Before that photo showing a great number of tourists on Cloud 9’s boardwalk went viral, I was there in December last year and had the place pretty much to myself. Cloud 9 refers to the surfing wave with a thick hollow tube, that surfers from all over the world go to Siargao for. In the area, there is a boardwalk that leads to a view deck. I walked there all by myself, climbed all the way to the top of the viewpoint. There, I spent, in my estimation, about 30 minutes taking in the scenery and listening to the sound of the waves. There are not many surfers that day, all I had to see was the magnificent view of the sea.
There are a few restaurants in the area but I was not in the mood to check them out. I just took as many photos as I could. One of my favorite photos is that of a local man, whom I spotted walking with a fish in tow.
[Related: Solo island hopping in Siargao is not as fun as I thought]
When I went back to the side of the beach, I walked along a path lined with palm trees. There, I saw some surfboards leaning on the trees and further down the path are the surfers, resting in their respective hammocks. Some of them asked me if I wanted to surf, I just smiled and shook my head no. The first and the last time I tried surfing was in Baler years ago. It was a very challenging and exhausting activity, but not something that I found to be exhilarating. Hence, I never surfed again in other surfing destinations that I visited like La Union and Siargao. I am not sure if I will ever do surfing again, but I decided it wasn’t going to be on this trip.
Having been there, I can understand the lure of Siargao and couldn’t blame people for wanting to visit this paradise. I think though that Siargao is not yet ready to accommodate a surge of tourists, unlike Palawan or Boracay. There are not many tour operators in the area, the island tours are not as streamlined as the ones in El Nido, and the locals, not as aggressive in offering tourists to help them get around the island.
I just hope that we would all be responsible travelers when we visit not just Siargao but any other destinations. Do not leave your trash behind, don’t throw it out the sea, don’t do anything that would harm the environment. Leave with nothing but memories.
Maybe the crowd is explained by the peak season, I sure hope that is only the case. Siargao is one the most beautiful places I have ever seen in my country, it would be heartbreaking if its beauty would be ruined by the neglect of men. Tourism is good for the economy, but as all things, it should be done in moderation and with good planning. There should be some level of control from the local government and tourists should be guided accordingly.
I guess I made the right decision visiting in the time when others are busy doing something else. Being alone at the Cloud 9 view deck is one of my favorite moments in my short time in Siargao. I do hope the place will be maintained, and the beauty of Siargao retained so that more people can go visit and appreciate it.
You were more than an aunt, you were a mother of 6 children. You spent your whole life caring for others’ kids and treated them as your own. I remember how I used to ask you questions and you only shrugged in reply. I remember when I used to mimic how you walked with your feet toeing-out. You always wore jogging pants and I remember when I saw your legs for the first time, amazed that they were so white. I remember wondering why you’re called “Lele” when your name was Caroline.
You washed our clothes, cooked our food, and fetched water from neighbors when our water line got cut out. When I moved out I have always missed your home cooking. Mama left and never returned, but you stayed and kept us going. I never told you but you were the person I missed the most the day I left Geronimo.
I remember when I was young and you fell in love with a young lady in our neighborhood. I was a child but I knew it was pure and so I supported this young love. I helped you send her your messages, risking the wrath of her grandmother. I wanted you two to have a happy ending and ignored people who told me it should never be. What did they know? What do they care? Love is love, that’s all that matters.
I watched you sitting in one corner the day she went away. You were silent and I wanted to ask if you were okay. Yes, I was young, but I knew how much it must have hurt you. So I just looked at you from afar and respected your silence.
I know how much you love perfumes that I make sure to buy you those when Christmas comes around.
You were set to leave the house and I was happy because you listened to my advice. I thought a change of environment would help you get better. I was thinking for days how much more can I help you. I even scolded your sister for asking me to go there so that I could see you. I told her to not talk to me like you were about to go. Deep inside I feared that if I ever see you, I would burst out crying like I always do.
You and mother fought, months before my younger sister was born. You stayed in a different house and I felt mama’s resentment for your absence. Even when I missed you, I thought that maybe it was good for you. You spent most of your life caring for us; maybe it was time that you live your life the way you wanted it.
But the babies have always been your weak spot; there’s something in them that melts your heart. When the baby was born, I saw your restrained excitement when you asked me how she is. My younger sister, innocent as she may be that time, has brought you back in.
I want you to know I did what I could to fight for you. I want you to know that I appreciate everything that you’ve done for me and my siblings. I want you to know I never looked at you as merely my aunt but my mother. I am sorry that I wasn’t expressive, I’m sorry I couldn’t show you how much I cared. I wasn’t raised to show the beatings of my heart.
You were supposed to celebrate your birthday in the next few days. It breaks my heart that this is one birthday you could never see.
I could never hate you for leaving this early.
After all these years, I still don’t understand why they called you Lele, when your name is Caroline.
