Cloud9 Siargao

FROM THE TOWN of General Luna, on the south-eastern tip of Siargao Island, you can easily espy where the waves naturally break in the sea, forming a white line of splash in the distance.

In the days before the island made its mark on the map as a prime surf spot, this natural reef barrier that serves as a marker between local waters and the mighty Pacific Ocean was where hardy fishermen would catch incredibly small fish. These fish were then fermented into ginamus, a dark, briny condiment that remains a staple on many Surigaonon dining tables.

Now those breaks are world famous for something else: surfing. The past 20 years have seen the island be defined by its famous swells — many of those who come and sing the island's praises are initially drawn to the big waves , only to later discover that there's so much more. Siargao's charm has landed it on must-visit lists around the world and all this attention is creating a subtle stirring, similar to the first ripples of what will soon develop into something big.

No surprise, then, that more establishments are popping up — from resorts, restaurants and bars, to rental shops. While most of the business owners who actually live on the island are excited about recent developments, many of them are also visibly wary of unwieldy growth, mindful of the way some idyllic beach destinations have fallen to ruin in the name of commerce.

"You can't say you've surfed the Philippines if you haven't been to this island," says Elaine Abonal of Surfista Travels, a surf tour outfitter. "Surfers, bodyboarders, adventure seekers from around the world travel all the way over. Still, while it's hardly a secret, it's not overcrowded and the vibe is generally chilled and relaxed. You can still experience simple island living — going barefoot."

Gimme a break!

Siargao Surfing

So you want to surf? Elaine Abonal tells us where and how to have a swell time in Siargao

Cloud 9
People visiting Siargao want to first see the perfect barreling wave then try to surf it themselves. The wave can go from three to 15 feet and even higher, depending on the month and season.

If you're looking for huge, challenging, oh-my-goodness-I-hope-I-live-through-this, adrenaline-pumped waves, go between September and January. The wave also breaks under sharp coral reef, so unless you really know what you're doing, best to save this for when you've skilled up.

Quiksilver is right next to Cloud 9 and is a right-hander wave (it breaks to the right), though there are short lefts sometimes. It seems like a similar wave but is usually smaller but faster. Many students have their lessons here if Cloud 9 is too daunting. Don't be fooled though, when there are big sets, they can be massive. It's best to surf this wave during mid to high tide, although some surfers prefer to surf during low tide when there are fewer surfers — better wave shape also means it can be more dangerous.

Dako break
Just off the island of Dako is a short break that's perfect for beginners. Like other breaks in the island, the wave breaks over deep coral reef. It's a fun and gentle wave with a spectacular view when you're taking a breather in between sets. Most people go there by boat and it's best to surf there only when the tide is high. The swell can be small but can also become big during the peak/big-swell season.

A little bit further east of Cloud 9 is Cemetery — it's right in front of the General Luna Cemetery, thus the name. It's usually accessible by boat but others prefer to paddle or stand-up paddle all the way there (15 to 20 minutes, depending on how fast and strong you are). There are clean left-and right-hander breaks there when the winds are just right. It's usually a gentler wave and is good for beginners when the size is right. However, it can become as big as Cloud 9 and has bred some of the top surfers of the island. There are also fewer crowds here as it takes more time and effort to get there.

Jacking Horse
It's a fast right-hander wave and is called the jacking horse because it jacks at the peak really quickly. That wave reforms on the inner reef and becomes another great wave for beginners. This breaks on shallow reef and is best surfed during medium to high tide. It usually breaks right and there is a short left.

Siargao beyond surfing

Graphic designer and island mainstay JM Libarnes, who spends a good chunk of every month hanging out in Siargao, suggests a few interesting alternatives to catching a wave

Island hopping, of course 
Hire a motorboat (at Isla Cabana, it's PHP1,800) and head off to Guyam, a tiny shape-shifting islet — the entire circumference of which you might be able to walk in under five minutes. It's uninhabited and only has a daytime caretaker who charges anyone who drops anchor PHP10 per head. If you want to park yourself in a hut, it'll cost you PHP300. From Guyam, head to the neighboring island of Dako: here you'll find a fishing village, beach huts for rent, small sari-sari stores, a surfing break that's perfect for beginners. Want more? A third island offered on regular island-hopping packages is Naked Island, a large sandbar in the middle of the channel. Book for a morning of island hopping at Isla Cabana for PHP1,800, which covers all three islands. The best time to set sail is around 6am until noon when the seas are flat.  

