Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Around General Luna, Siargao

When anyone talks about Siargao Island, this town’s name always comes up. And for many travelers, the two names have even become synonyms! But General Luna is just one of 8 towns that comprise the whole island of Siargao. And general Luna is not even the commercial hub. But yes, it is the surfer’s paradise – meaning it is where most accommodations for surfers are located. Thus, it has become a resort town.

While there, I thought of roaming around this quiet little town just to see for myself what else is there aside from the surf. I had my fill of unusual things to awe me by. Really! Here we go…

Ramble-rumble. One of the very first things a first-time visitor to Siargao should notice is that unending thunderous sound from a distance. At first, it got me a bit alarmed, but since no one seemed to mind, I told myself to calm down and let that tidal-wavic sound be. THAT is the constant sound of the waves from out in the pacific rushing towards the surf area. Oh my!

White line. Looking at the horizon, where the pacific ocean and the sky meet, the line is a vivid foamy white. For those not used to it, don’t bother grabbing your binoculars and aiming at it. The crashing action on that part of earth is in high sync with the rumbling sound you hear. Oh alright, if you want a closer look, go on and zoom it. A little scary, right?! But that is what those boarders come to this island of Siargao for!

Interestingly though, the big waves stop some hundreds of meters away from General Luna’s shore. So from that point to where you are standing is a wide expanse of calm shallow seas where folks go to fish with their hooks or nets. I hear those shallows are mainly corals abundant with a lot of marine life. Ah, why those barreling crashers stop at where they do… don’t ask me please… ask HIM! That is one reason General Luna is interesting!

First time in my life I encountered a sign about “Tsunami Warning”! The arrow points inland and the numbers indicate 14 kilometers. Wheh?! What, I will run that 14 kilometer stretch to get away from a Tsunami? Are they serious?! OMG they are! Now that got me thinking… and worried and scared again… duuu! Let me run just a hundred meters and I will probably drop dead after that! Now 14 kilometers?! Well, who knows, when that deadly dark and humungous bombora comes a rambling, my adrenalines might get me to running that whole stretch. Ack! Oh heavens forbid!

Actually, I asked expert friends to zoom and examine my photos as I tend to suspect there is something between the 1 and the 4. Indeed there is! Its a little square that is meant to be a period (decimal point). It has somehow been erased or covered with something white - either by the elements or vandals. So, in case of a Tsunami, I still have to run 1.4 kilometers to safety? Wheh! How fast does that mother of a rolling sea run anyway? Won't it catch me? Promise?!

The white sandy beach is a long stretch from the cemetery and beyond, to near the town’s useless pier and beyond. For the beach bums though, be aware that it is not as beautiful as Bora or Malapascua. Why? Many parts are still untouched and many parts are just white sand with fallen leaves from trees and sea weeds washed ashore that nobody cares bout because nobody roams about! There is no “every-morning” truck that plucks them “dirt” like in Bora hehe. That natural “nothingness” Is just a part of their daily lives and not something they shout to all the earth about. Well, there are rocky portions and coralline portions and grassy portions (sea grass) where lanky birds go to pick their fish! In short, while indeed it can be, the white beaches are not center of attraction. The waves are!

Oh, the whole town of General Luna actually IS THE beach. Go anywhere in town and tell me if you saw another kind of sand. Everywhere from front yard to backyard, from the town’s main roads to back streets, everything is the same white sand as you would trod on at the beach. Meaning? They built their town on a wide sandy beach! Yeah there are trees and plants and what have yas… but the gound (or soil or whatever it is called) in the whole town is made of that same cream colored sand. There are streets that are still unpaved and if you walk there, close your eyes and continue walking. You will certainly know what I mean… it is still the beach! They just made concrete barriers to prevent sand from washing down to sea – like over at the elementary school and the pier.

Did I say the pier is useless? Well, not really! It is a nicer part of town for children of all ages to romp around and play or swim in the shallow waters. It is also a very nice photo background or even subject for the visitors like us. Of course a very romantic area for the lovers to go strolling late afternoons. Oops, its not really a perfect stroll all the way. There has to be a hop skip and even jump somewhere. Why so? Ah, for whatever cause or reason, some of the wooden planks have already been removed or detached from their original positions. I could see though that the wood material (of those that remain anyway) are still sturdy and can still serve the purpose. Maybe local folks have attempted/started to chop-chop the edifice and use the material in whatever way they can? Hmm, probably. So folks, go see that pier before everything wood totally disappears hehe!

