I texted Doy first thing in the morning that I would be having a land tour with Bobby that day. I’d finished my breakfast but he still hasn’t replied; I assumed he’s out riding the waves again just like the day before. I got bored and hailed a motorbike to Pensangan Surf, which turned out to be unneeded because Pensangan is a mere 5-minute walk from Bravo Beach Resort.
I greeted Doy’s mother as soon as I entered their store and I told her I was looking for Bobby. She pointed outside, to this small cottage where I saw Bobby and Mang Ben Ben, my boatmen from the island hopping tour, hanging out. Bobby is just a middleman, he contacted his cousin to take me to Magpupungko.
Doy’s mother was trying to explain something to me in Bisaya and I looked at her like she was speaking in Klingon. My grandfather from the mother’s side is Waray, my father hailed from Pangasinan, but my siblings and I are Tagalog, having been born and raised in Manila. I can catch a few Bisaya words and based on my little understanding, Doy’s mother was trying to tell me to leave at 10:00 a.m.
10am? Isn’t that a bit late? I didn’t get the logic until I reached Magpupungko.
A man in a roof-covered motorbike pulled over in front of the store; my motorbike driver/tour guide. As I sat behind him, I asked him for his name, it’s Sadam.
Sadam? Is he a Muslim?
We drove the length of Siargao Circumferential Road for an hour, past several villages, the breathtaking view of coconut trees at Barangay Maasin, a crocodile sanctuary, and the water village in Pilar. Somewhere along the way, it started to rain, Sadam had to put the bike to a halt to draw the plastic tarp over the front of his motorbike.
I saw foreigners and other tourists driving their rented motorbikes. I told myself that when I return, I am going to rent one of those and drive it myself. I hope I would come back with a few friends.
Somewhere along the stretch of Pilar, Sadam slowed down his motorbike. I looked over to see what caused the holdup, there’s no other vehicle or people in sight.
“Can you see it, ma’am?” I heard Sadam said.
I glanced over, strained my eyes on the road, and felt myself recoil when I saw what Sadam was pointing at. It was a snake! It undulated across the road toward the bushy pavement. I hate snakes, well not really, more like, shit scared of them. And this snake is weird, it stood up and started dancing. I swear to god it did! Sadam and I were in a trance; it’s so thin, it looked like a wiggling stick. I wanted to move a little closer for a better capture, but my fear of snakes prevailed. Eventually, it got lost somewhere in the midst of greens, that’s it, the show’s over.
One hour later, Sadam stopped the bike in a parking lot of a resort. He said that we were too early, we have to wait for at least an hour to see the rock pool.
Magpupungko Tidal and Rock Pool is among the most recommended spots to visit in Siargao and for good reason. Magpupungko is famous for its natural pool caused by a huge depression on an almost flat rock formation in the water. It is only visible during low tide, the water doesn’t recede until around 10:00 in the morning. In that instant, I realized why Doy’s mother wanted me to wait, it’s so that I’d be there when the pool is already fully formed.
I killed time reading a book in one of the cottages along the beach. I saw three girls clad in swimsuit, busy taking pictures, one of them was wearing a swimsuit that looks exactly like what I’m wearing. I pulled the beach towel over my shoulders: there’s no way I’d let her see my bathing suit.
Sadam came back 30 minutes later and told me to follow him down the concrete stairway that leads to the pool.
When we reached the spot where the pool should be, I asked Sadam if we were in the right spot.
“Yes ma’am. This is Magpupungko,” he said matter-of-factly.
I conjured the Google images of Magpupungko in my head and compared it with the view before me; they are different. Sadam seemed to notice the puzzled look on my face, “We’re early, the tide is still high,” he explained.
“Then why did you lead me here? We should have waited more,” I replied.
I was not willing to go back and wait so I gave him my camera, told him which button to click, and demanded that he takes as many photos as he could while I go for a quick swim.
I was very cautious where to put my feet as I slowly submerged myself in the water. The water level reached up to my chest. It took me a while to grow some confidence, but when I did, I didn’t want to leave. The water is clear and it’s not too salty. Sadam took my pictures diligently, even encouraged me to swim further.
“You know how to swim anyway, swim your way to the edge of the pool,” he instructed.
