Of Endings and Beginnings

 

IMG_20190422_174428I’ve been thinking about death these past months. It doesn’t have anything to do with the desire to end my life. It’s more of me, reflecting on how much time we have here on Earth. It still freaks me out that it is something we have absolutely no control over.

Thoughts on Death

Tomorrow is not guaranteed yet we continue to plan for it. We carry our past on our backs and we neglect to live in the present.

Everyday, before I go to bed, I think about how it will be like if the time for me to meet my Maker finally comes. Is it going to be painful? Will my friends miss me? Will it even matter? I shudder at the thought.

I’ve long accepted I won’t live forever and I really need to let go of my past pains. I want this to be my last reincarnation so my soul can finally move on. It is not easy, but it’s something I’ve been working on. I want to make the most out of this life while I still can. I want to lie on my death bed knowing I did the best I possibly could given the time I borrowed.

Some people find it weird that I’ve become more assertive in saying things that I want to say. While most of the words that come out of my mouth remain filtered (for fear I’ll be misinterpreted), I try to make it a point to be more expressive of my thoughts.

The Earth Moved

We experienced a strong earthquake here in the Philippines yesterday. It was around 5 in the afternoon. I was working on something when I started to feel dizzy. I’m on one of the top four floors of our building and I really felt the haunting, fast, shaking, stomach-churning movement of the tall concrete. The doors were swinging and the only thing I could think of was “Lord I can’t die yet”.

I read about excarnation in theory, but I felt it yesterday. I was not in my body. I do remember switching to auto pilot mode. I changed my clothes, packed my bag, then stood in the middle of the room. I froze. I watched the Earth move. I stood still, unable to process everything. Is this really happening? Am I gonna die now? Is this how it’s going to end?

I wanted to cry. I couldn’t. I wanted to scream. I couldn’t. So I stood and watched everything move. The bathroom door kept swinging. Liquid in the bottles dances, as if confirming that there was indeed an earthquake. My body turned ice cold and my stomach started to hurt.

A Montage 

People say your life flashes before your eyes before you die. I realized it wasn’t my time yet yesterday when the flashback did not happen. What I do remember is seeing images of the people that I love. I remember thinking that I really need to exert more effort in telling my family and friends that I love them. I remember telling myself “hey, we got this okay, we’re gonna live”. At some point I think I even heard a dog cry. Perhaps Marley and Roxy were with me yesterday, too.

I had jelly legs when the movement stopped. I messaged my mom and checked up on my friends. It’s silly I didn’t bother to see if I was okay. I had to make sure everyone was fine first. I packed my stuff and went out of the house. I had to use the stairs and I swear my knees hurt so bad. There was no adrenaline rush. I just remember telling myself that if it’s my time to go then so be it. I even managed to stop and take a picture of the sunset.

Speaking of sunsets, I found security when I saw the beautiful painting on the sky. I somehow felt that it was a reassurance that everything will be fine. The colors present were interesting too. Golden yellow, cobalt blue, magenta, orange, and a hint of red. I had no time to break each color down. All I know is I felt peace when I saw all of them dance together.

Waking Up to Another Day

I’ve always told my friends that I don’t want to just live. I want to experience life to the fullest and leave a dent when I go. I want to contribute to change, and make this world better. We owe it to the generations that will come after us.

Yesterday’s event is a reminder that we need to make the most out of every day. We need to let go of things that don’t really matter, and focus on the things that do. We need to be more conscious of how we use our time here. We need to value those who value us, and let go of those who don’t. Life is short.

We need to tell people how much we value them before we lose the chance to. It makes sense now why I put premium on goodbyes. When there are gatherings, it is important to me that goodbyes are done properly. I thought it was just about Venus being my ruling planet, but no. It had so much to do with closing/ending things properly because you’ll never know what can happen in the future.

