August 2009
Part I

If you want to skip directly to the next part, then just hit
Part II


This an abridged description of a trip to Siargao (see map below) in August 2009. This island is located in the north-eastern part of Mindanao and is very well known to the surfing community for its high waves sweeping in from the Pacific Ocean mainly during the month of September. We didn't go there to surf, but you can surf the internet for more information about it. My intention is just to give a firsthand personal experience of how we, Joy and I, traveled to and around that place.

Since this is not only a travel report but also a personal memory album I don't apologize for Joy mostly standing or sitting in the way while taking the photos. This may also be proof of my copyright.

How to get from Berlin (or Frankfurt) to Siargao

There are several ways to get there. One is to Cebu City directly (with Malaysian Airline via Kuala Lumpur, for example). The other is to Manila (as described in some of my previous travel reports) and then with a connection flight to Cebu City, for example with Cebu Pacific, which always offers cheap promo fares. Then there is another Cebu Pacific flight from Cebu City to Siargao three times a week.

All this depends on what other parts of the Philippines you are visiting and whether you are living in the Philippines. Siargao ought to be just good enough for a short trip or one of several nice places to visit as part of a whole itinerary, though many foreigners have settled down there for a longer period or forever.

As far as we are concerned we flew one way only with Cebu Pacific but the other way around: from Siargao to Cebu City for 1516 Peso (22 Euro) and from Cebu City to Manila for 1316 Peso (20 Euro) per person.

To get from Manila to Siargao in the first place we took the sea route as described below.

Superferry "Cruise"

Just one day before, we decided to go by boat. We were just lucky to get the last stateroom on the Superferry. The fare of 4955 Peso (73 Euro) was for two and included all meals. The same stateroom for a single person would have cost almost the same, just 2 Euro less. Since we had to sleep two nights during the cruise, it was a good deal.

Ok, from here on I will only state the prices in Euro for simplification. I took the average exchange rate of 68 Pesos to the Euro valid at the time we went on this trip.

Click the small picture to get it enlarged

Waiting in the departure hall Embarking on the Superferry
The Superferry number 19 left from the South Port of Manila on a Wednesday at 10:45 p.m. (once a week) for Surigao, the city in the northern province of Mindanao of the same name, and was supposed to arrive on Friday at 8:15 a.m.

Half the Superferry Half the Stateroom
The stateroom was like a hotel room with bathroom (hot water) and TV. We made sure in advance that we had a window to the outside. We even had a door to the front viewing deck, where we also could look and even climb down to a life raft. There were also enough life vests inside the cabinet. So we were ready to get off the ship in case it should sink. What actually just happened to another Superferry, number 9 (not 19), south of Zamboanga in Mindanao, a month later.
Watching television Eating in the restaurant
The meals were edible and basically saturable. The small portions guaranteed an effective diet, if not thwarted by cookies and chips bought from the small supermarket. Except for a beauty parlor and a chapel there was not much around like on real cruise ship. But it was all very relaxing walking around and watching other ships and islands passing by.
Plying the sea ahead Passing small islands
With full speed Around thirty knots?
Another ship in a distance passing by A fisherboat really comes very close


Our Superferry's final destination was Surigao (after a stopover in Bacolod on the island of Negros), not Siargao yet. The ship slowed down and the crew got ready to moor. What are the dots swimming in the water? By getting closer we saw a bunch of boys swimming on a floating bag with paddles on their feet. They were quick to get close to the ship but also fast to get out of its way and not to be squeezed against the quay.
Surigao is in sight Getting into the harbor
But what is swimming around? Boys waiting for coins to be thrown
It was already 10:30 a.m., more than two hours after the estimated arrival time, when we finally moored at the pier in Surigao.
She ship took almost 45 minutes to get moored Getting a lasting impression of that port building
It was time to get off the Superferry and jump on a ship of the Montenegro Shipping Lines leaving at noon. The fare was only 1.50 Euro per person.
This is the whole of the Superferry This is the back of the Montenegro ferry
We settled down in the aircon "lounge". Drinks and snacks could be bought from a small counter at the back of the ship.