So I floated on my back, dog-paddled, and did some trudgen stroke. I enjoyed it so much I’d forgotten about Sadam for a moment. I think I have more than made up for the swimming that I didn’t do when I went island hopping. Everything is perfect save for this one tourist who practically ruined my moment; in fact, he’s in all of my photos.
When I saw other tourists coming in, I knew it was time to go. The rain started pouring as we walked our way back to the parking lot.
Back on the road, I learned of Sadam’s real name from his ID, it’s Adronico. Sadam is his nickname given by his father inspired by Sadam Hussein. On why his father decided to call him after the former Iraqi president, he has no idea.
The trip seemed shorter on our way back. The wind dried my swimsuit and my hair.
There are many beautiful places to see in Siargao but if you ask my opinion, the only place you shouldn’t miss is Magpupungko Pool.
After my trip to Magpupungko pool in Siargao, I went back to Bravo Beach Resort and bumped into one of its staff, Monique. She asked me how was my trip, and before I could answer, she told me that I looked so beautiful without makeup.
“I’m not lying, I’m a frank person. You are so beautiful, your face looks fresh and you got amazing skin. Why do you even wear makeup?!” she said.
I didn’t tell her this, but I’m not too happy with my face without makeup. My lips are too thin, my face drained of color, my lashes are too short, and my eyebrows undefined. Yes, I am just like other women who are hard on themselves when it comes to their looks. Hence, I was never comfortable going out without makeup. It makes me feel like I am naked and unpretty, and it doesn’t help that most people would ask me if I’m sick.
I am one of those girls who wear makeup everywhere, including the beach. Monique saw my bare face because I went swimming at Magpupungko Pool, the sea washed away my makeup. But her remarks, however, had me thinking. Am I being too harsh on myself? Do I have a distorted view of how I look?
I have a friend who is naturally beautiful without makeup and I told her so. I honestly haven’t seen anyone in our circle who looked better without makeup but her. She has naturally curly and long eyelashes, one of the things that I wish I have. I compensate by getting eyelash extensions. They do brighten up my eyes but as they tend to be extremely long, they don’t look natural. And they are not permanent, once the lashes start falling off, the remaining lashes start to look like spider legs. I’ve been sporting spider lashes of late because I didn’t want to get eyelash extension, at least not anytime soon. I wanted to give my lashes time to rest and to regrow as some of them have inevitably fallen off with the extension.
Then one day I saw Yen Dreyfus’s Instagram post in which she said she’s wearing max2cara. Yen is the actor and now blogger, Chuckie Dreyfus’s lovely wife. Like her husband, she has her own blog, The Tummy Traveler. Whatever it is, it made her eyes look bigger and bright. Her lashes are longer and thicker but they don’t look fake. I stared at her photo and immediately thought, I want that.
In the caption is a promise she would post about it on her blog. Excitedly, I left a comment that I’m interested in it. This is one of those moments when a thing as mundane as leaving an Instagram comment could lead to something amazing. Yen replied and helped open up an opportunity for me to try not just the max2cara but also the semi-permanent eyebrows that I’d been meaning to get.
Yesterday, Yen and I agreed to meet at Contours clinic in Magallanes. I came in before Yen so I sat by the clinic’s lobby to wait for her. A woman came out to the reception and asked me what did I come for. I told her that I’m waiting for someone. She asked if I’m Marge, the blogger that Yen mentioned to her. I said yes and approached her to formally introduce myself. I just met Dr. Claudine Roura, a board-certified dermatologist. As I’m writing this I just saw her profile on her website and found that she is the first and only cosmetic surgeon certified to do VASER High Definition Liposculpture in the Philippines. Impressive!
Doc Claudine immediately attended to me. I didn’t expect her to be so down to earth and easy to get along with but she is such a darling. I also noticed that she treats her staff well, even jokes around with them. Before long I was already feeling comfortable, Doc Claudine has a spunk, not dainty as some doctors that I met in the past. Being a person who is anything but dainty herself, I immediately took a liking to her.
Before anything else, we had to remove the remnants of my eyelash extension. I was slightly agitated about this because the last time I had my extension removed, the solution got into my eyes and I howled in pain. It was like using hot sauce for an eye drop. So I braced myself when doc began to put the eyelash glue remover on my lashes. I almost couldn’t believe it when I didn’t feel any sting. Thank the heavens!
