Ride The Tides

It felt like a flashback from when I first arrived at the island in 2016, a total wreck who lost her job with a failing relationship that wanted nothing but to escape reality. Nothing was going right.

”Home, it is nice to be back!”, I pondered to myself as I gazed out the window. The van cruised through concrete roads bordered by old mango trees, green rice paddies and tall coconut trees. Infrequently, the pristine view would be blocked by huge political or advertisement banners, but I was too excited to let the sporadic growth gall over my love for Siargao. Two months since I left the island with a beaten ego after Jing told me that there were no weak surfers.

 

“Jing’s Place!’’, the van driver declared as he handed over my backpack. Jing owned one of the first fully all local homestays in General Luna. Already in his fifties, he was still rocking surfer abs. A surfing legend to most, he was the surfer dad that I never had.

I marched into the homestay, Jojo welcomed me, “You’re home Paula! Let’s go surfing! Uncle Jing is already at Secret Spot.’’ Itching to surf again, I speedily unpacked my bag onto the bed to change. I clutched my favourite 8-foot long board and strapped it to onto the motorbike board rack. I sensed a bit of self-doubt and worry raced in, ”Was it too soon to surf again after a bad reef cut?”, I questioned myself. ”You have booties on Paula.”, I reassured myself as I revved the motorbike engine.

Forty-five minutes until I reached the not-so-secret Secret Spot because of the countless motorbikes parked along the roadside, I wandered 300 meters from the parking before I finally heard the rustling waves.

With a waxed surfboard and a Zinc cream covered face, I got on the board and paddled out. “Nice to see you again Tin!”, jested Jing as he summoned his student over. I felt great to be in the water again after having been partially immobile for a full month after a minor surfing accident.

The first wave arrived, I attempted to seize it but missed then struggled to get back on the board. As the sun rays radiated stronger, so did my impatience. The only reason I signed up for the gym was to surf better. Yet there I was plopping miserably like an absolute amateur.

It felt like a flashback from when I first arrived at the island in 2016, a total wreck who lost her job with a failing relationship that wanted nothing but to escape reality. Nothing was going right.

With jelly arms, annoyance grew as I waited for waves. I had to deal with my inner demons called patience and trust. I turned to Jing seeking assurance of which he responded with a smile.

Surfing is definitely not for people who loved full control, there are just too many external factors to this sport. The sense of helplessness slowly crept into my nerves being a person who relished in predictability.

‘’Yew!’’, jeered one local surfer as another set of waves showed up over the horizon. Keep legs together, paddle deeper with clasped hands, wait for the push, stand up with knees bent and look far towards the shore, I told myself.

‘’This one Tin! Paddle now, paddle hard!’’, coaxed Jing. I paddled, I felt the push and the flow got to me.

With a sigh of relief, I finally caught a wave, my first long ride after a long time. The next hours, I rode one wave after the other with much enthusiasm until I could not paddle anymore.

“Good session today! Great to have you back again Tin.”, said Jing as he patted my right shoulder as I looked at him with a stoked face. I felt elated that he was proud of me, but I was just happy to be back and ride the tides again.

A supportive surfing family living on a gorgeous island also struggling to find balance over contentment and growth. ”Progress over perfection, be ready to ride the tides.”, Jing would constantly quip. The Siargaonons and the island not only taught me acceptance over my flaws but also of trusting life despite the unwanted changes.

As I turned the engine off and laid the board on the rack, there was a sense of peace and security, the very essence of home.

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Mermaid on A Motorcycle

Nothing like a quiet drive around Siargao Island to clear the mind and reconnect with nature!

View from Siargao
View from Siargao

This is one of my favourite things to do when in Siargao. The minute I arrive in General Luna, I pick up a semi-automatic motorcycle from a local shop. They already know me well that I just send them a message and they already prepare the board rack and my essentials.

WHAT ABOUT MOTORCYCLES?

As a teenager, my mother never wanted me to learn how to drive a motorcycle because she knew I always did insane stunts from climbing our balcony, sliding down trees with the use of a bamboo pole and even standing on hammocks pretending to surf.

Jessica Alba Dark Angel
Jessica Alba as Dark Angel

LEARNING TO DRIVE

I followed my mother’s advice and stayed away from driving motorcycles but growing up seeing Jessica Alba as Dark Angel looking all cool, the idea never left my mind. During my volunteer trip to Tacloban, I was riding at the back while we visited different spots. One of the unforgettable and probably the most painful in the butt was when we decided to go to Biliran and chase waterfalls. The trip took more than 3 hours being on the motorbike however the scenery and the perfectly paved roads. I have been at the backseat most of the time enjoying the breeze, and checking out the scenery. I love the feeling I get from adrenaline rush that speed gives me. After I ended my volunteer work, I had a relationship with a guy who also loved weekend adventures and it was with him that I decided to stop being fearful and learned to drive.