I’m the kind of person who relies on a map and still gets lost, 5o% of the time. Oftentimes, I would stop a minimum of 3 strangers just to ask for directions. I can get from point A to B with barely a recollection of how I did it. I am what they call, directionally challenged or to use my own term, a direction impaired. And this has made my travels abroad harder than it should be considering that majority of the countries I visited have non-English speakers. I knew that communication would be the least of my worries in Australia, but I discovered something that made getting around easier and it didn’t require approaching a soul. How? You’re in luck mes amis! I will show you how to navigate Sydney by just using Opal card and its app.
What is an Opal Card?
Opal is a reloadable card that you can use to pay for public transport, such as trains, buses, ferries, and light rails in Sydney, Central Coast, Blue Mountains, Southern Highlands, and Illawarra.
There are 4 types of Opal card:
- Adult – used by people 16 years and above
- Child/Youth – used by people aged 4-15 years old
- Senior/Pensioner – for eligible seniors, pensioners, and asylum seekers
- Concession – for eligible tertiary or TAFE students, apprentices, trainees, or job seekers
How to get an Opal Card
There are over 2,100 Opal retailers in Australia and you can easily find a retailer within your area on this link. In my case, I purchased the Adult Opal card AUD 40 (₱1,633.33) in one of the convenience stores at the Sydney Airport.[Related: My Boss Summoned me to the Land Down Under]
To help protect your card balance’s in case it got lost or stolen, register your card on this link. Note that you can only use the Opal app if your card is registered.
How to add a card to the Opal app
Download the Opal app on your phone, it is available for both iOs and Android. Simply add your Opal card in the app, enter the Opal card number, CSC, then set card nickname. Click the Add button then you’re good to go.
If you’re wondering if you need to download the app to use the Opal card, the answer is no. But I highly recommend that you do because it is quite helpful in getting around Sydney hassle-free. Not only does it give you access to the key modes of transportation in the city, it will also show you how to get from point A to point B, which I will discuss later.
How to top up the Opal card
There are two ways to reload or top up the card; you can go to Opal top-up machines in selected stations, or do the more convenient method of using the Opal app. It’s quite easy:
- Click the Top up button in the app then select the amount that you want to reload.
- Enter your credit card/debit card information in the Add billing details.
- Click the Add button in the upper-right corner of the screen. Alternatively, you may also click the Add billing details button at the bottom of the screen. You will be redirected to the next page.
- Click the Confirm payment button.
That’s it! Provided you entered the correct information, your card will be successfully reloaded.
How to use the Trip Planner in the Opal app
This is where it gets exciting. I know many of you are quite dependent on Google to get around; I know I am. Well, you can give Google a rest in Sydney, at least when it comes to checking the schedule of their public transport or when you want to know how exactly you can get from one place to another. There is a nifty feature in the Opal app called, Trip Planner.
So what does it do? First, it shows the real-time schedule of their trains, buses, and ferries. The information provided includes the routes and timetables, the stations, stops, and wharves. You will be given several choices on how to get to your destination. You will know which bus will arrive at a specific time and where exactly it will stop.
Here’s how to do it.
- Enter your current location and select your desired destination. You will be given several options on how you can reach your destination.
- View the details of the itinerary by selecting from the options given.
In this sample, I set the current destination to Hyde Park along Elizabeth Street and the destination to Circular Quay.
In the Details section, you will see the specifics of an itinerary. As you can see in the left snippet below, it would take 6 minutes to walk from Museum Station to the bus stop, Stand D. From there I have to take Bus 373. The bus ride takes roughly 4 minutes and it would stop at Stand C on Philip St. From there, I only need to walk 3 minutes to get to Circular Quay. The bus fare for this trip is only AUD 2.15 (₱86.20).
You can check the options to see which one is best for you. Once you’re set on which itinerary to take, just click that green GO button. It will then show you the built-in map (as shown in the right snippet) where you can see the real-time updates of your trip.
If you’re curious, this is how their bus stops look like.
You can view the history of your trips in the Opal Activity section.
It’s funny that I didn’t ask anyone for direction in a country where everyone speaks English. As you can see, there has been no need for that because Opal app told me exactly where to go and how to get there. I know that there is a similar app in Singapore, but I didn’t have to use it when I was already with a friend who lives there and can show me the way.
But since I’ve found the joys of using an app to get around, I might just download the smart card app of the next country I’m visiting (if it’s available) just to make navigation a little less complex for me.
You can also travel Sydney by means of a taxi or Uber. I was able to try them too, but they are so expensive I deemed it best to just take the public transport. Sydney is an expensive city that the $40 you will spend on an Opal card is equivalent to just a single ride on Uber. Take a taxi or Uber, only when it’s necessary or money is not an issue. If you’re not used to taking public transport, don’t worry, this is not the Philippines; commuting in Australia won’t gray your hair (pinky swear!).
If you want to know more about Opal card, here’s the link their FAQ page. It provides other information that was not included in this article.