In the last four years, I have been applying for Saudi Arabian visas to visit my husband working in the Kingdom. So far, all my visa applications were granted. Basically, the initial application was done by my husband online through the Ministry of Foreign Affairs who issues the pre-approval visa slip. This document alongside with my passport, proof of kinship (marriage certificate) were given to my agent for visa stamping. The latter document has to be authenticated in DFA and the Saudi Embassy in Manila thru East West Placement in Makati. The stamping took three days then I was good to go.
VFS TasHeel in the Philippines
However, in my recent resident visa application, I was told by my agent that there have been changes in the visa stamping procedure. Personal appearance of the applicant is required for bio metric enrollment that includes collection of finger prints, facial image and other biographic details reflected on the applicant’s passport. VFS TasHeel Visa Service Centers have offices in Manila, Cebu and Davao. The above mentioned centers will process various categories of visa permits including resident, educational, personal, commercial visits etc., with the exception of Hajj, Umrah and Work visas.
Listed below is the complete list of resident visa requirements:
Original and copy of the passport.
Passport should be valid for at least six months.
Passport must contain at least two blank facing pages.
Passport must not contain any restriction and authorizes its holder to return to the issuing country.
2 recent photos with white background. The photograph size should be 2 inch x 2 inch (51 mm x 51 mm), no uniform, with white background, and frontal view, and should not be more than 3 months old
Enjaz Form, filled by the Visa Service Center and signed by the Applicant.
Residence visa slip or its copy containing visa number and date of its issuance. The validity of residence visa is one (1) year effective from the date of its issuance in the Kingdom. Arabic translation showing on the right side should be evident on the document.
Proof of kinship or marital relationship (marriage contract with regards to wife, birth certificates for children), duly authenticated by the Philippines Department of Foreign Affairs and Royal Embassy of Saudi Arabia in Manila. The age of the children should not exceed (18) years old and the daughters should not be married.
Valid Medical Certificate issued by one of the medical centers accredited by the Embassy.
The initial steps of my application were done by my husband. He had our authenticated marriage certificate and his degree certificates attested and translated in Saudi Arabia. He was charged 200 SAR ~ PhP 2,800. He then submitted all the documents to his company’s liaison officer for processing. The application fee cost was 2000 SAR ~ 28,000 PhP.
In two weeks time, we got the Pre-approval Visa slip (this will be one of the documents needed for visa stamping).
Next step was obtaining my medical certificate in the Philippines which took just over a week. It cost me roughly PhP 5000 on all medical tests.
Here is the list of the accredited clinics in the Philippines:
American Outpatient Clinic Angelina Apostol-Punzalan Medical Clinic Angelus Medical Clinic Arguelles Medical Clinic Cebu Physicians Diagnostic Services Center Inc, Christian E. Cango Medical Clinic & Laboratory Davao Physicians Diagnostic Services Center Inc, HYATT Diagnostic System Inc, International Diagnostic Center L-R Medical & X-ray Clinic Inc. Mabini Medical Clinic, Inc Medisense Laboratory Center, Inc. Manila 1 Medisense Laboratory Center, Inc.Cebu Branch 2 Medisense Laboratory Center, Inc. Davao Branch 3 Medisense Laboratory Center, Inc. Bacolod Branch 4 My Health Clinic Our Lady of Fatima Medical Clinic Philippine Medical Test System Physicians Diagnostic Services RGO Laboratory and Industrial Diagnostic Center Inc, Safeway Diagnostic Services SM Lazo Medical Clenic, Inc. St. Martin Polycinic, Inc. St. Patrick’s Healthcare System St. Peter-Paul Medical Clinic, Inc St. Peter-Paul Medical Clinic, Inc. Cebu Branch YGEIA Medical Center. Inc.
Booking an Appointment
It was time to book my appointment! Luckily, if you are living close to one of the visa centers mentioned above then you dont have to travel far like I did. Although I was close to Davao and Cebu but the posting time of my passport would take another 7-10 days because they have to send it to Manila office and then back. I was really short of time because I had my flight to Saudi Arabia booked on the 1st of February.
Anyway, they have a lounge service should you want to avoid long queues, like myself. 😉 They had nice soft seats and give you a drink or two. I noticed they have put Wi-Fi access too in the lounge service facility whilst booking my appointment online but ironically, all phones have to be turned off upon entering the center.
Normal PhP 2,651.00
Lounge PhP 4,307.00
Please note though that the type of service does not affect the length of visa stamping.
My appointment went painless and done in less than an hour. The staffs were so friendly too.
Note: Dependents below six-years old dont need personal appearance.
Now, this is the crazy thing. I forgot to inform the clinic who issued my medical certificate to upload my files in the system as instructed by the VFS personnel who managed my application. I did not realize this until two days after my appointment date. This caused a little delay to the visa stamping procedure. I was frantic about the possibility of missing my flight, two flights in fact.
So, I had to contact the courier service (2GO) to track my parcel containing my passport and fortunately they were able to fish it out my parcel from the plane in NAIA. I was instructed to pick up my passport in their office in Pasay. It was literally just hours before my flight to Saudi! Crikey! Oh well the odds were still in my favor. Thank you universe!
HORRAY! Im now back in Saudi with my luvva!
P.S I have been encountering enquiries about a personal agent who could process their visa applications for Saudi Arabia in expat.com. Her details listed below;
In my search for a non-wheat pizza crust, I experimented with a quinoa base and found it both a fantastic and delicious alternative. Although, quinoa, now a well known super food, can be expensive and requires a longer preparation time. Recently however, I stumbled across a crust made out of cauliflower, eggs and mozzarella cheese.
