Notes From the Sea

"You have to find that place that brings out the human in you, the soul in you, the love in you."- R.M. Drake

It was 2011. I remember resting on the surfboard with my arms dangling in the water of gold, salmon, and turquoise. I told my friend, King, how beautiful it was to experience the sunset that way. He said that's how they usually have it.

I asked him if he ever had thoughts of moving somewhere else. He said, "Hanggang may alon sa Baler, hindi ko ito iiwan" ("As long as there are waves in Baler, I'll never leave").

That was 10 years ago. Up to this day, I keep on coming back. 

NOTES FROM THE SEA is a documentary photo series taken from 2011-2018 in the birthplace of Philippine Surfing, Baler. 

The series captures the strong relationship between the sea and the local surfing community who considers surfing not only as a means to earn a living but as a way of living and looking at the world.

I believe that people who live with close ties to nature effortlessly stumble upon the holy in their day to day.

This series is my way of taking down notes, quietly observing and learning from the people I admire; the community whose homes, lives, and wisdom they have generously shared with me through the years.

After surf, we always find ourselves cooking and sharing food wherever we end up in. Out in nature preparing what we harvested and caught ourselves. 

I have always admired people who can make food with the most simple ingredients. I think abudnance comes from knowing exactly how to make use of what you already have around you.

"Kailangan mo lang ay kaldero, matalas na kutsilyo, posporo tsaka asin. Kahit saan pwede maging kusina."

("You only need a pot, sharp knife, matches, and salt. You can have a kitchen anywhere")

"Nandun sa dagat, naglalaro" ("Out in sea, playing"), I usually hear them say when someone's gone surfing.

Play is an essential part of the everyday.

"Nasubukan na namin magtrabaho sa ibang lugar. Hinahanap namin araw-araw ang alon. Parang masyado kasing seryoso ang buhay pag walang dagat.

("We've tried working somewhere else. We always find ourselves longing for the waves. Life feels too serious when you're not by the sea")

"Matuto ka bumasa ng alon kahit malayo pa. Dapat alam mo kung ano yung kaya mo sakyan. Hindi naman ito kompetisyon.  Ang importante lang, masabayan mo ang alon at ma-enjoy mo ito."

("Learn to read the waves from afar. Know which ones you can take. This is not a competition. The important thing is to ride the wave and just enjoy it.")

"Palagi mong tingnan kung saan galing ang alon at saan ito papunta. Hindi lahat ng alon kailangan sakyan. Kunin mo lang kung ano tingin mo para sayo. Pag may nauna na, bigay mo sa kanila. Marami pang parating."

"Always check where the wave comes from and where it's headed. Not every wave is meant to be taken. Just ride the ones for you. If someone got it first, let them. There's still more to come."

Through the years we've seen each other grow, chasing after dreams and starting our own families, I've witnessed how they have always carried with them a quiet wisdom, a certain lightness I've always admired. The kind that seems elusive for people like me who grew up in the city. 

The last time I visited, I told them I'm leaving for a while to study abroad. We had good surf and good food, and I didn't want to leave. A friend said "Gawin mo kung ano kailangan mong gawin. Basta nandito lang ang dagat pag-uwi mo" ("Do what you need to do. When you come home, the sea is just here waiting for you").

Friendship bound by the waves and tested through time, I'm sending my infinite gratitude to my friends in Baler- for the stories we continue to share, the karaoke nights, the surf sessions, the motorbike rides under the blanket of stars, the cooking lessons, and the family that we've become.

And to the sea for its overwhelming hospitality.

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