As surfing returns to Siargao, local hero Tokong reigns anew | Inquirer Sports

As surfing returns to Siargao, local hero Tokong reigns anew

/ 05:40 AM October 20, 2022

John Mark Tokong shows why he is king of the waves—and a local favorite of Siargao’s surfing crowd.


John Mark Tokong shows why he is king of the waves—and a local favorite of Siargao’s surfing crowd.



SIARGAO ISLAND—Along the shores of the coastlines here are etched memories of some of the challenges the locals have had to endure.

The coronavirus pandemic had locked everyone down for a lengthy period and just as some sense of normalcy was returning, Typhoon “Odette “ devastated the town in December of 2021.

But it took one event to wash off whatever remnants of hardships locals went through and turn the town into the country’s surfing capital anew.

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And once again, island favorite John Mark Tokong reigned supreme.

“Anyone can surf, but not all are given the chance to represent the country,” Tokong said after ruling the men’s division of the 26th Siargao International Surfing Cup recently at the world-famous Cloud 9 in Barangay Catangnan, here.

The statistics help define the competition: For instance, the 25-year-old Tokong earned a 15.80 total score against Indonesian finalist Oney Anwar’s 14.15 to bag the title.

But the numbers cannot even begin to tell the whole story of the event. It is a story of a long-awaited comeback.

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“Since the pandemic, this [was] my [first] shot at joining the international tournament [World Surf League’s Challenger Series] again,” Tokong said.

Barrel waves

The excitement showed in his performance.

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Riding barrel waves that curled upward from the point breaks at Cloud 9, against a backdrop of clear skies and moderate sea breeze, Tokong sailed past the competition, including Philmar Alipayo, who lost to the champion in a gutsy semifinal duel.

Alipayo eventually finished third.

“During the pandemic, we were only surfing for fun,” said Susan Escanilla, who competed in the women’s side. “We go to the surf spots and then go home after we surf. Now, we are very happy that surfing competitions are back and we have a chance to represent Siargao in international surfing competitions.

The local government of Siargao and the World Surf League’s (WSL) had been preparing for this comeback event since 2021 and for the first time, organizers held the women’s division together with the men’s division.

Nilbie Blancada bagged the women’s title with a total score of 11.50, beating Japanese Anon Matsuoka’s 10.35.

It was also a comeback for Siargao, which is still recovering fro the typhoon that nearly tore the town apart. The tournament, in fact, was part of the “Bangon Siargao” program aimed at helping the island fully recover from the effects of the storm.

Fisherman’s son

Tokong, the son of a fisherman from the town of nearby General Luna, said he had already planned out the waves he would catch so he could give his supporters a world-class performance.

Two years after the last international surfing cup, Tokong said he prepared to defend his title while joining other surfing competitions in Japan, El Salvador, Indonesia and around the Philippines.

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A total of 100 surfers from the Philippines, Japan, Sweden, South Korea, Indonesia, Australia, Great Britain and Thailand joined the competition, eyeing to secure a spot in the WSL Challenger Series in May 2023.

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TAGS: John Mark Tokong, Siargao International Surfing Cup

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