Personally I still enjoy the classic flour dough base (organic flour of course) but I have a friend or two with wheat intolerance so it’s good to have alternatives. It’s a perfectly painless recipe and in less than an hour you can make a thin, crispy, healthier pizza which is just as tasty as the orignal. Interested? Here’s how it’s done.
The original recipe uses egg and cheese to bind the cauliflower but I replaced the egg with organic flax seeds. Flax seeds are really good for the body; packed with Omega-3 fatty acids, dietary fiber, minerals and much more.
This version is for the classic Margherita but I also love vegetarian toppings such as courgettes, mushrooms, bell peppers, and pineapple. We have our own pizza topping preferences.
Makes two 10″ thin pizza crusts.
1 big head cauliflower (makes 3 cups when grated)
400 grams mozzarella cheese (I prefer fresh if available)
3 tbsps flax seeds (mealed)
9 tbsps water
2 cloves garlic (pressed)
1 Tbsp oregano or mixed herbs
pinch of salt
2 tbsps tomato paste
2 tbsps Olive oil
1. Mix mealed flax seeds and water. Set aside.
2. Remove leaves from cauliflower and pulse until fine. Don’t over pulse or it will turn into a puree
3. You can grate the cauliflower if you don’t have a food processor.
4. Place in a baking dish and cook in the oven for 10 minutes at 160 C.
5. Once cooled, add garlic, herbs, flax mixture and cheese.
6. Combine thoroughly and then divide into two portions.
7. Spread each portion on 10″ pizza tray lined with grease proof paper.
8. Bake for 15 minutes at 180 C until slightly crisp. Then brush top side with tomato paste and bake for another 5 minutes. Don’t over bake the final step is to add your desired toppings then a splash of olive oil. Bake for another 20 minutes or until all toppings are cooked.
In under an hour you can bring to life a batch of this classic French sweet pastry delight. I love making them. They’re so easy, fun, and super yummy. I try to make them as healthy as I can. My dream is to eat an eclair in France whilst sipping coffee in a traditional cafe, watching the world go by. ❤
1 cup organic all purpose flour
1 cup water
1/4 tsp Himalayan salt
1/2 cup melted butter
3 Egg yolks beaten, free range/organic if available
3 cups organic milk, if available
1/3 cup organic coconut sugar
1/3 cup organic corn flour
1/4 tbsp organic vanilla (paste/powder)
Pinch of salt
100g Organic dark chocolate 70-90% cocoa solids
50g butter, organic if available
2 tbsps organic coco sugar
1. Melt butter in a pan over a low heat. Once melted, add water. Turn off the heat once it starts to boil and quickly add the flour.
2. Stir until mixture is homogenized.
3. Put back over low to medium heat and constantly stir until the paste doesnt stick to the pan anymore.
4. Remove from heat. Stir for another minute then add the eggs one at a time. Continue stirring until paste becomes glossy.
5. Fill a pastry bag with the choux paste and squeeze out your desired eclair size on a lined baking sheet. I like mine tiny about 4″ in length and 1″ wide.
6. Bake in a preheated oven for 20 minutes at 200C then reduce heat to 150C and continue baking for another 15 minutes.
7. Cool pastry. Fill with vanilla cream. Dip the top side in chocolate ganache then sprinkle with your preferred chopped nuts, I prefer almond. Dessicated coconut is another favorite but feel free to experiment with your preference.
8. Best eaten when chilled and left in the fridge for an hour or so as the allows time for all the wonderful flavors to come together.
9. Now, grab your cuppa and indulge in this super heavenly bite.
Prepare an ice bath to hasten the cooling of the cream, once cooked.
Mix egg yolks with milk. Mix all dry ingredients and slowly pour the milk into it. Stir constantly. Cook over low heat in a saucepan and stir continuosly until gloopy. Turn off heat and immediately put the saucepan into the ice bath and stir continuously until it warms. Put in a bowl or jar and cover with greaseproof paper to avoid a skin forming on the surface. Chill in the fridge until the pastry is ready.
Into a heat proof bowl, snap small pieces of 100g dark chocolate 85% or 90% cocoa content, organic if available. Add 50g grams of butter and 1 tbsp of coconut sugar. Put bowl over a pan with simmering water. Make sure the bottom of the bowl doesnt touch the water. Thoroughly mix the ganache once ingredients have melted.<<<<<<<
I am currently enjoying my “reducetarian” diet, which is mostly fruit and vegetables and an almost zero meat intake. I still can’t give up the occasional roast dinner though.😝 Opting for a sounder way of eating hasn’t just made me feel great health-wise, it’s also increased my creativity in producing all those weekday vegetable dishes. I’m now serving up some wonderful guilt-free bites.
Here is my smashingly delicious vegetarian roll. It’s packed with goodness, wrapped in a home-made tortilla and served with some pineapple salsa. It’s a very comforting nibble and extremely appetizing too!💜
Serves 6-8 People
200g mixed bean salad
100g sweet corn in water
5 cloves of garlic minced
3 purple onions finely sliced
1 tbsp garam masala
1 cup coriander leaves finely chopped
2 cups breadcrumbs, preferred making my own
1 tsp Himalayan salt
Pepper to taste
2 tbsp lemon juice
2 tbsp olive oil
1 small tub of Greek or plain yogurt
1. Blitz the bean salad and sweetcorn together. Transfer to a bowl. Add coriander leaves, garam masala, egg, breadcrumbs, garlic, onions and lemon juice.
