Good life: entrepreneurs from Cebuano to Siargao
The panoramic views of the crystal clear waters, the calming sound of the waves, the relaxing sight of palm trees swaying with the sea breeze – there is something about being on an island that makes us kick back, relax and unwind . It’s a great place to get away from it all when you want to slow down a bit.
While most of us go to an island for a gentle escape from the hustle and bustle, these entrepreneurs from Cebuano who have moved to the beautiful island of Siargao, the surfing capital of the Philippines, are living the island life. They have mastered the department of work-life balance, the kind of lifestyle most of us dream of.
After falling in love with the island in 2016, and in a bid to change his city life, Ronald James decided to move to Siargao. He started out as a tattoo artist and two years later he opened the only 24 hour restaurant on the island named HabHab Café. The restaurant serves a variety of dishes ranging from Western comfort food, Filipino to Chinese.
“When I saw the opportunity to open a restaurant open 24 hours a day since there was none here and the food prices were expensive, I decided to open the HabHab Siargao restaurant”, did he declare.
Fast forward to 2021, Ronald James was able to open a cafe and called it Habhab Siargao Café, a garden cafe, and Bonzu Boutique Hotel, a 2-3 star accommodation located in the heart of General Luna.
“My life on the island before the pandemic was so good that I was able to help a lot of the people who are my staff with my business. Now with the pandemic I am still blessed because my business still survives but just enough to support my staff and the business but I hope for a better future for all of us.
For Geli, 27, it was Siargao’s sense of community and her shared passion for sustainable development that immediately drew her to the island. After her first visit in 2017, she no longer wanted to leave the island. So she found ways to stay on the island, did her own research, visited every year and secretly did a feasibility study, while still keeping a full-time job. In 2019, she found the perfect opportunity to start her own business, Himaya, with six private villas each configured differently to meet different guest needs, and a well-equipped communal kitchen where all hotel guests are free to create their own meals, as well as a spacious common area where guests can relax, work remotely, exercise and dine in comfort.
Geli runs the business with her surfer boyfriend who is also from Cebu. She takes care of the operations and accommodations, and he takes care of the landscaping and the organization of activities and visits for their guests. Together they create experiences and deliver a personalized brand of service to all of their guests.
When asked about her life on the island, Geli replied, “It has been quite difficult as the pandemic has hit the tourism industry hard. But I’m so lucky to be able to go to the beach, watch beautiful sunsets, breathe the fresh air, surf and the list goes on. I am also blessed because I have such an amazing support system here on the island and such a supportive family in Cebu despite the distance.
Anna Paula’s love for coconuts led her to open Coco Frio, your coconut oasis that serves coconut refreshments, homemade coconut ice cream, iced coffee. and iced coconuts.
The 27-year-old entrepreneur moved to Siargao Island in 2015 to change her lifestyle and learn to surf. “Siargao has been home for six years now. Really grateful for the land, the people and the experience, ”said Anna Paula.
Erika first laid eyes and set foot on the island in 2016 with her boyfriend. The couple had an intimate conversation and the deep topic one day settled on the island as they were wowed by its charm and alluring beauty.
When they returned to Cebu, they felt that part of them was being left behind. The two couldn’t help but think of opportunities on how to get back to the island and establish something that would help them achieve their dreams.
Erika took an important step when she decided to quit her corporate job in the city and looked for work opportunities in Siargao. Fortunately, she was hired as a supervisor in one of the main hotels in Siargao. For three months during her tenure, she was also able to immerse herself to get to know the island better, especially General Luna, to also seek business opportunities.
Fast forward to 2019, Erika and her boyfriend were able to find an investor, the latter’s aunt who believed in themselves and their vision, to bring their dream to life as well, Banakod Homestay Siargao was born.
Erika and her business partners were inspired by the great waves of the Pacific, such as “Banakod”, which means “breaking waves”.
“Life in Siargao is like living the island dream. I have had the experience of being devastated and carried to the shores – the ups and downs of this life. This whole experience has developed me as a person. It taught me patience, determination, true courage, and the power to change – to be more self-aware, to be mindful. It is not an easy trip but it is one of the most rewarding. I am happy to have taken this unique opportunity. It has enriched my life and helped me in ways that I never thought possible. This dream has come true and I am eternally grateful to the people, this paradise and especially the Almighty Father, ”said Erika.
The reason Gino wanted to move was because he wanted to learn to surf. So in 2018, he took the first step to ticking this off his bucket list by moving to the island. Gino quickly found life in Siargao amazing.
“The community, the people here. It’s good to wake up everyday and see the ocean. We plan our day with the tides and I love how it’s just laid back.
In April of this year, Gino opened Haole Surf Hostel, a hostel and restaurant that serves Hawaiian-Filipino fusion dishes for up to 30-40 people.
“I came up with this concept because Siargao has the same vibe as Hawaii in terms of the surf scene and culture. ‘Haole’ in Hawaiian means a foreigner or someone who is not from here. Hawaiian cuisine is diverse, a melting pot of different flavors from different countries and I do it my way, ”he said.