Luckily I knew already how to balance and ride a bicycle so I started learning basics driving an automatic scooter. It has been three years since I mustered the courage to drive and it was at Camiguin, then I tried again in Siquijor and Southern Leyte. My third time would be in Siargao alone. My first trip to Siargao, I was just riding with people from the hostel but I realised how limited I was. I decided to rent a scooter on my own. I was driving at 30KPH, slowly and surely, I got the hang of it. After that trip, I returned with more confidence and with the supportive locals, I was encouraged to try the Honda XRM. It was not as intimidating as I first imagine it to be but definitely exposure to rough terrain  and the need to see more of the island forced me to toughen up!

MOTORCYCLE ACCIDENTS

I am a worrier and it usually does not help you. I remember my first bad turn, how I drove to the other end of a street just because I was so bad with turning on sharp curves. I would give up driving the scooter and asking my bf then to drive but after we broke up, I had no one to drive for me! It was May 2017 when my first main accident happened. I ended up with several burns in my right leg after a bad turn on our way to Magpupungko Rock Pool. I noticed the junction late and tried to turn quickly but I ended up in the rocky portion and panicked so instead of slowing down, I revved up! The worse part is that I have high pain tolerance so I thought when I fell over it was just a bit warm from the metal absorbing the heat from the sun, it turns out, my leg was against the engine! Fortunately, I was with my good German Couchsurfing friend Yasha who was also a nurse so we drove a couple of meters to find ice and guess what? I still surfed that day!

Burns from the fall
My scar from the burns from the major fall.

The next motorcycle accident that spooked me well was the recent one earlier this year, I was driving on my way to Salvacion a surf spot in Pilar. I decided to go ahead of everyone to save time and just wait for the rest there. Everything was going well until I reached one rocky area and the board rack snapped. The surfboard was starting to go up and my reflex was to hold on to the board, I ended up hitting my head on the ground and having a couple of scratches in the legs. It reminded me of my stupidity of not only putting more concern over the board than my own safety but also of not wearing helmets. It was a good location for the board rack to snap though because there were several locals on a break from the road construction. They helped me pick myself up and tie the board rack back to the motorcycle. Despite this I still decided to drive ahead despite terrible road condition. It was my last day in the trip and I wanted to leave the island stoked. The locals who saw me driving to the spot would look and think how crazy I am to be bleeding and still want to surf.

 

On Being A Mermaid on a Motorcycle

It was in Siargao where I learned the most because of the offbeat trails that have either mud or huge rocks. It was because of my love for the island life that I conquer my fear given to me by my mother after here motorcycle accident. I do understand the dangers that comes with it but it does come also with freedom. The freedom to breakthrough terrible traffic or even just simply the feeling you get while driving through beautiful landscapes. Women riding motorcycles is still uncommon in the country. I had one chat with an Angkas driver and he told me out of all the drivers in Cebu there were only 2 female Angkas drivers. There is still a stigma about women doing dangerous stuff. For decades, riding motorcycles have been considered more of a guy thing. However, we are not at a period where the disparity between men and women as growing thinner.

Despite the accidents and norms involved in riding motorcycles, I bought my electric scooter just last year. Now, I not only drive around the island but also through Cebu City. I learned how to drive in between cars and other hacks for driving in the city just like how Angkas drivers do.

To me being an autodidact is quite rewarding, I went from noob to confident rider and knowing that somehow when I drive a motorcycle men will turn their heads and think:

” She can definitely drive.”

I am indirectly changing norms that motorcycles are just for men and encouraging more women to do the same.

In the end, you can basically learn and change anything in this world with the right motivation and a whole lot of grit.

What have you pushed yourself to learn or change recently?

Monday Musings: Choice

to-me-success-is-choice-and-opportunity-quote-1

Helplessness and hopelessness, all spring from the perceived absence of choice.

For years, I’ve resigned control over my life to a lot of external factors. I grew up used to an oppressive culture that has long pervaded my country. It is the worst kind of poverty. Poverty of the mind robs you of the opportunity to live fully. As a victim of your own thoughts, you end up closing more doors than opening possibilities.