So there I was, lying on the bed with my closed when I heard Yen and Chuckie came in. We said hellos and I waved because that’s the only thing I could do with my eyes closed as we let the glue remover solution sit on my lashes. Yen said that she’s getting her eyebrows done and I was like, what? So cool! I wanna get mine done too! I don’t have major problems with my brows, just that, it’s one part of my daily makeup ritual that takes time. But brows give the face a definition so I can’t escape the ritual. You make it so thin you will look like a granny, you make it a bit bushy and straight as Koreans do, you will look youthful, you make the arc too sharp you will look fierce. Thus, it’s one if not the top thing women prioritize when doing their makeup. As we say here in the Philippines, kilay is life.
While I am not completely dissatisfied with my brows, I would love it if I could skip this part of the makeup routine if I can. Wouldn’t it be nice to wake up in the morning with perfectly shaped brows?
“Do you want to try it too?” Yen asked.
“Yes, I have plans to get it done in the future,” I replied, you know when I already have P20,000, I added but only in my head.
Apparently, the future is here, because the next thing I knew, Yen has informed Doc Claudine that I also want my eyebrows done and the latter agreed. And just like that, the deal is sealed, I was bound to get new brows.
While working on my max2cara treatment, they put a numbing cream on my eyebrow area in preparation for the treatment called digital hyper-realistic brows. But more on that later.
So far, no other clinic is offering max2cara in the Philippines. Doc Claudine is pioneering the treatment in the country via Glam Tatz. This means I was among the first ones to try this, exciting!
It took a while for me because they still had to remove my eyelash extension. After that, they permed my almost non-existent lashes. Given the fact that I lost some of them due to the extension, my lashes have become shorter, some are still growing. This affected the final result, my lashes were not as long as Yen’s. Nevertheless, I liked it because at least these are my original lashes with just a bit of enhancement. Max2cara can last from 2 to 3 weeks.
Digital hyper-realistic brows
Now for that eyebrow on fleek, Doc Claudine and I went to another room. The numbing cream has taken effect. When doc started tracing lines on my brows I didn’t feel a thing. This treatment is kinda like manual microblading only it uses a digital nanomachine, a bit similar to the tool being used in regular tattoos. They say that the color lasts longer with a digital hyper-realistic brows procedure.
Doc made sure that my eyebrows would be even by doing some measurements. She said that thicker brows would look better on my face. She also consulted me if I liked how the patterns looked before we went on with the procedure. I was a bit nervous, not with the procedure itself but with the result. I told myself that Doc Claudine is well trained to do this, there’s no need for me to be worried.
Then the procedure begins. Doc picked a dark brown color to ensure natural-looking brows. It is generally painless, but there are some parts when I felt a slight discomfort particularly in the middle part of the brows, but the pain is bearable. I remember thinking what a relief the numbing cream brings. I wish tattoo parlors in the country would start using this to their patrons to make the tattooing experience a little less excruciating.
Somewhere in the middle of the procedure, Doc Claudine said that it’s getting blotchy. Turns out I’m developing bruises and things are getting a little bit bloody as she continues with the work. She asked if I easily get bruises, I said yes, most especially when I’m on my period. Apparently, I’m the only person she encountered who bled under this procedure. As a result, there are some red spots on my eyebrow areas when we were done. Other than that, the procedure went smoothly. Bleeding and bruising happen in getting inked even in body tattoos. I have 5 tattoos, I wasn’t in the least worried. Late that night, the reddening has subsided.
How did I find my new brows? I love them! The only time I saw my brows that are this defined is when I get my face done by a makeup artist. I am so excited that now, I don’t have to rely on them or any other beauty product for that matter to get perfect brows. Now here come’s my favorite part, a side by side comparison of my brows and lashes before and after the treatments. It amazes me that the end result looks so natural.
While I may never be as beautiful as Demi Lovato without makeup, at least I can now go swimming without losing my brows, lol. I do hope my new kilay would stop people from wondering if I’m sick the next time they see me without so much as a lip tint.
Special thanks to Yen Dreyfus for this opportunity and of course to Doc Claudine for giving my now naturally looking flirty lashes and eyebrows on fleek.