3. Thouroughly incorporate all the ingredients.
5. Chill for 30 minutes to an hour to let all the flavors interact with each other.
6. Heat a swig of olive oil in a pan over medium hear.
7. Divide bean patty to six large portion or 8 medium ones and mold a sausage-shape using bare hands.
8. Shallow fry until crisp on the outside.
9. Lay on a flour tortilla, topped with pineapple salsa. Add a dollop of yogurt on top and a few drops of olive oil.
10. W R A P and E N J O Y!
5 cups pineapple chopped in tiny cubes
10 tomatoes chopped in tiny cubes, deseeded
5 red onions chopped finely
1 bunch of fresh coriander leaves chopped
Pinch of cayenne pepper
Mix all ingredients and chill in the fridge until serving time
3 cups of unbleached organic white flour
1 tsp Himalayan salt
1 tsp baking powder
1 cup water
1/3 cup organic Olive oil
1. Combine dry ingredients in a bowl and then make a well in the midde.
2. Pour in water and olive oil. Mix using a wooden spoon until it forms a crumbly dough. Starting kneding using bare hands until a pliable dough is achieved.
3. Divide dough into 16 mini dough balls. Using fingers, press the balls to flatten a little bit and rest for 20 minutes covered with cling film.
4. Using a rolling pin, flatten dough to make it really thin and about 6inches wide. Add flour should it get too sticky.
5. On a heated pan over medium heat, lay tortilla until bubbles start to form on the top then flip and cook for another 2-3 minutes.
SIARGAO! This particular island paradise is located in the southeast of the Philippines, under the municipality of Surigao del Norte. There are daily flights from Cebu and Manila via Cebu. Check Cebu Pacific Air for details and the possibility of other local airports. Travelling by car from Visayas or Mindanao will mean catching a ferry and isn’t as convenient.
Siargao hadn’t really been on my need-to-visit-list, but my sister and her boyfriend convinced me to join them April 2017. I loved it so much, I went back in July with my husband.
Both trips will fused here so expect extra tales. I’d love to move to Siargao forever, so more stories might come in the future. Let’s see.
With no Siargao flights from Cagayan de Oro, we hit the road instead. We headed straight to Hayanggabon port as we had decided to first swing by Bucas Grande Island in Socorro which is also in Surigao del Norte. Hayanggabon and Surigao port are about an hour from each other by car. Two passenger boats departure from Hayanggabon,11 am and then 4 pm. Don’t miss the first one like we did, as it’s a long wait for the second one. Another option would be to hire a private boat for around PhP 2500-3000 (max 8 passengers). Luckily for us, we found a cheaper option. Some boatmen, taking passengers coming from Bucas Grande, offered us a ride to Socorro for PhP 100/each which was fantastic and a bonus for them too! It took an hour to reach Socorro. We stayed overnight at Anthony’s Seaside Guesthouse.
The place was reasonable for the price and they have a kitchen for guests like us, who prefer to cook their own food. The owner recommended some boatmen to take us to Bucas Grande the next day and we paid PhP 3500 for the four of us. Coincidentally, they were the same boatmen who had taken us to Socorro.
We left for Bucas Grande at 6 am with some ready cooked food, prepared the night before, after visiting the conveniently close market. The hotel owner had hinted buying snacks and meals on the way could get a little pricey.
Cruising towards Bucas Grande revealed multiple islands and islets; dazzling formations, sitting up from the blue glass sea; amazing views that the artist nature had patiently carved over time and a reminder of why I leave my house and travel.
On Bucas, the four of us paid PhP 1800 for the Sohoton cove tour, popular for the huge school of sting-less jelly fish. There are a lot of caves to explore as well, but our time was too short for that.
The tour started with low tide at 10 am. So while waiting for the tide we sailed to Marka-a beach for an early morning swim. We also had a smashing time snorkeling.
Close by, we found another rock formation jutting from the sea, had another splash in the water, took photos and then climbed to the top for a better view of the other islets. We had a bite to eat on our boat and then headed back to see the jelly fish.
Tour around Sohoton Cove
In Cebuano, the word “so-oton”means to enter. That made sense when the boat was guided to the cove’s sole entry point, which was a wide tunnel with a low ceiling and only accessible at low tide. Sailing through the cove was nothing less than enchanting. We saw Islets covered with lush trees, all so serene and magical. We fell under the spell of this very special place.
Our two guides first took us to Hagukan cave, but it had started to get busy so we opted for snorkeling instead.
Snorkeling was fun, except when I let my imagination overtake me. The clear waters were so still and peaceful I couldn’t help but conjure fears of the ‘Syokoy’, a fish like humanoid who in Philippine mythology drags its victims down to the river/sea bed.
Back on the boat and next stop the sting-less jelly fish sanctuary.
We had a fantastic time swimming with the jelly fish. There were so many of them –baby ones to jumbo giants. It’s quite a deep spot and although the surface is broken by the reflecting shafts of sunlight, even the clear illumined waters fade to an impenetrable darkness. Certainly scarier than the place before, but this time I was having too much fun to care.
Altogether, our detour to Sohoton Cove was short, sweet and enthralling. Certainly worth crow-barring into an itinerary.
SIARGAO, here we come!
