The sun shines brighter in Surigao

There’s always something new to visit and look forward to in Surigao, the surfing capital of the Philippines. The unspoiled teardrop-shaped island, 800 kilometers southeast of Manila, is the Shangri-La of adventure and nature lovers.

The mid-morning Asian Spirit flight to Surigao from Manila onboard the nifty looking 80-seater aircraft was fast and smooth. We landed in Surigao City with the sun shining even brighter as it did in Manila. Our host was the governor of Surigao del Norte, Robert Ace Barbers and his efficient tourism staff, along with Mayor Alfonso Casurra and Siargao Mayor Ping Escosura.

Surigao City is the capital of the province of Surigao del Norte, the gateway to northern Mindanao. It is a crowded, busy and developing city, with interesting “island barangays” that effortlessly show the way to the well-known Suriganon hospitality

There is a group of islands within easy day-tour reach of the city. One can start off with Basul Island close to the Maharlika National Road, just a brief boat ride from the Maharlika Pier. A vacationista can also opt to discover Hikdop Island, 45 minutes away from the city by pump boat. The island has unspoilt beaches and it also serves as a jump-off point to Nonoc Island where one can find the longest wooden bridge in the country. This extraordinary 391-meter footbridge called the Cantiasay-San Pedro Foot Bridge serves as a connection to the neighboring island of Sibale.

Siargao and Pansukian are almost always associated with surfing. For nonsurfers like this writer, the question is: is there more to Surigao than just surfing? While the international surfing community adored Siargao for its amazing beaches ideal for surfing, the place had much more to offer.

Siargao’s proximity to the Philippine Deep, and the naturally huge swells of the Pacific that comes to its shores, are what makes Siargao a haven for aqua sports enthusiasts. Tourism has seeped its way into the area (thanks mostly to surfing), but from the looks of it, modish restaurants, and spas are still a long way coming. The developments on the island are mostly of the small-town variety and have not made a dent on Siargao’s natural charm and rustic appeal.

Mangrove swamps, caves, coral reefs and lagoons can truly be fascinating. And the island also impressed our group with stretches of rice fields, exotic flora and fauna and interesting marine resources.

The cottages at the Traveller’s Beach Resort in General Luna come with neat Spartan amenities. More luxurious accommodations can be had at the neighboring Pansukian Beach Resort, hailed by an international design magazine as one of the best resorts in Asia. Each of the resort’s 10 cottages showcases the best in modern-Asian design. The standard cottages are roomy, with big comfortable beds and spacious bathrooms. The bigger rooms have a relaxing veranda that frames an exhilarating view of the postcard-pretty islands nearby.

Our group also took much interest on the twin islands Mamon and La Janoza. Also fascinating is Bucas Grande, a beautiful lagoon about an hour by motorized banca from the Pansukian jetty and which can only be accessed by kayak through the Sohoton Cave. Here, one may find limestone rocks covered with foliage that spring from shimmering clear blue green waters as well as stingless jellyfish similar to those that can be found in the Palau Islands. An underground lagoon, where the sun’s rays shimmer through domed walls of leaves, would leave even the most jaded beach bum breathless.

Still another favorite is Dacu Island, half an hour from Pansukian where one encounters more of the same fine white sand beaches and an artist’s beach house. If visitors want more activities on the island, the resort staff can arrange special trips for deep-sea fishing, shell collecting and snorkeling. Scuba diving facilities are now available since dive sites around the island are slowly being discovered.

Fresh seafood can be found everywhere. We had grilled squid, fish kinilaw and the fattest of crabs—all prepared by the island folks, who are in essence, the reasons why the sun shines brighter and the general atmosphere is warmer in Surigao.

Surigao Today

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