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Surf -

Know The Feeling - Siargao, Philippines

Building on our Know The Feeling campaign from last year, which took us around the world to meet our sea sisters from different shores, we continued to chase the feeling that unites us all; only this time, beyond the act of surfing itself, we focused on the communities and sense of togetherness that surfing brings us.

 

This past year, we found ourselves on Siargao, a gem of an island nearly hidden in the eastern edge of the Philippines archipelago. Here, led by our one and only Josie Prendergast, who was born on the island, we were introduced to some of her best friends, a few of Siargao’s most stylish up-and-coming lady surfers - Maricel Parajes, sisters Ikit and Aping Agudo, and Mhae Canzares Salgarino. 

To say that things are changing quickly in Siargao is an understatement. Spreading word of the magic of the island, along with the closure of Boracay, one of the Philippines’ most famous hot spots, (closed for reparation from damage due to years of unsustainable tourism), has transformed Siargao’s economy, as well as social and physical landscape into a globally sought out tourist destination.

 

Locals, such as this sweet girl gang of surfers, embrace the new opportunities and freedoms that come with such an influx of change. They acknowledge the excitement of new doors opening, yet at the same time, find it more important than ever to stay true to the traditions that have shaped them to be who they are; the things that make Siargao home.

 

To start, it should be said that the sense of community in Siargao is tangible - truly. You are greeted with warm hugs, you’re pulled by your hand down the path to the beach, and “family” is a term that gathers up everyone close. Arm in arm, leaning into each other’s shoulders in peals of laughter - passing time with these girls felt like everything friendship should be. They all agreed that surfing is what brought them together.

 

Nearly everyone in Siargao has some connection to the sea; it’s the nature of the island, after all. To reach outward is to meet the sea, in every direction. The dream-state beaches of Siargao are part of what make it such a popular destination, but they’re also what makes it home for these girls. Talking with them, it became clear that they never thought that their daily connection with the ocean would become something that could so fully transform their lives.

 

When discussing this unexpected shift, Ikit described it as such, “We can’t imagine ourselves not living with the ocean. We had no idea we were going to be like this. Before, it was always, ‘What is our future going to be like?’ Because we didn’t really know about the tourism, the development. We didn’t expect this, so I think the ocean helps us to express more of ourselves. It’s our home.”

 

When asked where they think they would be without surfing and the sea, the girls exploded into bursts of laughter and exclamations. Aping laughed, but also shook her head, “If I didn’t grow up in the ocean, I think I would be married right now, and already have kids.” Mhae chimed in, “Maybe, we’d have five kids, living in the mountains, no money, no rice.” It’s easy to joke about, but hard not to notice the truth behind the statements.

 

All with the exception of Mhae, who moved to Siargao and started surfing in 2015, where she found her place among the crew, the girls were born and raised in the town of General Luna, undoubtedly Siargao’s fastest-growing tourist hub.

 

 

They can be found cruising to the beach as a gleeful pack, their long hair whipping past from the motorbikes bolstered with longboards. Maricel is a successful surf instructor and continues to collaborate with national and international brands that highlight her signature, classic style. Ikit and Aping run their newly opened sustainable Kook Cafe, serving up healthy, locally sourced breakfasts and lunches. Ikit, Maricel, and Aping all compete in national and international longboard competitions, efforts of which have earned Aping a place on the WSL Longboard Tour.

 

As Siargao grows and changes, it’s the community that keeps the island grounded. Siargao is unique in this sense, actively taking steps to maintain the unbelievably welcoming culture that visitors find so charming, while still trying to keep its tradition and natural resources at the forefront of priority.

 

“Siargao is very unique for surfing, because the people are very friendly, the locals are not territorial, and we invite the tourists, our guests, our students, for lunch or dinner, and just to make them feel like they’re home, like everyone is a family,” explained Ikit.

 

As surfing introduces the girls to people from the world over, it also makes them reflect on home, and the relationships they have there. “If I could teach any woman in the world to surf, it would be my mom. So, she would know the feeling, the reason why we’re in love with the ocean,” said Aping.

 

 

After all, this is Siargao. When asked what they considered the most important thing above all in their lives, the girls answered in unison: “Family.” “Pamilya.” “All my friends, I treat them like family. Like a sister,” said Mhae.

 

Josie, Ikit, Aping, Maricel, Mhae: Thank you for welcoming us into your world; for making us part of your family. We look forward to the next coast we’ll meet on, and the family we’ll make along the way. Where we will share this feeling, again and again.