If you too want to try max2cara or digital hyper-realistic brows, you may contact Contours at the following numbers +02 556-4878/ +63 917-5622247 or visit their website, rouradermsurgery.com. Contours clinic can be found at 2/F, SouthPark Plaza, Paseo de Magallanes, Magallanes Village, Makati City.
I touched down Siargao from Cebu at around 8 in the morning. I was greeted by the shuttle drivers outside the airport, all vying for my attention, not because I’m such a goddess but because they want me to pick their van transfer service. The airport is 29-km away from General Luna where my place of accommodation is, a transportation service is a must. But I booked my transfer prior to this trip, I just had to look for a certain guy named, Burdoy.
I asked the drivers if they knew him and they sure did. Moments later, I saw this old short guy from a distance donned in a barong shirt. He is dark skinned, his hair is brushed neatly, and he was carrying a placard that bears two names; one is mine.
“Ayun driver ni Burdoy, si Binay.” (There goes Burdoy’s driver, Binay)
The old man is not Burdoy but his driver. I didn’t get his name, but because he does share an uncanny resemblance to the former vice president, let’s just call him Binay.
Binay offered to carry monster for me. I got in the van and waited for the other passengers to arrive. All in all, there were 5 passengers including myself. It’s bound to be a long ride, somewhere along the way I napped. When I opened my eyes the van has stopped on a clearing surrounded by trees and small outbuildings. Turns out it’s my stop. I alighted from the van, Binay helped me with my bag, I said my thanks then I started walking towards the resort. I stopped in my tracks upon remembering I haven’t paid. Binay has just got on the driver’s seat. I quickly made the approach and told him that I have to pay.
“Okay na,” (It’s okay) he said.
I stared at him confused, “Ano po?” (What?)
He nodded and repeated what he said. I tried to remember if I made the payment online; I know I didn’t. Not entirely sure what was going on, all I could do is say thanks and let him drive off.
I continued my way to the Bravo Beach Resort, which I found on a travel booking app. The dirt pathway opens to the resort’s in-house restaurant and reception. The main reason I booked this resort is that I liked how it looked on photos, clean and new. Despite this, I was still mighty impressed when I saw it in person.
Beyond the restaurant, right in the resort’s backyard is a beach that is bare and beautiful. The view alone makes dining at the resto such a pleasurable experience. There is also a small swimming pool.
Bravo Beach Resort is located in General Luna. If you want to do some surfing or if you want to watch surfers do their thing, you should stay in this municipality. When you search for good accommodation in Siargao you will find Kermit on top of that list. I meant to stay there following my friends’ advice but it’s fully booked. Maybe Kermit is amazing, but I cannot say I feel sorry that I didn’t stay there. I liked Bravo a lot, I think it’s perfect. I went to Kermit for dinner and aside from the fact that it takes an effort getting there due to the poor road condition where it’s located, it is also not beach-front. There’s a reason why people love beach-front accommodation; the view of the sea cannot be beaten.
I approached the receptionist who started telling me about the cost that I should settle. She said that the accommodation is good, I just had to pay for the food that I ate. Food that I ate? I just arrived! I read the name on the paper in which she was basing her computation and found that it’s not me.
“That’s not me. I’m just about to check in,” I informed her.
She immediately apologized, but I’d soon forgotten about her when the other receptionist started speaking to me, a young woman with an even brown skin and a lovely smile. She made me sign on a form to enter my information, then she told me to wait as she checks if there’s an available bed already. I stayed in the restaurant, enjoyed the view of the sea, and the welcome drink of calamansi juice.
When the room was ready, the girl called out for me and led me to this narrow pathway that is surrounded by plants. We went to room number 3. I was very much impressed that I muttered “beautiful” as soon as I stepped in. There is nothing fancy about the room, but I love the minimalist design. The bunk beds are made of thick sturdy wood that they don’t rattle even if somebody climbs up on the upper bunk bed. The toilet and shower are separated, the doors can be closed by a wooden latch. Across the shower/toilet is a long concrete sink, below a huge rectangular mirror.
There are tall closets with hangers, each bed has an electric outlet and a night light, the bed is thick and not too soft, sheets and pillowcases smell fresh, and they also provide a bath towel and a beach towel for their guests. The girl gave me the key tied to a blue string. I asked her name, it’s Monique.
For my 2-night stay, I paid ₱3,561.46 ($70.45), pretty cheap if you ask me considering the lovely amenities, the cordial staff, and complimentary breakfast.