Siargao Stand-up paddle boarding

Stand-up paddle boarding 
One of the latest trends of things to do in the water looks deceptively easy to do, but stand-up paddle boarding (SUP) is not the breeze all those Cameron-Diaz-on-vacation-photos make it out to be. For starters, SUP requires the concentration to maintain your balance on a board that's just about 2 ft wide and 6 ft long, while paddling from one point to another. The sport also gives your arms, back, core, thighs and legs quite a workout. You can rent paddle boards in Buddha's Surf Resort for PHP700 for 24 hours and at Sagana Resort for PHP600 for the whole day plus PHP300 for a lesson.

Pool jumping in Magpupungko 
In the municipality of Pilar, in the mid-east of the island and about 45 minutes north of General Luna, the limestone tidal pools called Magpupungko will appear only during low tide, so any visit will require that you first check out the tide time. The name Magpupungko comes from the Surigaonon phrase "nagpungko ang bato", referring to the place where the rocks are on top of each other. You can get to Magpupungko by arranging for transport with your resort or renting a motorbike (for an average of PHP500 a day exclusive of gas), or a multi-cab (a local passenger van). What to do here? Make a splash and jump into any one of the clear tidal pools.

Game fishing in Pilar 
You can also go for big game fishing in Pilar, where the annual National Gamefi shing Tournament has been held for the last six years. The country's biggest game fishing tournament (we don't know of any other, actually) has drawn anglers from as far afield as Japan, France, Hungary and the UK, but if you love fishing — billfish, tangigue or dorado — you too can get in on the action thanks to a little help from the local fishermen, who double up as adventure outfitters. Just approach any of them.

Spelunking in Burgos 
In the municipality of Burgos, head over to the Duhay-Puerta Cave (Two Doors Cave) and drop by the town hall to hire a guide. As with most cave tours, it's best to do this with a local who knows the area. Locals also believe in unseen beings that reside in nature, especially in uninhabited forests and caves, and anytime you venture into these places you must politely acknowledge the spirits that live there (otherwise, there will be consequences that range from broken devices to a severe skin rash or worse). If you also fancy a ride on a local water buffalo (kabaw) after the cave adventure, contact local resident Cynthia Bourne.

Swimming in Katipunan 
Just a quick 15-minute motorbike ride from GL is Katipunan, where you can then hop aboard a pump boat for a five-minute ride to the cold spring where you get saltwater during the high tide and fresh water during the low tide.

Mangrove kayaking in Del Carmen 
You don't get many opportunities for this. Head over to the municipality of Del Carmen on the western part of the island and kayak what's been documented as the largest mangrove forest in Mindanao. Just 15 minutes from the Sayak airport (and an hour on motorbike from GL), Del Carmen also has a 300-year-old grotto in the church called Our Lady of Mt Carmel. Heads up to history buffs: the church holds records of missionaries dating back to 1571, or just 50 years after the Spanish docked in the archipelago.

Surf's up!

Long-time Siargao resident, surfer and events organizer Gerry Degan lists a few things you can look forward to in the coming months

The next few months in Siargao are very exciting. Most people don't realize that June to November is the dry season here on the east coast. While it's raining in Manila, it's all about beautiful hot sunny days here on the beach. It's also surf contest time — here are a couple you shouldn't miss.

The 6th Annual Siargao International Girls' Cup June 11 to 15
This contest will see girls surfing at their best, competitors from the Philippines, Japan, Indonesia, Australia, the US and Europe all vying for the title. It's a long way to come and it will be hard to unseat the local favorites Nelvie Blancada and Manet Alcala, but there will be many who try! This year's competition will be sponsored by Surf Angels, a local company committed to women's surfing.  
Article Courtesy Cebu Smile

Japanese IT experts tour Siargao Island

Japanese IT experts tour Siargao Island
Photo Source Municipality of Del Carmen
DAPA, SURIGAO DEL NORTE, June 7 (PIA) -- Lured by the growing popularity of Siargao Island as one of Asia-Pacific region’s major tourism destinations, a contingent of 300 information technology experts from Japan will be treated to a 4-day blowout in this “paradise island” in connection with their company’s twentieth anniversary. 

