Tuesday, May 03, 2005

ESTROGEN INVADES SIARGAO

April 23 - 27, 2005

I am going to quote myself again… because I think I hit the nail on the head the first time. “Among the numerous reasons why I love to travel is this: seeing more of the world changes the person that you are slowly becoming. Meeting new people, seeing new things... it opens your mind and your eyes... and, if you meet new experiences with the right frame of mind, you come away from traveling a better human being.”

Never has this been proven more to me than every time I set foot on what I have to think of as “my island.” Yep, Siargao baby!

While it was my sixth time on the island, this trip still gave me a many firsts:

My first time to travel and hang out with so many women! Like Cat said, the island never smelled and looked so good. Beginning with seven of us (myself, Cat, Millie, Mocca and new girlies Revic, Isa and Amanda) traveling from Manila to the island together to hooking up with the girl surfers who were joining the competition, this trip was definitely one for the ladies.

I surfed Jacking Horses for the first time. And while it was small enough to be thought more of as “My Little Pony” than an actual horse, it was still a huge first for me. Especially when I realized that I am going left more and more consistently now. (woohoo!!! snaps to me!!!)

We went to Mam-On Island for the first time as well. Granted, that wasn't our original plan but still... take what you have and roll with it right? We had intended to go to Suhoton Cove & Bukas Grande but, an hour into the boat ride, the second engine refused to start. Now, without that second engine, it would have taken us four hours to get to Suhoton... and a contingency plan had to be made. Paolo discussed things with our boatmen... and we ended up at Mam-On Island. A first for all of us. And the true birth of the Siargao Tribe. As we walked from one spot on the island to another, following our boatmen/guides past houses and livestock, Amanda remarked "What if there's a resort at the end of this no?" which led to the creation of the mythical Aman resort "Aman Mamon" or "Peaceful Pastries" where every room has a pool table... a personal masseuse and unlimited uni.

And most importantly, we were in Siargao in April instead of the usual September because it was the first ever Siargao Girls' Surfing Challenge. The six women who entered the competition charged Cloud 9 like seasoned pros. You would have never been able to tell just from watching them take off that, apart from local girls Nilde and Manet, the other four had never set foot in Siargao prior to this comp. (As an aside: Nilde, Manet, Daisy, Mickey, Marie and Mocca -- you ladies rocked so hard in the line-up! I am sooo stoked for you guys.)

Other highlights of this time 'round include:
- A crab feast at Paolo's house, followed by a crazy night at the newly opened Boulevard where Paolo danced the Ocho-Ocho for a measly P2.00 while Lui volunteered to sing to pretty much anything that was already being sung at the nearby karaoke hut.
- Lui saying "Don't touch the hot sauce and then touch yourself" to a table full of women.
- Millie's "He doesn't even need a wave" comment.
- The birth of "Swell Bear" aka local charger Usot.
- Waking up with the day and catching the sunrise at the Tower. The light was too harsh to really shoot anything well but it was nice to just sit there quietly watching the early sessions... then later joining the competitors for a short photo session.
- Swimming over 400 meters from the boat to the pristine shores of Mam-On Island. The first of many challenges for the cast of "Survivor: Aman Mamon." (Other challenges: hack a coconut in two, cook kilawin and, most importantly, get a tan!)
- Spending the night at Paolo's house. Oddly enough, my first time (ooh another first!) to sleep over at his place even though we've been to the island together several times. We watched the Bikini Babes competition at Cabuntog Resort for bit before heading over to his house. Bottles of Red Horse and Tanduay Rum were passed around... a bonfire was tended... fire was spun... and at some point, I fell asleep despite (or was it because of) the surround sound snoring of Lui and Sly.

- Which led to the late start of my Tuesday morning. The boys (Pao, Pino, and Sly) were supposed to be on their way to Manila then but they didn't quite make the ferry. And of all of us, only Lui really got anything productive done before lunch that day. The rest of us slept, read books, and lazed around... finally rousing ourselves when our hunger could no longer be ignored... munching companionably on Peanut Butter granola bars and nutrionally rich ripe mangoes.
- Sitting around Ocean 101 with the girls talking about boys as only a table full of girls can. (By the way... maybe you'd like to be involved in the "Save A Wave, Ride A Surfer" Foundation? Inspired by a bumper sticker I saw before.)
- The sight of Lui in girls' boardshorts. Too bad we dont have photos.
- After four days of wondering if I would ever get my board in the water, I finally did. Isa, Amanda, and I, (led by my surf dad Alex) headed into the aforementioned Jacking Horses for an afternoon session while everybody else hit another surf spot. Millie yelled instructions from the shallows. And Cat splashed around beside her, deflty avoiding renegade boards that came hurtling in her direction. The ultimate highlight of this session was having Pete (a tiny 11 year old local grommet) yell encouraging words at me while he surfed rings around the rest of us. He also hassled Amanda and Isa a lot but I'd like to think that it was Pete's way of welcoming them to the island.
- Nilde threw a victory party/dinner at her place and the troops all came down to share in the good vibes. (Daghang salamat Nilds! Lami kaayo imong handa!)
- Being called an "adopted Siargaonon" by the former Mayor.
- The awards ceremony at the Boulevard which started with the "Biyahe Tayo!" video of the DOT... a video that makes me proud to be living is such a beautiful country. After that were a video of the Caraga Region (which makes me want to explore more of the area) and a slideshow of the photos Pat Mateo took of the girls' surf session over at Stimpy's (a boat trip I continue to regret not being on). Awards were given out... a full moon hung in a starless sky... the air was filled with the sounds of people clapping and cheering... bodies danced to the beat of whatever band was on-stage... more fire was spun (Cue Isa yelling at Pino: "That's my Roxy Bitch!") ... more photos taken... more good vibes enveloping happy travelers and locals... all of us enjoying the evening.
- The trip back home to Manila was somber... everybody tired from the last night's party and on my end, already feeling "homesick" for Siargao. (Amanda actually stayed behind an extra 6 days, making her the winner of Survivor: Aman Mamon)
So... to end... I'm going to try to answer a question somebody asked me about why I keep going back to the island... why most of my longer blogs are about Siargao:
"a tropical paradise unspoiled by the feet of over-commercialization, a vacation where time is measured by the changes in the sky... basking in the sun while warm water laps at my feet... every sunrise treasured, every sunset a gift from God... every photograph only a fraction of what you really remember from the island..."
Ta-dah! That ought to do the trick. ;)
For photos Click Here
post script: I do believe that some thanks are in order -- to the DOT and PSF for hookin' us up and helping us out with our transfers and tickets. to millie for being an excellent Siargao roomie yet again. to mama cat and li'l pao for workin' out the boat trip and the crab feast. to pino for letting me spin some fa-yah - and filming it! to sly for the d70 bonding & being nice about sharing pillows/banigs (but not blankets). to isa for the non-stop laughing, the chari concoction (and, sigh, the attempts at murder). to amanda for all the 'tv shows we watch' moments and promising to build a tightrope in her garden. to alex for not getting mad when i did that stupid thing with my board (ssshhh!). to lui for the invaluable life lessons concerning hot sauce, perching your butt and the way to stage a photoshoot. to kathy for the loan on the 500mm lens (too bad i never did sort out using it sans tripod). and to every single local surfer that continues to charge and rip and spread the good vibe!

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