Arriving on Siargao Island

The sea was calm and we arrived in the town of Dapa of the island of Siargao at around 3:30 in the afternoon. While on board I did send an SMS to a resort in General Luna (as listed in my guidebook) to ask for available accommodation and did get the positive answer right away: Yes we have.

General Luna and around

How to get there? We wanted to take a jeepney as mentioned in the guidebook. The trike drivers surrounding us told us that there is none (I learned never to believe them). But they were right or the police (a police car just happened to be around) being asked were lying too. What the heck. We took a trike (trycicle motor bike) and paid 3 Euro for the 15km or so. And we had a destination already, the
Cherinicole Beach Resort
General Luna
Siargao Island
Tel.: 0928-6098963
It almost looked all empty, so we could choose cottages with fan in the back yard for 12 Euro to a beach front cottage with aircon, fridge and TV for 37 Euro. We took the latter one for a special price of 30 Euro, because we wanted to stay more than 5 nights, because this place looked nice.
This is our large front beach cottage next to a restaurant and swimming pool
The pool seen from behind Also with a pool bar inside
Swimming in the pool was sometimes the only option. There was no way to swim in the sea in front of the resort at low tide. The lagoon even up to the reef far away is very shallow.
View of the front from the beach View in front to the sea
But there was a much better beach just 500m to the north even at low tide. It was also more fun to walk barefoot on the sand or a little out into the water and there was no danger to get drowned.
View of the beach at low tide even to be able to swim here a bit
It really was a nice place but no resort right on this site but a grave yard for your last rest. I had already encountered a similar one on Camote Islands (see previous travel report) and now I really had to ask the question: Why some Filipinos bury their dead people on or close to a beautiful beach? The answer I did get was: Because the Filipinos like to have a picnic together with their dead ancestors and a beach is one of the best places for that, combining fun and worship.
What idyllic place But oh my God
At first I could not believe it. But then I saw a television report about people using the graves as picnic tables to even share symbolically their food with their dead ancestors, especially during their mourning holidays, like All Saints.

All Asians, regardless of religion, have a different relationship with their dead and actively worship their ancestors much more than in Western societies. It starts with elder people already being much more respected. It is unthinkable that a son or a daughter, no matter how old, behaves disrespectful to their father or mother.
Having picnic around the grave in the sand? This is more suitable to use as a picnic table
Ok, if you don't want to eat with the dead then just the next lot up north there is a real picnic area with even huts for rent. Also the beach is still nice.
Just next at the beach is a picnic area And living quarters of the local people
You also can stay here just in the second row from the beach and very cheap, which is at
Acoy & Joy
Pesangan Lodge
General Luna
Siargao Island
also to be reached 500m from Cherinicole on the road up north. I didn't ask for the daily rate of a cottage but an Australian guy I met paid only 118 Euro for the whole month.
And behind closer to the road you will find this cheap lodge
As far as eating was concerned, Cherinicole had not much to offer during this low season with almost no other guests around. It is advisable to order well in advance before you are planning to eat in their restaurant (though nicely located with a sea view and breeze). Few times we ordered American breakfast (for 2.60 Euro) half an hour before we were ready to eat. But most of the time we went to
General Luna
Siargao Island
just 50m from Cherinicole at the road. The American breakfast here was less than half the price of the one at Cherinicole, but without bacon though. Also most of our dinners we consumed at this place. It looked like that all foreigners and tourists in that area met here in the evening.

You could choose your food from a well assorted grill station and get it prepared to your liking. Two slices of grilled Marlin fish, two grilled veggie kebabs, two rice, two beers and one Sprite did cost 3.50 Euro all together.

They even offer decent rooms adjacent to the restaurant for 12 Euro. One special price is 31 Euro for a cottage accommodating 4 people including all meals.

And after the big meal you can have a couple of beers with some expats and talk about life on the island or have your drinks at the Nine Bar just a few meters on the road up north.
And this is a good cheap eat and here you can drink cheap
But the ultimate indulgence in good but heavy German food is at the
Flying Fox
General Luna
Siargao Island
around 4km from General Luna on the road to Dapa. A habal-habal motorbike takes you there for 0.75 Euro. Of course, the owner must be German. His name is Victor. He flaunted that he was a five star chef in Florida before.

