After unexpectedly missing out on the third leg of the ICTSI Philippine Kiteboarding Tour in Vigan, I pledged to myself that I cannot, in any way imaginable, miss out the succeeding leg that will be held in my home court (i.e. my kiteboarding training ground) at Soloviento, Lake Caliraya. Clinging determinedly at this pledge, I drove straight to the venue from school on a Friday, after doing two recordings for a major class and the 4-hour sleep I had the night (or shall I say, dawn) before. As luck may have it, I did not miss anything upon my arrival for wind conditions only picked up late in the afternoon, at a time when the lake was cleared of Cabrinha buoys.
At the second day of the event, wind conditions hardly improved, but racing was scheduled to happen in order to gain results. Race organizers announced that once the wind blows at an average of 10knots, both the green (i.e. Men’s) and yellow fleet (i.e. Masters, Women’s, Kids) participants ought to prepare.
True enough, the day was maximized amidst the very timid wind conditions. Each fleet had a total of three races, with momentary lapses in between because very so often, the wind would die down abruptly.
Surprisingly, I managed to endure the very poor conditions with my 13m Cabrinha race kite and my dad’s Underground board. The latter of which I credit for placing 2nd and 1st for the first two races. Unfortunately, on the last race for the day, I started out four minutes late because another participant could not seem to launch his kite successfully. Nonetheless, I aimed to at least finish the race because that is ultimately better than a DNF (Did Not Finish) on the record.
The last day of the event was primarily dedicated to Freestyle and Hangtime and timely enough, the wind was better than the last two days. For me, the two events signify only one thing: time to get out of the water and put on my spectator robe. As much as I do want to join, doing tricks is something I have yet to try (paging the Boracay boys and girls) and landing high jumps in the air is something I still need to bring to perfection. Nonetheless, I did enjoy watching as the freestyle participants showed the crowd what they have got! Congratulations to my freestyle idols, Boracay rider, Reynard Gajisan, for topping the men’s category and Brazilian Estefania Rosa dos Santos for topping the women’s category.
Just like in the previous legs, this was also an opportunity to establish relationships among the members of our small and tightly knit Philippine Kiteboarding family. Despite coming from different parts of the Philippines and even the world— Manila, Palawan, Boracay, Hong Kong, Brazil, Australia to name a few— it was nice to see everyone get along. After all, we each shared the same passion. In addition, it was once again covered by ABS-CBN’s Sports Unlimited crew and this time around, additional media press coverage was provided by Hard Hat.
If anything, this Caliraya leg is personally notable for me. Not just because it is my home court, but also because I was able to bring honor to my Soloviento team. I only prayed for the perseverance to finish the race and give competition to my fellow opponents, but God granted me more and helped me bag second place, despite having no practice at all. Words cannot express how grateful I am for this and to my mentors (a.k.a. dad, titos, and idols) who gamely coached me and cheered for me as I struggled pumping my kite under low wind conditions.
Now, one thing’s left for the ICTSI Kiteboarding Tour: the culminating leg at Puerto Princesa. It’s just a little less than a month away and I am facing a very congested (academically speaking) February, but I will do my best to be present because it’s going to be a grand reunion with the community I feel most at home with.
[Disclaimer: All photos taken and owned by Monette Montejo, as linked to the Philippine Kiteboarding Association’s Facebook Page]
Wishing everyone a great Sunday ahead. Don’t forget to thank the Lord for the week that has been and seek his grace for the week that will be. Leaving you a quote from Chuck Swindoll, as taken from the book I am currently reading, “The Power of a Half Hour”:
"Attitude, to me, is more important than facts. It is more important than the past, than education, than money, than circumstances, than failures, than successes, than what other people think or say or do. It is more important than appearance, giftedness, or skill. It will make or break a company, a church, or a home. The remarkable thing is we have a choice every day regarding the attitude we will embrace for that day. We cannot change our past. Nor can we change the fact that people will act in a certain way. We also cannot change the inevitable. The only thing that we can do is play on the one string we have, and that is our attitude. I am convinced that life is 10 percent what happens to me and 90 percent how I react to it. And so it is with you- we are in charge of our attitudes.”
