Day 16 in Siargao, Philippines and I have not much negative to say about this island. Have you ever experienced falling in love with a place and find yourself saying, “I can live here.”
I’m sure you have. I am also willing to bet you’ve said that about a lot of places because I did, too. But the feeling in Siargao is different. It’s something I am not just saying but I am also believing with all the veins of my body: I can live here.
The question is, should I move to Siargao?
Okay, I am going to tell you something: I plan to leave again very soon for another journey like what I did in South America: slow and for an indefinite time. I have no idea where to go yet but I just feel that I am ready to leave again after 7 months of visiting family and friends in all over Southeast Asia. I am fortunate enough to have Siargao included in this spree because I really have a strong feeling about this place.
I am pretty sure it will be an adventure living here, to say at least. The simple lifestyle is something that fits my preference and the island’s vibe match the right wavelength I am unconsciously looking for.
Siargao is the most laid-back island I’ve been to. I have never questioned this feeling since the day I arrived. People are not in a hurry. They take life slowly. It’s like an ocean deep hole that has its own world and magic where “chilling” is the local past time. This is the reality here and I don’t want to get out of it.
… are incredibly friendly. Children are always smiling, ladies in the market are always willing to assist you in the best way they can, men in motorcycles will always wave as they pass by. And the animals? Goats, carabaos, horses, dogs, cats, etc roam freely like locals.
Pretty cheap. You can eat good food for Php50.000 ($1.00 USD). For those who have been backpacking here long-term, the market spells convenience. Although it is very small, fruits, vegetables and meat are available.
For Php12,000.00 ($250.00 USD), you can rent a 2-bedroom fully furnished apartment. Motorcycle is the main mode of transport. A litre of gas is only Php40.00 ($0.9 USD) and this much can take you a long way. Motorcycles can be rented from Php300.00 ($6.4 USD) daily rate.
Cost of living is very cheap that the locals who work in foreign owned bars and restaurants are paid Php5,000 monthly. Most of them say this is more than enough for them and their families.
There are under 20 restaurants in Siargao and all of them offer something good. If you want good quality burgers, Surf ‘n Dine is the best in this department. For Php200 ($4.2 USD), you get a fat as* burger made with good meat accompanied by fries. Spanish Cuisine is served daily at Bravo, a Catalan-owned restaurant which has been operating since September 2015. I honestly did not like the food selection in Bravo but I can vouch for their paella — it’s the real deal. For Php700.00 ($15.00 USD), you can share a big pan of the Spanish paella experience with a mate or two. Yeah, a bit expensive but worth paying the price.
When people are craving for pizza, Kermit always comes to mind. From a wide selection of wines, to legit cheese to real parma ham, Kermit prides itself to serving good and authentic Italian food. Beware! They are always full. People actually reserve a seat in advance to experience their brick oven baked pizza. Of course, good food comes with a price: Kermit’s cheapest price on the menu is Php200 ($4.2 USD) for a one course (ex: starters) and can go up to Php500.00 ($10.7 USD) for the main dish. Which I can say is a pretty fair price for what they serve. If you want a cheaper option or in any case Kermit is fully booked, Aventino’s is also a good and affordable choice.
Looking for grilled? Siargao has it, too! Mama’s Grill is one of the most popular among backpackers and young travelers alike. For Php180.00 ($3.9 USD), you can get a big fresh fish off Mama’s grill accompanied by rice and a series of sauces. Meat is available, too.
If you want a cheaper version of grilled, the market has a lot of this. One of them is Lalay’s which is utterly famous when Mama’s is full. There are also a lot of places in the market that serves “Lutong Bahay,” a term we Filipinos use for food cooked at home. Famous Filipino dishes like adobo, chicken curry, sinigang, afritada, et al start at Php65.00 ($1.4 USD). A few meters away is the only Mexican joint (stand up restaurant style) where a good burrito costs only Php100.00 ($2.14 USD). Beers in the whole of Siargao is only Php50.00 ($1.1 USD) while liquors start from Php80.00 ($1.7 USD) to Php200.00 ($4.2 USD).
Worry not, my friends. Even though the Philippines is known for its classically tasteless 3-in-1 coffee, the island has specialty coffee at Shaka Siargao. Satisfy your craving with real latte, cappuccino and flat white coffee. The cafe is close to the famous surfing spot (Cloud9) and their breakfast bowls are preferred by surfers after an early morning playdate with the waves. Above all, the staff is amazing. They are actually my best buddies here as I started to build my office in Shaka.
Back open tomorrow as per usual serving you daily dose of goodness. Don’t forget coffee and a bowl combo only 300 pesos all day every day [email protected] . . . . . . #shakasiargao #cloud9 #siargao #island #philippines #health #healthyliving #healthyphilippines #manila #Cebu #bohol #surigaoislands #vegan #vegetarian #cafe
A photo posted by Shaka Siargao (@shakasiargao) on
Another cafe which is good at what they do is Cafe Loka. Situated in Cloud9, it is also visited for its super fresh power juices and fairly good coffee. It has a lot of place to relax including wood seats and hammocks by the beach. You can also bring a beach towel and set your place in its vicinity. Yes, Cafe Loka is facing the ocean.