We were not well off when I was a kid. We had instances where we only had rice mixed with soy sauce. I could not get the toys that I wanted each time, I had to wait for birthday and Christmas. We were not extremely poor but back then even having a meal in Jollibee was already considered a luxury. My parents were earning just enough to sustain three children.

I had big dreams as a ten year old kid, I wanted to own a social enterprise so I could employ people and be able to support their children to get good education but to me it would only just be a distant dream.

The bullying during elementary also did not help either. It greatly affected my confidence and stopped me from taking a bunch of opportunities. I would always tell myself, “You are not good enough and you will just mess it up.” I kept on telling this regularly that it became a daily negative mantra.

It was not until I reached breaking point when I reached the age of 22. Yes 22! I was already a thesis away from finishing my masters degree in Medical Surgical Nursing and had just quit my mediocre job working as a company nurse where I got paid a measly net pay of P 7,500 per month. This job required me to spend almost 20 hours of my day including 4 hours of travelling back and forth without travel allowance.

I got tired of the repeating ordeal. I did not love what I was doing and it felt very much like being alive and yet dead. What I did first was go for event modelling, I remember by first gig in Bantayan where I got paid about P 6,000 per day, it was not the best promotional work either as it was for a cigarette company but this small change influenced me a lot. I started gaining more power on my own life.

The biggest decision came when I took the time to think about my past as a kid and constantly saw that I always had a knack for seeing opportunity and making a business out of it but I thought to myself that enrolling again in university is not only costly but also time consuming with this I came up with my own hack. Learn business in real time and in reality. I luckily managed to get a position for a start-up run by three expats and this has helped me gone from just another victim to someone who actual had control over her life. I stopped being influenced by circumstances and started creating my own realities. It is not a perfect journey though but I am glad that now I know that I always have a choice on whatever happens to my life. Getting much inspiration from the first few people who believed in me, led me as well to pay it forward to others. I am glad that I have also given opportunities to others to be captains of their own fates. I am nowhere near my biggest plan but I am moving forward, no longer a victim but a victor.

When did you last made a choice for yourself? Are you still a victim or have you already converted into a victor?

Unexpected Escape

In 2003, a teenage girl who was extremely shy (to the point that when at a fast food chain she would ask her sister to order for her) was trying to escape half a day’s worth of classes. She signed up for her first Impromptu Speaking Competition to be exempted that day. 


It was her first time in a speaking contest. After couple of contestants, the winners were announced and she took second place. She was surprised to have won and that was when she found out that she probably had a skill in speaking specially in coming up with reasons and stories. She never really took notice of it until 4 years later. 

After her first heartbreak, she would force herself to belong to the world of extroverts. She signed up for her first beauty competition in her hometown, Ormoc. There she got a feel of how it was to have spotlights and a huge crowd listening to what she had to say. Naturally while answering the final question, her introvert side kicked in and she started to lose focus on her speech. This mistake cost her the title and she settled for second best.

In 2009, coaxed by her gay friends, she joined Miss Cebu. Unprepared but curious she managed to be part of the finalists. It was during this stint that she found out about Toastmasters International. After two days of sessions, she felt a bit more confident about her speaking skills and considered joining the organization. This thought was buried overtime.

Fast forward to 2016, after a string of misadventures in Makati, she moved back to Cebu. Through Facebook, the thought of improving her speaking skills was once again ignited. This time around, she finally decided to commit to it. 

Yesterday, she joined their speech competition for impromptu. The fourth person to speak, she entered a tense room with all eyes on her. The toastmaster of the evening Nizz then said a quote by John F. Kennedy, ” The time to repair the roof is when the sun is shining. ” Caught off guard by the figure of speech she started to compose her speech. As she was delivering it, she noticed the crowd looked a bit discombobulated. A bit distracted she continued until she looked to her right and the warning light was already red. She quickly tried to wrap everything up. After the speech, she already set in her mind that she was already disqualified as the rule was strict about going beyond the allotted 30 seconds. After the scores were tallied the pronouncement came. Dranz was called for second place and she just cheered on for either Tin or Peter Paul then something unexpected happened. Her name was called. She shruggingly went on stage and accepted the recognition.

14 years ago, this girl would never imagine that she would be competing to speak in a prestigious organization and yet her she is, bravely walking into uncertain. Now at 30, others might think it is too late for her, she is not worried. She is confident enough to walk in her own pace. 

Do not get her wrong, she is still an introvert right down to the core but she knows words are powerful enough to help change the world. A world where her thoughts and words are put out for the world to hear and think of and have the potential to influence minds. 

In her attempt to escape, she found a new world where she can be good.