From Socorro, the boatmen charged us PhP 1500 to General Luna, a popular area of Siargao. It’s usually PhP 2000 but I’m a great haggler. It was the same boatman too so they knew us already.
On my second trip to Siargao I took a ferry from Surigao port. (Don’t get confused here, Surigao is the mainland port, Siargao is the paradise island.) Here are the ferry schedules to Dapa, the island’s main port. Tickets range from PhP 250-300 per way.
Surigao-Dapa : 5 am and 10 am
Dapa – Surigao: 5 am and 10 am
From Dapa, it’s a 45 min trike ride to General Luna for about Php400, but remember, haggling is free! Some hotels in Siargao offer port transfers if you’ve already booked with them. Alternatively, you can hire a van for Php1000 to take you to General Luna.
General Luna is the tourist hub of Siargao, with a variety of accommodation, cafe’s, bars, discos, restaurants, turo-turo food, surf shops, souvenir shops, and so on. You can also find the internationally renowned surfing spot “Cloud 9” here too. Siargao is packed with lovely coconut trees, so there was a good supply of our favourite healthy drink, buko, (young coconut).
The island has an easy going, happy atmosphere, with warm and friendly people, even more than usual for the Philippines. There’s such a chill surfer vibe you can’t help but relax. Don’t fret though, surfing is just a tiny part of Siargao, it has so many fantastic places to experience too. Trust me, once visited, the desire to return remains.
I’ve stayed in quite a few places in Siargao, and there are places to fit everyone’s budget.
Located in General Luna and about 5-minute walk to the beach at PhP 1500/night for maximum of four people. This place is clean, cozy and spacious enough for four. The room isn’t air conditioned but has high ceilings and surrounded by plants, which keeps it cool and feeling fresh. The Swiss-Filipino owners live next door ready to attend to guests needs. They also have their sweet little boy, Kenji who welcomes you with flowers he picks from their garden. For bookings try- Tiki Bungalows and Bar’s Lofthouse.
Jing’s Place Homestay
Located in General Luna and run by a Filipino family, I stayed in one of their fan rooms at 300 a head per night. Shower and toilet were communal and the room itself needed smartening up. It’s about a 10 minute walk to the beach. They serve a variety of food choices which are reasonably priced. They also provide surfing lessons and board rentals. For more details, visit their website Jing’s Place Homestay.
Cherinicole Beach Resort
Located in General Luna, owned by a Filipino family. Stayed here for two weeks at PhP1500 (ac room), but prices vary without notice. Went through Agoda then Travelboook.Ph which was actually cheaper than booking at the front desk. The restaurant was mediocre but there is a nice little swimming pool which is literally a step away from the beach, with sunbeds perfect for sunbathing. Staff are helpful and really friendly here too.
Located in General Luna, next to the famous surfing spot, Cloud 9. At PhP 500/night for a room with a fan which has an en-suite toilet and shower but the room needs proper ventilation as it gets too humid. The walls were literally coated in condensation in the morning. For enquiries, visit Wayfarers Cloud 9.
I would have loved to stay in Harana, Kawili and Kermit, as I’ve read good reviews about them, but they were fully booked I suggest you book ahead of time especially during peak surfing season.
You can get around on a rented bike for about PhP 350.00/day or even for shorter journeys on a bicycle for PhP 120.00/day. We rented a van for the longer road trips at PhP 2500.00/day. Warning! Be careful renting a motorbike, some lack maintenance. My sister and her boyfriend had a burst tire which sent them sprawling. Fortunately, they received only minor injuries. However, the very same thing happened to a Spanish couple we befriended on our second trip. Thank goodness they were also spared any serious injury. So be extra careful, especially as helmets are rarely provided.
Surfing Siargao turned me into a lover of the surf. Such exhilarating fun riding the foamy waves. It’s definitely worth a go. If you’re a newbie I highly recommend hiring a surfing instructor. For as little as PhP 500 you get a board and one-on-one help for a good hour. It’s well worth it. In no time they will have you standing up on the board, riding the surf. Practiced surfers can hire just the board for PhP 200 per hour.
WARNING: Surf photos flooding soon. :p
Naked, Daku and Guyam Islands– the treasure being their beauty and in that sense they truly are, precious gems.
To island hop you need a boat, which normally costs Php 1500, but as usual I haggled it down to Php1400. It’s up to you which order you see the islands but generally it’s Naked first, then Daku and finally Guyam.
Naked Island is a 10-minute boat ride from General Luna. Like all the islands, it sits in the crystal clear waters of the southern Siargao sea. Best visited in the early morning or a few hours before sunset when It’s quieter and cooler. Don’t forget to bring sun protection, as its blisteringly hot during the day and being naked, there’s no canopy to hide beneath.
It’s a tiny island, and all of it beach. You won’t spend long here, just time enough to walk its perimeter, take a swim or pose and nail that instagrammable bikini shot. With a wide open sky and no aerial obstacles, it’s also perfect for drone pilots like myself.
Daku Island was next. It’s a larger island and its name means big. There’s a gorgeous stretch of beach- white pristine sand and the same clear swimmable waters.This island has dense coconut palms soaring into the sky. From these, the locals will sell you the best bukos to keep you hydrated and well quenched.
You can also play volleyball here and then dunk yourself into the crystal water to cool off quickly. Daku is the only island among the three where you can get food. You can bring food or buy it there and for a fee they will cook it for you. However, buying from the market in GL would be slightly cheaper.