Since coffee is synonymous to work and wifi, let’s talk about Internet connection. Is Siargao a good place for Digital Nomads? Is there a relatively good wifi signal for people like me who earns a living online?
Well, as per my experience.. internet here is kind of crappy. Wifi is available in all cafes and restaurants however, the signal is based on the volume of people using it. On most days, they are packed so working online becomes more challenging and… very very slow. I’ve had a few successful attempts on working 6 hours straight but that only happened once. The rest of the days I am here is just hoping and giving up I will be able to finish a task. This is also the reason why I can’t update the blog as much.
Driving a motorcycle here (as dangerous as it may sound to our parents), is very safe. There are very few cars on the road. You will not see huge modes of transportation like a bus. Delivery trucks? Well, I don’t know if they really come here as supplies are delivered through water. The road safety situation in Siargao made the lives of the mothers better: they can basically do household chores while their children are playing on the highway. They don’t need to watch them 24/7 like in the city. And oh, kids can drive motorcycles, too!
However, some islanders still encounter motorcycle accidents because of underdeveloped areas and unfinished bridges. Factors like continuous rain showers and very dark streets can affect one’s driving. I recently had 2 minor accidents because of these (and of course, the lack of speed care) last week and a lot of people who saw me acted normally. They are used to it. It’s not a big deal.
Walking at night is very safe too. I didn’t have a motorcycle during my first week here because of not feeling the need yet. There was one time I walked 2km at 23:00, no lamp lights and I felt safe. There is a lot of home break ins though but usually harmless. They are only looking for money and will ignore the rest of your stuff at home. One of my friends experienced it losing money (about Php500) but his laptop was left behind even if they were very visible. There is no way they can sell laptops in the island nor are they thrilled to use one.
Sunny, all year round but El Niño is not a problem here. It will rain at least once a day and will have an erratic change to a very hot weather half of the time. Although they say it’s always a holiday in Siargao, the island has its own peak season compared to the summer season of the country. If the rest of the famous Philippine island destinations find themselves busy from November to March, Siargao’s high season is from September to December. The reason for this is they can achieve summer all year round and that big waves come in September. Surfers from all over the world come to play with waves up to 12 feet and perfect tubes that is pleasing for surf enthusiasts. I feel very lucky to witness the low season of Siargao but I’d like to see the peak, too.
Very very chill. Siargao don’t have big and crazy parties like Boracay but this is just right for me. For the duration of my stay here, there was a nightlife routine: Mondays will be a light dancing party at Rum Bar, where everyone bangs their head and jumps for joy for music that are familiar. Something that everyone knows aka 90s. As time goes by, I got sick of it. The music, not just in Rum Bar but Siargao in general is way behind Boracay. Anyway, the people still enjoy it so I’m not complaining. You have to be high or drunk to be able to keep up.
Tuesdays are for Jungle: an outdoor club popular to backpackers which is at par with Rum Bar in terms of music. It sucks, too. But Jungle kept afloat because people still come. Fridays are also for Jungle except if there are interesting parties in bigger chill out bars like Harana or Buddha. Have a beer and sit beneath the coconut trees in these 2 bars which are known for its elegantly chill furnitures and decor.
People sleep early in the island so most parties get cut off at midnight. HotSpot can solve the interrupted parties as it is open until late. Reggae music blare the bar until 6:00 in the morning. Not everyone has the same wavelength of going to HotSpot though. It all depends on the mood of the night.
Word spreads fast about parties and believe me when I say everyone goes to the same place every night.
It’s not always rainbows and unicorns though. There are some negative observations I have for Siargao.
Local women seen with foreigners are still looked at as prostitutes. Growing up in the United States Naval Base (Subic), I am one of those people who are used to this kind of notion. I am so used to it that I have the power to ignore it every time I am labeled this. This is still one of the areas of the Philippines that is embracing the foreign tourism but are not ready to accept women ‘dating’ foreigners. For most of them, having a ‘white’ boyfriend goes with gold digging — a notion that is false 75% of the time. Some of the girls I know are very shy to be seen riding in motorcycles with their boyfriends. They are very scared to be judged by their community.
On the other side of the coin, I have also observed how a lot of young girls who are very aggressive. Those who think that foreigners can give them a good life. Instead of going to school, girls as young as 14 work in bars and restaurants, hoping that one day, they will meet a foreigner and get married. School is for free. They only have to pay miscellaneous fees of Php350.00 and to some, it is still not affordable nor a priority. I have seen how half of the girls here have a very different situation as I had growing up even if we were in the same country.
Speaking of rubbing elbows with foreigners, there is also a little discrimination when it comes to playing with the waves. Some locals give way to more foreigners and women. And I find that ridiculous. Sure, many of the locals are still preserving the exclusivity of the island but I am against the idea of ‘ownership.’ One of the best traits of Siargao is bringing people together but there is still a tension between people who have been here for a long time and people (like me) who’s a newbie. I am not speaking for everyone though. We might have different experiences here but this is an observation from personal encounters of someone who is born and raised in the Philippines. Things might be different for you.
