A day with Asia’s top surfer Philmar Alipayo

mermaidIt was my ultimate pleasure to visit Siargao Island during one of its most festive seasons, the 22nd International Siargao Surfing Cup which concluded last September 29. It was my first time to visit and I was so excited to finally cross this item off my bucketlist.
 On my third day in the island, I saw kids running around barefoot and sunburnt local surfers hanging around the surf shops that fronted the entrance to the watch tower and boardwalk in Cloud 9.
 Michael Eijansantos, who heads the sports news website mylifeonboard.net, was just heading back to their resort when we arrived. We asked if the top surfers were around. Michael said that he didn’t know who would be around as the competition was called off for the day.
 As if on cue, Michael quickly tells us he sees Philmar Alipayo, the champion from a recent international competition, arriving on motorbike. He hailed the riding duo and introduced us. I asked if he would be available for a really short interview and with a sigh of relief, he agreed.
 He tells me that he was on his way to surf and prepare for the competition. As a lover of surfing myself, I tried to relax. I was bursting with joy just getting the chance to talk to a pro surfer.
 Thank goodness for Leslie Egnora, his girlfriend, a practicing doctor from Surigao City and a fellow surfer, I felt more comfortable as more people started to populate the Cloud 9 watch tower.
 The 24-year-old Siargao native tells me that he recently came back home after winning his first international surfing competition at the 2016 West Sumbawa Pro 2016 earlier this year. He was the lone Filipino surfer, up against 7 of Indonesia’s best surfers during the quarterfinals.
 “I was 10 years old when I first started surfing. My Uncle Yok-Yok , one of the best Filipino surfers of his time, taught me” Philmar said when asked how he started. Living in front of a world-class surf break, it seemed destined that Philmar had a head start in the surfing world.
 He is eldest of three siblings who are all surfers and goofy-footers (a stance where the right food is forward). I offer him an ecstatic high five and told him that I’m a goofy-foot too!
 “My favorite spots are Cloud 9 and Tuason Point because they’re lefthander waves!” Philmar says reminiscently and then goes on to describe using hand gestures how the waves peel towards the left.
 Asked if he does anything else aside from competing, “I also teach surfing to tourists and guests who check in at Harana Resort, who are one of my sponsors. But I only teach when I want to” he says with a sly grin. “If the waves are good, you won’t see me around,” he laughs.
 I smiled and thanked him for spending time away from the waves to talk to me, wishing him all the best in the competition. I found out a few days later that he won second place in the 22nd International Siargao Surfing Cup.
 Automatically giving him a big lead, Leslie tells me to check the leaderboards. I found out that Philmar is just five points away from being Asia’s No. 1 surfer, according to the Asian Surfing Championships (ASC).
 “It’s a super long and hard process to get to where I am now but I’ve got nothing else to do but to chase my dreams. I need to relax and focus.” Philmar says when asked for his reaction being Asia’s Top 2.
 With two more competitions left for the year, Philmar aims to do his best in the upcoming competitions this October in Rote Island, Bali and in Taiwan this November.
 “I am so grateful for the opportunity to surf and represent the Philippines in the international arena. If it weren’t for my sponsors and for the people who believed in me, I don’t think I would be where I am right now.” Philmar adds.
 When asked how he seems himself five to 10 years from now, he says he has grown so much not just in terms of surfing better but as whole person. More mature, more focused.
 “I don’t really mind what achievements I’ll get in this journey, I’ll always be the same person. I will always give back to the locals that’s why I never sell my boards when they get old, I just give them away.” Says Philmar.
 I pray Philmar does so much better in the upcoming competitions. With his generosity, humility and passion in what he does, it’s inevitable that he succeeds. I won’t be surprised if the year ends and he becomes Asia’s number one.
 To see how you can help Philmar succeed, please contact 09390821580. For more information about Philmar’s win at the West Sumawa Pro 2016, please visit: https://www.mylifeonboard.net/. You can read the full version of this story soon in my blog: www.millennialmermaid.com.
 I would like to thank the following awesome folks who have made this possible: Mike of mylifeonboard.net for introducing me to Philmar , Leslie for being so helpful, to Gaps Sabuero for the photos, and to Sharlene, Marie and Ma’am Jean Camarin of the Department of Tourism – Region 13 for having us in Siargao.