Back in 2009, I got to cover a surfing competition held in Can-Avid, Eastern Samar. It was the first surfing competition in Can-Avid, an undiscovered surf spot in Samar, which is known for its countless surf destinations.
Before visiting the province, I knew only two things about Samar: First, that Ferdinand Magellan landed in Homonhon Island in the town of Guiuan on March 16, 1521; and second, that it was connected to Leyte via the San Juanico Bridge, the country’s longest bridge which I really looked forward to see. It did not cross my mind that when I finally made my way across the bridge, I would be transported into an entirely different world. From bustling Tacloban City with its seaside McDonald’s and busy streets and markets, I found myself pleasantly surprised by the sleepy fishing region of Samar, whose residents still practice the simplest ways of living.
Unlike the municipalities of Guiuan and Borongan, both popular surf spots, Can-Avid is a relatively unknown part of Eastern Samar. The road going there is long and winding, with zigzags that caused me and my friends to constantly bump against each other at every sharp turn.
What came at the end of the rocky three-hour road trip, however, was definitely worth the initial discomfort: a seemingly endless stretch of sandy beach with a shoreline spanning 3.6 kilometers—just a little shorter than Boracay’s Stations 1 to 3. It was a quieter Boracay, equally breathtaking but without all the commercial fuss.
The resort where we stayed faced the sea, near the rift where the Ulot River meets the Pacific Ocean. Early risers are afforded a great view of the sun rising against the ocean—I managed to catch the sunrise during a failed boat ride to Pasig Island (which I will only relive over a bucket of ice cold beer). Sunsets, on the other hand, are best seen when taking a leisurely afternoon cruise by the Ulot river that runs across Northern and Eastern Samar.
Here, flocks of migratory birds flying back to lush patches of mangroves are common everyday sightings for the locals.
My favorite moment of the trip came while we were waiting for the waves to roll in for the competition.
To my left, away from all the noise and action of the surf competition, I saw this little trio playing by the quieter side of the beach.
Watching them somehow brought me a sense of peace. I couldn’t resist taking their photos. Every time I look at this series of shots, I feel transported back to this moment of utmost calm.
Today, however, the photos do not bring me the solace I seek.
I don’t know what became of Can-Avid after Typhoon Haiyan/Yolanda flattened most of Central Philippines, but I really hope the damage to this sleepy town is not that extensive..
When I turned on my TV yesterday, sleep still in my eyes, I woke up to the images of towns and cities reduced to piles of debris, monstrous winds powerful enough to uproot trees and blow away houses, corpses lying on the road unattended, and countless Filipinos crying over lost loved ones and missing family members. Leyte and Samar were among the provinces severely damaged, and I feel deeply saddened by the devastation the storm has caused. It has been a truly trying time for the country.
Amid the destruction, however, have been moments of inspiration. For one, the support from the international community has been overwhelming—more than 20 countries have offered assistance and countless private sector and non-government organizations are currently in the middle of rescue and relief operations. Looking through my newsfeed on Facebook and Twitter, people are mobilizing efforts to donate and transport relief goods and offering different forms of support. I have never felt the Filipino bayanihan spirit this alive.
It warms my heart to see all the support pouring in from both the local and international community—especially from people and places one least expects. It shows that
even under especially under such dire circumstances, there really is nothing greater, more powerful and transformative than human kindness. <3
Do check out cnn.com/impact for a list of vetted Typhoon Haiyan relief organizations. Any help is greatly appreciated.