Dalugan, Aurora, PH: Appreciating Life Is The Greatest Stoke

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Dalugan Surfing Beach

How far will one go in pursuit of this unique feeling I can only describe as dreamy, blissful and which brings only a state of positive consciousness within you?

Or in simple terms how far will a person pursue the state of being “stoked”?

Most would say they would pursue the stoke feeling beyond what is imaginable.

I certainly had the same answer, but deep inside me I knew the truth that my answer was empty and meaningless.

My answer carried no weight and was just spurred out for the sake of having an answer and stemmed out because I did not know any better.

I was answering blindly.

Just as how I felt, I assure that you’ll never truly have the answer until you have an experience similar to mine.

You just can never know how far you would pursue.

So the story begins.

It was supposed to be just the customary Baler surf weekend. Nothing special was planned. That was until the inevitable someone popped an idea once again.

My good friend James suggested that it was about time that our dream of going to Dalugan is realized.

He again vividly described Dalugan as virgin surf spot which results from the difficulty accessing it from Baler, Aurora.

A rare place where Aetas [local indigenous group] would gladly agree to trade freshly caught seafood for canned goods and instant noodles. If you are lucky you can get a fresh lobster for only 3 meatloaf cans and 2 packs of instant noodles.

And of course as close as one can get to realizing the cliché of surfing in paradise.

All we had in mind was just going, for we never knew whether there would be another opportunity in the future.

Little did we expect that our “ordinary surf weekend” would go beyond our expectations.

Charlie Does Baler SurfingCharlie Does Baler Surfing HammockCharlie Does Baler Food

(What an ordinary surf trip in Baler looks like. Good company, relaxation and grilled food)

After finding a fishing boat to rent, we discussed whether to still push through our Dalugan trip given that tropical storm Pedring was bound to make landfall just kilometers away from where we were planning to surf. It took the word of the fisherman to convince us. He told us that with his powerful twin engine boat we will arrive within 4 hours, surf and we will be gone even before the typhoon arrives.

We figured that since we expected to be back by Sunday afternoon and the typhoon’s effect was forecasted not to be felt until Monday there was no reason to be concerned.

Pedring Weather Forecast Surfing

(PAGASA’s forecast of typhoon Pedring)

By midnight word had spread to all our Baler local friends that we were going to Dalugan. Lying on the concrete pavement of the meet-up place one by one shadows carrying surfboards slowly turned up from the dark. No one was willing to pass off the opportunity to surf Dalugan because of a “silly“ typhoon.

Dalugan Baler Surfing

(Waiting for other Baler locals to show up)

As were leaving Baler at around 2am we passed by Ermita hill, where a shrine erected in 1735 was erected by 7 surviving families as gratitude for their miraculous survival from a tsunami which arrived exactly while they are having a picnic on top of the hill.

Passing the hill was just a trivial occurrence back then, it never occurred to me that it was a sign of what lied ahead of us.

The serene ambiance of the sea coupled and the sight of millions of visible stars above us provided consolation from being cramped inside a boat too small for 15 persons to fit in.

Dalugan Baler Boat TransportationDalugan Baler Boat Transportation

(Our minuscule and cramped boat) 

Next thing I knew the bright and warm sunray was shining directly on my face. Just as surprised that I was able to sleep soundly, I was surprised that we were not even close to Dalugan.

There was no changing to our boardshorts yet,  as smaller boats kept overtaking our boat. It became apparent that our boat was not as fast as what the fisherman boasted. So much for our fast twin engine boat.

It took another 3 hours for a total of 7 hours before we finally arrived at Dalugan at 9am.

It was worth the wait, natural white sand was all around the coast line with the entire unimpeded view of the cerulean Pacific Ocean.

No sign of humans tampering the environment’s natural condition in a worthless and stupid effort to make it more beautiful than what it is originally. (Which by the way took Mother Nature billions of years to form)

Dalugan Beach Aurora Surfing

(The view of Dalugan, Casiguran, Aurora)

All the hype about Dalugan’s wave was well merited. Although it was perfect, the reef was shallow and dangerous, thus took a lot of courage on our part to commit to catching a wave.

I shared the first wave I caught with a friend. As we rode the wave the shallow reef greeted us as if smiling and waiting for us to fall off our surfboards and taste a little bit of our flesh.  Before even any force beyond our control can dislodge us out of balance against our will, we voluntarily clung to our boards trembling in terror at the same time laughing at our frightfulness.

Dalugan Beach Aurora Surfing(Dalugan, Aurora surf break)

The Dalugan experience definitely brought us the feeling of stoke. But before we can revel on our stoke feeling the rain poured flooding our tents. When it surprisingly stopped, we knew that nature was giving a chance to go before it was too late for the once clear blue distant Pacific has now turned dark and stormy.

As it was inadvisable to arrive at Baler Bay before the sun was up, we agreed that 12am would be the perfect time for us to leave to reach Baler Bay by 7am.

