I believe in happy places, in positive energy and in enjoying every single minute of our lives while we still can. I believe that places have stories and that trees are the best keepers of secrets. I believe in leaving our mark so we’ll be remembered, but I also believe in embracing the imprints of memories that places will leave in our hearts.
My anklets are stories of places I’ve been to, people I’ve met, and moments that I’ll cherish forever. They’ve witnessed my wipe outs, and the countless times I went back on the board to once again try and ride the different waves of life.
I buried my toes in the sand and watched as the waves rolled and kissed the shore. They’re bigger than the ones I’ve ridden. Way bigger, and we’re not talking about glassy waves. We’re talking about waves with white water that’s seven to eight feet high. Short board waves, not long board waves. Yet here I am, competing as a malihini in the long board division of the 2014 Philippine Wahine Classic. I must have been out of my mind when I registered.
What if I fall?
It’s just water.
What if I fall?
Then I heard another voice in my head:
Oh honey, what if you fly?
I found myself second guessing. I thought of backing out especially when I failed to catch a single wave during our training before the competition. Quitting is always easy, but the awful aftertaste of regret is always difficult to let go of, especially when it haunts you every single day. Once the pingpong battle in my head ended, I decided to just push through with the competition. I already paid for my ticket, I traveled a thousand miles to compete, and quitting sounds insane. I decided to apply the concept of open space, the one that says “whatever happens is the only thing that could” so I could manage my expectations. If I’m meant to win, I’ll win. If I’m meant to lose, I’ll lose. What’s important is I go out there, paddle my little heart out and surf. I also managed to read a text from my mom before paddling out for my heat. She said, “have fun, waves are your friend”.
Paddling out was a struggle for me and Joeren, my caddy. I remember him asking if I want to give up and I said no. Yes, the waves are scary and I’m risking the possibility of drowning and breaking my neck but I didn’t travel all the way from Mindanao to quit. Seeing that I’m determined, Joeren asked me to turn around and start paddling for my first wave. It was big and scary but I was committed. I paddled and stood once I felt the push. My ride was a little shaky at first, but I had to make sure I won’t fall. We were allowed ten quality rides. Carla Rowland told us that ten 2’s are better than two 10’s.
By the time I made it back to where Joeren was, he asked me to turn around again and paddle for my second wave. My arms were tired but I paddled anyway. Second ride done. I tried to get three more rides, but I kept slipping. Next thing I knew, we were down to the last two minutes. We gave each other high fives and paddled back to the shore. Joeren kept saying “I told you, you can do it!”. I just smiled. I was too tired. At this point, I wasn’t sure if my rides were good enough. I just wanted to rest.
Before heading out for lunch, my cousin and I approached Carla Rowland and asked for the results of my heat. I was so stoked when I found out that I landed first place and that I’ll be advancing to the second round! I was grinning from ear to ear. I didn’t expect it at all! When I told Joeren about it, he was stoked as well. We were told that the continuation for the Malihini Longboard Division will be moved to the next day because of the wave conditions so we decided to grab lunch and rest for a while.
Day one ended with lights, music, and booze as all surfers made their way to Aliya Surf Camp to party and for the awarding ceremony. Daisy Valdez was able to defend her title as the Open Shortboard Champion and Candra Jordan who came all the way from California won the Open Longboard Division.
Competition Day 2:
Two knocks on the door- that’s what woke me up. My cousin opened it and Brian, our friend, was there. “Time to go to church”, he said. We dressed up, checked the wave conditions and the competition schedule, then made our way to church. After church, we wolfed down our breakfast then made our way to Aliya Surf Camp for day two of the competition.
I was in Heat 5, round 2. This gave me enough time to observe other surfers. My cousin was out first who won her heat and advanced to the quarter finals. For round 2, I was on my own because Joeren had to teach. He told me “I know you can do it, and you don’t need me there”. Shudder.
There are moments in life when you only have yourself. I have to admit, day one was easy because I knew that Joeren was there and as long as he’s around I’ll be fine. For day two, I had to toughen up. While paddling out, I kept reminding myself that everything will be okay. First ride, fail. Second, manageable. Third, okay. Fourth, wipe out. Paddle out, try again. It was almost impossible to reach the line up and it was hard to paddle against the current. We were all struggling but we still gave our best.
I didn’t make it to the quarterfinals, and that’s okay. I told myself that I’ll just have fun and accept whatever the competition results will be. For me, it’s enough that I finally had the chance to surf again after being landlocked for a long time. My cousin finished fourth, and I’m very happy for her. She’s improved so much from last year and she’s proof that hard work really pays off.