Guyam Island is a beautiful round drop in the ocean and sits right across from General Luna. It has it’s perfect beach as expected but volcanic rock formations make up the rest of the shore, visible when the tide recedes. This island is an ideal spot to end the hopping. There are areas on the sand where you can relax under lush leafy trees and the place has a quieter, secluded feel. It’s good for swimming and snorkeling too. And again, you can buy bukos here, though are less abundant than on Daku.
More in the “Siargao treasure chest”
Whilst the whole island of Siargao is beautiful, there are two places that stand out-Sugba Lagoon and Magpupungko Rock Pools. I hired an 8-seater van for PhP 2500/day. A bit pricey, but if you’re lucky like I was, you can bump into friends and fellow tourists who are more than willing to tag along and share the cost Here are the other options;
Motorbike or “Habal-habal”PhP 800 for 2-3 people (all day trip)
Tricycle PhP 1000 for 2-4 people (this is a much slower journey)
Bingo Trikeney PhP 1200-1500 2-4 people (self-drive/with driver)
It’s a a fairly long way to both of these places and the van is by far the most comfortable and safest way to get there.
Sugba Lagoon is nestled in the thick mangroves of Caob Island in the north-western part of Siargao. It’s about 50-60 minutes drive from General Luna to Del Carmen which is where boats to Sugba Lagoon can be hired. The 30 minute boat ride is a fixed fee of PhP 1600 for a max of 6 people, entrance fee is PhP 50 (locals) and PhP 100 (foreigners). Best make an early start before things become busy.
Siargao has the largest mangrove forest reserves in Mindanao, where large saltwater crocodiles lurk in murky residence. The water did seem to be potentially perilous, though, we never actually saw a croc.
The journey is beautiful but arriving in the lagoon is stupendous and always leaves me breathless in awe. It’s a truly unique and serene spot, tucked away in an out of the way place but certainly worth the journey. Frustratingly it’s all too brief and despite my desire to spend a whole day here, each boat is only allowed four hours to reduce crowding.
The locals here sell food but you can always bring your own if you want. Tables are also available at PhP 50.00. They have paddle boards and kayak for rent at 200/hour and the bamboo raft for PhP 100.00. Life vests are also available for non-swimmers at PhP 50.00.
Out of curiosity, I asked one of the locals about the name and this was his story…
“Sugba” is the Cebuano term for Grill.
Long ago, a man came to the lagoon seeking shelter in its thick forest. He built a fire from wood and even burned plastic which mother nature did not like. To show her displeasure towards the human polluter, a creature, summoned from the lagoon’s depths, captured the man and grilled him alive on his own fire.
A funny tale but I guess it makes sense. Whatever harm we do to our environment will harm us in return. One warning though, the grilling you have to watch out for is that which the sun does to you shoukd you stay out in it too long without protection.
Magpupungko Rock Pools is located in the eastern part of Siargao. It’s located on the shoreline and about a 30-minute drive from Del Carmen and about an hour’s drive coming from General Luna. This natural rock pool has such clear blue water, spotting the different fish there is easy. It’s very deep in places so you can have fun jumping in of the rocks. It’s an all round great place to chill, swim, paddle, snorkel or float.
This pool is only visible when the tide is low so be aware of the best times to go. They also have a beautiful beach where you can relax. There’s an eatery which serves food with beach tables shaded by palms. Snorkels can be rented here at PhP 100/each. Entrance fee is PhP 50/each.
and here’s more …
Heading back to GL we decided to swing by Tayangban Cave, it wasn’t the best time as the light was slowly fading. Nevertheless we still went, but only to swing and jump into the cold water. The cave was too dark to enter and had we not spent most of the day in the water already, we might have traveled its length.
Corregidorin Casulian Island, is a about a 30 minute boat ride from General Luna. It is located in the southern part of Siargao waters.
We joined a group trip thru@mysiargaoguide at PhP 1500/person all-in. You can sign up for the trip Bravo Resort (Cash and credit payments).
The trip to Corregidor includes a short hike, so bring a pair of walking shoes. Like all the islands, Corregidor is also surrounded with crystal clear waters and has lots of coconut trees like Daku Island. This island hasn’t quite become popularized yet but it’s likely to in the future. We saw trees being cut which our guide,Inna, explained was to clear space for a resort.
After a light snack and some refreshments we started our 30 minute each way hike. As we stood atop the highest point of Corregidor the view was magnificent. We could see all the surrounding islands around this southern side of Siargao. We didn’t stay on the top too long, just enough to chat and drone before we sizzled under the rays. Back at the shore we threw ourselves into the tremendously inviting seas and felt immediate refreshing relief. Be mindful swimming, as my husband got his toe spiked by a giant urchin. A bountiful lunch spread was prepared for us and some fruit too. It was really good especially being with new friends. We just spent the rest of our time there swimming, snorkeling, chatting and having a lot of fun.
It was a pleasant stress-free trip as everything was fully taken care of by the organizers . We even got the chance to drop by Naked Island on our way back.
Doot Beach is located on the tip of a peninsula in the most southerly part of Siargao. It is about 10-minute “habal-habal” ride from GL. This is yet another beautiful serene secret spot to laze during the day, perfect for picnics and also a great place to fly drones over the beautiful mangrove spread of the island. Best to bring some food here as there aren’t any food places close by.
Where we love to eat in Siargao!
