. After a short run through from Budok the instructor, who also happened to be a former junior surf champion back in the early 2000’s, I was ready for takeoff. Clumsy as I naturally am, it took a bit of practice and a crapload of wipeouts before I could experience what we all call “STOKED!” Yes, that very first time you find the balance to actually stand on your board… THAT is numero uno stoke-city.
That very first time you glide over a dynamic body of water and you’re in control… that very first time you find your equilibrium and adrenaline keeps peaking… that very first time you discover sublime interconnection with the sea… that is STOKED.
Call it dramatic, but out there I felt like I was finally in my element.
Jake: Toes on the nose!
At some point, I got too selfish with the waves and rode on even when I saw the jagged coast just a few feet ahead. I deliberately forgot to bail out at the last second so I sent the poor board crashing unto some heavy duty rocks while hearing a conflicting barrage of “GET OFF!” and “STAY ON!” from the onlookers. WTF?
That’s how I met Women’s Champion Manette Alcala in the flesh again. As I was struggling to detangle myself from the board and trying to get on my feet while being bombarded by continuous slaps from whitewash, I saw her running towards me from the corner of my eye. At first I didn’t recognize her. All I know was, coming up from the rocks, her ripped highness was stumbling at high speed from the elevated patch of grass just above me.
Funny thing was, the whole time I thought she was trying to save me.
Manette: The board! The board! Get the board out of there! Is the board okay?
LOL. We managed to have a teensy chitchat before she headed on out after playing for quite a while in the water. She was actually practicing for the Baler competition lurking a week nearby (and yes, she did bag a champion win for that. Good job, Manette!). Dear God, why can’t we have abs like that?
After resting a bit on dry land, Jake and I decided to hit the surf again. Budok stayed behind as he was all maxed out. The whole time he was busting moves on those ankle busters like tomorrow was the end of the world. I avoided getting hit in the head by nearby surfers while Jake took his turn on the stick. Little did we know that the tide was slowly rising, the current getting tougher, and waves coming at us in heavier sets. We were too preoccupied amusing ourselves that the next thing we knew was that Budok and the people on shore were yelling at us to “COME BACK!”
Apparently, we’ve gone too far out. We looked around and saw that even the number of surfers around us have been reduced to a handful and yes, the ones out on shore looked like miniscule twigs and sticks. Panicked and souped out, we paddled as hard as we could but instead of moving forward we were pushed back out into the open sea by the progressively strengthening tide. The thought of letting the board loose to avoid getting tangled in it even crossed our minds. In, out, up and down— all we saw was water and lots of it. It was crazy! It was also Jake’s chance to prove his superhero potential.
I was taken aback by the stark realization that after all these years, my confidence in being a good swimmer was all a lie. It came to a point that my limbs have gotten too tired to try and resist the current that I only managed a squeak of “help”. Jake made me climb up unto the board and we scampered to paddle together. It took awhile before we got used to it. A good safe distance later, Budok swam in and helped usher us back to shore.
Belle: My hero!
Jake: Never… never again?
Belle: Let’s call it a day.
To be continued…