Filipino friend invited us to come surfing with him. Why not, so few weeks later we were sitting outside a small bus station somewhere in Manilla. An overnight bus took us next to the ocean. We walked with our bags to the beach. It was flat so all that was left was to wait for the city to wake up and have some breakfast.
This First Part is based on my memories of the time. The next two parts are from sketched notes.
I do remember that right from the start we were welcomed as part of the family. The local guys and girls were sleeping in storage looking place that had a small kitchen, toilet and a smaller room at the back. They had been the first in town to start teaching surfing for local and foreign tourists. For the coming months I was always welcomed to this space and offered a place to sleep and a plate to eat.
We had come here because there was this wave that was suppose to be good. The plan was to camp in front of it and just do service runs to town for more food and stuff. Before stretching our legs the adventure was already on it’s way and would not stop for some time. We rented a tricycle motorbike, packed it full of food and surfboards in the hopes that it would not break down on the way to the spot. It broke down right there and then and on several future adventures as well. On the maiden voyage we blew a tire. Small delay was like a short pitstop. Shops for fixing bikes are behind every corner.
So we surfed, and surfed some more. Our new local friends had many skills and cooking was one of them. A shared banana leaf was our plate and fingers served as forks. The first time in my life I got slightly fat was in Philippines. Rice and fresh baked white flour with sugar was the foundation of our daily diet. The base for our camp was right next to the beach.
About 100 meters walk through mangrove forrest and reef was a wave that held any size swell from 3ft upwards getting harder like a hockey stick curve.None of us had a Gopro or any other device or interest to take surf photos. In hindsight it’s a shame but at that moment no one cared.
I can’t remember how much time passed but one day there was a rumor that a Taifun was coming. Taifuns are the best source of quality ground swell for surfing in Philippines. The average is something like 25 taifuns at Philippines Sea per season. We were stoked. Unfortunately the more accurate weather forecast would estimate the Taifun to hit the exact spot where we were. So we had two choices; either return to town and close the storage door tight or we could stay on the beach and ride it out.
On the beach there was a abandoned house build on concrete legs on top of the ocean. We figured it would serve as our shelter. The place had definitely seen it’s best days but the floor was mostly still there. We set up our tents inside the building, piled the surfboards in one tight pack and started cooking dinner. Before midnight the storm had definitely picked up several knots. We were inside our tent playing cards while the other tent had started snoring. One of the guys was outside the tent but still inside the building trying to cook some late snack. The wind made it practically impossible.
At some point the roof started making loud noises and parts of it flying away and falling. I got out of the tent to see what was happening. The storm had gotten very strong. On top our tent was old pieces of plywood attached to the roof. They looked soaked and heavy and ready to fall at any moment. Everyone got out of the tent and we had a shouting meeting over the wind. At the end we decided to bail and seek shelter from solid ground.
The problem now became to get back to land without getting swiped by the rising swell. On low tide you can easily walk to the building with dry feet but now the tide was almost peaking and the taifun made each set of waves wash anything and everything and drag it to the ocean. So we had to wait for the moment when the reef was sucked dry before the next wave. That was the easy part. Next we needed to find shelter from the falling coconuts, trees and power lines.
Eventually soaked from head to toe we shared 3×4 meters concrete hut with an old man about 50 meters inland from the shore. There was 8 of us sleeping in every position possible. The roof didn’t fly off and eventually the sounds of the storm put us to sleep. Early morning I woke up to the strongest noise of bullfrogs I have ever heard. I couldn’t fall asleep again so I went walking with my head torch. There was no wind. Mystical night was coming to it’s end. In an hour the sun would come up again and we would find our boards exactly where we had left them without a ding.
End of part 1.
Part 2. Road trip to Nomad’s Point
“Priorities are meant to be re-prioritized”, that was the almost unanimous decision of us the Trojans as we saw three Ford Focuses full of Roxy stickers pass us. We waved at them frantically. They drove by without stopping.
We could have really used some help pushing our van. Moments earlier we had started our road trip to north. We had made it 40 meters into our trip before hitting some low hanging electric wires left behind by the taifun. The wires ripped off the whole roof rack of our rented van and all the stacked boards along with it. Few minor dings could not be avoided.
While the rest of us were trying to figure out where the Roxy girls were heading RamGyver (Rambo + McGyver in one man) was already cutting down some big branches from a palm tree and making a new roof rack. 15 minutes later we were chasing the Roxies for some wax.
It turned out they were not the international Roxies. We didn´t know them but they had heard about us. We were the guys who camped on the beach when the taifun hit the shore. We got 2 small pieces of wax smelling of roses and started driving north.