Last week, at this time of day, I, together with 24 other souls, was struggling to swim past meters of high waves, which were equally pulling me silently into a channel nearby. In simpler terms, last week, at this time of day, I found myself swimming for life.
I never thought that a weekend booked with festivities, good food, and great company can turn out into something ugly. The spirit of Sinulog was overwhelmingly positive to cloud the possible wrath of mother nature, one to which none of us were prepared. Had we been more alert that we were five hours delayed for our scheduled island hopping trip and that never, in my entire life dedicated to the beach, had I experienced an island hopping trip that began at 12 noon, we could have spared risking our lives into the open sea. But alas, who are we to blame. After all, we were 25 souls seeking adventure after a night of loud music, some booze, and dancing.
The adventure started out when we arrived at Maribago Port. There our tour guide, Jay, greeted us as if we were his long lost children who finally made it out to meet him, five long hours later. We did not waste anymore time and hopped onto this box-shaped boat, transporting us onto the actual boat, which will be used for the trip. More or less, 20 minutes later and after a series of balancing acts, the engine revved and off we went.
Much to my surprise, in a span of a few minutes, we were already facing the wide open sea and crossing a very unruly channel. Mind you, it is not my first time to cross a channel and I have even done so while riding a banana boat, but not to the extent that it felt like a very, very sick roller coaster ride. (Mind you again, I love roller coasters!) So this came as a shock and a scare at the same time. The waves were strong enough for you to feel that at several points the boat was hanging uneven in the air. A lot of “woaaaaaaahhhss” and “oooooooohhhhhs” and “aaaaaaaahhhs” circulated, as we braced ourselves from the wild splash of the water and the cool breeze of the air. None of us were prepared for a very cold weather either.
After stopping to pick up our food, we made our first official stop in Sulpa island to have lunch. The island itself was not something fancy. In fact, its rocky formations make it unfriendly to anyone who dare walks barefoot. Lunch, however, was really comforting, especially after that crazy boat ride. The liempo, eggplant, fish, some exotic seafood, and mango were all welcomed and appreciated by our hungry bellies. In between lunch, some of us gathered to discuss about cutting short our itinerary, considering how late it was already and keeping in mind our plan for that night. Without being able to consult others about the matter, our tour guide called on everyone to hop onto the boat which was then “at the back of the island” so that we could travel to the next two stops.
This, unbeknownst to us, was the beginning of our real adventure.
For reasons of my femininity (a.k.a. it was my time of the month), I could not risk wading into the water and getting myself wet. Hence I arranged for a small banca to transport me to the boat, without realizing how far and impossible it was to cross such using a small vessel. When I reached the back of the island, the boat was too far, the waves were too high, and the wind was too strong and it was blowing against us. Halfway through the banca ride, and after seeing my fellow friend riding a banca fall into the water, I decided to abandon ship and swim to the boat instead. I had no choice anymore and I was getting wet anyway. However, I had one problem, my bag was with me. Thankfully, the banca owner was kind enough to carry my bag towards the boat, while I swam on my own, braving the two or so meter waves that blocked my view of the boat every now and then.
On my first attempt, I was being washed away by the big waves. Eventually, the banca owner who was carrying my bag told me to go back because the big waves proved impossible to cross. So there I was retreating to the group, who then just arrived after trudging waters from the shore. There I was reunited with my friends, Ines, Gab, and Mark and we decided to team up as buddies, Ines and Mark, me and Gab, just to ensure our safety.
Gab and I decided to try our luck. But before we faced the waves, I wore my slippers around my arms after realizing that the waves might also eat them up. So there we were, two people who know how to swim, gamely trying to catch a momentum as we rode the waves and paddled some more. As we neared the boat, the more it felt as if the waves wanted to eat us—- alive! It was seriously the toughest swimming experience I have ever encountered and the beating of the waves were draining me out. Not to mention, there was a channel to look out for, but for some reason, it was as if we were being pulled into its territory.