BRAVO! It’s commodious, nicely placed and friendly. They specialize in truly mouth-watering yet simple Spanish cuisine. Their comfortable sofa beds make a slouch of me after a busy Siargao day, or even a lazy day. I love the healthy drink options and my favourite is, Revitalize, which is a freshly squeezed mixture of watermelon, pineapple and cucumber/apple juice. The food here, from starters to desserts is really fantastic! My husband’s all-time favourite is baked Lapu-Lapu and I have a penchant for the Peri-Peri Chicken, Taco Poblano and the super chocolaty mousse. This is a beach front restaurant so you can go swimming anytime you want or slip into their dipping pool with a G/T. We always leave with a hefty bill, but it’s always worth it.
RUBIE’S STORE in General Luna, is a semi-sheltered convenience store that also sells turo-turo food. We like to eat lunch here as its great value and contrasts to the expensive but delicious fare in BRAVO. They sell tasty Philippine cuisine here for a fraction of the cost of any restaurant. Try their meatballs, they’re super morish! They also sell fresh fruit and general grocery items.
CAFÉ LOKA is located at Cloud 9. They serve a variety of healthy drinks and smoothies where you can mix and match ingerdients to suit your preference. I love having my afternoon teas here, relaxing in the hammock, reading my book, chatting away to anyone who will listen or maybe flying my drone across the gaudy backdrop of the burning sunset. ‘A chilled vibe’ is an understatement.
MAMA’s GRILL is the barbecue haven in Siargao. Food is tasty and affordable. They offer grilled meat (pork, chicken and fish) and the healthier option of a vegetable skewer. This gets really busy, so go early to avoid waiting although it’s a quick turnover so the wait is never too long.
KAWAYAN GOURMAND is French patisserie in Kawayan Siargao resort and a stone’s throw away from Cloud 9. It’s a pleasant cafe with a good selection of pastries. It’s home baked and easy to nibble through far more than intended.They also serve coffee, tea and some cold beverages. I hope they include decaffeinated coffee tea in the future though. And oh! This is where I first spotted the island’s famous long boarder and my bikini-girl crush, Lea Goeson.
There are a lot of food venues in Siargao like HARANA SURF for example, which serves authentic Philippine cuisine with a modern twist. It has a warm, casual atmosphere with lots of distinct and interesting areas to chill. The food tastes good and is fairly priced. Shakais another place, popular for its food. Their menu includes the colourful and healthy “power bowl.” Unfortunately, I never actually tasted one – something to try on a future sojourn to Siargao no doubt.
Running low on cash
There are three cash machines in Siargao as far as I know, two in Dapa and one in Del Carmen, just a few steps away from Del Carmen port. These three are quite far from GL, but there is a PALAWAN pawnshop in GL where you can get over the counter cash using your ATM Card. They charge PhP 40 for every PhP 5000 withdrawal. I think they also accept foreign cards, but charges may vary.
Ciao for now SIARGAO
Leaving something too beautiful for words like Siargao has always been dreadful. But both holidays have been really fantastic and we were going home with amazingly wonderful memories and experiences and of course, with our perfectly tanned skin. See you soon IAO!
Dave Dizon (Boat in Socorro/Bucas Grande) 0912 708 7961
During the 90’s, the City of Golden Friendship used to have a large water park, called ‘The Wet Adventure,’ located along the Cagayan de Oro National highway on the corner of RN Pelaez Blvd. You’ll find a Savemore Supermarket there now.
Being amongst the city’s foremost tourist attractions, it was a popular place for Kagay-anons (people of Cagayan de Oro) to spend time having aquatic fun with family and friends. To the customer’s delight, a live band was introduced. However, local residents complained of the noise from these late-night pool parties and for one reason or another the water park was closed down.
Now, two decades later, the wait is over. The brand new, world class, Seven Seas Water Park is opening. You can find it in Barra Opol, Cagayan de Oro, Misamis Oriental, about 15 minutes drive from the city centre and 45 minutes drive from Laguindingan airport.
Luckily, I was invited into the water park before its public opening. Nice, right?
Honestly, the park is amazing- tons of aquatic fun for all. There is a pool for very young kids, which has smaller slides and there’s a very large swimming pool for everyone else that starts at 3 feet- up to 8 feet in depth. It’s reassuring to see lifeguards stationed at the end of every slide and around the pool. For general help one of the parks attendants is never too far away. They are in designated areas and are all friendly and willing to give assistance.
You’ll find sunbeds liberally scattered poolside if your after that golden tan. If you prefer the shade there are lots of palm trees to hide under, but also plenty of sheltered tables and benches, providing comfortable spots to chill and relax. The park has about three restaurants and cafes.
Now, on to the exciting part -the rides! I tried four rides when I went. However, there are three or four more which weren’t operating but probably will be, once the park is officially open. All rides have weight requirements, 40Kg being the minimum and 90Kg maximum. You literally step on weighing scales before they let you go on. It’s the safety rule. So, if you don’t want to miss the rides, either starting eating less or more to make the weight.
The Cyclone, Riptide Reef, Pira-Chute and the Escape Tunnel
The Cyclone is the largest water slide. It is a four person ride on an inflatable raft. Weight distribution on the raft is carefully checked by the lifeguards. You start in an enclosed slide tube, spinning round in a giddy slosh, then, you approach the edge. Suddenly, a BIG drop hurtling down a humongous funnel, with your stomach butterflying into the sky. Screaming so fierce, lungs ring, the tube swinging and spinning to the right, to the left, left to right and back again. The heavier the passengers, the bouncier the tube and the further it swings. The most exhilarating water ride I’ve ever attempted.
