Acknowledged as the country’s surfing capital since the late 1990s, the charming island of Siargao is definitely more than the heart-pounding wave which is a must-try for every visitor.
In the past decade, it has reinvented itself as a getaway for beach and cove-hopping, trekking, platform diving, kayaking and stand-up paddleboarding, scuba diving, wakeboarding and a host of recreational activities that will keep you occupied every moment.
Another exciting aspect of the island is its diverse restaurants, bars and hangout places where the action shifts when dusk sets in. It may not have the vast cuisine of the more established tourist habitues, but the Siargao food scene has its unique side, being dominated by quintessential creations of local old guards and Filipino and foreign migrants who have made it their new home.
Below are some of the diverse dining spots this writer sampled during a recent trip to the surfing mecca for the International Gamefishing Tournament.
Siargao Bleu Resort and Spa
IF FIRST impressions always leave a lasting impression, this should be your first stop for a meal, a rejuvenating massage, stomping ground for recreational adventure, and a place to hit the sack. Just a few minutes away from the famed Cloud 9 surf spot, it has seen countless celebrities and big wigs coming in and out of its doors, which include Miss Universe hopefuls and several tourism secretaries.
Not only is it a must-visit for its Instagrammable layout, the resort also boasts of a wide array of delectable Filipino and international favorites at the al fresco Bleu Resto and the best spirits in town at its Beach Bar.
Its extensive menu can be dizzying, but if there’s one thing you must sink your teeth into, it has to be vaunted King Mud Crab. Dipped in Garlic Pepper and a coco curry sauce, it is perhaps the tastiest in the south and which perhaps comes closest to the famed Singaporean chili crab.
Small groups can request for a special for lunch or dinner Island Buffet consisting of fish kinilaw, beef steak, chicken inasal, creamy seafood pasta, cajun shrimps, grilled eggplant, and lechon, with home-made chocolate cake and chilled fresh fruits for dessert.
Witness the kaleidoscopic sunset and chill out at the Beach Bar as you sip its own creation, Siargao Rum, which was concocted a few years back by its owner Melot Abejo to capture the island’s world-class tropical vibe. Available in Gold and Silver variants, the export-quality rum blends well in the good-old “rum and Coca Cola” as well as an assortment of fruit mixes.
On weekends, there’s the sought-after Sunset Friday Chill House Party with DJ music where the island’s working class converge to unwind.
ITS NAME may sound a bit intimidating, but this new kid on the block has some of the most surprising pork dishes in the area. Its must-taste is the Kanin Baboy Special which is a masterful mix of spicy crispy lechon with green beans, pork barbecue, rice and its own spice paste, which is inspired by the popular babi guling of Bali, Indonesia.
If you’re craving for lechon, it is offering a whole spicy roll so you can eat to your heart’s content. There’s also a long list of rice meals, vegetables, and small plates which make for a hearty meal.
A PLEASANT surprise is this two-story native-style restaurant in Dapa, the port town and sea gateway to the island. Located at the beautifully landscaped boulevard, it serves all-time Filipino staples, with sizzling sisig, baked scallops and fish kinilaw as its bestsellers.
Enhancing the dining pleasure is the upper floor which has a panoramic view of the adjoining islands across the channel, as well as pumpboats and ships docking and leaving the port. At night, the view can be magical with the harbor lights illuminating the seafront while drinking at the mini bar at the ground floor.
THE authentic Siargao experience would be incomplete without sampling the inexpensive food prepared by the micro-entrepreneurs and ambulant vendors which will bring you simple joys with the thought of you helping them.
You shouldn’t miss the ubiquitous pan de coco and pan de surf vendor at the Gen. Luna Church who sells her stuff for P5 per bread, which can serve as your snack and in-between meal finger food. There’s also the crispy salvaro square flake with sugar syrup topping for only P20 which can be a good dessert.
When going on the island-hopping tour, you will definitely have the lunch boodle fight at Daku Island which has grilled pork, vegetable, chicken, fish, shrimps, mollusks, and fruits, among others. It’s piece the resistance though is the steamed rice which the cooks meticulously spread out in the banana leaves to spell the word “Siargao”, which made it a social media sensation.
Budget travelers can feast on the old guard eateries Bebie’s Barbecue which is known for its sweet sauce, and Ronaldo’s Inn and Restaurant.
A local creation we sampled is Isla Turon, a jazzed-up gourmet version of the lowly Pinoy afternoon merienda which can easily qualify as hotel food.
A back-to-basics food trip is to hang around at the Catangnan Bridge which teems with people towards dusk because of the breathtaking sunset to the west and the surging surf to the east. Indulge on tusok-tusok street food, balut, ice-cold beer, and feel the carefree character of tourists and locals alike who have the bridge an unpretentious go-to place. And when it’s time to leave, be sure to bring home fresh tuna, liplipan and talakitok which are caught in the rich Pacific fishing grounds in Pilar town, the country’s international gamefishing mecca.
Image credits: Bernard L. Supetran