Few years ago, my family never understood my love for travel. They always looked at me strangely whenever I read nothing but travel sites for days on end. May parents especially kept reminding me to spend my money wisely, not just on “laag” (going to places for recreation). And they always worry about me when I pack my bags and head out.
Then, that totally unplanned family trip to Dumaguete in 2013 happened and everything changed. My mama, papa, and sister finally understood why I love traveling so much, that it isn’t only “laag” but something more. They experienced the beauty of it, the rush of being in the moment, and the satisfying feeling of opening your mind to new experiences and perspectives.
Ever since then, we agreed that we should travel outside of Cebu at least once a year, no matter how busy or cash-strapped we might be. In 2014, we headed to Camiguin (which I still need to blog more about haha), and then in 2015, we visited both Bucas Grande and Siargao – an epic 5-day trip that allowed us to conquer our fears!
I decided to write this story first because this trip happened when I celebrated the big 3-0, and since I just had my birthday this year, I think it is about time to get this post done 😀 (yes, takes me at least one year to translate trip memories into a post X_X)
Trip Start: The Roundabout Way
The promo flight we booked months before the actual trip was Cebu to Surigao, since that was the cheapest we found that time. One can definitely go straight to Siargao and then visit Bucas Grande, but we opted for the cheaper option: Fly from Cebu to Surigao, ride a boat to Bucas Grande, get on another boat to Siargao, take the ferry back to Surigao, and finally fly back to Cebu. The trade off, of course, is to spend more time transferring from one place to another, but we had 5 days to do all of these so it didn’t feel too rushed.
Please refer to our full itinerary and budget breakdown for the nitty gritty.
We arrived in Surigao early morning. The airport was small so the landing strip wasn’t too long nor wide. I have total respect for our plane’s pilot who made such precise landing. I was a little bit scared actually because there were mountains and lots of trees surrounding the airport, and one small mistake…whew.
After getting out of the airport, we flagged a tricycle and the four of us promptly headed to the port area. There were carenderias (hole-in-the-wall eating places) there so we had no trouble finding cheap eats. The boat to Bucas Grande departs around or after lunch time, so my parents and sister decided to chill at the carenderia where we ate. I decided to walk around the port to take pictures. ^_^
The Adrenaline-Pumping, Cold Sweat-Inducing Boat Ride to Bucas Grande
We rode the MV Angus from Surigao to Socorro, Bucas Grande. Fortunately, the tricycle driver dropped us off near it, so we found it easily. If you plan to go the same route, make sure to tell the driver you are going to Socorro, Bucas Grande since most of them are more familiar with “Socorro.” To make sure we don’t get left behind, we signed the boat’s manifest before looking for lunch.
Okay, I keep calling it a boat. If it is a vessel the public often use to go between the islands, shouldn’t it be a ship or at least a ferry? Heck no. It was small and definitely is just a boat to me. It even looked cute, sitting idly on the water. Little did we know that riding it will be the start of this adrenaline-pumping, fear-conquering adventure. My parents probably had an idea because they’ve been around small boats, but my sister and I were clueless.
When passengers were allowed to board, we were one of the first batch to get on. Right away, I noticed the cramped interior, because boat, duh. There were seats but they were tiny, as in made for tiny Filipinos. People started piling in and it was getting more cramped. The boat kept swaying too, and despite the anti-motion sickness pill I downed a few hours ago, I was starting to get queasy.
We stuck out like sore thumbs too with our big backpacks. Yet, overall, it was still fine at this point because the people around us were friendly. It was also interesting to note that many of the people in the boat knew each other. They’ve taken this boat many times to get to Surigao, the bigger island, in order to buy supplies.
Speaking of supplies, I had another surprise when the floor near my feet was opened to reveal the cargo hold. Apparently, even if this was a small boat, it is meant to carry people and cargo. I was sitting there with my feet just a few inches from the dark hole in the floor. One wrong move and I’ll end up falling into that hole. My brain went on overdrive for a moment imagining stowaways on adventuresome sea voyages and enterprising merchants stashing treasure chests into the belly of the boat.
Then boatmen came in and started placing all manner of dry goods into the hold. I had a front-row seat for all of the loading activities. Sweaty men came in and out as they piled boxes after boxes of food and other items. One young man jumped into the hole to receive the cargo boxes and arrange them neatly. Two gay guys sitting behind me found him really cute and were very vocal of their appreciation. I couldn’t help but laugh at their antics 😀
Finally, after waiting inside a cramped swaying boat with the sweltering heat of the tropical sun making everyone all sweaty, the cargo loading finished. But before we could depart, a lady suddenly stood near me and started praying out loud. That kinda startled me but I let her be.
After she was done, she suddenly thrust an envelope to my face, asking for donations. Oh dear, that was really uncomfortable. I am an atheist but I do respect people and their choice to ascribe to a religion, yet suddenly praying over people without permission and then acting as if you are entitled to money is something I’m not down with, so I ignored that lady. She moved on to other passengers who were willing to give her money.
Then the boat engine came to life and, at last, we moved away from the docks. Again, it was a small boat, so it was cramped and hot inside. Then, the port became a tiny speck in the distance. We were now on open waters. The sea got rougher, the waves higher, and the skies cloudier. I think it even drizzled.
The spray from the waves got stronger that those of us sitting near the left side windows started to get wet. The boatmen put up covers, so the interior became darker and felt more cramped. I am not claustrophobic thankfully, but I do have a fear of water and I cannot swim to boot. My motion sickness got worse too. I just sat there feeling miserable and doing my best to hold the contents of my stomach.
Then the boat started swaying even more. My sister and I were seriously starting to get scared. We have been on bigger ferries before and on fastcrafts too, but never on tiny boats overloaded with cargo in the middle of a rough ocean. The people around us were taking the whole situation more calmly though, so I took comfort in that fact. That might have been a normal thing or an okay thing, but my unhelpful brain gleefully served up thoughts of capsizing and giant krakens.
The situation continued to get worse, however. The captain decided to stop for a bit to wait things out. We all sat there barely talking, all hyper aware of the quiet engine and the waves crashing on the boat’s sides. Thankfully, the sea calmed down after thirty minutes or so and our journey resumed. Around 5 hours later, we finally docked at Socorro, Bucas Grande.
We made it! PHEW!
Checked in at Anthony’s Guesthouse for the Night
Socorro is a tiny municipality and has a very rural, island life vibe. Anyone expecting night life entertainment will be sorely disappointed. In fact, we arrived at almost dusk and despite that there was still sunlight, most of the market stalls were already closed. Go only to Socorro if you are excited about the natural beauty of Bucas Grande and the Sohoton Cove. Expect to tuck in for the night really early.
We had no problem with that because nature and quiet were what we came there for. We headed to our accommodation for that night – Anthony’s Guesthouse. The rooms we booked were very basic but did come with free breakfast. The unfortunate part was that a huge group of people also booked rooms at the guesthouse and they had a program in the evening. They decided to use the microphone and sing karaoke well into the night. They were really noisy and my parents hardly slept because of them, tsk.
My sister and I were dead to the world the moment we hit the bed, however. My sister gets motion sick too and our boat ordeal was too much for our senses. We were so tired that we slept like logs despite all of the commotion at the guesthouse.
And that’s it, that was Day 01. The next day and the rest of the trip turned out way better. Everything that happened on this day, while I am not keen on going through again, has now become somewhat of a fond memory. After all, we survived! 😀
Please read the continuation of this adventure here – Day 02 Bucas Grande: Facing Fear at Tiktikan Lake.