Now “why” is that pier?! The folks I talked to tell me it is an error. Oh what a long and big error. And that is one error that you cannot just erase with your backspace key or delete key or CTRL-X. Not even CTRL-ALT-DEL would do it hehe! The story is… sometime ago, a “wiseman” thought of erecting that thing purportedly to help the fisherfolk who have small boats and the rest of the residents who travel and transfer goods to/from other places. And it failed on both counts. Why? Well, for the fishermen docking their little boats at that type of wharf (its like a pier on stilts) meant that their boats would have to keep bobbing w/ the small waves and they’d have difficulty climbing unto the pavement with their catch as the pier is so tall esp at low tide. So docking their little boats ashore by pushing them up the sandy beach (and in front of their houses) was/is still better. For the big boats that transport cargoes and passengers, the darn facility’s tip is still on shallow waters that they’d risk grounding their boats. Thus, no boats dock there. In fact no such boats go to General Luna – everything come by land from Dapa.

So, the pier now is just a decoration… a photo-op… a white elephant hehe. I call it a wonderful dream cut short by lack of funds. Ah let’s not talk if it was not realistically budgeted or the money went into some pockets, but I can discern that the pier was a poorly planned project from start until it fizzled. It starts with fine concrete near a street by the elementary school and a market. Then continues on to be a boarded up “wooden bridge” on stilts. Afterwards, and all the way to the tip, it is concrete on stilts again. Obviously they had no money. Why make the wharf stand on stilts. They should have checked other piers in other places like that one in Tagbilaran or even Tubigon at nearby island of Bohol. Well, for now the pier is starting to decay hehe! Oh hey, one man I got to talk to said their mayor has plans of extending that thing all the way to become a bridge to tiny Guyam Island and the bigger Daku Island. What for, I did not anymore ask. Gosh!

Elsewhere, and just at the mouth of the pier is a little blue building that houses the Tourism Information & Assistance Center, an OTOP Souvenir Shop and some other office. All are closed and obviously for a long time. Beside it is the public market. Ah don’t fret, its just a small building with two tables for the vendors to lay down their fish or meat, if any, an about four stalls that sell the usual things for the kitchen.

Hey their church is interesting! Am not sure but it looks like an olden church originally facing east. But when they spruced it up to make it bigger, looks like they made it look south. So, when you are at the side of the church, that portion that you see (including the grounds) seem to indicate that it was the original fa├žade and main entrance with old stone/brick structure. But when you go to what is now front of the church, it’s a bland modernity. Hmm, I suddenly remembered the church over at San Remigio town in Cebu. Theirs is better – when they made their church “turn around” hehe!

Now the best find…! Like in most towns, General Luna has bakeshops where folks buy their bread. But one that commanded my attention (oops not one, I saw three) were the localized version of “bakery” and bread. I marveled at it, even tried to meticulously observe how it works as it was my first time to see the thing.

The “oven” is a makeshift box-like contraption made of tin sheets. Coconut husk, coconut shell and wood are placed on a sheet at top of the box/shelf, then fired. So the dough starts cooking via heat from above - much like how the bibingka is cooked. For some, the fire is both from a tin sheet at the top and a tin sheet at the bottom. You guessed it, the hollow inside has one or two layers of wire rack where the baking sheets with prepared dough are placed. After some opening, checking, closing of the “oven”… voila, the bread!

The bread that they make, I forgot what they call it, is similar in shape and size to the “cheese-bread” that we would usually find in little bakeries everywhere. However, the ones that the local General Luna bakers produce are heavier and more compact. I asked why and was told that it is because they’re not very avid fans of baking powder hehe. That means, the local folks (me too) like their bread without much fluff for it means it contains real bread instead of mostly air, right?! Very true! Most of their breads too are a bit darker than the common cheese-bread. Reason? Patrons (and me too) like it with some parts a little bit on the brown to almost burned look! The taste? Definitely better than most commercialized bakery outlets we see around.

Oh, careful when you bike around btw. I said earlier some streets are unpaved and retains the same sand as the beach, right? Well, it is tricky negotiating such soft and loose earth with a bike or trike!

General Luna… I love this town!


  1. You've gone to Surigao Norte twice already but you missed our place, Socorro, the lone town of Bucas Grande Island which you had passed enroute to Siargao. You better find time to read my first 2 posts of my new site and see if you can feel the urge within yourself to go back and visit our place. If you decide to do so, just leave a comment in one of my posts and I'll be glad to be your host and guide..of course for free..he he

  2. edsan, bucas grande was indeed in my list and it still is. i just had to painfully omit it while dilly-dallying in Surigao because of the gloomy skies. i must admit I am too OA when it comes to sea-crossings. yeah I will make noise if and when I find time to return. And thanks, indeed!

  3. ok..hope you can come back here. By the way, how about during the Araw Ng Socorro on February 22, you can visit my post about Tinabangay Festival in my so you can hit more birds in one stone in coming here.

  4. hello edsan,

    i hope you can help me. I am planning to visit socorro island to check suhoton cave but do not know how to get there? thanks