The food really is very delicious and not expensive at all. He just offered us a whole freshly smoked Mahi Mahi and together with garlic bread and German potato salad it came up to 5.75 Euro all together for the two of us. You can have chicken, rice and garlic bread good enough for two for half the price.
And here you can get the best food like a Mahi Mahi fish very well smoked
Just located in the last street left side of the road out of General Luna to Dapa is another restaurant frequented by foreigners, the
Payag Café
General Luna
Siargao Island
It's a nice cozy place to sit and have a drink. Only a choice of four dishes were available at the time we were there, because the extension of the restaurant with kitchen was under construction. So business must be thriving.
It's a cosy place to sit outside You can sit inside but not in this
Maybe the hut is built for the monkey and for the falcon to watch from the roof
So it was just a miniature hut And this one a foreigner's big hut
The monkey and the bird were kept in the backyard. The green and white house is located in the same street and has been just finished by a guy from London who retired and lives here now with his Filipina wife.

So people with money are coming to this little town and around. A lawyer from France really invested a fortune into his
Pansukian Resort
General Luna
Siargao Island
Tel.: 0918-9039055
for rich tourists who can spend at least 110 Euro per person per night, including three (haute cuisine?) meals. The locals call it Rambo's place, because the owner's name is Rambeau.

We wanted to see it, so we went 4km to the south from General Luna along the coast by habal-habal bike. The word is derived from the copulation position of pigs: belly to back, and that sometimes with up to five and more people, all in one row on one bike, depending on the extension of the seat.

The gate was half open so we went inside to look for the reception. Nobody was around except the gardener. Non Monsieur Rambeau. He was in Cebu. The financial crisis must have hit his business too: there were no guests at all in his resort.

We did get permission to walk freely around. So let's take a look:

The first and only first class resort in Siargao
Sleeping here Eating here
To get to the cottage you must wash your feet
The beach looks fantastic from here with palm trees withstanding the breeze
It all looked perfect. But the sea in front of the beach at low tide didn't look that nice. The spot at the cemetery described before looked much much better than this shore. Though, here are more possibilities of what you can do.
Sailing? Not with this boat , though
Or relaxing? Better to relax here
There is also the option to go on a dive trip But not between the mangroves but way out to the sea
If you should not be able to pay the full board accommodation at the Panuksian Resort, then maybe at the
Jadestar Lodge
8419 General Luna
Siargao Island
Tel.: 0919-2344367
we visited on the way back just 1km before General Luna. We didn't stay here either but only took a look at that place. The cottages start from 7.50 Euro to 22.00 Euro. The proprietor Filipino couple was very friendly.

The reason I mention this place was also because we rented here a van with driver for 37 Euro for a day to go around the island and a boat with boatman for 18 Euro to visit other islands on another day (see second part of this travel report).

The lift to the airport at the end of our stay did cost 22 Euro.

And now I finally will describe the place which makes surfers extremely happy: Cloud Nine, only 3km up north from General Luna.
Finally we visit the famous Cloud Nine spot But it does not look like a surfer's paradise
Instead of wading through shallow water or stumbling with your board over rocks
You can walk over the board walk To get to the Cloud Nine waves
Ok, the waves right now were really for beginners. I even would have dared to ride these waves, even a little bit higher. Maybe I should have started to practice now for the tubes very likely to come next month.

Just one mile out there is a drop in the ocean to 500m, followed by another one of 1500m, followed by one of the deepest ocean in the world: the Philippine trench with 10,000m.

So you can imagine how the waves may roll in. So will a Tsunami. You can see sign boards all over the east side of Siargao warning of a Tsunami with the advise to leave for higher grounds. But it may be all too late anyway because it did not say how the population will be warned just in time to head for the hills a couple of miles away.
Just right for beginners to get a surfing lesson
So in September it is supposed to get crowded here around Cloud Nine. Also an international surfing contest is due to take place then. Look up the internet to get the latest information and book accommodation very well in advance if you don't want to sleep on the beach.
You can stay here in nice houses
during the surfing season or sleeping on the beach

If you want to skip now to the next part, then just hit
Part II

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