Perhaps Mother Nature was reminding all of us that we need to be more aggressive in taking care of our one and only home. She’s the real boss. Once she gives up on us, we won’t have anywhere else to go.

I’ve been thinking about death these past months. Yesterday, I believe I was given a sneak peek of the moments leading up to it. I’ve never been this happy to have the chance to open my eyes one more time to see the sun rise.

I’m thankful that I get to live one more day. I’m grateful to be alive.

Saltwater Musings : Siargao

When you’re a wahine stuck in the city and programmed into a daily routine, you begin to crave for the ocean. Once you notice with every glimpse in the mirror that your tan lines betrayed you and decided to disappear, you begin to crave for the ocean even more. With each passing day, the craving intensifies and the only way to satisfy them is by watching your surf videos that your lovely friends captured from eons ago. You know that things have gone bad when day in and day out, all you can think of are long rides, sunsets, stoke, surf, sand, and sea. This is when you become thankful for friends who invite you to Siargao for a surf/soul searching trip (thanks, Liz).

Siargao is probably the best surf spot I’ve been in. I’ve heard about it from surfer friends and I can remember painting mental images of the place based on how they described it. I used to be scared of surfing in Siargao because of the reefs and what they call “professional waves”.  I am far from being a professional surfer. The biggest wave I’d dare ride is only six feet high and that’s after convincing myself that the worst thing that can happen to me is a wipe out. Siargao always gave me a combination of fear and excitement that whenever I thought visiting it before, I’d chicken out. I guess it’s true that there’s beauty in timing. I think if I went there before, I wouldn’t have enjoyed it as much as I did.

It’s only been a week since that epic Siargao trip and all I can say is I never left. Yes, I’m physically back in the city but everything else is still there, riding those waves, enjoying the good vibes, and staying stoked. That place gave me so much and I’ve only been there for six days. I got to be in my element again, and it was humbling to know that six months without surfing brings you back to square one… at least for the first two hours of your mini reunion with the board and the ocean. It was frustrating that I couldn’t catch a wave, that I kept falling, and that I was being robbed of patches of my skin because of the reef underneath. However, it was also very fulfilling when after approximately two hours of not giving up, I finally got that long ride that was enough to keep me stoked until the next day. The next two surf days were about learning how to do the frontside and the backside which were both challenging at first.

backside

superbend

We also chanced upon fellow surfers (Xave, Pia, and Mico) who were also there for vacation. We went island hopping to see more of Siargao on our second day and it really is beautiful. It’s sad to see that there are buildings being constructed after almost every kilometer. There are hotels, condominiums and resorts, claiming the place as theirs when it really isn’t. Everyone wants to own a piece of the land. Everyone wants to own a piece of paradise and its alarming. The locals say that Siargao has changed so much since it became popular. Its spot on the list of the popular surf destinations worldwide has its good and bad side and everyone’s just dealing with it. My only prayer is that they get to preserve its beauty.

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The ocean lent its ears to oohs and ahhs as our boat docked from one island to another. The waters were clear as crystal, it was fun to dive and be all mermaid-y without having to worry about landing on someone’s trash. The corals had were painted with a beautiful symphony of colors, it was hard to focus on just one. There were fishes of different shapes and sizes that swam in distances both far and near- depending on who was brave enough to touch the human skin. The salty Siargao breeze was filled with our laughters, jokes, and tricks with the GoPro. There were moments when we would randomly burst into song or dance once a good song plays in Spotify. Our day would end with the obligatory Monopoly deal where everyone’s competitive side showed.

(c) Mico Cervantes
(c) Mico Cervantes
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(c) Mico Cervantes
(c) Mico Cervantes
(c) Mico Cervantes

Liz and I did a lot of walking during our stay and this allowed us to explore the resorts in the area. Of all the resorts we’ve been to, Hotstpot stood out because they were very accommodating, the interiors were nice, and it had the ambiance that we wanted. Before surfing, Liz and I went there to hang out, order some drinks, and watch surf movies. Hotspot also offers board and GoPro rentals for Php 500/day which is really cheap! Their sexy chicken is a dish worth trying after an epic session. I give it two thumbs up!

