There I was traveling through long stretches of deserted dirt road in Siargao riding a habal habal (public motorcycle) I just hailed outside the gate of my accommodation, all the while thinking what in blazes am I doing out here?! Oh, the habal-habal driver? Was a burly guy who could totally hurt me, steal my belongings and leave me in some ditch somewhere if he wanted!
Rewind to the day before, my supposed buddy for this trip told me he couldn’t go because he caught the flu. Considering we already paid for the flight, which we got for around Php 2,000 round-trip per person through a Cebu Pacific promo, I thought it would be such a waste if I cancel this trip too. But on the other hand, I’ve never traveled to another Philippine island on my own before and considering my utter lack of directional sense, I knew it would be a big challenge to go solo. Plus, I have always been a logical, guarded and prepared person. I seldom do spontaneous stuff, especially something that I deem to be dangerous to my safety.
The flight was on the morning of Friday. Only on Thursday did my friend inform me that he could not go and that he wasn’t able to gather accommodation and itinerary data. Since I left it to him to finalize where to stay and what to do, I had to scramble to create a plan. In fairness to me, I was able to reserve my accommodation and finalized my itinerary in 30 minutes. The secret? Google! All I did was search for Filipino bloggers who’ve gone to Siargao before, isolated the parts of their itineraries that suited me, voila – I found my resort – Ocean 101 Beach Resort. And decided I would cover Magpupungko on Friday, go on an island hopping tour and ogle the surfer dudes on Saturday, and go home relaxed and happy on Sunday.
So Friday came; woke up early for I did not want to miss my flight. This would be my first ever solo plane trip and I was considerably nervous. Checking in was no problem. I tried using Cebu Pac’s online check-in, that ATM-like machine standing in the corner where you input your ticket verification code and the ticket then comes out, allowing you to skip the check-in line and go directly to your boarding gate. Funny thing was I thought the touch-screen was busted since I couldn’t select the keys properly and I ended up drumming on those keys on the screen really hard. Probably thinking I was out to destroy their machine, a Cebu Pac employee approached me and told me the screen required a soft touch, lol. So fine, soft touch it was. Unfortunately, it turns out that the online check-in machine was for air buses only. The plane I’d be riding to Siargao was a smaller one, definitely not an air bus. So yeah, I wasn’t able to use the machine and in the end had to fall in line to check in. Charged to experience.
My plane seat was at the emergency exit row (more leg room you see) and I had to be subjected to a bit of special briefing by the flight attendant. First, she asked me if I was willing to help in case of an emergency landing. Not too comforting that conversation, but I said yes. So I was given an additional safety instructions card along with the typical one given to the passengers. The additional safety card contained instructions on how to open the emergency hatch if ever needed. I tell you, I memorized those instructions by heart.
Two Spanish guys sat across the aisle from me and they got really chatty with the flight attendant so I wasn’t able to sleep. For the next hour, I just amused myself by listening to them try hard to communicate in English while the flight attendant tried hard to list all the Spanish words we Filipinos use.
Finally, I touched down in Siargao!
Considering my lack of directional skills and limited time to plan this trip, I chickened out and opted to have my resort pick me up at the airport. Airport-resort trip took more than an hour, which allowed me to enjoy fully the laid-back, even sleepy at some points, energy of Siargao. There were no tall buildings around, just lush greenery on both sides of the road. I passed by several rice fields where cows and carabaos idly grazed. I chatted on and off with the van driver and his friend who was also from the resort just to get to know the typical transportation fares in the area to avoid getting ripped off. Three Danes were in the van with me but I did not talk to them much.
Arriving at the resort, I was then taken to my room which was as basic as they come considering it was the shared-bathroom type. It was on the second floor though, was facing the ocean and had a little veranda so I was treated to a gorgeous view right away. So far so good.
Hungry, I went in search for lunch. Browsing through the resort’s menu though, I knew right away my budget wouldn’t last long if I take my meals in there. So I ignored the warning bells in my head and challenged my worry of getting lost; I went out of the resort in search of the town proper where I was hoping there would be a market where I could find cheap eats. I was really hungry though and a rumbling stomach is not good paired with anxieties over getting lost, so just a few steps away from the resort when I came across a decent-looking eating place, I gave in and entered. Their menu was still exorbitant for my budget, but they did have burgers. I ended up ordering the very basic regular burger plus a bottle of water and that was my lunch for less than a hundred pesos.
After satiating my hunger, I was determined to go to Magpupungko – a beach in Siargao famed for its ‘natural pool’ which looks like this. Plus, I needed to sort out what I’ll have for dinner, something really cheap. With that, I set my mind to finding the town proper or the official market in the area. Apparently, I had to take a habal habal to get there. One of the two resort staff who picked me up from the airport saw me wandering around and helped me get a motorcycle. I hopped on and off we went in search of a cheap carenderia (hole-in-the-wall eatery) which hopefully would yield my cheap dinner.
And this is when my crazy, throw-caution-to-the-wind-and-abandon-my-safety adventure began! Here’s Part Two of Day 01 of my first ever solo travel outside of Cebu.