I ended the trip by burying my toes in the sand again. I stared at the ocean, as if trying to take a mental picture of the waves that were rolling in front of me. Fall, I did. Hard. But fly, I did, as well. I was asked why I decided to compete despite being landlocked for six months and my answer is, well you have to start somewhere. Yes, I haven’t surfed for six months and my skills suffered, but I’d like to think that whatever’s meant to happen is really the only thing that could. Sometimes you just need to take a leap of faith and surprise yourself. It’s like falling in love- there’s no specific schedule. It just happens to you. I now experienced what a real competition is like, so I know what to expect next time, if I decide to compete again. Surfing is as fluid as it can get. All you have is yourself, the board, the waves, and that 10 seconds worth of commitment to paddle, stand, feel the drop, and ride. This experience taught me to trust in myself more, and to not be afraid of falling. Sure a wipeout will shove buckets of saltwater down your throat, but what do you do after that? You get back on the board, and you paddle out again. I also learned to open myself up to possibilities, and to more good things. 🙂
It’s been three weeks since the competition and I’m still on a high. . I went home with a huge bruise on my right arm because it was hit by a fin, but it’s all worth it. I learned so much from this experience and I met a lot of people. I’m just glad I took the risk.
I’m very thankful for my mom, gave me permission to take time off work to compete, and for sending me messages of support all throughout the competition. My uncle, who lent us his car so we don’t have to commute and to Manong Dario of course who drove for us despite lack of sleep. To J9 who encouraged me to join the competition and made sure that I enjoy my first Baler experience. Fin, for cheering me on when I told her that I was thinking of backing out. Brian, my Monopoly Deal partner for the water (yay!) and for the support, of course. Esh, my roomie, it was so nice to see you again! Ivan, for helping us carry our stuff and for taking our pictures. Sagasa Surfkada, it was very nice to meet all of you. Siargao crew, it was great to see you again! Mico, thank you so much for lending me your board and for telling me to imagine Siargao when you noticed that I was scared. Joeren, my masungit-na-mabait caddy for helping me brave those big waves. Of course, to Carla Rowland and Ian Zamora whose passion for surfing and love for the Philippines made this event possible.
We rise up when we fall and when we do, we become better versions of ourselves. I believe that at some point in our lives, we hit rock bottom and when that happens, the temptation to just stay there and dwell in the negativity of the situation is hard to resist. To hate the world and blame everyone for living lives better than ours is always our go to option as humans compared to acknowledging the situation and eventually accepting it as a part of our life’s story. I used to take the easy route and just allow my emotions to get the best of me. The younger version of me enjoyed having people care for me and look after me. It felt good for some time until I realized how weak and dependent I’ve become. I failed to live up to the meaning of my second name, ‘Aliya’.
To acknowledge that you’ve hit rock bottom is one thing, and to make the decision to make your way out of the hell hole you’re in and rise up is another. I can’t remember how many times I hit a slump in my life, but I do remember receiving the biggest blow and making the decision to deal with the situation head on. People usually think that facing challenges is a piece of cake but I tell you, it’s hard work. The monster that whispers words that feed negative thoughts which eventually spiral into some twisted form of reality when you wake up at say, 3 in the morning does not help either. Most of the time, you find yourself playing a tennis match in your head where one side says all systems go, and the other makes you doubt every step you take towards picking yourself up and moving forward. It’s a feat, it’s exhausting, but trust me when I say that though the battle may be long, you’ll definitely come out strong.
Every challenge comes with lessons that need to be learned. Yes they’re difficult, and we all have our fair share of trials that we wouldn’t wish on anyone but in retrospect, I believe these trials are life’s way of molding us into the people that we’re destined to be. You can’t go to chapter three without reading chapter one. Sure you can skip, but then the story won’t be complete. I’m not trying to sound like some hyper optimistic know-it-all. What I’m trying to say is maybe, just maybe, with a slight change of perspective it’ll be easier for us to prepare and deal with the roadblocks ahead.
Photography by: Wu Vila
Location: Botanic Garden, Melbourne, Australia
“All Is Swell” shirts
were designed by Carla Sebastian
as part of Coast Thru Life’s efforts to raise funds for
The first time I went to Dahican was last June. I learned about it through a friend’s skim video that forever lingered in my memory. She was trying to show me how impressive the skills of the children were but my eyes were focused on the glassy waves, white sand, and blue water. Oh to ride a glassy wave with water so clear you can see the colorful corals and fishes underneath!
When we arrived, I was greeted by Alantoy who “briefed” me about the place. Turns out the Amihan Boys (that’s what they’re called) have been taking care of the beach for years now. They built a hatchery for the pawikans, they clean the shore daily, and sometimes they dive to check on the marine life underneath. They do it for love, and you should see how their eyes glimmer with passion as they share their story.
It has not been an easy life for most of them, but through surfing, skimboarding and skateboarding, they were able to cope that’s why their free access to these board sports are very important to them. The beach is a playground and a place of healing for these boys. They wake up at the crack of dawn, grab their skim boards and charge. Be it on flatland or on a wave, regardless if the sand is hot or cold, these boys will run, drop the board, and ride until they get stoked.
Dahican beach and the Amihan Boys have become a training venue for our Mati’s very own Sonny “Bayogyog” Aporbo, who won the Penang International Skimboarding Competition twice in a row. Bayogyog taught himself how to skim and he started when he was only seven years old. He is living proof that if you push hard enough despite the curved balls life throws your way, you will succeed.