The last day. :( (c) Hotspot
The last day. 😦 (c) Hotspot
(c) Hotspot
(c) Hotspot

Notes:

1) Respect the locals.

2) There is no ATM, so make sure that you have enough money. Meals cost around Php 80 – Php 130 but they have big servings, so it’s like having two meals in one.

3) You have to bring small bills since they almost always don’t have change.

4) The airport transfer will cost you around Php 300.

5) Go out and explore the island. There’s so much to see!

6) Think twice before accepting beer or any alcoholic beverage from people.

7) There’s a yoga session at the tower every 9:30 in the morning.

8) Be sure that your USB has enough disk space (17 gigs) so you can copy your videos from Hotspot’s GoPro.

9) Brace yourself for lots and lots of walking.

10) Enjoy each surf session and if you can, wait until the sun sets on the horizon.

Siargao is a paradise. It’s a great place to get lost in. You bask in its wonder and thank God that there’s a place like it in a country that’s fascinated by constructing giants in the concrete jungle. It’s a place that welcomes you with a warm embrace and gives you a heartache once the day of your departure draws near. You meet people from all over the world, speaking different languages, molded by different cultures, united by one thing : surfing. Okay, some just lay down and pray to the heavens that they get tans instead of freckles but you know what I mean. Siargao heals you in ways you can never imagine. It gives you picturesque sunsets that make you close your eyes and thank God that you witnessed that. It gives you ride-worthy waves that bring you from the line up to the board walk. It gives you locals who are nice enough to lend you a helping hand when they sense that you’re having trouble. It blesses you with the opportunity to know more about your teammate/travel buddy/friend who’s just as game as you are to explore the island and brave walking down dark streets since there are no street lights as of writing. Most of all, it gives you a chance to breathe, to take a break from the city’s fast-paced lifestyle. Siargao is a beauty, and I will forever be thankful that I ended my 6-month streak of no surfing in that island.

I leave you with this video that my friend Xavier D’Souza made. Thanks for reading! 🙂

Surfing in La Union

In a parallel universe, I’m on a surfboard riding the best wave of my life. For now, I’ll have to satisfy my craving for long rides, wipeouts, saltwater, and sand by watching surf videos and looking at surf photos. Yes, I am surf deprived and boy oh boy I’d give anything to surf again… but it’s almost flat season so…. but there are still waves somewhere so… but I need to work on our products… but the waves are calling… but… but… ah, let me tell you about my surf experience in La Union instead.

I rode a van from Baguio to San Juan. In case you’re wondering why I came from Baguio, you can read it here. I was told to get off once I see Sebay and walk towards Fatwave Surf Resort since that’s where we’re booked. Because it was my first time there, I decided not to sleep so I won’t miss my stop. Looking back, it wasn’t hard to look for my stop at all since it was a long stretch of Surf resorts. Add to that the fact that there’s a huge sign in green and white that says “Surfing Area San Juan Beach”.

I was supposed to meet my cousin and two of our friends there but since they went to Tangadan Falls, I decided to go to our room, change clothes, rest for a while, and wait for them. They arrived a little over thirty minutes after and since they were hungry, we made our way to the dining area to grab a bite. I was very thankful that there were baby waves, contrary to what the forecast was saying. My surfer friends would always tell me that it’s always a plus or a minus that’s why I still take risks and pray to the heavens that they’ll be kind enough to give us “surfable” waves. Sometimes the prayer works and sometimes it doesn’t.  At around five in the afternoon, we grabbed our surfboards and paddled out.

