I am now a surfing addict

I'm back in Manila, burnt and bruised but I'm definitely going back to San Juan, La Union. Even as I'm typing all these documents for work, I could almost hear the sound of waves crashing with the surfboard. I can't wait to go back!

Day 1: Newbie surfers

I met up with Kernan, Ate Cres and her friend Lian, Stephen and his girl Abby at GMA at around 9pm on Thursday. We were told by the Partas operator days before that the last trip to La Union would leave at 12 midnight, so we had enough time to brave the long lines. In barely 10 minutes, we were at the Partas terminal in Aurora.

When we got there, there were no lines before the counter. We thought we must be so lucky, we didn't have to line up. As we were about to enter, the guard stood in our way, "Closed na po, nakaalis na po yung huling bus kanina pa." "Eh sabi ng operator, 12 midnight ang huling biyahe ah." "Biyernes Santo po kasi bukas, wala nang biyahe. Try niyo po sa Dominion, 24 hours ang biyahe dun."

Good thing, there was a a cab waiting right across Partas. He agreed to squeeze all six of us in for 80 pesos. We knew that was too much for such a short distance, but what the heck, we needed to find a bus fast.

When we got to the Dominion terminal, there was already a short line in front of the ticket counter. The dispatcher said, the La Union bus would be leaving at 10pm. Well, that was even better than what we expected. If the bus driver was good, we'll arrive in La Union at around 4am.

Save for the big hole (which was supposed to be the aircon) that blasted cold air on my head, the bus ride was alright. As long as the seats can be reclined, I can travel in peace. We had two stop overs, one in Tarlac and another one I can't remember. The food at the canteens was no good and their comfort rooms stink really bad but commuters can't be choosers. I was asleep most of the time so I wouldn't have to battle with motion sickness.

The driver was good though. At around 3am, we arrived at Sea and Sky hotel which was right along the highway. We were checked in in one of their suites. But don't be fooled by the word suites, because it is far from luxurious.

There was a queen bed in the mezzanine and a sofa bed and a pull-out bed downstairs, so 5-6 people are just the right fit. There was a small cable TV and a small ref with surprisingly inexpensive snacks. Unlike most hotels that would charge you 50 pesos for a small bag of chips, the snacks were priced the same as in sari-sari stores.

I'm such a stickler for comfort rooms so I immediately checked out the CR. It was spacious enough but the shower area had a very rusty drain like it has been there for ages. It was also hard to take a bath because the shower head only manages to spew out a weak spray of water droplets. Could have used the faucet but it was placed so low and the hotel didn't have tabo and timba.

One thing nice about the suite though was that it had a veranda with a view of the beach and the small pool at the ground floor. I guess for 2,800 a night, it wasn't so bad. If you're planning to check in there, it would cost u less to bring a number of friends. Plus, bring your own tabo.

Anyway, we went to sleep at around 4 am and woke up at around 9am. The hotel was 10 minutes away from the surf resort, so we had to take a jeep going there. Nine bucks per person sure beats walking since it's actually quite far.

When we got to San Juan Surf Resort, there were already a lot of people in the water. We had to wait since all the boards were rented out. So we decided to order breakfast from their bar. This is where it get's quite expensive since their menu prices are what we would call "foreigner prices." A decent corned beef breakfast costs around 115 pesos. Mental note to self: next time, bring your own baon.

After about an hour, we finally got our own board. Surfboard rental was 200/hour while the instructor's fee is 150 per hour. We decided to rent the board out for the whole day at 800 pesos and just pay our instructor's fees by the hour.

Kuya Jojo, our surf instructor, taught us the basics at the beach.

Lie flat on your stomach.
Raise left foot to get ready.
Paddle, paddle, paddle!
Lift yourself up from the board and position your feet in the middle.
Find your balance and glide!

Sounds easy but it really is hard. I took me two turns and a gallon of saltwater to tackle a baby wave. But when you're finally standing up and gliding on water, the exhilirating feeling is more than you could ever imagine. Now I understand why some people are so passionate about the sport.

When we had the second round in the afternoon, it was much harder since there were alot of people in the water and waves were bigger. I only managed wobbling for a few seconds before I finally hit the water.

