For most Filipinos—and the entire world included—Siargao is known as the top surfing destination of the Philippines, and maybe even the planet. Surfing schools pepper the tourist town of General Luna and the world-renowned Cloud 9 beach has been hosting an international surfing competition for the past 25 years. So if there’s one thing the locals of Siargao expect you to do, it’s to surf.
But surprisingly, this trip wasn’t about surfing at all. It was about exploring its cultural side: the people, the challenges of the community, and, most interestingly, the solutions to problems like waste management that the locals are coming up with. Enter Globe’s Siargao Sustainable Tourism Week.
IN PARTNERSHIP WITH GLOBE
In partnership with the Department of Tourism to encourage eco-friendliness in the Philippines, the telco company visited Siargao to collaborate with local businesses advocating sustainability. After all, the island’s primary problem was waste management, according to Surigao Del Norte representative Francisco Matugas II, due to the influx of tourists. So what better way to help solve the problem than to make the tourist spots themselves a more eco-friendly zone?
Globe’s initiative was also about making local businesses more competitive by improving their connectivity. Now, there are new cell sites, fiber internet, and GCash coming to the island—a win-win for both locals and tourists.
We tagged along on the trip and paid a visit to all the businesses that Globe partnered with. As a first-time visitor of Siargao, I was able to have a more 360-degree experience of the island. And honestly, missing out on surfing wasn’t such a bad thing. Check out our tried-and-tested Siargao itinerary sans the beach.
Join a cultural land tour
One of the most beautiful aspects of the island—aside from the waves—is the community within. The people of Siargao are warm and welcoming by default, and part of the experience is to immerse yourself in their daily lives.
If you want to explore the beauty of the island and learn about local craftsmanship firsthand, join a Bathala Land Tour. An entire day lets you create baskets with local weavers, drink coffee with beans sourced from small-time farmers all over the country, and go on a boat ride on the rivers of Pilar just to name a few.
Volunteer at a recycling studio
Nature Kids of Siargao is a non-profit group that aims to teach the community about sustainability—and they have fun while they’re at it, too.
Their recycling art studio lets you go through the whole process of collecting, laundering, drying, breaking down, and shredding soft, single-use plastics by hand, then repurposing them into bean bags or decorative pillows.
They also hold eco-orientations and run the Pay By Plastic Shop where you can exchange plastic for household items. Volunteering here allows you to help the community, learn about recycling, and meet some kids along the way.
Go on a fresh food trip
If you want fresh, responsibly sourced food, try out the Bayatakan Farm Experience. It’s a farm-to-table day tour in Burgos where you get to explore Bayatakan Farm’s natural farming system, harvest your own veggies, and cook your lunch at a cooking class in the farm.
The menu is always vegan Filipino food. (Yes, there is such a thing). After lunch, you’ll plant something new in the garden. As the farm’s co-owner Analyn Dolpina says, whatever you harvest, you must plant again.
Visit Bayatakan Farm in 8400 San Isidro, Surigao Del Norte. Reach them at 0998 247 6522 or check out their Instagram at @bayatakanfarm.
Go taste local coffee
Did you know that there’s a Siargao coffee bean already? You can try it out soon at MA+D Siargao. According to owner Omar Tawfek, they found an abandoned coffee farm in the mountains of the island where beans have been growing unharvested. But, it’s not uncommon for them to find new types of beans.
The peeps of MA+D Siargao make it a point to explore the Philippines to look for new beans. The best part is that they always make sure to source from small-time farmers while teaching them how to sell their beans at a competitive price. Drinking a cup at their shop pretty much lets you go on a savory tour of not just Siargao but the entire country as well.
Shopping (or window shopping)
Upon exploring General Luna’s Tourist Road, we found many establishments keeping it clean by avoiding plastics during shopping. When visiting Siargao, always bring your own eco-bag.
Plus, the products themselves are responsibly made. We checked out establishments like Kudo Surf, which only sell sustainably made surfwear. Also, don’t forget to grab items woven by artisans of Siargao!
Visit Kudo Surf at Greenhouse, General Luna, Surigao del Norte. Reach them at 09175014942 or check out their Instagram at @kudosurf.
Art by Cathy Dizon