Several trial and error attempts later, it felt like we were not advancing at all. The waves were only growing taller by the minute, but we didn’t want to give up because at least, we were halfway there. Fighting the urge to break into tears, we swam some more, stopping momentarily to catch our breath and not going against the strong current of the waves. That moment was the worst 15 minutes of my life!! As I was trying to keep myself afloat, it left me wondering if that was my time to die and if it was, I guess the only thing I regret is not being able to tell my loved ones that I love them for one last time. In my mind, I was already battling this rising level of panic in me. I said a short prayer and lifted everything up to Him, but assured Him that I know He didn’t want me to give up and so I’ll swim some more. True enough, I found a renewed hope and just in time, someone from the boat threw me a life vest. (FINALLY A LIFE VEST!!!) I looked back and screamed at Gab to move away from the rear part of the boat because the anchor and the propeller are there. I remember shouting to him twice at the top of my lungs because we were quite apart from each other already and I know he was also tired, but waves were getting in between us. Then I turned around and swam as fast and with as much force as I could to come near the boat. They threw a string with its end tied around an empty water bottle for me to hold onto as they pull me towards the boat. Then, they pulled me up. When I got on the boat, I was only the second one. That means 23 others were still at sea and that was already a little before 4pm.
I was too exhausted to look back and had to attend to my femininity needs and when I regained my strength, I saw another person being lifted onto the boat, but it wasn’t Gab. For some reason, we got completely separated at a point when both of us were actually nearing the boat. (Later on I found out how he almost drowned because another man was panicking and stuck himself into the vest Gab was wearing before Gab gamely let go. Hence, they tangled up and both almost drowned! But Gab himself was too tired to attempt, so he got back to shore, just like many others.)
This attempt to swim to the boat was quite an ordeal. By 4pm, only 3 of us were on the boat and the remaining 22 were exhausted (some were even in tears for fear of the waves). It didn’t help that the sun was about to go down soon and the wind was whistling its cold tune. Apparently, at that time, the coastguard already requested that no ship set sail because storm warnings have already been raised. Meanwhile, those of us on the ship were trying our best to help formulate a plan as to the best way to ship everyone onto the boat. You won’t believe the ridiculous ideas the boatmen themselves proposed at this ungodly hour (i.e. leaving the remaining 23 people and letting them ship themselves off to another island nearby). Even after asking them about knowing the contact details of anyone in Maribago port to send rescue boats or another boat that could go nearer to the shore, they replied shrugging their shoulders. Good thing they were able to knot together a string of lines for people to hold onto so that they climb the boat and not be pulled up instead.
This risky swimming experience lasted until the dark hours of a little past 8 in the evening. By then, it was too dark to see people’s faces and many of us were shivering from the cold, which made me think that maybe we escaped the wrath of the sea, but how sure are we that we can get to shore alive after being exposed to the howling cold wind. It was at that time when concerned friends contacted us, a coastguard got our location and other details, and as we started to head back to shore, I noticed the horizon with the faint city lights, with a few fireworks out on display. The city was busy continuing its festivities for the weekend while those of us on board, were just thankful for the second life we were, right then and there, granted.
Exhausted by the day’s ordeal, we were mum during the ride home. Despite the choppy waters and unruly waves brought about by crossing the channel, we were all just thankful to be alive.
That night, many of us went home with battle scars, missing slippers, missing sunglasses, wet phones, and a trauma with the sea, but thank God, all 25 lives were spared. Although we would have been in the position to sue the company (especially after knowing that they do not have a salbabida/floatation device on board, and only had 4 life vests!!!!), we still thought of the three boatmen who actually risked their lives, swimming in the ocean, transporting each of us one-by-one onto the boat. If anything, we still owe our lives to them.
We also owe the safety of our night to our concerned friends which led to us being contacted by the coastguard and the tour guide being contacted by the police. Some of our friends also visited us in the hotel room that night (prior to attending a party) and I was glad that they were there after such a terrorizing experience at sea.
It’s true, we learn best through experience and here are a few points that I want to impart:
1) Don’t overestimate your swimming skills. No matter how good you are, how many medals you’ve won, how many competitions you’ve joined, when you’re at sea, the waves and the current will neutralize your abilities. Just keep calm, stay alert and use your mind. Psyche yourself that you will not give up.
2) Think twice about starting your island hopping tour at 12pm. There is a reason why they schedule it at 7am. Nevermind if you’ve already paid for it. Better be safe than sorry!
3) Live each day as a blessing, spread the love and bring happiness. Always tell people how much you love them without expecting anything in return. When you’re away from you’re family/friends, all the more do your best to keep in touch with them.