Oh yes, let’s go to the food. Bravo is among the must-go places for good food in Siargao. Their most recommended dish happened to be the one that I tried for lunch, the peri peri chicken ₱240 ($4.75). It’s a must-try, the chicken meat is tender and well-seasoned.
On my first night, I had a hard time sleeping due to the loud snoring of the old white guy on the bed below mine. Not only does he snore, he was also suffering from a terrible coughing fit. I remember praying that he gets better, having a bad cough is one of the worst feelings in the world. The next night, the man, as well as the other foreign tourist, have checked out. In came a group of Filipino friends who are dentists. They bought a bottle of whisky and had a drinking sesh Filipino style outside our room. I was busy reading Dan Brown’s Origin on my phone when one of them came to the room to invite me to join them. I considered this for a moment, I have been alone on this trip, hardly talked to anyone so I thought, why not. Let’s go talk to some hoomans.
I went outside, sat in the hammock, then started chatting with them. They were led to the room by Monique earlier and they heard her calling me “ate” (big sister). So there everyone was calling me ate. If I have to be honest, I really don’t like being called ate. In the Philippines, it’s a sign of respect for women who are older than you. I am perfectly aware that I am older than them but I just don’t like being called ate by people who are not my siblings. In my family, the ate and kuya (big brother) is exclusive with siblings, not with cousins. This means my youngest sister doesn’t call our oldest cousin ate yet she is obliged to call me ate because we’re sisters. I hope I’m making sense.
Anyway, my point, I was raised in a family where the terms for older sister and brother do not extend to the cousins, not even to neighbors. I am used to this, hence I don’t like being called ate by someone who is not my sibling no matter our age difference. I hate it most especially in the place of work as I find it very unprofessional. So yes I am older than you, no don’t call me ate. I will not find it disrespectful if you call me by my name.
In keeping with good faith, I kept these thoughts in my head.
Most of the guests at Bravo are foreigners. One of the girls in the group kept saying baby shark whenever she sees some of them pass by. I realized she was referring to the white men. She was the most flirtatious and most willing to meet some guys that night and she succeeded. Before I knew it she was already talking with 3 of them who are staying in the room across from ours.
I thought I would get an easy sleep that night, I was wrong. The girl and the 3 guys talked so loudly and excitedly, I had to put my pillow over my head to lessen the noise. Why did I freakin’ leave my earplugs at home.
Monique and I were supposed to go out for some drinks that night and I was honestly looking forward to it. Then it rained, and I waited and waited for her message. When I woke up, I got a missed call and 3 sms from her. I said sorry that I zonked out early.
Bravo arranges island hopping tours and airport transfer. The van service that I hired the first time didn’t reply to my message. I wonder if it’s because I wasn’t able to pay them, but then it’s not like it’s my fault. I mentioned it to Binay about it you know. To get to the airport, I took Bravo’s van service for ₱400 ($7.91). I was alone in the van and we reached the airport in only 30 minutes.
Already I am planning to go back to Siargao next year and when I do, I will still choose Bravo Beach Resort. And I won’t forget to bring my ear plugs.
Someone’s at the door, struggling to open it. It’s not easy turning the knob. I remember what Monique, one of the resort’s staff, told me earlier when she led me to this room, “You got to keep turning the key to the right, one of the guests told me the trick.”
And so I was there silently cheering the person on, You can do it.
The door finally opened, a light-haired white woman entered the room. She was the same girl who greeted me earlier, we’re sharing the 4-bed mixed room at Bravo Beach Resort. All beds are occupied but I’ve yet to see the other 3 guests. They’re probably out exploring Siargao, which could mean 2 things; they’re either surfing or island hopping.
The girl looked up at me; I was on the upper bunk, “Why are you staying in this room? You should check out Siargao!”
I couldn’t place her accent, but I could tell she didn’t come from an English speaking country. I was supposed to say that I don’t know where to go, instead, I answered, “I think it’s raining.”
She shook her head, “No it isn’t. It’s sunny. Go out and explore,” she said in an excited tone.
“Alright,” I muttered a reply.
I went down from the upper bunk bed, took my wallet from my cabinet, and left the room. I was chatting with my friend earlier on places to check out in Siargao. She gave out recommendations including Shaka. I searched Google Maps for the location, it would take me about 34 minutes to get there on foot so nope, I’m taking the motorbike.