The Riptide Reef is a tandem slide-ride on an inflatable. With the heavier person is on the front, the ride is especially exciting. When you reach the final drop, the tube hangs briefly in mid-air before gravity reminds it to fall. Tremendous tingling fun.
Pira-Chute is the green/blue slide for one person at a time. After experiencing the two big rides, I found this not so nerve-wracking but still a lot of fun.
The Escape Tunnel, is a narrower enclosed slide. Its very dim inside and this makes it more fun and kind of freaky as your eyes adjust to the dark.
I recommend wearing secure swimwear as the rides are intense and things can come off! Bringing action cameras aren’t allowed during rides for safety reasons.
I’m sure you guys are all excited so just hold on a little longer.
In short, it’s a really fun water park, full of thrills and spills and some scary aqua action!
Rates are as follows:
Photos were taken using iPhone 6Plus and DJI Mavic Pro.
Isla Gigantes is a chain of beautiful islands in Carles, located in the northernmost part of Iloilo (Western Visayas). It has two main islands; Gigantes Norte and Gigantes Sur, around which a small group of minor islets is clustered.
Gigantes! The name dates from the Spanish colonial era and comes from legends describing enormous human bones found inside Bakwitan cave. However, with the fading sun, as I gazed across the water at the islands, they looked to me like ancient sleeping giants. So, I have my own explanation for the name Gigantes.
I visited Isla Gigantes last year on a tour package for four for 3Dys & 2Nts at 2485/pax. It was a good deal with meals, accommodation and boat rides all inclusive.
February of this year I decided to go back to Isla Gigantes, this time with my husband. We were looking forward to a bright and sunny holiday after coming from chilly England. We decided to stay for six days, yes six wicked days in paradise!
You can fly to Iloilo city from most airports in the Philippines but be aware of arrival times. Most flights arrive too late to catch the ferry which departs ONCE daily from the port of Estancia to Isla Gigantes at 1pm. The trip back to Estancia is also ONCE daily which leaves at 8am in the morning. As we arrived at Iloilo airport late afternoon, we had already anticipated missing the ferry so we taxied to Northview Inn in Jaro to stay overnight.
Northview Inn is nothing fancy but it’s clean and a stone’s throw away from Tagbak Bus Terminal where you can find transport to the port. There is plenty to see in Iloilo and in the evening we headed to Smallville which is the city’s nightlife capital. There’s a complex there which has restaurants, cafes, bars and clubs so we took the opportunity to eat out and have a few bottles of beer! 😉
The next morning, we took a short jeepney ride to Tagbak bus terminal to catch the van to Estancia Port. You can catch one about every 30 minutes and expect to pay PhP 150.00 for each passenger. The bus takes around three hours to reach Estancia. Nick greeted us at the port and guided us to the passenger boat. Nick by the way, is one of Joel Decano’s (resort owner) men, and I knew him from my previous visit. The boat fee from Estencia to Gigantes is PhP 80.00 per person and sailing time about two hours to Gigantes Norte.
Day 1: Arrival in Gigantes Norte
This picturesque island saw all the travel stress, dissipate into the salty air. It’s a wonderful feeling finally arriving at the islands and the sense of magic starts as you land on the beach. The main resort is called Hideaway Inn and is a short walk from where we are in the photo. However, we had chosen to stay in one of its smaller satellite resorts on a small islet called Bulobadiang. So why did we choose the small island? Simply because it’s isolated, raw and our cottage was on the shore looking out over the sea. It’s the only resort on the island and if you want a serene holiday, Bulobadiang is the place to stay. Unlike the main island which holds a disco every Thursday and Saturday (if I’m not mistaken) and they also hold basketball games during the week, and I tell you, the sound system they use for this is aggressively loud.
Okay, here is our lovely chalet in Bulobadiang. It’s normally for a group of four to five people but we had it just for the two of us. We paid PhP 200.00/night/person which is very good. Although, the toilet and shower were communal, so take note if sharing bothers you.
Food-wise the island mostly relies on serving seafood such as scallops, fish, crab, squid and wasay-wasay (oyster look-a-like thingy). We enjoyed a yummy seafood spread for the first two days but come the next day, we had had enough of it. Scallops can soon become samey. So, we began to make suggestions to the crew about what we fancied on our table and they were happy to oblige. We also requested some fruit and a plentiful supply of buko (young coconut) to drink. They were very helpful and attentive to our needs, very lovely people indeed. They even let me cook our own food in their kitchen once or twice. I really enjoyed it as cooking is also my passion. If like us, you are not going for an inclusive package deal, you still don’t have to worry food expenditure as meals are very reasonably-priced.
Day 2: Bantigui Island and Cabugao Gamay Island
We hired a boat to cruise to Bantigui and Cabugao Gamay Island. Normally, they would charge PhP 2000.00/day, but I as able to haggle it down to PhP 1500.00. We chose not to get a guide as I had been there before but a guide isn’t always essential as there are plenty of people to talk to who will help and give suggestions about where to go and what to see.
First stop was Bantigui Island. It has a gorgeous sandbar and the crystal turquoise water is amazing. Had a refreshing morning dip with the place almost all to ourselves. It’s best to start island hopping as early as possible before tourists pile up. It’s cooler in the morning too!
