I was very excited about this trip because — we were going to Siargao! Surfing, virgin islands, the famed Magpupungko Rock Pools.
This 2015 Cebu-Siargao trip is organized by Alon ng Pag-asa, a small group of travelers promoting voluntourism in the Philippines. We planned this trip as requested and supervised by a fellow volunteer, Kuya Danny whose beloved home province was Siargao. We extended assistance to school kids in Barangay Caub in Siargao. For the rest of the trip, we planned side tours.
This is what voluntourism is about — giving while traveling.
Outreach Itinerary and Tours
We scheduled the outreach in November and we waited for airline promos from Manila to Cebu and then Cebu to Siargao, as early as June. Due to limited availability of schedule, we had a one-day layover in Cebu.
Here’s everything about our trip.
Day 1: Day trip in Oslob (Cebu)
With 24 hours before our flight to Siargao, we decided to take a day trip in Oslob, Cebu. In the wee hours of the morning, we took a bus in the South Terminal to Oslob.
We arrived in the morning and, from Oslob wharf, took a boat tour to swim with butanding (whale sharks). People can stay in the boat and watch, but I highly recommend jumping in the water. It’s a one-in-a lifetime experience.
Update: I’d done research about the whale shark tourism and apparently it is not ethical to the animals. So I encourage you to read more about why the whale shark tourism in Oslob can be harmful.
After a quick breakfast, we then rode a boat to the posh Sumilon Island, about 15 minutes away. We beachbummed for a few hours.
To cap off our day trip in Oslob, we rode a pickup to Tumalog Falls, a tall waterfall with gentle water curtain and umbrella-like rock features.
Day 2: Island hopping in Del Carmen (Siargao)
Finally, here we go Siargao!
We stayed at Isla Verde Resort in Del Carmen, which is one a (humble) private island resort — one of the many islands in the area.
We charted a private boat and then island hopped to off-beaten places in Del Carmen: Hidden Lagoon (aka Sugba Lagoon) where there are lush islets reminiscent of Palawan: Kawhagan Island which is virgin island in the middle of the open sea; and Midway Island which is an abandoned resort with a boardwalk where we could plunge into the sea.
Day 3: Outreach event in Caub (Siargao)
On the third day, we went to Barangay Caub for our outreach event. We gave school supplies to 150-180 school children. We also held games, a short instructional demo on the proper brushing of teeth and washing of hands supervised by our medical volunteers, and a feeding program for both children and adults where we served spaghetti, biscuits and chocolates and candies, with tetrapacks of juice drinks.
Our main challenge was to get past the communication barrier. Some of the kids understand Tagalog but were not proficient speakers. We asked the teachers to translate for us. Luckily, a fellow volunteer, Ate Rina, is well versed in Surigaonon and general Bisaya and helped us in talking to the children.
All in all, it was a fulfilling, successful outreach event.
Day 4: Swimming in Magpupungko Pool and Cloud 9 Resort (Siargao)
We visited two of the most famous spots in Siargao: Magpupungko Pool and Cloud 9 in General Luna.
We had to visit Magpupungko Rock Pool first, to make sure we get there during low tide. It’s basically a natural tidal pool beside the beach. The pool isn’t clearly visible during high tide since it merges with the sea. I can’t express how much I love this place, the clear emerald waters and the way the rocks contrived to form a natural pool just beside the sea. There’s also a cliff for jumping.
Later that afternoon, we went to a resort in Cloud 9 to experience the best activity in Siargao — surfing. Beaches in Siargao offer big, consistent waves suitable for beginner and professional surfers alike.
An afternoon is a bit short to enjoy surfing in General Luna. Hali has already mentioned plans of coming back here.
Day 5: DIY Cebu city tour
We got back to Cebu and explored the city for the remaining hours.
I’m just going to say it outright: I’m not a city tour person. Neither is Hali. We love natural attractions better. Cities here in the Philippines are mostly hot and polluted, and there’s nothing much to see except old churches and buildings. Not to mention, traffic in Cebu City is as bad as in Manila. Just kidding, there will be no other place where traffic is worse than that in EDSA. 🙂
Majority of the old structures we visited were under construction (Magellan’s Cross, Basilica del Santo Nino) for fortification against earthquakes. However, our Cebu city tour was not in vain.
I enjoyed our visit in the sacred Cebu City’s Taoist Temple, located uphill in a subdivision in Cebu, and looking around the 340-year-old historical heritage site that is the Yap-San Diego Ancestral House.
Later that afternoon, we dropped by a pasalubong center for Cebu’s dried mangoes and other local delicacies such as otap and butterscotch breads. Thus ended our 5-days trip to Cebu and Siargao.
In loving memory of Danny Consigna
This voluntourism venture in Siargao is originally a project of Kuya Danny, our group’s beloved caterer.
I met Kuya Danny in our outreach in Jomalig. He prepared lunch for the whole team. I was amazed then with the way he handled the food; after 3 hours of land travel and 6 hours in the sea, the rice was still warm. The meals were complete –- from vegetables, to the main course, to dessert (his famous peach-mango creme). We were spoiled with his cooking.
After Jomalig, I saw him again in another outreach event in FAMY, Laguna, and the last time, in our pre-outreach meeting for Siargao in Megamall. He still looked well, though there was already a hint of sickness.
Siargao was Kuya Danny’s hometown. His family lived a humble life in the seas of Siargao, his father a fisherman. He told us that, as a kid, his playground was its untouched lakes and pools, way before commercialization encroached the province. In time, the islands were brought by foreign owners, and commodity prices skyrocketed. The residents were not able to catch up. Many places remained poor, and Kuya Danny eventually escaped to Manila. He wanted to give back to the place he grew up in, where despite lack of material things, his family nourished him with love.
We planned this outreach event as early as June. Kuya Danny offered to take the donations via ship to Siargao, since flight baggage is too expensive. He planned the accommodation, land and boat transfers. However, a week before the actual event, Kuya Danny messaged us to say he would not be able to come with us due to his condition. We debated whether to push through; the logistics was against us. Kuya Danny requested that we do.
Even in a hospital bed, he found us a proxy from Team Hamog, Kuya Ralph, who would take the boxes of donations to Siargao, and made sure we had proper accommodation through the help of his relatives once we get to Siargao. During our stay there, Kuya Danny even called to make sure we were welcomed and well fed. His relatives also prepared salad for us, his instructions I assume.
Our outreach event for children in Barangay Caob in Siargao was successful.
Two days after we were back from Manila, Kuya Danny passed away.
I think Kuya Danny merely waited for the culmination of the outreach event, his achievement, a final request. I hope his soul rests in peace, knowing that even in the face of illness he still found a way to push this project through.
Kuya Danny was an active volunteer and organizer of outreach events. He had a successful catering business. He was thoughtful and humorous, with a strong sense of justice.
This is for you Kuya Danny. I hope we made you proud.
Here’s a video of our event:
Do you join voluntourism events as well? Let us know your story in the comments below!
What to read next:
Visiting Siargao soon? Don’t forget to read these guides:
- Siargao: Ultimate Travel Guide + 5 Days Itinerary
- Sohoton Cove (Bucas Grande) and Tri-Islands in Siargao
- Sugba Lagoon and Kawhagan Island & Pamomoan Island in del Carmen, Siargao
- Best Resorts in Siargao
Here are the rest of our voluntourism trips:
Katherine Cortes is a 30-something freelance writer/editor. She likes beaches, snorkeling trips, and relaxing staycations (preferably with bath tubs!).