Siargao

When I found out I was moving to the Philippines, it was a fairly last-minute scramble. I also just re-read that post to myself and thought, look how cute and optimistic you were, you big idiot. Given that reaction, it goes without saying that the Philippines brought challenges in and of itself, and that things did not necessarily get easier after the mess that was getting stitches/getting deported/I don’t even remember what other ridiculous things happened in Rwanda.

Was it worth it to have the chance to visit one of the best surfing spots in the world and ride Cloud 9?

One hundred percent.

This was probably one of the best vacations of my life – I know I travel a lot, but it’s rare for me to take a ‘normal’ vacation. Usually, my trips involve me sleeping in a different place every night, or at least every few nights, which isn’t to say that those trips aren’t great, but that they’re not totally relaxing because there are still moving pieces you need to make work (missing transit/forgetting things/packing and repacking). This time, I got to go to one place for a full week and spend most of my day just surfing, with no other responsibilities or anything else to worry about.

Cloud 9 breaking at low tide

It helps that I was staying at a super chill place with amazing food, and that the island was one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever seen.

One of the afternoons after surfing, we went island hopping to three of the islands around Siargao.

Guyam Island – a tiny little island off the coast of Siargao Island.

Guyam Island in the distance.

This is literally just what the water looks like. I’ve never seen anything so many shades of blue.

Clear water on Guyam Island

Coming up to Daku Island – seriously, the water is unbelievable.

On Daku Island – the largest of the islands we visited. I basically napped on the beach and ate fresh fish here. It was wonderful. And yes, I look at this picture and am like… was I really here? Is this actually a real place?

It’s funny because I’m actually not a huge beach person. A vacation where all you do is sit on a beach sounds painfully boring to me – I can lay out on a beach for a day or two, but I get bored. Siargao was perfect: I got to get up early, surf until lunch (or dinner), do yoga, and eat amazing food. Plus, the people there were great – there was a very cool mix of foreigners and locals, and everyone was so chill and friendly. It’s a place that I would love to return to sometime soon (which is a designation I reserve for my favourite places in the world; it used to only apply to Cape Town. Anyone who knows me for two seconds knows I’m obsessed with Cape Town, so that’s close to the amount I loved Siargao).

The boardwalk out to two popular waves – Cloud 9, which is used for international competition every year, and Quicksilver.

Quicksilver is on the left of the boardwalk, and Cloud 9 is to the right. This was at low tide, but even at high tide, the water wasn’t over my hips at the entry point. There’s a staircase just before the viewing bluff that leads down to the reef, and then you walk out to the break.

I don’t have any photos of me surfing – I have a knockoff Filipino GoPro, but I didn’t want to mount it on a rental board, and the wash cycle could be pretty vicious with the shallow reef at the end of a ride so I didn’t want to break it (I also still doubt that I look cool enough when I surf to really want any photos of me). I do, however, have sunrise photos over the Boardwalk at Cloud 9.

Heading out with the boys onto the boardwalk

4.15 am wakeup did not disappoint

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Waiting for the sun to break

First glimpse of the sun on the horizon

Getting that early morning surf in

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Seriously, the 4.15 wakeup is always worth it.

This lighting was such a dream. I love the way the sun is hitting the sand here.

Siargao is actually paradise.

 

I’m so glad I made it to Siargao – as I mentioned at the beginning of this post, my work/life in the Philippines ended up being very challenging, which led to me deciding to come back to North America earlier than I planned (as in, I fly out to Tokyo tomorrow and will be in Toronto by the end of the week). There were a lot of factors that contributed to this decision, with one particular issue being my office environment. Experiencing Siargao, and meeting local people there, really went a long way in building some love for the Philippines. I’ve never left a country feeling negatively about the country itself – I have left a country being tired of some of the challenges it presents, but always with fondness for the people and places I’m leaving behind. Given the location I was living in and the general work experience, I was worried I was going to leave the Philippines with very little positive to say about it, which is a terrible feeling (I honestly think every country has something beautiful and unique to offer, and to have lived somewhere and missed out on that would be a real waste… not to mention I had so many friends who visited the Philippines and loved it so I felt like I was insane for not seeing what they saw).

I know it seems a bit crazy that one trip can alter general feelings about a place, but I honestly think this trip helped turn my attitude around about my entire experience here – I started off with a weekend in Manila, getting to meet someone I’ll be studying with at NYU, getting along so well with her and her friends and seeing some of the cooler places Manila has to offer, and then went to one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever been and met some really awesome people that I had things in common with. Building commonalities with people across cultures is something I value so much – it just helps show that we really aren’t all that different across the world.

I learned a lot while working on this contract – maybe not what I wanted to or expected to learn, but a lot about myself and what I want to seek out in various aspects of my life. Most importantly, over these past eight months, I’ve constantly been reminded that people always make the place.

With that, I’m sending many positive vibes and lots of love to all the people who have shown me beauty across the world and made all my homes feel like home. I’ll see you when I see you.

The Boardwalk @ Cloud 9 ❤

 

 

 

 

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