One French dude I met here asked me once: “Why do most Filipinas here act like 15 year olds?” I actually had to clarify if I was included in that pack since he was referring to the whole country. He’s also met those girls who go to clubs to look for a foreign boyfriend. His question delved more into education: Why do girls don’t even finish High School here? Going to college, he said, was not questionable because he himself did not go to University in France. At least go to High School, no? he insisted. I told him we have a very different situation compared to his country. It’s not like France where anyone can go to school for free. Regions of the Philippines like this are way behind in terms of education. Basically, the people from bigger cities like Manila and Cebu have deeper educational attainment because of their respective region’s economic status.
You said you can’t do what you want because of financial reasons. That you don’t have enough savings to travel. That you have to bury your face in the cubicle for longer hours just to have extra. But I am willing to bet you are reading this from a Macbook, a savvy iPhone6s Plus or the new waterproof Samsung S7. You’re probably on your way (in an expensive Uber ride) to some club because it’s a Friday night. Nope, I’m not promoting these brands. I actually don’t have a phone or a camera. I won’t lie about having a Lenovo phablet tho. It’s okay. You have the right to spend your hard earned cash on gadgets or going out. You are also entitled to staying in a very stable 9-5 job and I will never ask you to quit. Remember I used to believe in that? Now the feeling is gone. You can still have an office job and be happy. Stable is not a bad thing. What I want to ask you is to never lose your passion and enthusiasm. Do not go through your daily life just to get by. Do it right and do it with all your heart. Getting by will eat you alive! Whatever it is that you do, passion is essential to happiness. No matter how big or small, as long as it feels right, it will fit. It’s about the strong feeling towards a certain thing you want to pursue; not if the choice is wrong or right. You don’t believe me? Think about all the people you admire who are good at what they do. What is the common denominator they have? PASSION. Don’t just live vicariously through them. Join the club. <3 Smile. Soon enough, you will find something you will be passionate about and it will make you happy for the rest of your life. That’s a promise. May the force be with you. Photo: @meowrang #Siargao #Philippines
Okay, I might write too much politics since the Philippine National Elections just happened yesterday. I don’t want to direct this article to that. Which gets me to the next negative point: there is not much restaurants here. A Spanish friend of mine said he got tired of the repetitive food routine so he left to go to Bohol. For most Europeans, food is a very important part of traveling and Siargao kind of failed in that department. You might not feel it if you are only staying for a week but more than that? You will realise that less than 20 restaurants are not enough. Siargao needs more food diversity.
I think the reason for that is the difficulty in transporting supply in the island. 8 months ago, a local told me that vegetables were so hard to find here. Yesterday, I spent 45 minutes just looking for bread. Even as staple food as simple as bread is hard to obtain. If you are a restaurant owner in this not so developed island, there will be a lot of challenges (and expensive costs!) in getting the supplies to keep the business going. Maybe people are not ready to gamble in this business yet.
Did I mention there are only 2 flights operated by one airline that flies to Siargao every day? A more interesting fact is there is no voice command in the Sayak Airport. In English, the pilot lands whenever it deems fit. The landing decision is based on the weather or the runway situation. If not, the plane goes back to its original destination and passengers have to wait for the next available flight. Have I told you that every flight to Siargao stops in Cebu? Yep, no direct flights yet. Furthermore, the airport is too small to accommodate big planes and more flights.
In the months to come, Siargao is projected to increase tourism in a very slow manner. Let’s say 6-10% annually. In 4 years, there will be direct and frequent flights from Manila. It is expected to raise up to 4 flights a day.
… is not final yet. To be honest, I already have a more or less concrete schedule of how this year will go for me. I will be leaving Siargao in five days but the choice is not debatable. Siargao won its place in my heart. I will settle down here, that’s a promise. It’s just that I still want to travel more at the moment. There are still a lot of sunsets I need to see. I have decided to come back here another time but I am afraid not even the Caribbean and French Polynesia will overpower how I feel for Siargao. One day, I will come back and live here. When? I’ll never know so I don’t want to jump into any conclusions yet. Relatively quick decisions have worked out well for me in the past few years. Spontaneity always guaranteed my happiness. I will always live like this and until I am tired of being in different places constantly, I can’t move to Siargo yet.
We will see. I will announce my next move as soon as it’s final!
Goodbye for now, Siargao. I will never forget how you welcomed me with open arms. I will never forget the growling motorcycles that serves as my alarm evert morning. I will never forget how many times I gregariously fell off my motorcycle. I will never forget the kind salesladies, the children smiling and waving at me with joy, the men who have shown me nothing but good intentions.
One day, I will come back to you and we will have a long-lasting relationship. Until then. Xx
What’s a place in the world that made you say “I can live here?” If there’s one, did you eventually move there? How was the experience? I would like to hear your thoughts. Share it on the comment box below!