The main mode of transport in Siargao is motorbike; tourists even rent them out. Some bikes have a roof, some have a surfboard carrier. I can’t drive a car, but I know how to drive a motorbike so I thought about renting one. But my vacation is short, and I don’t know where to go, so I decided it’s a no.
Siargao is one of the well-known surf spots in the Philippines. Everybody has been there but me and I had to do something about it. I booked a flight in June, got it for cheap due to a promo. When you plan a trip too far from d-day, there is always a possibility that it won’t push through. I resigned from my previous work, got accepted in a new company, and now I don’t have leave credits until I get regularized in May. I even posted a Facebook status that Siargao and I are not mean to see each other yet.
Then last month I had to fly to Sydney for work the same week we are having the ASEAN Summit. It was a declared holiday, it means I’d be working on those 3 days when I was supposed to be at home. I didn’t really mind because hello that’s Australia! I wouldn’t say no to Australia. Given the situation, my manager and I agreed that I could offset those 3 days when I return to the Philippines. To cut the story short, I used those 3 days in Siargao.
As I write this, Tori Amos is singing about the Cornflake Girl. I’m halfway through the signature cocktail drink of Bravo Beach Resort, a mixture of gin and calamansi juice and they call it pomada. I cannot make its connection with the hair clay old men like to use, I could ask the staff, but I’m not in the mood. It tastes more like calamansi juice than gin but I am already feeling dizzy. I haven’t even finished the entire thing, what’s wrong with me?
The restaurant is jam-packed and it seems like I am the only person with no company. I am going to be honest, I wish I have someone with me, a lover or a friend. I don’t know how to talk to strangers, I don’t know how to do it without feeling awkward. This is not my first solo trip, but I have never mastered the art of making friends. It’s the missing ingredient of all my travels; I cannot easily make a connection with strangers. People expect me to hook up with a guy, to find someone whenever I travel. I always go back with nothing or should I say no one.
Today I paid ₱1,500 ($29.55) for an island-hopping activity. I texted Doy, a dark-skinned surfer with big curly hair. He was recommended by a friend to help me with my Siargao activities. He picked me up from the resort with his motorbike, I thought he would be coming on the trip, turns out he just arranged an island-hopping tour for me in which I was the only passenger.
Given my antisocial tendencies and aversion for waiting on people, I thought I would enjoy it. The boatmen, Mang Ben Ben and Kuya Bobby were quiet people, but they were nice and they took care of me. I noticed that people from other boats were looking at me. They’re probably wondering who is this weirdo who has the boat all to herself. The islands were breathtaking, golden sand that glitters under the sun, cerulean blue waters, and islands that are generally peaceful despite the presence of tourists, really I got nothing to complain. But this time, loneliness has become a burden. I couldn’t motivate myself to take a swim, I couldn’t get myself to greet other people, I didn’t want to stop anywhere to take a moment for myself. I was a classic tourist, I just went to take photos.
Our first stop is Naked Island, which, save for the long stretch of sand and a small patch of area with vegetation, is completely bare. It is, as the name implies, naked. A light rain started pouring when we arrived and the other tourists were already going back to their respective boats. I went down for a quick photo sesh with Kuya Bobby.
Daku Island has small huts and cottages where people could go and have lunch. Kuya Bobby said that I could ask one of the locals to cook food for me, but I decided against it given my alone-ness state.
Guyam Island, as Daku is covered with trees and cottages where people could hang out. There is a large section on the seashore covered with rocks, OOTD background worthy, so I asked Kuya Bobby to take my photos; he willingly obliged. After our mini photo shoot, I told him that it’s time to go home.
He called out Mang Ben Ben who was taking a rest beneath the shade of the trees.
“Tapos na?” (It’s over?) asked Mang Ben Ben in surprise.
“Oo,” (yes), replied Bobby.
The island hopping tour lasted for only 2 hours.
At times I covered my face with the beach towel because my eyes hurt from the glare of the sun. I don’t like wearing eyeglasses because I like to see the beauty of my surrounding in its true colors. But today I regretted that I neglected to pack my sunnies.
It’s only 7:20 in the evening, and I don’t know what else to do. I need to pee. I guess it’s an early night for me.