4) Pray, every moment of every day. Your true strength will only come from Him.
Today is quite remarkable for me because of two important things that happened.
First, given that it is the second Sunday of the month, my church lector roles had to be fulfilled. Little did I know, however, that the assigned commentator failed to show up on time. Hence, I assumed the role without prior knowledge and only had a couple of minutes to educate myself in the field.
Okay, I go to mass as regularly as I can (aside from my assigned lector roles every 2nd and 5th Sunday of the month) but being a commentator is practically new to me. The first and last time I did it was during my first Holy Communion back in second grade and that’s about 13 years ago!!! Thankfully, with God’s grace, I managed to carry it out smoothly, with hardly any glitches along the way. Much to my surprise, I think I even enjoyed being right there, standing by my own little podium, reading through the pamphlet as the priest led on. Of course, I started out with clammy hands and a mind with loose worries running around, but just in time, I got hold of myself and let things be. It was a great experience and I wouldn’t mind doing it again…. if I have to.
Second, today is the 12th day of the first month of the year and it only means one thing, my youngest sister, Lexi’s, birthday. And even if she is now 14, she will always be the baby of the family.
Early this week, the birthday girl has scouted for a restaurant to celebrate, keeping in mind that the menu would cater to our family’s varied tastes— from the not-so-mindful devourer (me) down to the watchful eater (a.k.a. mom). Thus, this led us to Spätzle.
Spätzle, located in Shangri-la Plaza’s new wing (5th floor), had this cozy ambiance, coupled with its brightly lit interiors which made you want to pattern your future loft after. The designs of shelves and wall decorations as well as concepts applied to their tables, chairs, and even cutlery were inline with one another, giving you the impression that not only the menu was well thought of.
The above are just some of the dishes we tried and filled our hungry bellies with at three past noon. But among these my top picks would be: Creamy Tomato Soup (not sure of its name on the menu; top left in the photo), Spätz burger (bottom left), and Breakfast Steak (middle left). Their Tarte Flambe Provence (bottom right) was also a great starter for the group. For a refreshing drink, go for the Mint Lemonade.
Prior to trying this out, Lexi and I scouted for online reviews regarding their menu. There were quite a number who suggested an average or below average rating, however, I for one, did not think the food caused any disappointment. Well, maybe I was that hungry to overlook significant tastes, too engrossed by the interiors that my sense of taste rose to levels of its own happiness, or it’s just a matter of ordering the right items from the menu. Come what may, I’ll stand by my words and say that Spätzle was a good choice for a new restaurant to try, but just to be sure though, I’d love to come back and give those I listed above another shot.
I have only started picking up kiteboarding as a sport January last year. My riding skills snapped into me at the perfect time, just when the few kiteboarders around the Philippines (mostly those based in Manila and Boracay Island) decided to establish an official community for themselves namely, Philippine Kiteboarding Association.
It did not take long for these enthusiasts to quickly come up with their first patikim for the Amihan season. Just a few months after their establishment, legs of the so-called Philippine Kiteboarding Tour popped up and various places around the Philippines became prospective tour spots. As of now the official list includes Batangas, Boracay, Vigan, Caliraya, and Puerto Princessa. The first two have officially been held August of last year and the latter just a week ago, respectively.
For the first leg of the tour, I tagged along because of the call of the beach and also, it would be nice to see the community, some of whom came from outside Manila. It was a time to meet new friends, grow in familiarity with their faces (because you’ll be with most of them for the rest of the season), and get a feel of how a kiteboarding competition goes.
Meanwhile, last January 2-6, I found myself in the island many still call paradise, Boracay. Only this time, I was stationed behind White Beach and was preoccupied mainly with surfing within the vicinity. No, it was far from the late-night-dancing-and-drinking-with-friends kind (although there were a handful in our group who decided it would be wise to do that as a last hurrah before they cap off the holidays), especially with my Dad as my “buddy.”
Since it was my first time to join (and my dad is one of those kiteboarding enthusiasts, who takes the sport seriously), I was partly barred from having late night outs— his reason being that we came to the island to race and not to have too much of a good time. Took me a while to get used to it, but I did understand my old chap’s words.