We walked to the further end of the island and climbed up onto a small rocky outcrop to take photos. It was fun exploring around the coast and I realized that hiring the boat myself meant we weren’t restricted by time. Many packages only allow so long on each island hop and if you want more freedom it’s worth considering hiring the boat yourself directly.
Next stop was Cabugao Gamay (small) island. One end of it has lush vegetation, whilst on the other end is a rock formation overlooking the sea which has become an iconic spot for tourists to take photos. In between, is the beautiful sandbar dotted with coconut trees. The island is surrounded with bright blue green waters which again, are perfect for swimming. There is also an eatery there, so no worries should you feel peckish.
We sailed back to Bulobadiang and lazed in our chalet and spoiled ourselves by drinking a buko or two. By the way, we got badly burned that day, especially my husband. Luckily enough we got some fresh Aloe Vera from the locals and that helped sooth our skin. So important reminder, bring the highest SPF possible and apply liberally. Day 3 Spanish Lighthouse ruins
The following day, we just chilled at our resort in the morning, drinking buko and eating fresh fruit. They don’t normally have fresh fruit there but they’ll procure some for you, as long as you let them know in advance.
Later we took a trip back over to Gigantes Norte to see the ruins of the old Spanish lighthouse in the north of the island. It costs PhP 15.00/person on a motorbike and it takes roughly 10 minutes to get there. However, we chose to go by foot as it wasn’t too hot and we also wanted to see the little community on the island. There were a lot of school kids greeting us as we walked with their bright smiling faces. One even walked along with us to the lighthouse. There she is on the photo below.
Day 3: Antonia Beach, Tangke Saltwater Lagoon, Isla Uaydajon, Gigantillo and Ginatuna Islands
Antonia beach is another must-see spot in the Gigantes island group. It’s a mini haven for snorkelling and kayaking. Snorkelling costs PhP50/hr for the gear and kayaking PhP200/hr, although prices might change. They also sell fresh scallops here at PhP1 each.
I had a great time snorkelling seeing the beautiful coral and colourful fish. I would suggest to bring your own snorkelling set, because the gear they rent out is a bit old and overused. After a few lazy hours in the water we sailed on to the Tangke Saltwater Lagoon.
This beautiful hidden spot is surrounded by towering rock formations. We arrived early so the tide was still quite low, but we were not bothered as we’d already swam a lot at Antonia beach. Luckily it was empty except for the caretakers who collect the fee to see. You will agree with me when I say this place is beautiful gem. Great, innit?
Tourists started to arrive but before hopping on the boat, my husband made a 30 foot cliff jump into the sea, just outside the lagoon. I did it last year- totally exhilarating! This time I was little bit of a pansy cake and didnt jump.
Okay, next stop was Isla Uaydajon. We spotted it from the boat and when I pointed it out to our boatman, he happily took us there. This island is uninhabited, although our boatman said that there was a little resort not long ago but unfortunately stopped doing business after being hit by the recent tropical storm. Locals have said that this island is for sale, ‘if only we could afford it’, I thought to myself. Hahaha!
This island was a little too rocky to swim so we just explored. We spotted a few beautiful empty shells scattered around that must have been decorative remains from the resort which had once been here. We didn’t stay long here as the scorching heat of the sun was draining us and we were hungry.
Sailing back we passed two islets- the Gigantillo and Gigantuna islands. Gigantillo is a massive rock formation with lush green sprouting over it. We decided to stop in Gigantuna as I got curious about the ruin I could see from a distance. The boatman narrated that this ruin used to be a holiday house of an old mayor of Iloilo and was wrecked after a big typhoon hit. We briefly disembarked to look and take photos.
Depending on the time of month, the tide can go low enough in the late afternoon, to be able to walk across from Bulobadiang to Gigantes Norte. As we waded through the clear waters, we could see the beautiful coral, various coloured giant starfish, stingless jelly fish and some interesting fish. We also spotted a few sea urchins.
Here along the shore of Gigantes Norte, the locals are de-shelling mountains of scallops ready for delivery the next day. The scallop shells are all over the sandbar, literally millions of them. The piles of shells serve as much needed barrier, shielding the island from the high waters during typhoons.
A full and active day was dutifully rewarded in Hideaway Inn Resort with a gin and tonic for me and beer for my husband. It was dark when we were given, what turned out to be the best boat ride of the holiday, back to Bulobadiang. The heavens were so clear and spectacular with The MILKY WAY hanging above us in starry splendor! Even if I’d had a long exposure camera I’d never capture the awe of that amazing sky. Beautiful beyond words.
Day 5 Lazy Islanders
Spent this day soaking in the island one last time. We read our books drinking buko and enjoyed the company of the people there. Had a great time swimming, relaxing and just enjoying the tropical haven and natural beauty of the place. At the back of our minds we dreaded having to leave but like all good things the holiday was drawing to its end!!!
Day 6 Ciao for now Gigantes!
We left and caught the passenger boat that leaves at eight in the morning. Had a smooth journey back to Estancia and headed straight to catch the van back to Iloilo City. It had been such a wonderful excursion in paradise. Leaving was inevitably bittersweet but both of us were grateful that we had managed to pack in such a lot of good memories and beautiful experiences and…..at the very least I was going home with gorgeously tanned skin. :p
Important reminder: Bulobadiang doesnt have electricity, although they have a generator which they turn on 5pm until 10pm.
Joel Decano (0918) 468 5006
Michelle Soberano (0939) 4002064
Photos are taken using iPhone 6plus, iPad Pro and GoPro Hero 3+ (dome port)