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Philippines - Surigao del Norte, Siargao Island // Jungle Fever

Killvan's Philippines. A tale of virgin jungle running across Siargo Island, and the trip that is ones first overseas adventure.

 “The Philippines!” my Mother shrieked in that hysterical motherly tone, in total disbelief that her teenage son was going to a remote jungle island in the Pacific.
“What’s wrong with Bali?” she questioned, but it didn’t matter, my mind was made up, my buddy and I would be taking our first ever international surf trip to the third world.

As a teenager anything you can afford is worth doing, and an eighteen-day sojourn at a total of $1500 was a no brainer. A pre-packaged tour from a now defunct surf travel agent included all flights, connecting transport, three meals a day and unlimited outrigger rides to the nearby breaks around the village. Awesome we thought, as we packed our hopeless quivers and random belongings that we assumed we’d need.

The commute to the waves wasn’t described in the brochure, and the only thing that brought joy to the arduous trek was that we were simply seventeen. Ten hours on the bird to Manila, another flight to Cebu, a twelve hour ferry ride to Surigao City, a four hour boat ride through a swirling river passage to Siargo Island, then delivering us to our village hideaway was a rusted jeep sprayed with mud, top down, springs punching through the seats driven by the typical village madman, pure virgin thrills.

The town of Pillar was small and somewhat primitive, nestled at the base of a small mountain range feeding off the river meeting the sea. We would stay in a three-story improvised structure that seemed to be assembled intermittently, like an idea it seemed to be forever growing. We had simple beds up high that supplied river views, scans of the ocean and a scenic jungle backdrop. With our dizzy fresh off the boat approach we had already succumbed to the tricks for young players void, losing a passport, drinking bad water and leaving a valuable to be snapped up by a local. Thankfully we were introduced to the tribal brotherhood that exists within surf travel, as two more experienced surfers living in the house showed us the finer points of sleeping under a mozzie net and carrying a board while riding a motorcycle.

Her name was Mercedes and she was captivating. Her English was poor, my Filipino non-existent, yet her natural way of being was alluring. Strangled by my youth I was unable to decipher the feelings that she unlocked, I couldn’t put them into action and approach her. Obsessing over her while she fixed meals in the kitchen I knew id never make it with her, though it supplied me with something special to take back home, to dream over. She stamped my mind like a perfect tropical barrel does.

The Mindanao Trench that runs down the countries coast was mesmerizing as it was deep, the water feeling hard yet supple as I jumped off the outrigger for the very first time, diving in, then rising to the surface to my collect my board, I felt like they must do in the videos. I was now on my own surf adventure and it provided me a badge of honour, similar to that of the first passport stamp, I felt accomplished.

We’d putt on the outrigger to various reefs, surfing the infamous Cloud 9 and beyond, but it would be the right point break inside the river mouth near the village that would be our little piece of paradise. We’d surf it everyday by ourselves, exchanging foreign waves in isolation, in our own little world that was expanding beyond our comprehension. It was everything we expected and more.

Reflecting on the first overseas surf trip brings back strong memories, knowing that it planted a seed that has grown into a life of surf exploration is something far exceeding the initial $1500. Sure the years rolled on and I’d score waves far exceeding the quality of our little right point in the river mouth, but that first time is undeniable in its richness, purity and innocence.

Impossible to emulate, the first time is never challenged.





Location: Philippines, Siargo Island.
Optimum: September October through to January.
Weather: Jungle heat. Jungle rains. Jungle Nights and Jungle Days
Surf Conditions: Reef breaks in boardshorts for days. During typhoons it can get largish.
Access: Hard work. Fly to Manila, then fly to Surigao City, then fly or jet cat to Cebu, then ferry to Siargo island, then jeep across to the East Coast.
Accomodation: Surf resorts or jungle village life
Live Free:  7/10.  Tropical bliss, though the trek and the remoteness means you better stay a while.




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