More than being Siargao‘s highest starred resort, Pansukian Tropical Resort, as Joan Bulauitan discovers, offers understated elegance and opulent comfort amidst great diving and white sand beaches.
My Introduction to Siargao Island was in no way near serene. Failing to book a direct flight from Cebu, I had to fly to Surigao del Norte and take the two-hour boat ride to the island, on waters that was far from calm. With nerves still unsettled, I opened the van’s door upon arrival at the gate of Pansukian Tropical Resort hoping to make a sprint towards paradise, but instead was frozen in my tracks by the sight of Napo; tall, regal, and handsomely built and so it happened, I was escorted into the highest starred resort in Siargao by a loyal, intimidating and as I later found out, cowardly Great Dane.
Siargao, made famous among surfers by a break called Cloud Nine, is one of the islands of Surigao del Norte located at the northeastern corner of Mindanao. It belongs to a cluster of islands ringed by reefs on the edge of the Philippine Deep. Tourism has seeped its way into the area, thanks mostly to surfing (or no thanks, depending on your perspective), but from the looks of it, modern restaurants and spas are still a long way coming. Most of the development on the island is of the small town variety and have not made a dent on Siargao’s homey charm.
While making a name from surfing, it offers so much more, like charming islets, mangrove swamps, caves and some of the country’s best white sand beaches, which I never got to see because I decided to postpone my flight to two days after my supposed departure (a decision I invariably regret). In the meantime, Pansukian Tropical Resort was pleasure enough. It had nine palm-roofed villas made of ebony and mahogany, with generous space and Asian inspired interiors. Marketing manager Gai Olivarez and owner Nicolas Rambeau, showed us to the different cottages, taking us through sand pathways and tropical gates that led to the more upscale ones. Carved by local artisans, each cottage was different and had a charm of its own.
We were surprised to learn that Nicolas, a lawyer by profession, himself designed every thing, including the landscape and gardens, which were truly breathtaking.
The frazzled nerves that marked the start of my day disappeared once I settled on one of the lounge chairs in our cottage’s veranda, the view was the calm beach. Even under an overcast sky, the place was clearly enchanting. It was easy to see why a Frenchman and a city boy at that, could be lured to such a remote place. The gently sloping beach was serene and inviting, with two perfectly situated pagodas. When you lie down on one of the hammocks at the bigger pagoda you will feel like being cradled by the water. Without a fight, you will be lulled to sweet slumber.
The kitchen didn’t disappoint either. We were served clams, crabs, fish, shrimps, and other seafood, with rice, mashed potatoes, or couscous. Nicolas, according to Gai, was behind the menu as well, working with a Filipino cook to prepare and serve Filipino cuisine with an undeniably French twist. Dinnertime was an event to anticipate both for the food and the convivial atmosphere brought on by the hosts. On our last night, Nicolas shed his usual Parisian reserve and shared stories about his home country and the Frenchmen‘s fear of Corsica, as illustrated in the comic book Asterix and Obelix, bits of which he gamely translated for us.
Among Nicolas’ plans for the resort is to reduce the number of tropical villas to five by tearing down the older ones and building two mega villas, which, he says, will be "the height of luxury." Another is to make scuba diving more popular by offering diving courses and expeditions, because he claims, the underwater sights in the area are comparable to those of more popular dive destinations like El Nido and Coron.
We had a taste of what Siargao had to offer when we visited Guyam Island, a charming island so small you can make a full circle of it in two minutes. It is so perfectly shaped with coconut trees and a garden in the middle and a pure white sand beach. It is a mere 20-minute boat ride from Pansukian Tropical Resort.
Nicolas and Gai recommend a half-day tour to Guyam Island, the Pansukian Sandbar and Daku Island. We would also have loved to visit the twin islands of La Janoza and Mamon, also Caub and especially Bucas Grande and even try out the pork chops in a cantina that a surfer friend of mine recommended but, alas, our three-day stay simply could not exhaust all of Siargao’s natural gifts.
Note to self: Stay for at least five days on my next visit.
My regrets were almost kneaded away by the massage I had on our final day in the island. I had it at the smaller of Pansukian Tropical Resort's two beachfront pagodas, on a day bed that would make a perfect sunset spot for honeymooners. The sun finally came out, with conviction this time, not reluctantly like in the first two days. I enjoyed the breeze while oil was slathered on my skin and the knots on my city weary back were rubbed away.
After my massage, we took pictures of the calm beach and finally took our leave of a place that left me hoping for a second chance.
Credits to: Joan Bulauitan
For photos of what the rooms and villas look like at the Pansukian Resort have a look here.For photos of the outside of Pansukian Resort and to see what Siargao Island looks like, have a look here
If you would like to know how to get to Siargao Island and the Pansukian Resort, have a look here.
Now if the surfing at Siargao
captures your imagination, have a look here, this will tell you about Siargao Surfing or have a look here for information on surfing in the Philippines.