Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Seeking Surf in La Union

When a current carries you away, you cannot fight against it.

The same can be said for an idea. When it starts forming in your head, you cannot forget it. The idea that started forming in my head one hectic afternoon at work was that of surf, sand and the sea. It was born a midst a calm in the storm of papers and job requests. It simply struck me that I needed to learn how to surf; and I needed to start learning it that same weekend.

What immediately followed was a quick text message to friends asking if they wanted to spend seven hours on the midnight bus with me for a spontaneous out of town trip to learn how to surf. Some of them thought I was joking, but more of them thought that I was drunk that early in the afternoon. Luckily, one of my best friends agreed to accompany me on this most random of trips.

At twelve midnight on a Friday evening, we hastily made our way to Sampaloc Manila to catch the last bus for Urbiztondo beach in San Juan, La Union. With nothing but our backpacks and our balls, we caught the only remaining Farinas Bus bound for Laoag as it was exiting the station.

None of us had ridden this type of bus before nor did we know where to get off or what to expect but everything turned out better than expected. We paid 380 pesos for a one way trip and told the conductor to wake us up when we hit Urbiztondo beach.

Seven hours and one flat tire later, we were awakened to the sound of waves crashing against the shore and the salty smell of the sea in the air.

Skim board painting contest on the beach. 

Surf lessons popping up everywhere on the beach.
As you can see, this is why they call La Union one of the surfing capitals of the Philippines. The waves are very strong on this side of the archipelago and the locals more than make use of this little gift from nature. The beach is filled with tents offering surfing lessons and surf board rentals.

Renting a surf board for an hour will set you back around 200 pesos while getting a surfing instructor for an hour will cost you around 400 pesos (board rental included). 

What I like about Urbiztondo beach is that they have a very tight knit surfing community. Every local plays a part in giving you the best possible surfing experience. From the friendly and knowledgeable surfing instructors to the very hospitable resort owners, each person respects surfing as a sport and gladly champions it with a passion worth commending. 

In the 2 days that I was there, I made it a point to learn as much as I could about surfing. As soon as we hit the beach, me and my friend got an instructor to show us the ropes. (We headed to the Stoked Tent. They have good, friendly instructors.)

With the way that our instructor explained it, surfing seems to be a walk in the park. I couldn't have been more mistaken. Surfing is actually very challenging. The two most important things I think you need are balance and timing. You need the right sense of balance when you're on the board and you need to know exactly when to catch the right wave and when to start standing from your prone position.

I'm glad to say that I was able to stand (albeit a bit awkwardly) after my first try. The feeling of riding your first wave is exhilarating. It literally feels like you're levitating a good few feet above the water level as you head towards the beach. It's a totally unique experience for me and I do hope that you can experience it for yourselves if you haven't already done so.

My victory was short lived as I had a little trouble getting the proper form in my succeeding attempts. I think it was because I was so stoked on reliving that rush of surfing again that I tensed up and didn't relax as I tried to stand. As they say, Rome wasn't built in a day and the same goes for trying to learn how to surf in a single day. Impossible unless you've got god like skills.

Another thing I didn't expect was how tired I'd be after an hour of surfing. I found out that it's especially taxing for your arms (due to the paddling) as well as your upper back (when trying to stand). Couple this with the fact that you're constantly tossed around by monster waves like a rag doll and you've got a sure fire recipe for fatigue.

The rockier part of the beach. This is also the area where the bigger and more dangerous waves are. This is what pro surfers have to deal with if they make a mistake. 
Another thing we weren't expecting was the large amount of people that would be on the beach that weekend. We later found out that this was because of the annual festival called "Surfing Break" which usually happens every October to usher in the start of the surfing season (November to February if I'm not mistaken.)

There were roughly about 100% more people than usual based on the locals estimates. This meant that rooms and accommodations during the weekend were scare. Lucky for me, I had an awesome office mate that was a regular surfer in La Union and she hooked us up with a cozy place to stay. (Thanks Jean!)
Angel & Marie's awesome Surfer's Retreat. 
We stayed at Angel & Marie's Surfing Retreat which is a stone's throw away from the beach. This tidy little haven is a simple and clean place that offers surfers the much needed rest that they need after a hard day of riding the waves. What's cool is that Marie is a very welcoming and hospitable host who herself is a champion surfer. (Check out the trophies in the above photo. All hers.)

This place was perfect for backpackers like us and we rented a fan room for 1000 pesos a night inclusive of a free and delicious breakfast. 

Since the Surfing Break was a really big festival for the town, there were a lot of events, parties and people at night as the locals transformed the beach head into one big party place. Unfortunately, I knew I was going to get smashed so I chose the smart thing to do and left my camera in the room. Good decision. It was another great experience as it was like Masskara except on the beach with bands and beer everywhere. 

Since I couldn't show you guys pics of the things that transpired during the night, I'd like to leave you with some pictures of the amazing sunset that La Union has to offer. The thing I love about sunsets is that no matter where you are in the world, you'll be looking at the same sun, but every single time, that sun is going to put on a kick-ass light show for you before it gives way to the night. 