Sunset surf <3
Sunset surf ❤
"I'm so happpyyyyyyyyy!!!"
“I’m so happpyyyyyyyyy!!!”
With my instructor, Benito
With my instructor, Benito
Yes please :)
Yes please 🙂

We surfed until it was dark and it was the best feeling in the world. If there’s one thing I enjoy doing, it’s sunset surfing. You paddle out, see the sun on the horizon, wait for a wave, surf, and then paddle out again. I find peace in watching the sun paint the sky with different shades of red, blue, pink, and purple – a perfect harmony of colors before it bids the world goodbye at least for twelve hours.

The group went to Flotsam and Jetsam for dinner and we feasted on sumptuous food while lounging in cozy bean bags and listening to hits from the 90s since, coincidentally, it was Lorraine Lapus’ engagement party that night. Flotsam and Jetsam really gives you value for your money. The ambience is great, the food is excellent, and you get to meet a lot of people. Too bad I didn’t take pictures because I was too hungry. If you want to know more about them, visit this page.

With Fin, J9, and Xie.
With Fin, J9, and Xie.

We woke up early the next day for more surfing. We were singing, cheering each other on, playing with the GoPro, and enjoying rides both short and long. When it was almost 12, we went back to Fatwave to shower, change clothes, and pack our stuff. We dropped by Surfstar to claim our free shirt. Yay! That made the trip even more fun! For lunch, we went to Marv’s house. They cooked sinigang which is one of my favorite dishes. The group hung out for a while and by 4 PM, it was time to go back to Manila.

The Frolic Girls: Koko, Xie, J9, Aliya, and Fin.
The Frolic Girls: Koko, Xie, J9, Aliya, and Fin.

Surfing in La Union was a very memorable experience for me. It was great to be back on the ocean, ride the board, and paddle until my arms feel like noodles. I also met two new surfers :Marv and Benito who are funny, accommodating, and very patient. Should you wish to learn how to surf when you’re in La Union, I highly recommend that you look for them.

If you want to surf in La Union, you can contact Marven Abat to learn about their surf lifestyle packages. For now, I’ll leave you with this video. Enjoy! 🙂

Crystal Beach Resort Presents: Music by the Beach

One of the things that I enjoy doing whenever I’m at the beach is taking pictures of sunsets. When I learned from my good friend RJ that we’ll be going to Crystal Beach with the Julianne Trio (Julianne + Benjo + RJ) for their performance last March 23, I made sure that my camera’s batteries were fully charged.  It was a little cloudy. Luckily, I managed to take these photos:

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Just like a star across my sky….
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I’m loving angels instead…

The four of us sat by the beach while watching the sky change its hues. We exchanged sentences and phrases in between shutter clicks, all wanting to capture the magnificent view before us while making sure that everyone was enjoying the moment. It was nice to listen to them talk about their “most recommended” phone apps,  music, and Julianne’s upcoming album, “Ashes to Beauty”.  I like how musicians are chill and steady, yet they surprise you once they play their instruments. That afternoon was definitely one for the books.

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Grateful. Really grateful. (c) Benjo Robles

That night, at Crystal Beach Resort gathered under the stars and listened to music by no other than the country’s soulchild, Julianne. She sang some of her originals “Tulak ng Bibig”, “Healing”, and “7000 Miles to Grow”. She also sang covers of the songs “Ain’t no Sunshine” by Bill Withers and “Put Your Records On” by Corinne Bailey Rae.

Julianne Tarroja
Julianne Tarroja
The Julianne Trio
The Julianne Trio

Some of my surfer/wahine friends dropped by to watch the gig too!

With Dindi.
With Dindi.
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Kuya Bry, Kuya Ping, and Benjo.
Liwa Crew. :)
Liwa Crew. 🙂

Mark and Abby Ramos (owners of Crystal Beach Resort) were there too. They’re both very nice and accommodating. It was nice to finally meet Abby- I’ve been a fan of hers since I started collecting Candy Mag. 😉

The night ended well. My ears were filled with soulful music and my heart was really happy. To those who weren’t able to attend, I uploaded some videos for you. Enjoy! 🙂


Julianne Tarroja – Tulak ng Bibig from Aliya Agbon on Vimeo.

