High-speed Internet – on tiny Siargao

I have a dirty little secret: I am still on dial-up Internet at home.

Call it pre-historic, ancient, so ’90s, but I have been on it for years. People cringe when I say I can’t browse YouTube at home because my connection is damn slow. It sounds worse than saying I have a scandal under my name.

I’m probably the only yuppie this side of Manila who survives without DSL, and when my friends hear about it, they say: “May dial-up pa pala?”—after a collective gasp.

Someone even said I shouldn’t even admit I still use dial-up, because it’s so not fashionable.

But, before you judge me, here’s the thing. I am hardly at home, I have a fairly good Internet connection in the office for work stuff, and there’s WiFi for my laptop wherever I go.

My postpaid, pay-per-use dial-up Internet is bundled with my landline. I have been applying for a DSL package since last year, but still haven’t gotten it processed. Apparently, there aren’t too many available providers in my area, which is strange because my place is right smack in the middle of Manila.

So when Smart Communications asked me to road-test Smart Bro prepaid in Siargao, I took the challenge.

It was a liberation of sorts. Effortlessly surfing the Internet amid hot surfers on the sunny island is bliss.

Sunshine land

Siargao in Surigao del Norte is a surfer’s dream. The waves are consistent and there’s hardly any undercurrent. The popular surf site “Cloud 9” has a rocky seabed, but you won’t mind. It’s infinitely better than the other surfing destinations I’ve been to in Luzon, with its rustic surroundings and old-world charm.

Siargao’s beaches have a novelty not found anymore in commercial resorts. The mix of sun, sea, sand and waves calms and soothes.

Throw in the Internet and you’ll be updating your Facebook status every 10 minutes, so that your friends would know how stoked you are, how great the people around you are, how much you don’t want this vacation to end, and how you’re going back to Manila tanned, golden and with hair with natural streaks. Beach babe makeover, Siargao-style.

More affordable

In Siargao, you can either surf the waves or your favorite websites, or both. Siargao is Smart country, with most of the residents relying on Smart Bro for Internet service.

Smart Bro was initially a postpaid wireless Internet service provider, says Althea Aragon, Smart public affairs specialist. But “we have ventured into prepaid to give easier and more affordable Internet connection, especially in far-off places like Siargao.”

“SmartBro covers as far as Ilocos in the North, and Davao down South,” says Smart Siargao engineer Randy Gingoyon.

It’s broadband Internet that runs on Smart’s High-Speed Packet Access Network (HSPA). HSPA is the next best thing after GPRS and 3G. It allows you to access up to 5.8 mbps, which means you can download a song in just a few seconds on a good day.

The Smart Bro prepaid kit contains the basic unit that’s just slightly bigger than a flash disk, and a SIM card with a Smart number packed with five hours of free Internet time. Rates go for P10 for every 30 minutes, and you can reload it as you would your prepaid mobile phone.

The best thing about it? No monthly bills.

“It’s very convenient, especially for students and people on the go. It’s perfect for those who travel a lot but have to stay connected,” says Aragon.

Smart Bro postpaid, meanwhile, comes in different “plans” you can choose from according to your needs.

Instant Internet is perfect for those of us who can’t wean ourselves off our laptops even while in paradise. I have uploaded a video of local skimboarders on YouTube, posted beach pics on Multiply, chatted with my cousin in London via Web cam and showed her the gorgeous Siargao sunset—all while jumping from one island to another.

It was almost surreal having speedy Internet on a tiny island in Mindanao when my cell phone’s signal was flickering on and off.

I fell in love with Siargao, and have vowed to go back there with friends to brave bigger waves. But for now, I have to get my hands on my own Smart Bro kit so I can put my dial-up life in the archives where it belongs. (inquirer.net)

Surigao Today

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