Surf, sand, and saving the sea with Reef and WWF

Last week, I had the great opportunity to attend the Free the Sea Movement sponsored by Reef Philippines in partnership with WWF Philippines. Reef and WWF put together a great event that featured some of my favorite things in one place: a coastal cleaup, surfing, and good music.

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To join the event, I needed to purchase anything from Reef (whether at a Reef of G-Force store) and text my name and receipt number to the Reef coordinator. In return, Reef would take care of everything else related to the event: transportation, accommodations at Little Surfmaid Resort, meals, and the surf clinic. Needless to say, it was a fantastic deal. Plus, coastal cleanup! There were only 50 slots so as soon as my friends confirmed that they were game to go, I went over to Trinoma to buy some Reef goodies. In fairness, their flip-flops are super comfy and soft. Much easier on the feet than Havaianas.

Meeting place was at the Caltex station in Buendia. When I got there, my first reaction was “Oh my god, I’m so tita!”. Really. Everybody else looked like they were early to mid-twenties! Luckily, Rima and I look younger than we actually are, so there πŸ˜› Kring and Raf were supposed to come (yes, it was supposed to be an EO outing) but alas, had to cancel at the last minute. Rima invited her friend Mariel to come along instead and Mariel confirmed at 10pm the night before. Huzzah for work deadlines!

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We got to San Juan, La Union at 12:30 pm instead of at 10am because our bus driver got lost along the way. Yes, that was seven hours on the road. Whoo! After a quick lunch sponsored by CDO, Dona Maria rice , and Nature Spring mineral water, our teams got ready for the coastal cleanup.

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Rima and I are cleanup veterans so we dressed appropriately: shirt (got to use the new Magellan Outdoors shirt that my parents got on sale), shorts (my lovely Lakambini cargo shorts has enough pockets for my camera, phone, and sunblock), hat (floppy hats are the best), and sunblock (VMV Hypoallergenics Armada Sport 70 for life!). In short, I looked like I was about to go on fieldwork πŸ˜›

Cleanup buddies for #reefweheartlaunionph coastal cleanup sponsored by @reef_ph! #environment

A photo posted by Macy (@theislandergirl) on

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Despite the cleanup being the main reason I attended (my last International Coastal Cleanup was back in 2013 and I’ve missed it), the whole thing only took about 1.5 hours. The La Union Surf Club does regular cleanups along the beach of Brgy Urbiztondo so there wasn’t a lot of trash. What we did pick up were mostly cigarette butts (I hate cigarette butts with a passion), small bits of plastic, and the occasional liquor bottle (guys! don’t get drunk enough that you forget your beer bottle on the beach). However, the WWF reps reminded us that the trash you find on a beach isn’t always because of the locals. Chances are, the garbage on your local beach came from a city miles away from the coast.

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The surfing lessons came right after the cleanup but since it was still too hot and we didn’t want to contend with other people, we decided to chill and have coffee in El Union before surfing. Their dirty white iced latte was the perfect foil to the sweltering heat and their deconstructed smores (chocolate chips and marshmallows are baked in a foil pan and eaten like dip with graham crackers) was exactly the dessert I was looking for.

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We joined the surf lessons by Surf Star Surf School at around 4pm. It was my third time to go surfing (first would be La Union in 2014 and Guiuan, Eastern Samar earlier this year) but it didn’t matter much because I didn’t remember how to do it! Huhu. My balance sucks so I wiped out continuously and was only able to get up on the board and actually ride a wave twice in an hour. Much thanks to my instructor Rey for being very patient with me (he’s really from Luke Landrigan’s San Juan Surf School but Surf Star got him for the afternoon to help out.

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Did I mention how much we love La Union? Photo by Mariel, posing everyone by me. I was convinced that we would win the event photo contest (hey, we’re hella cute) then I realized that we were all wearing competing brands πŸ˜› The leftmost one is Xylene: a really nice instructor from UP Diliman that we met on the bus and dragged along with us.

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Reef sponsored an amazing dinner (it was simple but delicious) then we headed off to Flotsam and Jetsam Hostel for music, raffles, and the awarding of the photo contest. I love Flotsam and Jetsam’s look, ambiance, and FOOD. Seriously: their food is great. Reef also presented WWF with a check for Php 30,000 to support their advocacy (go Reef!). May this be the start of a wonderful partnership πŸ™‚

We left the party early because we wanted to get some surfing in early the next morning before leaving. Nope, it has nothing to do with age πŸ˜› The waves were bigger and more consistent than the day before. There were also fewer people out. I should get up early more often.

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And huzzah! I caught more than a few waves this time πŸ˜€ Even got to paddle out on my own and catch a wave without instructor Alex pushing me. I’m so proud. Ended up with sore arms and bruises on my ribs but it was worth it. I’d like to thank Teacher Shiloh of Whitespace for helping me develop a stronger upper body and core through Pilates.

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We also got to meet Rima’s older sister Lala (rightmost in the photo)! She teaches yoga and stand-up paddleboard yoga. The yoga classes are held in a studio above El Union, while the SUP yoga is in partnership with Flotsam and Jetsam. Look her up the next time you’re in San Juan πŸ˜€

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All in all, it was a fun weekend getaway. Much love and thanks to Reef for putting this together! I just have a few suggestions on how to make the next event even better:

1. Ditch the disposable plates and utensils and bottled water πŸ™‚ It’s kinda weird to be doing a coastal cleanup when we have all of our meals on stuff to be thrown away. If you need to use disposables, please use compostable wooden cutlery instead of plastic. Also, please ask Nature Spring to provide mineral water in the large 6-liter bottles and have participants bring their own reusable water bottles instead of giving bottled water.
2. Should the next event also run behind schedule (it happens, I know),Β cut the surf time instead of the environmental talk time πŸ™‚ I was looking forward to WWF’s talk about environmental threats in the Philippines and what we can do about it. That’s why we were there, right? To save the ocean? πŸ™‚
3. Don’t serve individually wrapped snacks πŸ™‚ I was looking forward to the boodle fight! We’re perfectly capable of washing our hands with soap before digging into banana muffins and chocolate buns. No need for the additional plastic πŸ˜‰

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