Julianne – Ain’t No Sunshine from Aliya Agbon on Vimeo.

Julianne – Put Your Records On from Aliya Agbon on Vimeo.

Julianne Tarroja – Healing from Aliya Agbon on Vimeo.

Surfing: Behind the Scenes

I’ve been meaning to write about this since I started surfing. I just didn’t have the time. No. I had the time, I didn’t have the words worthy enough to give justice to my journey as a surfer. I think for most people, surfing is just about standing on a board, looking fancy, having kickass photos (to be posted on Facebook with -insert number here- comments), prancing around in bikini and board shorts, and doing the “shaka” whenever possible.

Every surfer surfs for a reason. Every surfer has his/her story. Here’s mine:

I started surfing at a time when I was still in the process of healing from a terrible experience. I guess at some point in our lives, we hit rock bottom and we’re left standing in the crossroads. That was, by far, the biggest blow I’ve received in my 25 years of existence. Everything was uncertain. Everything was taken away from me. The only thing I was hanging on to at that time was the determination to live up to my second name (Aliya) and bounce back.

It took some time.

I was slowly getting back on my feet when our flag football team (Team Sunken Garden) decided to go on a surfing trip to Zambales. I had mixed feelings about going. Don’t get me wrong, I was excited. Really. However, despite all the excitement, I was worried about some things. I had issues with my body. I’m not exactly fat, but I’m not thin either. I was scared of not being able to stand on the board.  I was worried about being judged but as the trip drew near I decided to let go of my inhibitions and just go with the flow.

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Kneeling on my first ride.

I remember hating myself for not being able to stand up during the first session. All of my friends were getting stoked with their rides while there I was, struggling. I didn’t want to surf anymore because I felt that maybe, surfing isn’t my thing. Good thing I managed to stand during my second session, thanks to Kuya Pat! Too bad our trip was cut short because all of us had to go back to Manila for work. I remember telling myself that I’ll be back in a week or two to surf again. I really wanted to improve.

Stoked. Me with Kuya Pat!
Stoked. Me with Kuya Pat!

And return I did! This time, my rides were longer. I made friends with some of the locals too! My friends and I stayed at Kila Bot Sir Ping Spot, owned by siblings Bot and Ping Danila. My instructors, Jay-R and Pangke, both patient and generous in teaching.

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My first long ride!
My first long ride!
Skim sessions in between surf sessions
Skim sessions in between surf sessions
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From strangers to very good friends – here’s our first picture with the KBSPS surf instructors.

I eventually found myself riding a bus to Zambales every two weeks. Each surf trip gave me the chance to experience new things, meet new people, and learn more about myself. The beach became my happy place. The sand became a bed so comfy I could just sleep soundly and drift to places far and near. The salt water, a blanket that hugged me with each shore entry, as if showing me how much it missed me. The waves sang sweet melodies that were delightful to my ears. Everything was beautiful, and everything in the beach made sitting for four hours in the bus worthwhile.

Music appreciation sessions with my good friend Momma G. ;)
Music appreciation sessions with my good friend Momma G. 😉
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My first injury. Crashed into another surfer whose surfboard hit my shin. That’s Gan carrying me because I couldn’t walk.

There were good surf days and there were bad surf days but regardless, I learned to enjoy both. I figured, it would be futile to make a fuss out of not having long rides. After several surf trips, I learned to embrace the fact that wipe outs are part of surfing. With each wipe out, I found myself smiling, getting back on the board, and paddling out again. It’s similar to the traps that we fall into in our daily lives. When we’re faced with challenges, our initial reaction is to drown in depression and let the problem consume us until it becomes our reality. Yes, it’s easy to let ourselves drown and accept defeat but because of surfing, I learned stand up with each fall and bounce back.

