We arrived at Manila airport and waited for our domestic connection to Cagayan de Oro; several flights south to Mindanao were cancelled one after another but luckily ours was only shortly delayed. Little did we know the next few days the rain would be our loyal companion. From the uninspiring sewage flooded city of Cagayan de Oro, we fled by bus to Surigao to take the ferry to Siargao to check out Philippine’s most famous surf spot: Cloud 9. The waves were shitty. Local surfers said they’d never seen it so junk before. Trying to make the most out of Surigao del Norte, I conspired a side trip to Sohoton Coves. Based on the spotty information available, I made the bet that we could make it in 24 hours: first take a public boat from Siargao to the island of Socorro at 4 pm, spend the night in Socorro, hire a boat the next morning to Sohoton and back, then board another public boat to Hayanggabon port in Mindanao mainland at 1 pm, hop on a shuttle or bus to Surigao to catch the 7pm ferry to Cebu. The logistics was tight but most of it it turned out surprisingly well. The only part that did not was the key part: visiting Sohoton. The rain turned stormy in Socorro; only 1 beat-up boat showed up in the morning at the ferry terminal and the guy wasn’t honest with me so I declined his offer to take me to the coves. We retreated back to our cockroach cave, where I had to wear a cap to go to the bathroom to avoid getting any roach eggs falling into my hair. In the afternoon, on our way to Hayanggabon, as we battled the rough sea and everyone tried their best to keep windows and doors and canvases in place, we felt relieved that we’d made the right decision to not take the rickety outrigger in the morning. In the best case scenario, we would have been soaked.

It was ill-timed to spend that week in Mindanao, yet, we were lucky enough to escape the worst. Heavy downpour started the day before our arrival, and the day after we arrived in northern part of the island, state of calamity was declared in the south. On Friday as we left Mindanao from the port of Surigao City, the low pressure developed into a tropical depression. All flights to and from Cagayan and Surigao were cancelled. After almost 2 weeks of non-stop rain, 40000 families were displaced.

the boardwalk, cloud 9, siargao, The board walk at Cloud 9, Siargao

banana boat, siargaoTaking the banana boat in Siargao

In Cebu, I had changed my ticket to stay in the city for the weekend so that we could join in the Sinulog festival, the biggest fest in not only the city but the whole region that celebrates Santo Niño and the conversion of the Filipino people to Christianity. And I still beat myself for missing out the whole thing. We took a shuttle to SM mall, about half an hour walk from the parade route. Col wanted to go in to look at some shoes. A quick detour turned into a 3 hour shopping spree. We didn’t sit down for lunch til 4pm and by the time we got to the parade, all we saw was tens of thousands of people going home. I had to console myself that at least we caught the procession of the holy image the day before. One of the most fascinating things for me was the diversity of the Santo Niño statues. Baby Jesus came in many shapes: there was olive-skinned, fair-skinned, and black-skinned, wavy long hair, short curly black hair, and golden hair. I also caught sight of an All-American one: blue-eyed blond in jeans, t-shirt, and baseball cap.

Sinulog Cebu 2014

Sinulog Cebu 2014

Viva pit señor

In Palawan, the only thing that I wanted to check out for sure was the Underground River. We saved it for last, having decided to first check out El Nido in the north. We were to leave Palawan on Saturday evening so Friday afternoon, we rushed down from Roxas to Puerto Princesa and made it to the office of the river 10 minutes before it closed. We wanted to go independently instead of through a tour so we had to get the entrance permit ourselves. No permits were available for Saturday. I couldn’t believe it. It was so in line with how the trip had been; everything that I had planned went out of the window. In the end, it worked out better, as Col got really sick and had to stay close to the toilet.