|In 2006, we had to pick our way through those bushes (Photo by S. Yeo)|
Magpupungko seven years ago: I clearly remember arriving in a place surrounded by wild grass, bushes and trees. We picked our way through the bushes and arrived at a rocky beach. The tide was out, just the way we wanted. We were free to roam and find our way to the swimming hole. No entrance fees. No directional signs. No man–made structures.
When we arrived at the pools, there were a handful of locals enjoying the natural pool. The pools were calling. And I heeded its call. But not before shamelessly putting on the arm floaters for kids that we had snatched from my friend's house (it was his nephew's floaters). Call me a sissy. But I was a sissy who was happily and lazily floating, while the others were treading water.
I remember seeing a sea snake and, in fright, hastily scrambled up the sharp rocky edge, scratching my knees in the process. It was either get skinned or get bitten. I picked the former.
Magpupungko now: A fence has been erected and bushes have been cleared. A booth, where a man collects an entrance fee of Php50 from every person who wants to go to the beach and the pools, stands guard at the gate. A concrete stairway off to the side has been built to give visitors easy access to the natural pools.
2013. Cottages, fences, and a collection/tourist assistance booth have replaced the bushes.
But the natural pools remain as I remember them years ago... beautiful, clean, clear. This time I ditched the arm floaters and brought a snorkel and mask which I found has given me confidence to swim in deep waters... just cause I can breathe. I wasn't born a fish. And, yes, sea snakes are still around, but now I have the courage to just stare at them from a few feet away and not scramble away in fright.
The swimming holes!
How did we get to Magpupungko?
The ride to Magpupungko is usually by habalhabal, and the lowest price you can get is Php700 for two passengers.
We were lucky we met Agnes, the owner of La Isla Siargao Bar and Grill, on the first night. During the course of our conversation, we mentioned we wanted to go to Magpupungko the following day and wanted to know where to rent a van or some motorcycles and around what time the tide would go out. (The rock pools, of course, only appear when it's low tide.) She offered to take us there using their van for only Php1500. We were seven and a van would be perfect. What a deal!
Oh, if you're wondering why it's called Magpupungko, it's because of that huge rock that has been sitting on a smaller one for years. Pungko is Visayan for sit.
Three Days in Siargao:
In and Around Siargao Island
La Isla Siargao Bar and Grill
Magpupungko Then and Now (you're here!)
Three Little Islands
Skales Greek Restaurant
Siargao's Neighbor, Bucas Grande: