End of January I left Australia with a stopover of 2 days in Manila. I wanted to go to the immigration office to extend the 30 days on- arrival visa to 59 days without any stress. Finally this was really easy. I just had to find the office and pay an invoice of approx. 60 US$.
After that I had to wait for 1- 2h until I was asked to go to the final desk. There I received my passport with the sticker in it that showed the final date I’m allowed to stay. I don’t have any clue what they did or checked during that waiting period, but I think the main task is just to get the money from the tourists. Whatever…. I’m happy it worked out so well, with only a short waiting period.
On my 2nd day in Manila I thought I could do some sightseeing, but the city is so chaotic and ugly, that I just went for a walk in this craziness to get at least an impression of it.
Siargao: the „surf island“ of the Philippines
I went to Siargao from Manila with 2 domestic flights. I was kind of afraid that all of the luggage which was standing in front of this little prop airliner wouldn’t fit in. I kept an eye on my boardbag until I was sure it was in the plane…. Luckily everything arrived on the same day without delays ?
I was thinking about going to Siargao already 3 years ago, but hesitated as the transfer to the island is a bit of a hassle with the connections. Finally I didn’t go that time. This time I will be on the Philippines for 6 weeks which means the transfer is not a big issue.
Actually it’s really nice that it’s not that easy to reach the island as there is not that much tourism yet. For sure there is already a lot of hotels/ hostels and resorts around the area of General Luna as the surfspot Cloud 9 is well known by surfers. But the locals said that when the direct flight from Manila to Siargao will start being operated this year, there will be even more tourists on the island. As a reason of that I’m happy to be able to be here right now and enjoy the mix of tourism, but also still be able to experience non- touristic parts of the island.
The first two weeks on the island
My first two weeks on the island have been a bit chaotic. During the first days it rained a lot, which takes a lot of the charme from the green paradise. The humidity which is already really high is getting even worse with the rain, which can be really annoying some times.
Luckily there were also some sunny days. On one of those days I went on an island hopping, which was my first time on the ocean in the Philippines. That meant I could see the ocean which is incredibly turquois/ blue and clear. I also cruised around the island with some people of the hostel, so I could see how beautiful the island is….. even more in good weather.
The main transportation on the island are bikes. Everybody sits on them in shorts, t-shirts, flip flops and without a helmet or even a driver’s license. It happens that there are people alone on the bike, but I’ve also seen up to 6 people on one bike. So no need for a car at all?. Nearly everybody does have a board rack on the bike, which is pretty normal driving to the surfspots like that. If there is no rack, the boards are stored in every direction or the passenger just holds it on the side of the bike.
At home I’d tell everybody to be crazy who does that, as it can be really painful without any protection if an accident happens. But here it seems like it’s working out pretty good.
It’s really impressing how open the kids on the streets are to foreigners that are driving by with the bike. They stand on the streets, greeting and waving to the drivers. They are so happy when they get a reaction, no matter if it’s honking or waving. If one is passing by really slowly and gives them a “high 5” it seems like this is a great success for them. The dogs that stand, lie or walk everywhere on the streets also react to the common honking. They are used to moving out of the way ? (this also works for the pedestrians as well as slower bikes ?).
We did have a shocking moment at the hostel one morning as we discovered that one board was stolen off the board rack during the night. It was unbelievable that it happened as the locals always said “normally no boards will be stolen” and on top of it, this board was not such a great board anyway. Definitely there were some other, better board on the board rack.
So we had not much hope in getting the board back. Nevertheless the locals said that on this small island it would be recognized if the board is on offer. Okay…. we stayed skeptical at all.
Lots of local people helped to search for the board with posts on facebook and spreading photos of it in messages. We could hardly believe that three days after the steal a guy showed up and told us that the board appeared again as it was sold immediately. The thief was dumb enough or really desperate for the money to just sell it a day after he stole it. Luckily one of the Filipinos recognized the board in the line- up and just took the guy that bought it to task. The guy was really honest and surprised that he bought a stolen board, which finally was given back to the board shop.
I experienced this as an awesome situation and am really happy that the network did work out that well. I also appreciate that the finder did have such open eyes to recognize the board and even more did have the courge to talk to the guy that bought it.
Since that day….. all of the boards are stored in a little locked room ? -> lesson learnt.
Svenja and the ocean
The ocean is sooo unbelievable clear and green…. There are surfspots around the island, which can be reached with a scooter or via boat in the open ocean.
Unfortunately there was a lot of wind during the first days, which meant that there was no use in going to the spots in the open ocean. As a reason of that everybody goes to a handful spots which are protected from the wind. That means that there are a loooot of people in the water.
One day we went up north to a really unknown spot with the locals. The wave was breaking perfectly in front of a rock. I was really unlucky that I got washed to the rock and was out of the water earlier than expected ?The board got a really big dig and I left with reefcuts in the foot and the leg ? Thus no surf for the following 5 days until the board was fixed and the sole of foot was all right again.
Apart from that we did go to several other spots, where I caught really nice fun waves?♀️ I’m hopeful that during the next days it will go on like that.