April 2, 2015

SIARGAO 2015 TRAVEL DIARY – Magpupungko Rock Formations and Tidal Pools

Siargao has been in my bucket list ever since I saw how beautiful its beaches are. Obviously I am a sucker for white sand beaches and clear blue and turquoise waters. Whenever I have the opportunity to travel, I always choose a place where there’s a beach; I may not have the beach body and the confidence to wear two-piece swimsuits and I also don’t know how to swim properly, but the feel of sand under my feet gives me a certain high. 


Since one of my good friends is coming back to Manila this Summer, and we always make it a point that we will travel whenever she’s on vacation in the Philippines, I booked us a flight to Siargao Island. Most flights to Siargao are quite expensive especially for a regular-earning professional like me, but thank goodness for airfare promos and seat sales that I was able to book a flight to Siargao that was cheaper than normal. There is no direct flight to Siargao, you have to pass by Cebu and board a smaller aircraft to Siargao. There’s only one airport in Siargao – Sayak Airport in Del Carmen town, which is a relatively small airport compared to Caticlan’s or Coron’s airport. Only 1 flight arrives and leaves Sayak airport daily when it’s the lean season; but when there’s a surfing competition Cebu Pacific (the only airline that flies directly to Siargao) opens two flights per day and this is around May to September.


Siargao is a tear-drop shaped island in the Philippine Sea in the province of Surigao del Norte. It is  best known for its beautiful and large waves that are good for surfing, especially that this island is on the southeast part of the Philippines and faces the Pacific Ocean. But Siargao is not all about surfing, it boasts of other tourist destinations like beaches, natural pools, lagoons, falls etc. The landscape in Siargao reminds me of both Coron and Bohol, but it has its own different charm. It’s more laid-back, more peaceful and even though tourists flock it, it isn’t crowded at all. The locals of Siargao are one of the nicest and hospitable people I’ve ever  encountered – they are simple, respectful, fun and honest. Everyone is very friendly and accommodating. During our 4 days stay on the island, I’ve come to love it and had somewhat a separation anxiety when we were about to leave. I felt like I wasn’t ready to leave just yet, but then that only gave me a fuel to return to Siargao when I have the chance to.


Siargao is definitely more than a surfing mecca; it also boasts of other tourist destinations that can’t be found in other places in the Philippines. One of who which is the Magpupungko Rock Formations And Tidal Pools, it can be found at the town of Pilar and beside the Magpupungko Beach. It is surrounded by limestone and granite sculptures. Its pockmarked limestone floor reveals pools of assorted shapes and sizes resembling basins, tubs and ponds during low tide.


During our first day, we were not able to go out because we all didn’t get much sleep the day before. So we enjoyed the comforts of our resort’s room and mostly spent the whole day travelling from Manila to Cebu to Siargao and after arriving at noon, we had our late lunch and just slept until the dawn of the next day.

 habal-habal driver/tour guide Kuya Levie

Our activities in Siargao only started on our first day, we got ready and left the resort at around 6:00 am and hailed a habal-habal (a motorbike with a built in roof that can accommodate 4 people including the driver). It was our first time to ride this kind of transportation and we 3 were pretty much scared, but our driver Kuya Levie was a very nice family man who was able to have his son finish college just through this very noble profession.

I researched what time it would be low tide in the town of Pilar (you can google it actually) and timed our journey perfectly that we would see the unveiling of the tidal pools. Before we went to Magpupungko,  we headed to the General Luna Boulevard were the main market was and is also the jump off point for island hopping tours. We had our breakfast here before hitting the road to Magpupungko.

DIY breakfast at General Luna Boulevard market

From General Luna it took us around an hour to get to Magpupungko because there was a part of the road that is still not yet cemented and the soil was too wet because of the rain shower the night before. We had to go down the habal-habal and walked a couple of meters until the road is safe enough for us to ride back to Kuya Levie’s habal-habal. It was tiring because our flip-flops accumulated too much mud that it seemed like we were wearing weights on our feet while walking through the muddy road. But don’t worry, probably by next month the entire road to Magpupungko will have been cemented.

road to Magpupungko

Magpupungko has 2 beaches, one is the first you would see upon entering the area, entrance fee is PHP 50 and the other one is at the far end after you passed by the squatting rock. 

The place is named as such because there’s a big rock that seems to be sitting on one of the rock formations -- “pungko” means squatting or sitting.  The tidal pools are separated from the sea by a large reef and when it is low tide the reef emerges and the sea water pools into the sink holes. 

It is truly a unique place and a stunning one at that. Also a best thing about this place is that it isn’t overcrowded by tourists, when we were there, there were only 3 groups checking out the tidal pools.

If you’re brave enough like my sister and my friend, you swim to the rock formation at the center and jump from it towards 18 feet deep of crystal clear water. Unfortunately I don’t know how to swim so I was too afraid to swim across to the rock where they usually dive from, but if only I could, I wouldn't miss it for the world.

Usually it is best to go there before lunch time, and speaking of lunch, you can bring your own or buy from the restaurant managed by the caretakers. As for us, we weren't that hungry, we decided to leave by noon time because we will learn how to surf in Cloud 9, so we were not able to try it out.

Be sure to wear your slippers or aqua shoes when you go there because the reefs surface are quite sharp and some parts are slippery. Habal-habal rides to Magpupungko is usually priced at PHP1000-1500 depending on your haggling skills, just don’t forget to tip your habal-habal driver if he gives you a discount.

You can contact our habal-habal driver/tour guide Kuya Levie here: 09076281852 he can be your service and tourist guide while you’re in Siargao and he can also look for a boat if you want to do island hopping. if you plan to surf while in Siargao, I'm recommending you our surfing instructor Joel here : 09087437709.

Siargao Circumferential Road, Pilar, Siargao, 
Surigao del Norte, Philippines

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