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Discover Siargao Through The Eyes of JP Anglo

Did Siargao the movie pique your imagination? Chef JP Anglo shares some his favorite places on this island paradise

The teardrop-shaped island of Siargao in the province of Surigao del Norte has a coastline marked by rows of reefs and long stretches of white, sandy beaches. And its neighboring islands are no different, making it ideal for island hopping. The drive from the tiny airport was the perfect precursor of things to come: lush hills, towering trees, a cool and clean breeze. It was a welcome respite from the concrete jungle we had left behind.

 

Kalinaw Resort feels like a refuge from the world. This stylish boutique resort sits on a little cove, protected from strong winds yet gifted with a beautiful ocean front. When the weather is fine and the sky is clear, you get a magnificent view of the waves that break on the shallow reefs, even as you sit in the restaurant enjoying a meal.

 Kalinaw is walking distance to Cloud 9, one of the hottest surfing areas in Siargao. Should you want to picnic there, ask for a packed meal and they’ll send you off in the company of a butler. Their restaurant has a sophisticated pan-European menu complete with an Italian woodfire oven for baking French bread and pizzas. And they serve the best espresso on the island.

It’s too easy to lose track of time at Kalinaw. You’ll have to tear yourself away, only to dream about returning as soon as you possibly can.

Kalinaw Resort
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The island turns serene and silent come nighttime, but there are certain spots that become busy and happening as the sun falls. Among them is Kermit Surf Shop, owned and operated by Gianni Grifoni.

When he first set foot in the country in 2006, Gianni was still a student. The second time around, he was working as a marine biologist stationed in Malapascua, then Boracay and finally Siargao. It was then that the young Italian fell in love with the island. He was so smitten that five years ago, he decided to buy a lot, build a small bungalow and live the surfer’s life. Since he loves to cook (his sister, father and relatives run restaurants in Italy and Switzerland), he opened a small eatery which served pasta. Word got around about his food so that demand grew, forcing him to enlarge his space and operations to what it is now, a resort with budget accommodations, a surf camp, bar and restaurant. Along with the expansion came a bigger menu which now also includes Filipino fare like kinilaw, adobo and pansit on top of his tagliatelle and lasagna. A wood-fired oven was also flown in from Tuscany, Italy and, after two months of installation, Gianni finally gets to serve the pizza and focaccia guests have been queuing up for.

Kermit Surf Resort Siargao
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The Pleasure Point Café is where to go for great afternoon snacks and the fun company of owner Dominica Bojova. She hails from Slovakia and ended up on the island for the same reason many expats did—for the surfing. Dominica arrived in Siargao a year and a half ago to learn the water sport and after two months of living there, she fell in love with the lifestyle and the sense of community among the locals and foreigners. That consequently led her to stay.

She did notice one drawback to life on the island. “I’m a coffee lover and I was craving for good coffee, which you couldn’t find here before,” she said. So she decided to make it herself, and soon began to serve coffee to people who, like her, need their caffeine fix. Dominica also noticed the lack of healthier food alternatives for surfers. “I saw a niche here. A lot of surfers do healthy [living].” She filled the void by conducting yoga classes twice a week and soon became known in the area for her delicious, guilt-free desserts. Her menu includes Choco and Banana Cake with Coconut Cream, Coco Balls with Caramelized Cashew, and Mango and Chia Sorbet. Of the lot, it is her best-selling Caramel Cheesecake that locals tell guests to try before leaving the island. I sure am glad we followed their advice.

The Pleasure Point Café
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Like Dominica, David Frachou was so smitten by Siargao he decided to stay and set up camp in the form of Kawayan Resort. David had spent 14 months surfing in Baler a decade ago and decided to check out a yet unknown island south of the country that was less crowded. “I fell in love with the place. It reminded me of Bali back in the 80’s. It has more of an island feel,” he confesses.

Being a chef back in his home country of France, David naturally opened his own restaurant. It has been in operation for six years now and, to date, people flock to sample his fine dining fusion food. There’s a bit of Moroccan, a touch of Spanish, and even a dash of Vietnamese. Whatever the dish may be, he’ll be sure to display his penchant for presentation. Best sellers like Fish Ceviche, Chicken Rolls, Fish Curry, Pork Tenderloin with Port Sauce, and classic desserts like Chocolate Fondant and Vanilla Panna Cotta with Strawberry Coulis all come out of the kitchen in style. Elegant and artfully presented, his refined plates are something not typical in an island dining setting. But as he would prove, it should be.

Kawayan Resort
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Siargao is a surfer’s paradise, so JP Anglo took us to one of his favorite spots, Daku Island. We began with an early morning dash to city market to buy the catch of the day. A half hour boat ride brought us to Daku where nipa huts teased us to spend a lazy day lounging.

In the small kitchen of the main cottage, JP cooked a superb lunch for us, using   the seafood as a canvass for his palette of flavors, and managed to intensify and complement the pork belly’s beefy taste. Many of the fresh ingredients were simply kissed by the grill, giving them a lovely aroma and flavor that certainly suggests of summer.

About an hour and a half later, banana leaves were laid out on a table set in between coconut trees and one by one, the mouthwatering dishes were brought out, resulting in a buffet fit for a boodle fight. Beer bottles were popped open, and people just dug in. The very casual banquet encouraged not just eating with the bare hands but also fun conversations among newfound friends. And as people pinched the moist meat out of the whole tuna, tore a piece of inihaw na baboy, and doused their rice with a sauce made with ginamos, a calming breeze and the soothing sound of crashing waves set the mood and kept everyone in good company.

Daku Beach
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I did not have enough time to wade through the waves, but still, I left the island fully realizing the hype and excitement that runs through JP Anglo’s veins at the mere mention of Siargao. There’s a chill vibe that pervades the island and I can see why tourists and even locals get addicted. Apart from being a perfect setting for surfing, Siargao has a growing vibrant food scene that has got surfers and non-surfers alike well preoccupied and definitely satisfied, making it the very definition of a bonafide island paradise.

 

A longer version of this article appeared in FOOD Magazine, Issue 2, 2015

 

 

 

Kalinaw Resort text by Troy Barrios

Photography by Pat Mateo