Coming Home to Paradise: Siargao 2018

In November 2017, I was heartbroken and lost. I had just come home from living in Tokyo with my then-fiancé, my career was in limbo, and I had just moved back in with my parents. It was not rockbottom, but it was pretty damn close. But as cliché as it sounds, Siargao did cure me. I flew down there for a week-long escape last year, and I left my heart in a hostel in General Luna.

When I found out that I was moving to Spain for a new adventure, naturally, I knew I had to come home and take it all in once more. It would be a long time before I can be one short flight away from paradise, after all.

Ayn Bernos, Siargao 2018

Welcome home, Ayn.

“Welcome home, Ayn,” my friends from the hostel beamed, as I held my camera to their bronzed faces, illuminated by the bonfire before us. It was my first night back, but I had instantly felt at home. It’s a heartwarming feeling I can never get anywhere else.

Siargao was miles outside my comfort zone, and yet it was a resting place, a shelter, and a haven for this tired soul.

That night, we chipped in for a big boodle fight family dinner in the common area, and afterwards walked to the beach for some drinks and music. Friends took turns playing the ukulele, singing soulful, oftentimes drunk, renditions of Top 40 music. Sparks flickered above the flames, and the sea shyly said hello with its subtle waves. There might have been strangers in the distance, but I was too consumed by the spectacle around me to care.

I had my sparkly Tita-esque Fitflops on, a polkadot bikini top, and a sarong wrapped around my waist. The island girl in me was just dying to escape. And escape she did, at least for the next five days.

Palm Valley Paradise , the name we gave our favorite spot on the island.

Palm Valley Paradise, the name we gave our favorite spot on the island.

Infinities in palm trees, roads, and night skies

Welcome to another cliché, as I quote John Green’s The Fault In Our Stars.

“Some infinities are bigger than other infinities,” said Hazel Grace. “But, Gus, my love, I cannot tell you how thankful I am for our little infinity.”

I read this book a lifetime ago, and yet this quote would find itself back to my consciousness every time I cruised down Siargao’s palm tree-lined roads. Just as my last trip, I had shared rides with friends because of my inability to drive a simple moped. But alas, my incompetence came with a few perks, including the freedom to film our journeys, relax like a princess, and fully marvel at the scenic masterpiece that enveloped our fleeting figures.

Each motorcycle ride — whether it was a 5-minute trip to a carinderia, or a 2-hour drive to the rock pools — felt like an infinity of beauty and solitude. I was in my own world, lost in my own thoughts, guided by the majestic foliage of Siargao and the winds that combed through my hair —gently, passionately, and wildly, all at once.

My favorite view in the island is the sea of palm trees that we’ve dubbed Palm Valley Paradise. Tourists come and go for photos, as if this was just another view deck on the way to a more important destination, but I could honestly stay here forever. If I could choose a view to wake up to for the rest of my life, this would be it. It never fails to take my breath away.

One night, after a day-long excursion up north, my friends and I found ourselves again in the little spot that overlooked Palm Valley Paradise. This time, however, there were no palm trees in sight — just the vast dark sky, and later on, as our eyes adjusted… the milky way.

The most beautiful part of being in that tiny infinity is being reminded of how irrelevant my worldly worries are. I was lucky enough to experience that moment for a while — how can I possibly be ungrateful?

All smiles. Deep breaths. More smiles.

Beautiful souls.

Beautiful souls.

All the little things

There were specific special moments that left me in silence and took my breath away during my trip, as I’ve mentioned earlier — the palm trees, the motorcycle rides, and the sky. But more than those fleeting infinities, all the other little things charmed me into falling in love with Siargao even more. To discount them is an injustice to the experience that the universe has so graciously blessed me with.

So hear me out as I try to enumerate all the little things:

The eventful hostel veranda that housed me and my friends, our angels and demons. The sari-sari store across the road that supplied our drinking needs. The furbabies that kept us happy. The ukulele that we passed around. The useless wifi router that forced us to actually be social, and not on social media. The Mariah Carey and Ariana Grande songs we played and danced to. The cuddles we shared in sobriety and inebriation. The bunkbed that served no purpose but to keep my clothes. The night I crawled into my friend’s bed because I was feeling sad, and the remaining wee hours of that morning spent swiping on Tinder, giggling like high school girls. The affordable avocado and mango shakes served in glass bottles. The songs I discovered through a new friend. The bikinis I confidently paraded around in. The sand that would never truly leave the dormitories. The loyalty and bond that would never truly leave us.

All the little things count, and all the little things keep making me want to come back.

And come back, I will. See you when I see you, Siargao.

Watch my Siargao vlog from this trip. Special thanks to my friend Dawn Stefan for letting me use his song, Love Don’t Fade Away.