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Surfing High in Siargao

By CHRISTINE DAYRIT, The Philippine STAR Published Nov 27, 2022 11:38 am

American professional surfer Bethany Hamilton believes that “God created the heavens and the earth, the oceans and the waves for our enjoyment. Surfing is just my way of worshipping Him.” Losing an arm during a surfing accident, she conquered this tragedy, got back to doing what she loved best and emerged a surf champion once again.

Such a passionate mastery of her craft is indomitable. For many surfers, whether beginners or professionals like Bethany, surfing is not just a sport but a way of life. The glorious waves provide the miraculous venue for the surfer to glide majestically as he or she rides on these omnipotent forces of nature.

Surfing dates back to the 12th century in Polynesia and has evolved into a famous, world-class sport, but nowhere is it more celebrated now than in Siargao, a pear-shaped tropical island, 500 miles from Manila. With its beautiful emerald-hued lagoons, orange and pink skies, an expansive choice of luxuriant and spartan but cozy resorts and hostels plus authentic restaurants and eclectic bars, Siargao has recently been applauded as Condé Nast Traveler’s Best Island in Asia in 2019 and was also included among Time magazine’s list of “The World’s 100 Greatest Places of 2021.”

At Cloud 9, the iconic surfer’s paradise rated among the top five surfing destinations the world over for its amazing waves, the much-awaited 26th International Surfing Festival took place. No less than the dynamic DOT Secretary Christina Garcia Frasco graced the opening of this much-awaited event. “Truly, this international surfing cup is a celebration of the strength of spirit of the people of Siargao,” she remarked during her keynote address.

At the General Luna boulevard, Sec. Frasco and Surigao del Norte 1st District Representative Francisco Jose “Bingo” Matugas II and other VIPs led the ceremonial breaking of the surfboard to signify the start of this event. There was also a very nostalgic unveiling of the Jaime Rusillon Surf Tower miniature replica, in honor of former General Luna Mayor Jaime Rusillon, known as the Father of Philippine Surfing.

After almost three years of the pandemic and the super typhoon Odette that besieged Siargao, the 26th International Surfing Festival was held in partnership with the World Surf League (WSL) and United Philippine Surfing Association (UPSA), Platinum sponsors Smart, Seaoil and Scheirman. According to General Luna Mayor Sol Matugas, the main highlight is the Siargao International Surfing Cup attended by over 100 surfers from around the world. The event serves as a Qualifying Series (QS 1000) sanctioned by the World Surf League, the governing body for professional surfers.

Ceremonial “Breaking of the Surfboard” to commence the 26th International Surfing Festival 2022 (From left): Vice Mayor Dr. Romina Rubillon Salulga; General Luna Former Governor Atty. Lalo Matugas; General Luna Mayor Sol Matugas; Congressman Bingo Matugas, 1st District, Surigao del Norte; Ty Sorati, APAC tournament manager, WSL; Duke Frasco, Deputy Speaker District Representative Cebu, 5th District; DOT Secretary Christina Frasco; House Majority Leader Manuel Jose “Mannix” Dalipe; presidential son Vinny Marcos; Gerry Degan, WSL event director; Ralph Joseph Tecson; UPSA executive director; John Matthew Carby, UPSA Project Development director

Winners were awarded with flights to choice destinations by my favorite boutique airline, the very efficient Sunlight Air.

“It has taken a whole community to keep Bangon Siargao going. Now, surfers from all over the Philippines and all over the world are part of Siargao,” remarked the hard-working Congressman Matugas. The gracious Perl Arienza Jacalan of Cebu ASAP Advertising & Events, the official organizer of the 26th International Surfing Festival, explained pertinent information about the event.

It is with hope and prayers that, ultimately, Siargaonon surfers will make it to the Olympics. With this fervent wish, there is nothing to stop this dream from turning into reality, what with the marvelous performance of our very own John Mark “Marama” Tokong and Nilbie Blancada, who bagged the top awards for the male and female categories, respectively.

The natural Magpupungko pools make up a series of salt-water pools on rocky flats.

As we explored this precious haven, we were dazzled by the visual feast. Endless rows of towering coconut trees seem to salute the roads with trikes and vans as modes of transportation of islanders and guests. In the pristine Daku, Guyam and Naked Island, sun-lovers can frolic, snorkel or even go scuba diving. Hike the majestic mountains and leap from the diving board into the crystalline Sugba Lagoon. Marvel at the Magpupungko rock pools for cliff jumping and swimming. Truly, Siargao is a sanctuary where nature is nurtured.

The luxurious Siargao Bleu Resort & Spa

From the opulent Siargao Bleu & Spa to our well-appointed Retreat Siargao Resort that prepares authentic Korean food, one is really spoilt for choice. Pub crawlers can enjoy the vibe in Bravo, El Lobo, Harana to meet friends, chill and dance.

Food choices abound. The vegetarian restaurant Shaka serves the most delightful smoothies, fresh juices and sandwiches, while the Spotted Pig Café owned by amiable Lui Alvarez offers specialty coffee, buttery croissants and more. Haole Surf Hostel is known for its butter garlic scallops, spicy tuna poke and chicken wings.

The butter-garlic scallops of Haole Surf Hostel

Like a phoenix in the sky, this is Siargao. Here, infectious smiles warm your hearts despite the challenges faced. You can’t separate a sunbeam from the sun, a rainbow from the rain, a wave from the ocean because we are one and will always be.

Surfing is a spiritual exercise, an answered prayer and a profound lesson that the best things in life don’t need to cost much. In surfing, you just need a surfboard and a precious wave—and a spirit unwavering.

Yes, we can all attest that God created the heavens and the earth, the oceans and the waves for our enjoyment. Surfing is just our way of worshipping Him.