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7 Days in Tandag City, Surigao del Sur May 8-15, 2013

7 Days in Tandag City, Surigao del Sur

Tandag Route
Tandag City, the capital of Surigao del Sur, is a 4th class coastal city I never heard about until I came to Butuan. The name didn't pop-up until I was told not to take the Tandag route because buses fall off its ravines. I got a hint of that while boarding the bus from Barobo to Tandag. It would go fast on curves, you fall off your seat unless you hang on tight. Maybe it's not so much about the road but the drivers! But I hear the 'chicken intestine' road from Tandag to Surigao is even more treacherous. It's not really reassuring, but here I am in Tandag, discovering its quaint charm.

On the Boulevard and along the main road is an array of barbeque stalls selling grilled chicken, pork and yes, grilled fish! Unfortunately, a lot of coastal towns and cities don't grill as much fish as they do chicken or pork. I'm just glad they have it here. BBQ is great tasting and cheap. So far, I can say that they know their barbeques here. sum it up.

I initially took a P200 fan room at Desire Lodge, but I could not stand to be there another day. The place, energy and vibe was just too repulsive. Luckily, I found a much better, cleaner and more ventilated place at IGM Hotel for the same price. I like the balcony and the spacious alfresco veranda where I could use the big table to do my work, with a beach view at that! The flow-through air was a relief from the oppressing heat.

Like Dumaguete, Tandag has a coastal promenade commonly referred to as 'Boulevard'. It's wide and long, serving as local hang-out, specially with the array of barbeque stalls lined up along half its length. The other half is open space where kids can play around and for the general public to view the nightly outdoor free video. It was relaxing just to be there, watching people pass by. This place perhaps defines Tandag's charm more than anything else.

Nico's Grill
The hot place for night life is Nico's Grill. It's an all-around chillout place with several big alfresco huts - one for the restaurant, another for billiards, another for videoke, and the most popular, the bar with big screen video playing the latest in hip hop and R&B music. The sound system is a heart pounding bass with laser lights strobing all over. It's dark and loud - a perfect party place.

There are internet cafes here, but internet speed is slow. To get wifi, there are two popular places - Cafe la jara and Jakas Restaurant. Still, internet speed leaves much to be desired. Again, in my limited thinking, with the internet serving as umbilical cord to a vast wealth of knowledge, information and empowerment, a constricted internet access means a restricted access to that wealth. This effect is amplified in small and remote places like Tandag. With the election, strong internet connection should be a campaign promise. Enough said.

Town Plaza
The town plaza has a monument of Jose Rizal, a cathedral across the street and spacious ground for town activities. A few school kids still hangout there. It is also a reminder that Tandag has seen better days. The place felt tired and weary. The peeling paint and dried-up algae somehow gives the neglect away. The grass is unkept and the facilities need some maintenance. It needs new blood to be revitalized.

Ending Thoughts
I thought I would just pass through Tandag as a transit point for Surigao City, but I chose to spend a night and see what else is there. To my surprise, I stayed 7 days. Despite signs of neglect, Tandag keeps its quaint and pleasant charm. People are friendly and laid back. Streets are safe, even at night. Food is cheap and cost of living is low. Tandag has no mall and no movie house, but they have a free nightly outdoor movie. Tricycles are everywhere to pick and drop-off passengers (P8/pax) around the city. The only big banks here are PNB and Land Bank. Tandag hums leisurely in its own pace as life unfolds day-to-day. People wake up to a new day and begin their routine.

--- TheLoneRider

ps - If you want me to objectively cover the features of your city or municipality or barangay for this website (fiesta, waterfall, mountain trail, lake, river, cave, food, islands, beach, etc.), email me.

Tandag Travel Tip:

  1. bring lotsa cash. There is PNB and Land Bank here and some rural banks - that's it. I had difficulty getting cash from all of their ATMs - "detected a response delay in your access request", "destination not available", "switch unavailable"etc. Land Bank even has a notice that they may debit your account even if you didn't get the cash - and that they will credit back the amount after 2 weeks! That's what I call a thief in a business suit!

How to Get to Tandag from Butuan and Surigao City

  1. There are buses from Butuan City and Surigao del Norte that will go straight to Tandag. Just go to the bus terminal and look for Tandag bound buses.

Hotels in Tandag (at the bus terminal, just take any tricycle to get to these hotels P8/pax)

  • Villa Maria Luisa Hotel - the upscale hotel in town
  • Haguisan - midscale, ~P500 fan room
  • Tindalo - midscale, ~P500 fan room
  • IGM Hotel - budget, P200 fan room, well ventillated, alfresco common balcony, good windows on rooms (recommended for budget travelers!)

Places to see while in Tandag and nearby area

  • Boulevard - best at night, bbq, chill-out, nightly free outdoor movie
  • Mabua Beach - fine black sand, short trike away, lots of beach huts
  • Dayao Cave - huge cathedral-like chambers
  • Dinakit Cave - also where Dayao Cave is, at Nilungao, just a short trike ride away
  • Nico's Grill - lively night life
  • Lubcon Falls - 30 minutes away in Cortes

(along the Surigao coastline from Surigao City to Surigao del Sur)

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Reader Comments:

Susana PerezSusana Perez
(Jan 17, 2016) I'm from Tandag and never before have I been charmed about my own town until I read your blog. I've been all over the world but haven't yet been to the places you mentioned in your piece. I don't live there anymore but have retained romantic notions about my town, notions that are promptly shattered each time I go there for a visit. You write beautifully. Thank you for sharing.

May 8-15, 2013

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