They say “time flies when you’re having fun”… I now tend to disagree with that statement.
The amount of time I spent on Asian soil was only two months in total; yet it feels like it was two years’ worth of lessons learnt. Living with locals in Siargao, a world-renowned surfing hub off the south coast of the Philippines was truly life changing. The small island of Siargao may go unnoticed by a casual onlooker, but to me it was home for a while. Do I surf, you may ask? No. Did I attempt it? I am afraid so, (emphasis on “attempt”).
Most of my time was spent in the local’s houses, enjoying the abundant hospitality that comes with the Filipino culture and exploring every inch of the beautiful paradise that is Siargao. Don’t get me wrong though, island life is not exactly lavish when you’re deprived of the 5-star hotels and fine dining. Let me share my story of the local experience…
The people on Siargao island touched my heart and completely changed my outlook on life.
I’ll start at the beginning since this was my first overseas trip I did not go alone. Although looking back now, I definitely could have done it solo. I’m grateful that my friend, Gabbi, kept me company through most of the stressful (and fun) times. Gabbi’s sister was living on the Island with an Australian friend at the time, and that’s how we ended up on this remote little gem.
My main reason for this spontaneous jet setting was as conventional as it sounds: I wanted adventure and a change, and I wanted to volunteer in a place where there was a need, although I think I received more than I gave. I joined a group on the Island as soon as we touched ground, and helped out daily with volunteer work – this is where I made all my lifelong friendships. Because Siargao is one of the most visited Islands in the Philippines now, these friends I made were from all around the world – Australia, Austria, England, Texas.
I got a genuine, Philippines experience during my stay.
For example, one evening, I had the privilege of experiencing an authentic traditional Philippines meal. A couple who I had spent some time with were leaving the island and heading back to their city home, so of course the Filipinos wanted to give them an unforgettable farewell.
I’ll never forget the commotion that I witnessed at this little wood and bamboo home on a humid summer evening: all the men outside cooking a fish the size of one of the men themselves; and inside, the women carefully placing food of every kind on a huge banana leaf that covered the entire 10-seater table. As they placed this whole fish into the middle of all the colorful food on the bright, green leaf, I saw the beauty of a culture that works together in perfect harmony.
It was time for everyone to dig in: No knives, no forks, no plates. This was definitely not a natural thing for me, I much prefer to eat off my own plate and to cut my fish into bite sizes instead of tearing it apart with my hands. But, when in Rome… and how amazing it was to live like a Filipino that night!
Siargao’s Tourist Attractions
During my stay I can confidently say that I visited all of the tourist’s sights on the Island. I did some spectacular island hikes, bike trips to waterfalls, swimming through some dark, bat-filled caves, and so much more. These things are definitely must-dos for anyone spending time on the island of Siargao. If you are traveling to the Philippines, and specifically the beautiful Siargao, there are tourist spots that you simply cannot miss. Asking the locals where to go really helped me to see the best parts of the island. But the absolute highlight for me was spending time with the locals.
There are some other things to keep in mind as a female traveller in the Philippines. Here are a few things I learnt (some I learnt the hard way).
Siargao Travel Tips
- You cannot go to Siargao without visiting Shaka – a little café where they make great coffee and smoothie bowls. I promise you if you go there on your first day then you will be back every other day.
- It’s really safe – despite the fact that the locals seem to look at you a bit longer than is polite. This I realized is just a cultural thing and they mean no harm by it.
- Food and drink are affordable; the only thing I missed from back home was good coffee. If you want to go for an extended period of time like me then I would sneak a few coffee sachets in your bag (and chocolate!).
- The Cornettos on the island are to die for, and almost cost less than water. Do yourself a favor and climb on your scooter and find the closest little store, they will stock them. Just trust me on this one.
- Take light, cool summer clothes. It is hot; all day, every day. It is tropical so it will definitely rain during your stay, most likely unexpectedly. So, make sure your clothes are fast drying.
Island life is a beautiful life, it teaches you so many lessons and encourages peace in every way possible. I highly recommend all to try and experience it – so let the little island of Siargao touch your heart and change your life, as it did mine.
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