With this, I guess you can say that I'll definitely be Seeking more Surf in La Union in the months to come.

Live Easy.

Hang Loose.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Katipunan by Night

Just as ghosts haunt dimly lit streets and lurk in the shadows, so do photographers on a good night.

If you know me well, you'll know that one of my favorite things to do is go out in the middle of the night with nothing but my camera and a sturdy tripod. Although most people may think that dawn and dusk are the best times to take photographs, I have a different opinion. 

I like to do my shooting when the sun is absent and the world is lit in a eerie phosphorous glow. This makes photography so much more challenging. Since taking photos literally relies on the available sources of light, shooting at night urges you to use your brain before your eyes and your gut before your trigger finger. You have to understand how light moves and plays before you click the shutter close. 

The Katipunan Ave. U-Turn Slot

So I have this little "haunt" in Katipunan. It's the place I go to whenever I need to think or have a smoke. What I like about it is that it's sort of detached from the world below (literally) since it's a friggin' bridge hanging over Katipunan avenue.

Over the weekend, me and my photographer friend Jake were feeling adventurous so we decided to trek around Katipunan and do some night photography. My little haunt was the first stop we made. We got a lot of awesome shots from this eagle's nest.

Jake in the "photographer's crouch"

Regis Center.

We got a lot of great shots up on the footbridge. Nobody seemed to mind us as we snapped away. The bridge was a bit flimsy though. You could literally feel it tremble violently every time a truck passed underneath. Awesome. A mini earthquake machine.

The footbridge, our vantage point. 

Jake has this kick-ass new lens. It's a 35mm f1.4 lens. This baby can take really good low light shots. Makes me wanna save up to get one too.

Jake's "second" baby haha right, Nicole?
All in all, we were pumped up all throughout the shoot since we knew we were going to get some awesome shots. The weather cooperated perfectly until about ten minutes after the shoot when it began to rain. How lucky is that? I had a great time taking and editing this batch of photos.

And with this post, now you know, what takes me around Katipunan by Night

Here's a bokeh shot. Why? Because POTATO. 

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

All in the Mind

Mind Museum's friendly mascot. I dub thee Skrillex. 

Funny how you often find gems that are right under your nose.

No, I'm not talking about the green, sticky kind.

I'm talking about the precious kind of gem that gives you a pleasant surprise for being right under your nose the whole time you've been looking for it.

In all the time that I've been working around the Fort, I've always known about the Mind Museum but I've never paid it much attention. Frankly, I didn't think there was anything interesting in it. Man, was I wrong.

Luckily for me, my friend's dad is an astrophotograher and it was "Space Week" in the Mind Museum. Put two & two together and you've got me, free tickets and a few good friends spending a Saturday afternoon exploring the Mind Museum.

Hipster whale. Sporting spots before it was cool. 

We all have a friend that looks like this. Admit it. 

The Mind Museum has a ton of awesome exhibits and interactive displays that allow you to have fun while learning. I found myself actually learning a few things about stuff I didn't previously know (duh Dre, what else do you do when you learn?).

They also had some pretty awesome museum curators they call "Mind Movers". These guys know their stuff and are literally walking encyclopedias. Kudos to them. I learned a lot.

They had this weird but fun little exhibit (which I'll call the Shadow Gallery) that imprinted your shadow on a wall painted with photo-synthetic paint or something. It basically froze your shadow to the wall behind you. Pretty cool.

The Shadow Gallery. (Cue the lame reference to V for Vendetta)

Two words. Body Paint. Oh the joy. 

Hand down, my favorite part was the Space Exhibit. People who know me really well know that I am a huge space nut. Pure intergalactic bliss.

Since I love photography (Isn't it obvious?) I had a great time looking at the exhibits of the astrophotographers on display. Amazing how they can dedicate so much time, money and effort into even building their own observatories just to get the right photograph of a distant galaxy or an exploding nebula. But what can I say? That's passion.

Space Exhibit. 

Mr. Nassr's Photos

Mr. Nassr's Photos. 

To wish upon the moon. 
It was a great experience and these photos are just a very small part of what Mind Museum has to offer. I think I'll head back next time with a better lens and maybe an external flash or two.

Really awesome photo at the Space exhibit. Can you spot Venus above the Makati skyline?

Thursday, October 11, 2012

The Birds & the Beasts

Let me introduce you to my carabao. Call him Carry. 
Sometimes, the city can get too stifling. Traffic, pollution and bustling crowds of people all come together to take away your breathing room. When all else fails, and your vision starts to get blurry from the lack of air, you're faced with no other alternative than to head to one place.

The jungle.

Grab your trusty bolo knife and cut your way through the vines and the mosquitoes and the unending work e-mails and head to the jungle. In the jungle you will find the birds and the beasts and in these animals, you will find peace.

It's nice to just sit back and watch them do their own thing. The Carabao couldn't care less what his work load is come Monday morning. The Toucan don't give an F about the bills he has to pay. The tiger sure as hell doesn't give a hoot about getting home before rush hour.

They're just doing their thing.


In the jungle.