February was my birthday month. I wanted to dust off my backpack and get away from it all. Siargao was one of those places I kept putting off because it’s one of the Philippines’ 7,107 islands that I thought I could visit any time. If Taiwan was the highlight of my 2019, my gut told me Siargao is it for 2020. I knew it was time to go.
(Scroll to the bottom if you want to go straight to the vlog!)
Back then, COVID-19 was an impending pandemic, but most of us in the Philippines were hopeful—more like in denial, actually—that it would not spread in our country. I was one of the few people who wore a mask in my Cebu Pacific flight to this teardrop-shaped island in Surigao del Norte, Mindanao.
My cousins from New York joined me in my first few days. For the rest of my two-week adventure, I was alone. But as most solo travelers would know, you aren’t really “alone” in your travels. I made new friends from different countries. Thanks to all its accolades, Siargao has become one of the top island getaways in the world. At times I forgot I was in the Philippines and felt like I was partying in Europe. I also ran into friends and acquaintances who’ve decided to quit their toxic corporate jobs in Manila and move to Siargao for an enviable life of sand, sea, and surf.
It started as a secret surfing destination, but now travel writers are calling Siargao the Bali of decades ago. While many are condemning the upsurge of tourism in Siargao (they are afraid it’s turning into the new Boracay or Kuta), I’m hoping Siargao’s conscientious business owners will indeed look at Boracay as an example of tourism gone wrong and do their best to keep Siargao sustainable and eco-friendly.
I admit my intentions were mostly hedonistic, but my stay in Siargao was also about immersion. I wanted to see if I, too, could give up the city life for this slow-paced island life. Could I permanently stay away from the trappings of the world? I don’t have a final answer or plan yet, but I do know that I fell in love with Siargao.
Who would’ve thought that days after my trip, COVID-19 would become a full-blown pandemic? I still had sand in my aqua shoes, while my laundered bikinis were hanging to dry in my house back in Luzon when quarantine was announced.
I’m currently stuck in the longest lockdown in the world. Siargao was my last memory of travel before the toll of quarantine made the days a little hazier and our collective emotions a little heavier.
But I’ll never forget my birthday trip. It was one for the books. Watch my vlog for the highlights:
What was the last big trip you took before the pandemic?