The all-expense paid holiday scheduled on June 7 – 10, 2013 is sponsored by AWS Group of Companies, a multi-million Japanese IT firm known as one of the major players in the global market. 

Lizabeth Ong-Coro, vice-president and director, said the company’s top Japanese executives will be arriving on June 7 at Sayak Airport in Del Carmen town while the rest of company delegates will be arriving at the Port of Dapa on board a chartered fastcraft from Cebu City. She identified the corporate honchos as Masayuki Aoki, Akira Konishi and Tadashi Ishikawa. 

“Our company has chosen Siargao as venue to hold our 20th anniversary because the island has plenty to offer such as the world-famous surfing spot of Cloud 9, the world-famous Dedon Island, crystal-clear waters for snorkeling, kayaking, the country’s largest mangrove forest, fresh seafoods and many others,” Coro disclosed. 

She said that during the 4-day period, the tech-savvy Japanese group will have a “team-building” workshop wherein they will be assisted by municipal officials of Del Carmen as well as by key personalities of Siargao Tourism Council and Siargao Adventures. The activity has the support also of Gov. Sol Matugas, Congressman Francisco Matugas, entrepreneur Elizabeth M. Abejo and Meluth Abejo of Siargao Blue Resort. 

“The advent of these IT experts from Japan will truly translate to boundless promotion of Siargao Island and will surely benefit our local economy as more foreign tourists and investors will become interested in our place,” Coro added.

As a leading offshore IT outsourcing services provider in Asia, the AWS Group of Companies was established in 1993 and had specialized on software development and testing services with key offices in Manila, Cebu, Tokyo, Osaka and Beijing (China). Among its clienteles are blue-chip multi-national companies such as Sanyo, Lenovo, Sharp, Toshiba TEC Corp., IBM, Sumito Heavy Industries, Ltd., JICA, Konica Minolta, M-Systems, NTC Newtech, IMES and many others. 

Lizabeth Ong-Coro is the wife of Del Carmen Mayor Alfredo Coro, Jr. (RER/Eugenio Lira, Jr./PIA-Caraga) 

Surfing and Serenity on a Remote Philippine Island

Surfing and Serenity on a Remote Philippine Island
The entrance to Siargao Island's legendary Cloud 9 break.
We sat facing a weathered wood pagoda set in an emerald sea, the perfect swimming distance from a private beach lined with crooked coconut trees. Grilled mahi-mahi that arrived via a banca, a Filipino fishing boat, just an hour earlier was seasoned with calamansi (a citrus fruit native to the Philippines) and served with grilled eggplant and squash from the resort’s organic farm, accompanied by a bottle of crisp white wine. Steps from the restaurant pavilion was our villa with its huge bed swathed in a white mosquito net, an open shower surrounded by local shiny white pebbles, and swinging outdoor daybeds. The pummeling of an unforgettable surfing session hours before made the idea of crawling back to such luxurious digs even more appealing. 

We were on Siargao (pronounced shar-GOW), a teardrop-shaped island that’s just one of the Philippines’s 7,000-plus, and the southernmost refuge for travelers before the less politically stable region of Mindanao. Even to Filipinos, the island, on the country’s Pacific-facing side, is not all that well known. Before the airport opened here in 2011, it was an overnight ferry ride from Cebu (which Magellan put on the map when he landed there in 1521). And it’s still not so easy to reach: the two-flight, roughly four-hour trip from Manila (including a layover in Cebu) has only the semblance of a schedule part of the year because of mercurial weather. 

But the island is known to surfers, largely because of its fabled break, endearingly called Cloud 9. It stands in the firmament of the best rides on the global circuit, a fast and powerful monster because of the water that sweeps in from the Philippine Trench in the Pacific Ocean. In the fall the arrival of the habagat, a weather system fed by southwest winds and easterly currents, creates even more monumental tubes. Local lore credits a drug runner-turned-surfer with putting Cloud 9 on the radar — and in the decades since, it has drawn world pros for an international tournament hosted by companies like Billabong and Quiksilver. A small industry of hippie-style guesthouses, bars and surf schools has followed. 

