Siargao Island is one of the few destinations in the Philippines where there's a majority of young foreign visitors - really the backpack set - quietly mixing with the locals. At the Ocean 101 Resort where I stayed, I felt like I was the odd man out, the only Pinoy guest in a group of Aussies, Brits, Israelis, Japanese and French. The conversations usually revolve only on one thing: Cloud Nine. No, it's not the local chocolate bar, it's the name of a surf break that took Siargao out from obscurity.
Cloud Nine is just a short walk from the resort. A rickety wooden foot bridge led towards a pavilion where the view upfront is pure action. Surfers in Quicksilver/Billabong regalia take in the right-breaking hollow tube. On a busy month like now, Cloud Nine is more as they say like Crowd Nine. Foreigners and locals alike bob up and down the water as they wait for the next big wave, many of them practicing for next month's Billabong Cloud 9 Invitational, an international surfing competition.
Cloud Nine was discovered by an eccentric Hawaiian surfer John 'Mike' Boyum in the early 80's but never got its name until surf photographer John Callahan christened it in 1992. From being a secret among a few, Callahan's alluring photos got surfers from all over the planet wanting to visit this remote island. Since then, Siargao saw an influx of more repeat visitors, lured by surf breaks, cheap accomodations and friendly Siargaonons. Even locals have mastered riding the waves, many of them offering tutorials now for 500 pesos an hour.
Siargao's fringing reefs lie at the edge of the 34,000-foot deep Philippine Trench. During the southwest monsoon season or Amihan from July to November, prevailing offshore winds generate so much power to swell up the island's outer-reef breaks, most notably Cloud Nine. The waves are at its peak between September and October when typhoons brewing in the Pacific kick it up a notch. As for me, I merely get a kick watching all that action from the viewing pavilion.