You learn to laugh after a wipe out.
You learn to laugh after a wipe out.
This "stance" is the reason why they call me Superbend.
This “stance” is the reason why they call me Superbend.
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After a wipe out, all you have to do is paddle out and try again.

I spent Christmas in Zambales last year due to certain circumstances. Pangke, Jay-R, and Noel were kind enough to spend time with me. They introduced me to other locals and surfers. They also taught me how to read waves. Some days, we just sat on the shore and watched the sunset. Jam afternoons were the best. Noel’s a really good guitar player and I sang to every song that he played while Jay-R and Pangke took turns in playing the kahon.

It was also in December when I made the decision to level up by catching a wave on my own. I wanted a solo ride as a Christmas present and it was given to me. 🙂

Mornings, the way they should be.
Mornings, the way they should be.
First solo ride!
First solo ride!
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Liwliwa sunset- always a sight to see.

Catching a wave when you’re a beginner isn’t easy. It takes practice, timing, patience, support from people who know you, and most of all, BELIEF IN YOURSELF. A simple “I can do it” goes a long way. It took me months to take the risk, hours to catch a wave, and a ride that’s seconds long to prove to myself that I can do it. That it can be done. That it’s possible. Since then I’ve been surfing solo but for safety reasons, I still make sure that the pros are nearby.

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Where there are no waves, you practice on an indo board.

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I met a lot of people because of surfing. Most of them are acquaintances- turned-good friends; proof that a simple exchange of hellos goes a long way. I met some of them while waiting for waves at the line up, some through another surfer, and some during hang out sessions at KBSPS.

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With Julianne at Crystal Beach. (c) Benjo Robles
With Kuya Ping and Phil, the surfer dog.
With Kuya Ping and Phil, the surfer dog.
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(c) Benjo Robles
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With my twin, Ian.
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I miss them. 😦 (c) Telay Robles
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Achievement unlocked!

My second family. :)
My second family. 🙂

Surfing has taught me a lot of things. It has taught me to rise with each fall; to go with (and not counter) the flow. It taught me that everything has a process; that things will eventually fall into place as long as you’re patient. It also taught me to believe in myself more.

Sunset surf sessions.
Sunset surf sessions.
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(c) Adele Katerina Raya

img_4117Surfing is the very reason why I don’t mind that I’m 10 shades darker, or that my hair color has changed due to too much sun exposure. It’s one of the reasons why I wake up early in the morning and sleep not-so-late at night. In the beach, on a surf board, is a place where I’m most happy. It thrills me, it keeps me alive, and it gives me an extraordinary kind of high. I’m proud of the scars and bruises I got because of it. I earned each and every single one of them. I know I still have a long way to go and I’m actually excited to see what the sea has in store for me.

Surfing, for me, is more than just riding a board. Surfers are not measured by the number of waves they ride. Instead, they are measured by how much fun they have out there. It’s not in the number of wipe-outs you get, but in the number of times you get back on the board after each wipe-out.

Surfing is waking up each morning and running to the ocean to see how the waves are. It is sitting in the bus for hours while doing everything that you can so that your EQ level stays up. It is going back to a place that’s both beautiful and painful while dealing with all the memories(both good and bad). It is waiting patiently for a wave, even if it means sitting under the sun for hours. It is meeting people from different walks of life who eventually become family disguised as friends. It is learning more about yourself. It is realizing that your biggest competition is yourself. It is putting your life in the hands of a 9″0. It is saving every single penny you have so you have enough money to surf on the weekend. It is caring for nature. It is falling in love with sport. It is learning to put more value in things that matter, and less in things that don’t. It is trusting that you can and will ride that big wave, no matter how many times the blithering idiot in the line up says that you can’t. It is paddling out after each wipe out. It is sharing the stoke. It’s a way of life. It is more than just a feeling, it’s a state of being.

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And when people ask me why I surf, my answer has always been simple: it heals me.