I arrived in the Philippines the day before yesterday. I didn’t have too much of a plan other than to check the surf forecast and set off in the best direction to find waves and the local girls riding them. As the forecast looked pretty much the same in the entire country I headed to Baler in North Eastern Luzon to meet up with my friend and local surfer girl, Gladis Villareal. The 6 hour bus ride to Baler was long, especially since it trailed 19 hours on a plane and a 45 minute terrifying taxi ride through Manila to catch our departing bus! I wondered why I chose to come here but was quickly reminded as my bus rolled through the Aurora mountain range at sunrise, highlighting the rice fields and dramatic scenery that exploded in every direction. Gladis welcomed me with open arms and the past two days here with her have been amazing.

Michelle and Gladis surf Baler in Return to the Sea the Philippines. Photo by: Ardiel Jimenez
Michelle and Gladis surf Baler in Return to the Sea the Philippines. Pic: Ardiel Jimenez

As surfers we dream of going places that are unlike any place we have been. We want to fill all our senses with colour and indulge in the culture and scenery that we have only read about and seen in magazines. Baler is just that. Surf spots that require you to hike through mangrove forests to get there, transportation by motor bike, eating coconut sugar rice rolls. Gladis is kind enough to share with me every detail about her home, waves, surf spots and culture here which we will share with you on Return to the Sea: The Philippines.

Proudly supported by SSG, “Return to the Sea” is a film series that follows the journey of surfer, Michelle Watson, across the world as she meets up with the local female surfers who share their stories, cultures, and lives. We’ll be keeping you updated on her journey as she films. Stay tuned!