Come race day, I had nothing but apprehensions as to how my first run along the course would go. In all honesty, I did not prepare for it and only knew about what going downwind is all about the week before. Hence, I came with hardly any practice and my legs were not trained to do the “upwind” position for a really, really, really long distance. In addition to this, as compared to the previous leg, a whole lot of racers signed up, many were foreigners living on the said island and have been joining kiteboarding competitions for quite a while. In the end, despite partly entertaining the idea of backing out, I still decided to give it a go. After all, what else was there to lose? Experience was waiting to be gained.
On the very first day and on my very first race, I already battled it out with the unexpected— rock “islands” on the reef which decided to appear right smack during race time and spiky sea urchin friends (my first time to get stung by them!!!). The first bouy that we had to go around was stationed behind the reef, where the waves were also crashing. Unfortunately for me, it was a dilemma between being eaten by the waves or hitting the rocks. I did not escape the wrath of either! Alas, I failed to finish my first race in time and forfeited the second (for the day) since I had to wash my cuts to see if anything hit me deep. Much to my relief, nothing was too serious, except for the sea urchin stings which were making it a challenge for me to walk.
If Day 1 was tough, come Day 2 I was glad I already knew what I was going against— way experienced women kiteboarders, wide upwind rides, and a few tall waves that must be conquered to reach the first bouy. (All of these were first encounters for me, considering that my primary kiteboarding paradise is Caliraya Lake.)
This time around, in Day 2, I made sure that despite all odds, I will do my best to finish the race. Like what my uncles have said, you’ll never know who might have gone around the bouy the wrong way. Maybe someone missed a turn, or did not complete the course. So there I was, standing with better conviction, yet still lacking experience. First race of the second day, I started out pretty well, except when I had to do the downwind ride and ended up crashing. Yup, that’s what I get for missing out on practice and focusing on landing jumps and doing toeside instead!! Thankfully though, I finished the races I joined (except when I skipped out on the third straight race because of mere fatigue) and was just glad it went better than Day 1.
Day 3 was all about big air! Wind was blowing stronger than the previous days. Though I was exhausted from the day before, had parts of my foot wrapped around in leukoplast, and carrying around sea urchin stings that cause pain whenever I walk, I still decided to go out with my 9m kite. Afterall, it was the last full day that I could enjoy Bulabog wind and maybe, just maybe, I could have a good run through with landing jumps. So there I was, behind competition boundaries, enjoying the ride on the salty water with the sea breeze blowing constantly against my face, and struggling to control my kite, turning down signs that I was clearly overpowered. After a good one-hour session, I came back to shore and watched the last event left for the leg, big air— where the rider with the longest time on air wins (and wins big, some cash and a Chaos kite that is).
To cap off the three-day event was dinner and awarding at Puka Shell Beach, which was a 20-25 minute ride from Station 2. Even though it was too dark to see the view, I knew and I could feel that it’s one of the secrets of Boracay, a part of the island that is seemingly left untouched and away from the hustle and bustle of White Beach.
Despite the unwelcomed tan (I don’t even know if you can still classify my color as “tan”), the cuts (which are now healed, thankfully!) and sea urchin stings, I’m glad I became part of the PKA-Boracay leg. More than delicious meals and cool culminating nights, I enjoyed meeting new people, bonding with fellow kiteboarders, and learning a lot from them. Congratulations to the Philippine Kiteboarding Committee for a successful turnout. Those who worked behind the scenes, Joanne, Azenith, the members of the jury, sponsors, members of the committee, deserve a pat at the back because without a doubt, everyone, from participants to spectators, had fun.
And as for me, experience is truly a great teacher! Now I know what real kiteboarding is all about. Definitely looking forward to the upcoming legs, but keeping my fingers crossed that my academic schedule can give way.
Photos were taken from the Philippine Kiteboarding Facebook Page, Arynx Garcia, and Wendy Acuna.
1. Be your true authentic self.
2. Make time for those you love.
3. Treat others people as you’d like them to treat you.
4. If it hurts you, let it go.
5. Change your thoughts - and that will help change your feelings
6. Don’t put it off till another day. If it is important, then do it today.
7. Enjoy the journey – it’s not just about goals.
8. You only have one life – so make it meaningful for you.
9. Be kind to others.
10. Always find a reason to laugh and smile.