On Sunday we got up early and left the northern villages to head for General Luna, the main tourist town on the island. Sam hopped in the van with our Air BNB hosts and I rode the scooter the 2 hours into town. Sam was still sick and now feeling homesick as well.
We had helmets which we wore when riding the scooter, but in 7 days on the island we saw a total of 7 helmets worn! Not a top priority! Josh told me no one wears them unless the police come to visit in which case they get used. This sign is hilarious!
We found our accommodation and hopped on the scooter to go and check out Cloud 9, the famed break that so many have spoken of. We got to the jetty and pavilion, but could see without going out there that there weren’t any waves worth watching so we headed back to our room to chill before spending the afternoon with the local Grom Nation crew. (They operate in 3 different areas)
We hung out for a couple of hours but Sam was feeling pretty seedy so we went back to the room and grabbed some dinner.
Monday we did the island hopping thing – we went to the jetty, found a boatman and he took us around 3 of the closer in islands. Sam was keen to do this, and given he hadn’t had a heap of fun to now I was happy to do it in the hope he’d find some energy. I think we both felt the same about island hopping – ‘ok… that’s that…’ There is only so much to do on a tiny island before you simply have to move on. Naked Island – a piece of sand in the middle of the ocean – looks stunning in the right photos, but is really pretty uninspiring once you are there. We were glad we had booked our own boatmen as the tours were taking between 5-6 hours and we were all done in 3.
We headed home for a bit and then back down to Cloud 9. I was determined to have a surf at this place and I figured I might not get another chance in this life. So I waited until low tide – when the crowd was smallest (around 15-20 in the water) and walked out over the reef to get to the wave. It was all of 1-2 ft, but you could see the potential on some of the bigger ones. If you ever think of going there then you need to know that Cloud 9 is ruled by the Filipinos! They swarm every wave that comes thru and someone catches the wave. If you happen to get a wave then it will be because no one else wanted it – or by some fluke no one was out the back.
I got 6 waves in 45 minutes. Two were close outs, two I got dropped in on, and two I made – one was ridable… By the time I got out there were around 40 people at the take off spot and it was getting silly. Whereas in Bali tourists are plentiful and the locals are pretty laid back, my perception of Filipinos (generally very laid back people) was that in the surf they hustle and go hard.
Cloud 9 was hardly memorable, but hey I’ve done it now…
I paddled in and got back in the pavilion to get my gear. A group of Filipinos asked us to take their photo and in the process of doing that Sam told them I was a retired Aussie professional surfer. Suddenly everyone wanted a photo with me… Sam told them to google Mick Fanning to find out who I was. Haha…
In the middle of that drama a message came in from Danelle telling us something was wrong with Lucy our dog. It sounded bad. I made a Facetime call to try and work stuff out, but the connection failed after a couple of minutes so we headed back to the room a little worried but unable to do anything.
Sam began to pack some stuff ready for our trip home the next day and I headed back out to try and find a better connection. I managed to get some reception and called home. As soon as Danelle answered I knew what had happened. Lucy was no more.
She had been out for a run and just collapsed. It turned out she had a large tumour on her heart that had burst and was putting pressure on the heart. There was no fix possible so she had given the go ahead to put her down. While Lucy had driven me insane at times I had also grown to love her and I was pretty sad. I went home and told Sam and he was pretty devastated as well.
We shared a few tears and then headed out to dinner where we shared some fun memories of our anxiety ridden labrador.
Tuesday was our ‘go home’ day and after some fun waves down at Tuason we packed up and made the trip to the airport. Sam packed in the trike and I rode the scooter back to the pick up point. The queue in the steamy Siargao airport was intense, but we finally got on the plane and back to Cebu where we spent another night.
In the morning we headed for Singapore where we had 24 hours to kill. I’m not a big Singapore fan… I guess if you like shopping then it might light your fire, but we had an afternoon and a morning to find stuff to do and we ended up walking the streets exploring. If you do go to SIngapore then its worth knowing that shops don’t open until 11am, so our decision to check out the shops in the morning proved to be futile as we needed to be back at the hotel to check out at 11.00…
The next day we made it to home, picked up the car in long term parking and drove the 60 minutes to home enjoying the cold weather, the open roads and the smell of home.
‘Would you go back again Dad?’ Sam asked.
‘For sure – but in September / October when we are guaranteed waves. I wouldn’t bother hanging around the Cloud 9 / General Luna scene as that felt a bit like the Asian version of Byron Bay and just wasn’t my cup of tea. But to escape to a remote village in the far north?… Yeah baby. I’m in every time!’
So, another trip to the Philippines ended… Was it what I hoped?
Yes and no. I wrote down my hopes before leaving and some of them got met while others just didn’t. The fading surf wasn’t something I could control and Sam’s sickness meant that he really wasn’t himself so having fun with him was harder than I’d hoped. It was great to see the work of Grom Nation and to just get away to another culture again and I had a great time in spite of the mishaps and struggles we had.
One thing I became conscious of half way thru was that when I went to the Philippines years ago I went always assuming people were out to rip me off, steal from me or mug me. I’d been warned about the dangers and told to be careful, so I was always wary. Before I left this time I was operating with that same assumption. But halfway thru I realised it was a false assumption. Pretty much everyone I met was honest, decent and genuine. I didn’t get ripped off, I didn’t ever feel unsafe and I would have been happy to trust the people I came across.
I tend to believe that at some level your expectation shapes your reality. Go to a place expecting the worst and you will probably find it. Go expecting the best… you will probably find that too. And if along the way I pay a little bit more for food, or travel than a local then no harm done – I’m sure they need the $$ more than me anyway.