We could no longer drive further without closing our eyes. As the sun rose a passing boy selling white bread and sugar woke us for some breakfast. After dozens of hours driving over, under and through the jungle our van finally got stuck to a rocky sand dune. We had not arrived anywhere in particular. The road had simply ended and we could´t push any further. What we saw from the top of the dune was named as Nomad´s Point or something similar.
It was time to throw away the worst smelling fish from the ice box. The cook assured us the octopus could stay. The brotha was right, and few hours later we were eating delicious octopus -caldereta from a longboard turned upside down.
We surfed the Nomad’s Point. It was oversized and the local fishermen warmed us about the bay. After all that driving to find a wave no amount of rice could satisfy everyones hunger. Some of the locals went surfing. Next session everyone got in the ocean; fat slow rolling monsters.
The end of an airstrip was a hot place to camp. Local boat captain and owner of two fishing boats found us there and offered us his beach house. That night we slept like kings while the rain was singing against the roof.
Someday that airstrip would be a fast way to reach the break but for now the foreigners of our brotherhood were the first outsiders to surf this spot. We were not the first foreign explorers here. A mining company was here first. The indigenous community living on the beach had been here a bit longer.
The snack before dinner was the biggest sugar OD so far. Young ferns and other grass as a meal from the forest was a valiant try to balance out all the condensed milk and baked white flour we were consuming.
The energies were shifting. We were no longer Spartans running under an oath. Everyone was still repeating old truths and phrases but new ideas and thought patterns started emerging. There was an awareness beyond words whispering to us of future events still to come.
Simultaneously all indicators were maxing out and senses were on overload. All of this was neither good or bad. Everyone was pushing it in so many levels that at times we were truly free from all that had been left behind. Nothing happened by force, it was more like rising lump under your chest which with awareness you could turn into a moment of bliss.
The stillness was subsiding. Different plans started flooding the air. A guidebook presented itself, maybe due to the fact that it was the first day without surf in over a week. Some had the itch to surf and others to know what happens next.
What had happened was not a story with a start and an ending. Describing the people in the van made no sense. They were spirits reaching for freedom with some ever shifting knots inside. The path that felt never-ending kept unfolding in and around us. It was slowly merging into one; the crickets, ocean and the homeless nomads, spartans.
“Never surrender, never retreat, just relocate!”
End of part 2.
PART 3. Surf and Nipa Hut building
The time of tribes, gangs, groups and brotherhood was over. From the co-existence the urge for solitude had arisen. I had fallen into the trap of writing about something I enjoyed. Where is the friendship when you try to describe it? The surf had connected us at the beginning and turned us into friends. So we surfed again. At times the wave felt overwhelming. The smiles in the lineup proved it wasn’t so. As the swell picked up the spot turned into a slab and then for me into something you watch from the side. Lack of wipeouts without consequences meant more cuts and bruises. Time in the water was getting scarce.
First night under the hut
After the road trip many went their own ways. I stayed with the locals and we started building a Nipa Hut. Basic materials needed to be purchased but some of the stuff we got from the jungle. The roof of the hut was now ready and soon some of the walls as well. Mangroves protected from seeing the wave but you could hear when it was good.
The sun felt strong even under the roof. Two dogs started growling over the leftovers on the banana leaf. The smaller one backed down after a stone landed next to the argument. Guys under the Nipa Hut were motionless after a heavy meal. It was hard to feel anything except the bite of a feisty ant and the stinging of the parts of flesh where skin was missing.
There I was building a hut to some Australians land with local guys. No one really talked about tomorrow but the idea of it would not let me go. I was missing my health and the antibiotics were not really working. I might have to get back to searching. That idea seemed funny. My belly was full and instead of stability what I hoped for was purpose.
The momentum was gone. Waves rolled but it wasn’t enough. The Nipa hut was not getting finished. Like projects so often we had underestimated the costs and the amount of work. We were missing bamboo to build the second floor. Then the neighboring family came to our rescue. They let us saw blanks from a tree that was about to fall on their hut. Hired man with a long chainsaw did great work and before the sunset upstairs was ready for overnight guests.
As the Nipa Hut was getting the finishing touch the place started coming alive again. People came from close and far and a new group was forming. The sketches on the paper had become real. We had made something beautiful with no doors. The pot was full of rice and we were all eating together. People were planning to do a boat trip. I was mentally and physically exhausted. Tropical climate had never been kind to me. I stayed behind while boat filled with rum and laughter took of. They had an adventure with close calls as I enjoyed the DIY electricity connection from the neighbors. The Hut was ready. It had kitchen, 2nd floor, garage style door, space for about 8 people, slack line and a pull-up bar, all in front of a crazy wave.
What else could you ask for? Health.
My friend wrote me from Nepal. I knew I needed the cold air to heal.
As I left my friend told me,
“When you make friends in Philippines it is for life”.