My interest in the island was already piqued — I have invariably found in my travels that surfers get to the best beaches first, before mass-market tourism arrives. And then came word of the opening of Dedon Island Resort, a gleaming nine-villa property. Stays there come with a full menu of adventure sports, from surfing to deep-sea fishing, and it has amenities like an outdoor cinema and a private chef using organic produce from its farm. But it also had a $1,600-a-night price tag for two attached (rates have since dropped a bit) and a Web site that used enigmatic terms like “outdoor living lab.” I wondered who was taking two small planes from the Filipino capital to spend that kind of money on an island that they most likely couldn’t place on a map. 

To find out, we left from Siargao’s tiny airport and followed an international mix of young backpackers and surfer types off the prop plane to the waiting fleet of jeepneys — colorful and ubiquitous fixtures of Filipino roads that are part bus, part jalopy, part canvas of personal expression. Cobbled together from former United States army jeeps and random spare parts, they barrel along at alarming speeds with passengers hanging out the open doors and bags haphazardly perched on top.
Dedon’s, however, was unlike any jeepney I had seen. It was done up in mirror-like chrome and shining cream paint, kitted out with terry-cloth seats like beach loungers, piped-in lounge music, and snacks of dried coconut and pineapple. As we traveled, Marlo, a resident surfer who doubled as the resort greeter, pointed out huge carabao, Filipino water buffalo, plowing bright-green paddy fields on one side, and small thatched fishing huts suspended over the water’s edge on the other. School was letting out for the day and children waved to us from the back of their parents’ motorbikes as we crossed through a little village. Then, nothing but empty, white sand beaches flickering between clusters of sloping palms. 

When we arrived at the huge lattice gates to Dedon at the end of a long dirt road, it was clear that these weren’t your usual surfer digs. Woven chairs that looked like big bird’s nests swung from coconut palms, a trampoline sat surrounded by a lattice enclosure, and large, traditional-style wood villas were linked by raised walkways past gardens full of blooming frangipani and wild orchids. On one side, a pool and secluded beach offered views of the ocean and islands beyond; on the other, channels of mangrove lagoons were the gateway to kayaking into secluded canals. After dinner, we lingered on oversize sofas and listened to soft rain falling on the roof. (It was February, the tail end of the rainy season.) 

The foosball table beside us was a reminder of the resort’s genesis. At Dedon’s center is Bobby Dekeyser, a former soccer star from Belgium who, after a career-ending injury in his 20s, turned to the high-end outdoor furniture business, producing pieces in Cebu, known for their high-quality weaving. Once there he discovered Siargao on a side trip and decided to make the property a showcase for his designs, as well as an introduction to his personal Shangri-La. The result is exactly what is advertised: a kind of luxury camp for those who want both high adventure and high design — and have the money to enjoy them in such an isolated spot.
“We are both very active, and in the course of a week we went mountain biking, stand-up paddling at sunset through mangroves, wakeboarding, and surfing in the open ocean,” said Tania Reinert, a guest from Hong Kong. “It is one of the few places that still takes a while to get to, and it feels really remote, based on fishing and farming cultures.” 

Siargao is indeed a gateway to a particularly beautiful and unspoiled region of islands and island culture. Taking advantage of a clear morning, Sean, the resort’s Kenyan-born activities guru, took us on a boat tour. We floated by Pansukian, nicknamed Naked Island, and past Guyam — really just a coconut grove ringed by sea. At a larger island called Daku, fronted by a powdery beach, fishermen mended their nets, children showed us their little brightly painted wood boats, and cockerels crowed periodically in the village’s front yards. The wood-shaded structures set along the headland are crowded with locals on the weekend, Marlo told us, but on this weekday we were alone. It was hard to imagine such beauty remaining undeveloped in other parts of Asia, and in fact a bill to protect Siargao and the outlying islands as part of an ecological preserve was approved by the country’s congress. 

After we digested a beach picnic, the sky turned ominously gray so we quickly headed to the break, where we planned to try out our rusty skills. I hesitantly clambered to my feet on the next wave, but didn’t get far before swallowing a lung full of seawater. But after a few rides I settled into a smoother rhythm. Soon a driving rain began, but our small group continued to catch the growing swell. Afterward we lay under towels in Dedon’s motorboat, shivering from the ocean and rain, drinking fresh coconut water, exhausted but happy.

Source: travel.nytimes

About Siargao

Siargao is composed of 48 islands and islets-politically divided into nine municipalities: Burgos, Dapa, Del Carmen, Gen. luna, Pilar, San Benito, San Isidro, Santa Monica, and Socorro. Read more...

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