Dalugan Aurora Migratory Birds

(Even the birds are migrating out of Dalugan due to the impending danger)

We then just made what remained of our time on the island count, having a wonderful night of drinking and music. Stewing some buting [an edible sea mollusk] which we traded for some canned good with the Aetas [local tribe] ealier was definelty the highlight of the night.

On our way back to Baler(Cooking Buting traded from Aetas)

Dalugan Aurora Baler Drinks and Music (After enjoying dinner)

Dalugan Aurora Baler Drinks and Music

(Enjoying the remaining hours of our Dalugan trip)

Soon we found ourselves boarding our boat back to Baler. I just tried to sleep off the negative feeling of having our trip cut short dwelling on the stoke feeling I felt earlier.

Then just before I was able to sleep, it started drizzling. Pedring has gained ground on us fast.

On our way back to Baler

( Everyone visibly frustrated that we were heading back)

We knew hell was now upon us.

As much as I want to detail everything that happened, I’ll only give a short account so as not to make reading a drag.

Once it rained heavily and the ocean became violent shaking our boat to and fro, All our hopes of making it back on land smoothly were squashed,

The experience of being in the middle of the ocean with an incoming typhoon is indescribable.

The first hard splash of freezing water resulting from the typhoon’s gust made us realize that we were in survival mode, waking up every sense, as we felt its coldness up to the deepest crevices of our body.

We were continuously beaten by waves. Sitting in front of the boat at the bow, I was in the receiving end of the barrage, with no choice but to serve as breakwater for all my companions.

It felt like eternity for a minute to pass.  Within a few hours I was already feeling hypothermic; to my surprise it was only 1:30 am and knew I still had to endure several more hours of punishment.

Although it seemed hopeless, I had to cling on to any positive thoughts as to not breakdown (as advised by any survival guide).  As a result I simply imagined that a hot coffee was waiting for me when I arrive in Baler.

I focused mentally solely on its warmth.

My coffee fantasy was able to trick my mind the whole night that I was warm, when in reality my whole body is drenched and shivering.

At daybreak the herculean task we need to overcome was unraveled.

The ocean was clearly an obstacle made up of massive hills of waves and with our miniscule boat I can’t imagine us making it.

Every time we had to go over one of the massive wave hills, our boat was on the brink of capsizing. Seeing that the boat had only two life vest on board, I knew that if our boat does capsizes, we would all just vanish. The ocean would claim eternal ownership of our bodies, never to be found again.

Typhoon Pedring Dalugan Aurora Baler

(Typhoon Pedring one of the most devastating tropical typhoon in 2011)

I just accepted that there is nothing I could do, our lives were on the hands of fate.  Coming into terms with this truth, I lied down on a small hanging part of the boat originally allocated for fish containers made out of bamboos. I did not care if I was precariously positioned to fall into the sea. All I wanted was to sleep.

Even when it seemed all hope was lost, amazingly our boatmen didn’t give up. Every disadvantage (lack of power and reliability) our miniscule boat had against the massive waves he made up for with skill.

To this day I am sure that if he captained the well powered Titanic, then he would have salvaged it not to sink in the Atlantic.

Why? Because he was able to salvage our boat which had improvised engines made out of diesel electric generators which spun the propellers.

Alone he juggled the task of steering, navigating, bailing water, and restarting the engines. (our boat’s engine regularly turned off  so had to be restarted by  repeatedly pulling a cord- [called recoil starter].)

Not even the boats engines turning off exactly when a massive wave was incoming causing our boat to turn around 180 degrees was enough to startle him.

A sea tornado forming a few meters from our boat also failed to take him off his A-game.

He was Mr.Clutch, without him we would surely be goners.

When we finally reached the safety of Baler bay, he turned our boat into a surfboard while we reveled in the moment.   Turning the engines on to simulate paddling for an incoming wave and turning it off to make the boat glide when the wave is caught.

Everyone was able to finally let out a smile.  After 10 hours hell has finally left our lives.

Disembarking from the boat, finding coffee was the first thing on my mind.

And when I finally realized my dream, holding a hot cup of coffee in my trembling and now frail hands,

The question  presented itself with urgency.

“Was I willing to go through hell again to get stoked? How far will I pursue the state of being “stoked?”

Recalling all that happened in the past hours, I realized risking my life for such a feeling is definitely worth it.

If I survived this dire situation all other situations in the future will pale in comparison.

I was able to realize that one can only truly appreciate life when one has escaped certain death.

BEING ABLE TO APPRECIATE LIFE EVERY DAY IS THE GREATEST STOKE ONE CAN HAVE.

“YES. I’ll be pursuing stoke up to the edge of life and death and hope that I live”

Unlike before I knew my answer had weight.

Dalugan Aurora Migratory Birds(Stoked with life)

As much I want to show pictures of this traumatizing experience, I can’t.   No one thinks about taking pictures and videos during what you feel are the last moments of one’s life

Credit to Camilla Nacpil and Jeremy Tinio for the photos.

(Nicco Lampa visited Dalugan, Aurora, Philippines from September 24, 2011 until September 26, 2011)

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