If you're planning to take up surfing, be prepared to get burnt in the sun, bonked on the head and bruised by the board. I can't count the number of times the board rammed into my stomach, knees, thighs, flew high into the wave and landed right smack on my head. To say surfing is rough would be an understatement.

All wet and salty, we rode the jeep back to the hotel at around 6pm. We took a quick shower and headed down for dinner at Sea and Sky restaurant.

Finally, a redeeming factor. Sea and Sky Restaurant's food tastes good. If you ever go there, try their Fish Marinara which has a hefty serving of rice, tanguige drenched in Marinara sauce, crispy kangkong and fried bananas. It's certainly a treat after a rough day.

Day 2: Big Waves, Big Bruise

Next morning, we checked out of Sea and Sky and checked in at San Juan Surf Resort. Their cottages for two costs 1150 pesos/room per night. The rooms were quite simple but spacious. The cable TV was larger, there was a small ref and a gas stove for cooking. The CR was smaller but very clean and the shower sprayed a steady stream of water. And the best thing of all, it's just a few steps from the beach.

Still hurting from the previous day's beating, Kernan and I decided to stay in and watch the 7th Heaven marathon. At 4pm, the sun was on its way down so we decided to head out to the beach. This time, I saw a few local celebrities hanging out. My wild guess: they were Boracay regulars who got tired of its commercial feel and crowded shores.

There were only a few people surfing so I thought this would be a perfect chance for us to beat the waves. I was so wrong. The waves were bigger and faster and harder.

The whole afternoon was a series of: "Paddle, paddle, paddle!" Followed by a "Crash! Glub...glub...glub.." I'm sure I almost made a 360-turn underwater.

A number of frustrating tries later and a big bruise on my left thigh and right hip, I gave up.
We headed to the cottage, took a nice long shower and watched the rest of the 7th heaven marathon. Before dinner, Kernan and I decided to tally our expenses for the whole vacation. It turned out to be a fairly inexpensive trip at a little over 3,000 pesos for transportation, accommodation, food and surfing. Not bad for a super thrill. I remember we spent around 5,000 each for Galera.

After dinner, we went to the beach for the surf camp party. There was quite a crowd gathering across the makeshift stage. Good thing, Ate Cres had an "important" friend who was able to get us next to the stage. Momscake was performing. Their vocalist had an attention-grabbing Mr. T spiked hair and a long dress of sorts. He was performing all out, singing with all his might, complete with re-enactment of his songs. I think they're a new band but they're quite good. Their songs are not really kid-friendly but they're pretty funny.

Their second set was even better. This time the vocalist was wearing a long black dress while he sang about "his life" and how he transformed from a man into a woman. The next song, he ended up wearing an oversized diaper as he breakdanced on the sand. Crazy but funny. People got so excited, they started to dance on the makeshift stage. One girl even ended up puking right in the middle of the stage. Talk about a memorable night.

Day 3: Heading for home

The next morning, we headed for the Partas bus station where a number of people have already lined up. After a few minutes, one guy went out of the ticketing counter and said something like there were no more buses and the ticketing had to stop. When we asked the man at the ticket counter, he said there were still buses coming, but ticketing had to stop because he had to take a cigarette break. It took us about an hour to get tickets because of the long line and the ticket man's "yosi break." That's customer service for you.

The ride back home was longer. It took us three stopovers and six hours before we finally arrived in Manila. Kernan and I stopped at Shakey's for dinner before heading home.

I got home tired and bruised but harboring a new addiction.

I'm definitely going to back to surf in La Union.


Anonymous said…
just got back from la union. too. forgot the name of the resort, though. same story, bruised and blue. but there were hardly any people on the beach at that time so it was practically ours.

managed to stand on the board around 5 times in 2 hours, after seemingly 40 wipeouts.

saya :)

~irene andrea
angel jayme said…
gusto ko nga bumalik during off peak para konti lang tao. inexperienced surfers all in one line is totally hazardous.

sana lang, may off peak season din ang trabaho.

Scott McLean said…
Hi, I like your weblog. The Philippines is such a beautiful country. A year ago I visited Makati and also went down to Mindanao, and the people were so kind and friendly. I miss the excellent food, especially the good fish and fruit. Take care, Scott

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