I’ve been to Dahican thrice this year and I managed to capture their some skills in stills and in motion. I’m sharing the video (and the stoke) with you. I want you to see how beautiful Dahican is and when you do, I want to ask for your help in preserving the beach. There are people who also want to indulge in its beauty, but refuse to take good care of it. Some would go there on a picnic but would throw their trash anywhere, while jetski riders would ride around the area where the corals are, not knowing that they’re disturbing marine life. I’ll write more about this in the blogs to come but for now, I give you, Amihan Skim Sessions. 🙂
Last October 24, I added another year to my age. I was excited to celebrate my birthday this year for two reasons: I get to spend time with my family and I get to surf. 🙂
My heart has been overflowing with happiness since two weeks ago. God has showered me with blessings and each day, I woke up wanting to express how grateful I am, but never finding the words worthy enough to show what I really feel. It’s been some time since I felt this way that’s why I was thrilled to welcome my 26th birthday. Too excited, I have to admit. I had a hard time sleeping because I was so happy.
It was nice to wake up to my mother’s very tight hug. She woke me up at around 5:30 in the morning since we had to leave early for Dahican. We stopped by Cafe France for breakfast since she’s been wanting to eat there since the night before. We were lucky because the place wasn’t full and there were parking slots available. The restaurant staff were very accommodating and attentive to our needs; they even greeted me happy birthday. 🙂
It was already 9 in the morning when we left for Dahican. Traffic not permitting, we arrived in Dahican at 2 in the afternoon. I was looking forward to having an afternoon surf session, but since the waves were too small, I decided to take pictures of the skim boarders. The way they run, skim, flip their boards and ride the waves is like beautiful poetry. How they do it effortlessly is a mystery to me.
After taking pictures and teaching my brother the basics of surfing, we ate dinner. The number of people in the venue was starting to grow since the Sambuokan Festival competition participants and event guests were starting to arrive. We had the chance to talk to Alantoy who immediately gave us updates on what’s been happening the past few months. It was nice to see him and his brother, Bochok, again. They’re kind of my surf family here in Mindanao. After dinner, we went to bed since we planned on going dolphin watching and surfing the next day.
Because of the Sambuokan Festival in Mati, all of the hotels were fully booked. Good thing we were able to rent a tent from the Amihan Boys. They set up the tent near the shore which was a good thing. I liked falling asleep to ocean’s lullaby and waking up to the same song. When I opened our tent the next morning, I was speechless. See, this was waiting for us outside:
I had my share of stoke that morning too! At 9 AM that morning, after looking for dolphins, our boat stopped at a spot that had glassy waist-high waves. Two of the Amihan Boys were there to assist and they were nice enough to give tips that helped me improve my ride. They also taught my brother how to surf. Both of us were stoked!
My brother and I had our own share of cuts from that morning’s session but we were still stoked. The water was so clear, we could see the corals, fishes, and sea urchins (unfortunately) underneath. The waves were perfect and the best part was, we had it all to ourselves.
We stayed at the Amihan Boy’s cottage in the afternoon because our tent was hotter than a sauna. We met new people there, including the youngest of the Plaza siblings: Juan. Some of the younger Amihan boys were there too and they were all smiles as they told us their stories. Some of them came from really difficult situations and according to them, skim boarding helped them cope. It was really good to hear how surfing and skim boarding helped change their lives.
Later that afternoon, Langlang and Jovic taught me how to skim. They said it’s a lot more difficult that surfing but it doesn’t mean that it can’t be done. I really appreciate that they took some time off their skim session just to teach me. I was really moved. I didn’t really do well because I was scared of falling. The board hit me twice and I’m sporting two new bruises on my left leg, but it’s okay. I want to learn how to skim and seeing how it’s done, I know that I will have more scars and bruises.
I’m still stoked from my 26th birthday celebration. It was simple, but it was very meaningful. I got to spend it with my family while doing what I love the most. To those who remembered my birthday and took time to send their birthday greetings, thank you so much. My heart is overflowing with happiness and gratitude. ❤
All of us have must-haves when it comes to preparing for a trip. For children, it’s their favorite toy, for the resident fashionista it’s the humongous makeup kit that contains brushes of different shapes and sizes and palettes of different colors, and for the businessman it’s gadgets that will help him process business transactions. Since I bought the Jaromanoy shirt last December, it has become one of my travel must-haves. It’s one of the first things I pack when I’m preparing for a trip. I have a certain attachment to the shirt because I believe in the people behind it and I want to share their story to the world. More than liking how the shirt fits me, it also makes me feel like they are with me wherever I go. It sounds cheesy and they’ll probably laugh at me but that’s the truth.
When my mom told me that we’ll be going to Angkor Wat to take a picture of the sunrise, I immediately thought of wearing my Jaromanoy shirt. It’s corny but I was thinking, “ah, they’ll see the sunrise with me”. Anyway, I paired it with a skirt that I bought in Thailand since they compliment each other. The ground was still muddy from the previous night’s rain so I decided to wear my trusty chucks.