Ever since I was young, my sisters and I have been taught never to think highly of ourselves and were called to interact with people who may not have lives as comfortable as ours. Our parents raised us in an environment that, though convenient, still obliged us to attend to basic chores— cleaning up the dining table, organizing our closets, making our beds in the morning, etc. This somehow humane and responsible upbringing led to fostering a household where we consider everyone as family.
I’m happy to say that, in the past years, we have built good relationships with our helpers and I’d like to believe that they also grew fond of us. Hence, when they feel like their service must come to an end (for whatever personal reason it may be), it always becomes hard to let go. Both for us, and for that helper.
Tomorrow, after a couple of years or so of working for us, one of our helpers, Em, will be leaving and flying to her hometown General Santos. She has been very loyal to her job and has dutifully played as a right hand to my mother in her mini baking business. Similarly, she has also played an important role in my academic life as my personal alarm clock— going up to my room every morning just to check if I didn’t turn my alarm on snooze again. Yes, had it not been for her, I would have always been late for class, especially the challenging 7:30AM ones.
As a token of appreciation, we held a simple farewell gathering for Em. Over a healthy dose of pizza, pasta, and mojos, we shared anecdotes and laughter, and a couple even shed a few tears.
I’m happy we met Em and we shared a good two or so years with her. I wish her all the best in the life she faces ahead. May it be promising and colorful, abundant with blessings and happiness.
The first time I went to Palawan, I already vowed to myself that I will come back and come back indeed was what I did. This time around, however, it was not about doing tours, but rather riding its clear blue waters that remain unbeaten. Perfect, just what I needed as a reward after my final demanding finals week!
Without any practice at all (that was how booked my February was, academically speaking!), I flew on March 6 with my kites, board, and fellow kiteboarding buddies for the final leg of the first Philippine Kiteboarding Tour, organized by the Philippine Kiteboarding Association.
Having arrived a day before the official start of the event and experiencing the tender blow of the wind, I was able to test the clear, blue, calm waters of Palawan. Its pristine quality also enabled me to get a glimpse of the aquatic life underneath, which included a big, healthy resident pawikan, as I splash my board against the water.
Come race day, the wide shoreline fronting The Emerald Playa Beach and Microtel were filled with colorful and pumped up kites. Participants from Boracay, Manila, Ilocos, to name a few, and riders of different nationalities were present to support the culminating leg. It was again a successful gathering of people who share the same passion— kiteboarding.
During Day 1, luck with the wind was nowhere to be found. Despite preparations, wind conditions were too low to hold races, more so to hold the other events lined up, namely freestyle and hangtime. Hence, people were left to enjoy each other’s company and to make sure time is not wasted, some resorted to playing frisbee and beach volleyball. At one point, it even led to the invention of relay games that involved running to and fro, drinking a bottle of beer, etc.
A bit of luck came our way during the 2nd day (must be the offered eggs) and as a result, race organizers pushed through with three races. In order to minimize the risk that came along with the faint wind conditions, participants were consolidated into one fleet, meaning Men, Women, and Masters were all set to start at the same time.
Left with no choice at shore, I grabbed onto my XTR board and 13m Cabrinha Velocity kite, said a little prayer, and dashed off to position myself for the race. Initially, the course consisted of two rounds around a windward buoy that was roughly 800m upwind. Thinking that wind conditions will fail to stabilize, I gave my all right away during the first race. Unfortunately for me, come the race 2 and 3 (where the race officials cut down the course to one round each), I was already dehydrated by the salty air and water, and my thighs were screaming in pain. I was having difficulty riding and balancing downwind as well, such that come the last race for the day, I kept crashing and losing my board (cue: Caliraya body dragging skills) Hence, I finished 1st for R1 and 3rd for R2 and R3.
That night, during a sponsored dinner at a hotel in the city, results were posted and I was surprised, as the others were, that my points garnered me a wobbly top spot. Wobbly because I am only 1 point ahead from my toughest opponent, experienced Finnish rider, my idol, and good friend, Viola. As a result, come day 3, I was partly hoping that wind conditions would only be substantial to carry out the other events which have not gained any result— Freestyle and Hangtime. However, the Lord (and Wind God perhaps) has willed otherwise.
Nonetheless, after an awe-dropping Freestyle finale between Filipino-Norweigian 12-year-old kiteboarder, Christian Tio, and Kiteboarding Tour Asia freestyle champion, Dutch Dylan Van der Meij, in which the latter bowed to the former, as well as a successful Hangtime result bagged by Liezl Tio (for the ladies) and Dylan Van der Meij (for the mens), the race organizers called for a last set of races.
Having known that I was more of at a disadvantage gave me a bit of chills. As much as I do not want to be dethroned, I had other important facets to focus my energy on, such as my poor skill of riding downwind (which becomes a challenge after doing a couple of races), the strength of my thighs (it’s not a joke riding 800m++ upwind.. and yes, I do scream while riding when my thighs already hurt), and the unstable wind conditions (which poses as a threat to my board’s and kite’s sizes).
As we positioned ourselves and rode slowly to the starting line while waiting for the blow of the horn, I lifted everything up to Him and His will and let go of my anxieties. Cliche as it may sound, but I am a firm believer of what’s meant to be will always happen— provided that you’ve exhausted all your effort for your end of the bargain.
So there I was, trying my best to cut through the waters and ride with the most efficient upwind position that I can come up with. Despite the salty water splashing against my face, I braved the open water (yes, I still fear riding with or seeing sharks) and kept my eye at the windward buoy. True enough, my real challenge always came at the downwind ride. Practicing in a freshwater lake deprives me of mastering the thrill and technique of riding waves. But learning from my mistakes the day before, I was conditioning myself to ride it “slowly but surely.” In other words, I ought not to risk losing my balance and board the whole ride down.
Without knowing the results right then and there, I was determined to give whatever ounce of strength I have left. Come the third race, I was again drained out (someone needs to work on her stamina), causing me to crash and fall a couple of times downwind. As a result, my opponents, which were way behind me, caught up and Viola and I had a tight race to the finish line, exchanging positions for first and second just a few meters away from the mark.
The last thing I remember was screaming “I don’t think I’ll cross the finish line” as we neared each other, before seeing our kites tangle up and fall abruptly into the water. Alas, my first official kite tangle!
Despite the delicious spaghetti-without-sauce (a term coined when kite lines get tangled… and yes, they do look like a spaghetti) encounter, it was a good race to cap off the event. Just as before, participants of the Philippine Kiteboarding Tour is united as one big family, hence extreme personalism is out of the picture.
At the end of the last leg of the tour, I am happy to say that I have improved as a rider and as a person. The experiences I gained helped me mature as an athlete and also enabled me to make new connections with people who share the same passion as me, whether locally or internationally. I do not know what the future may hold, but I do know that my love for this sport only deepened my determination to learn more as the days go by. Who knows, maybe in the near future I can also pull off a trick or two?
Kudos to the people behind the Philippine Kiteboarding Association and all those who made the event a success. It was a great first season and I’m definitely looking forward to the next— new places to go, new waters to ride!
[Disclaimer: Photos by Monette Montejo]
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.