As soon as I caught a glimpse of Siargao from the plane, I already realized why it had been a huge hit among travelers, especially beach lovers. It was such a lovely island. Even from above, I could already see the mass of land covered lush greens and surrounded by blue waters. Waves were visible from where I was, too.
When we got to General Luna, where our hostel was waiting for us, I immediately felt the cool island vibe. Imagine, surfer dudes all around, just having fun, being so chill. And the locals, they were so friendly. Right then and there, I was already sure I’d had fun on this island.
At Cloud 9, we were delighted by the sight of the waves crashing against the rocks by the beach. I marveled at the view for longer, since I had chosen to stay at a cafe instead of taking surfing lessons. Of course, I had fun there. Sipping black coffee and reading in a place like that was such a magical experience.
At Sugba Lagoon, I had a great time, too. Sure, I did not get wet there and just read instead, but the view alone was more than enough for me. Even the boat ride to and from there was one hell of an experience. It was scary at some point because of the waves, but flirting with danger to visit that magical place was really worth it.
We thought we’d die at Tayangban Cave. But no regrets, we had a great adventure. Nothing beats a dangerous spelunking experience, especially when it’s already getting dark and the water inside the cave is already murky, thanks to saltwater mixing with the fresh one. Having gone through that, I can now say that I can do anything.
Yet, what I really liked the most was Magpupungko Rock Formation. The walk from the beach to the attraction itself was tricky, but truly worth the effort. The water was so inviting that I immediately took a dip in the pool. To be honest, I’d love to stay longer there. However, we had to leave just after about two hours, because we were on a tight schedule.
Of course, I had a great time in Siargao.
However, I refuse to reduce this island into something that’s just purely fun and beauty. What I saw was more than just a place with super cool island vibe and worry-less folks as portrayed in some lame local film. It was, in fact, a real island with real people in it. And, these people had their own struggles, too.
In between activities, I managed to look around and observe what was really going on there. I was aware that gentrification has severely hit the island, and how it can be problematic. My friend and I talked to some locals, too, particularly tricycle drivers and servers. They told us about how difficult life was outside peak season, and why they’d normally make the most of opportunity to earn. We were also told about how majority of businesses were owned by foreigners.
Somehow, I felt guilty. I knew that by being there, doing touristy things and taking cool photographs to flaunt on social media, I contributed to the whole narrative of gentrification that has hit the island so severely. At the same time, I was also glad to have helped those working so hard by availing of their services and patronizing the businesses that employed them. And of course I was also hoping that they were being paid fairly.
On the top of it all, I realized how traveling could be tricky. Although it can widen people’s horizons and deepen their understanding of the world, it can also create problems. Apart from gentrification of communities, it can also breed mindless individuals who just travel for traveling’s sake. Inside their minds, travel destinations are simply boxes that should be ticked off on a list. There isn’t even an effort to recognize a place as a space where real people with real problems exist. The world is their oyster. Was I becoming one of those people?
To be honest, I am still trying to process everything. It’s already been over a year since I visited Siargao, but I remain conflicted whenever I try to recall that trip. Of course, I had fun. Yes, I loved taking on mini adventures with my friend. It was our first trip together, after all. I even got the gift of relaxation which I had been craving prior to that vacation. However, my mind is still filled with questions, and I don’t have the answers to most of them yet.