After our two rather mediocre experiences at Mount Pinatubo and the CWC in Naga, we were really hoping for our luck to improve. Thanks to a recommendation by a friend from Manila, we planned to go to the little seaside town of Gubat in the Bicol Region of the Philippines. The local surfer crew, the Gubat Bay Surfers (GBS), was supposed to host an Easter Surf Camp right at the beach with lots of fun, sun and surfing. This and the fact that the spot is still unknown to the crowds inspired us to check it out and spend Holy Week in Gubat. We soon realized that this would not only more than compensate for all the mess before, but actually be our best travel experience so far.
The Hayahay Surf Camp in Gubat – Our home away from home
Riding on the top of a local Jeepney again, we arrived in Gubat late afternoon. There we got personally picked up by Noli Mercader, the president of the Gubat Bay Surfers. What a nice welcome. He took us to their camp by the beach and what we found there would be our home away from home for the next 5 days. The campsite was situated right behind the coconut tree line, decorated with colorful little lights and a big wooden nipa hut right on the beach. The locals that were hanging out there gave us a very warm welcome and after getting some food and having the standard sun-downers, we pitched our hammocks underneath the palm trees and called it a night.
The next day we got woken up by a short rain shower which isn’t so nice when sleeping outside without a tent. We didn’t care too much though and got some breakfast at one of the little food stalls which had been set up by that point. What do you do with such an early start? Right, you go surfing. It felt great getting into the water again after almost exactly a year and despite the waves being rather small, it was so much fun. Chris and Dolf got their first lesson that day and they did really well, doing good take offs and riding their first white water waves. It was great to see them progress so quickly with the help of the Gubat Bay Surfers teaching them the needed basics. Gubat Bay seems to be a very beginner friendly spot but also has a couple of nice, peeling reef breaks for the more advanced on offer.
Partynights and eating the Balut
The time flew by quickly and more people arrived, many all the way from Manila. One of them was Arvin, a caterer from Manila, who started cooking some local foods in the nipa hut once it got dark. He and his friends invited us to join and it soon became a merry happy round of people. We all had the freshly cooked food on a big banana leaf and dug in. We started to get to know everyone and a few bottles of the popular Emperador Light, also known as MP Light, made it even easier. The common custom here is to drink out of one glass and passing it around after having finished it. One person is always in charge of refilling the glasses and distributing the drinks in the right order. That person is called the Tanggero and Chris was happily accepting the duty managing to get everyone tipsy or even more than that. The highlight was all of us three eating the Balut, a local snack which is an egg with an embryonic duck chick inside. What is a delight for the locals cost us the uttermost effort to eat it and watching that, was probably also a highlight for everyone else around. Everyone had a blast. It was a great night with so many friendly people and hospitality which we hadn’t experienced before.
A pig’s life – living the Buhay Baboy
During the next night we got rained out again but thanks to Noli from the Gubat Bay Surfers, we had a tent by now which was our last escape in a case like that. The day passed by pretty lazily with time in the hammocks, some swimming, more good surfing and chatting with the locals which we got to know better every day. For lunch we got invited to Glenda’s house for lunch, a friend we had already met on our first night at the camp. Chef Arvin had gone to the market to buy some good local seafood and prepared the probably most delicious food we have had in weeks. Once again we were treated so nicely, that it was almost unreal. The rest of the day we spent lazing around Glenda’s farmhouse. The locals call a life like this the Buhay Baboy – a pig’s life, just eating, drinking and sleeping. This expression was very suitable and would accompany us for the entire stay in Gubat. It actually became the motto of our stay and was cited cheeringly during our many fun nights at the camp.
The plan for the night was a little party with a live band playing underneath the palm trees. As the night fell, the stage was set, lights were on and everything was prepared for the Tropicanas to entertain the small crowd. The atmosphere was great with people enjoying the truly tropical tunes to some MP Light and beers to go with it. We were again sitting with our newly made friends from Gubat and Manila and had yet another great night with lots of fun and laughter. By that time we already felt to have made some true new friends which felt very nice.
Time to say goodbye – thanks to Gubat Bay Surfers
Holy Sunday was our last day in the beach camp. There was kite flying for the kids in the morning which attracted a great amount of people. It was great to see the kids making their own little kites and flying them together with the older people around. Afterwards the finals of the ongoing surf completion were held and the local groms showed how good they were. Even in the still rather small waves they pulled off great moves and it was awesome to just watch. Then it was finally time to say good bye to the Gubat Bay Surfers who had hosted us for almost a week. For me it was an emotional moment I have to admit. I have hardly ever met people that friendly and hospitable in my life. We were treated so well and that without any expectation to return the many favors we had received. We got a last group shot with almost everyone in it and afterwards broke camp.
House blessing – a typical Filipino Custom
In the evening that same day Glenda had a house blessing for her newly finished farm house, a very authentic local happening which we luckily got invited for. After having the local priest say prayers, reading from the bible and blessing the house with holy water, the once again delicious food was offered. We had a relaxed evening at Glenda’s and were looking forward to sleep on proper mattresses for the first time in a week. Once again we experienced the hospitality of the Filipinos at its best.
We had to spend a few more nights at Glenda’s place due to a very unfortunate event which happened to me during a side-trip to one of the volcanoes nearby. This actually made me face one of the toughest challenges of my travelling ever. Coverage will follow soon.
This experience was not about great landscapes, sunrise or sunsets – it was about the people. From the first day in the camp until our last night in Gubat we were treated like true friends and even better. The hospitality of the people there was unmatched and just incredible. I can honestly say that staying in Gubat was one of my best travel experiences ever. Being around so many great people was really an eye opener thinking about the mentality back home. It really changed my mind and it will hard to adapt again once back home.
I also want to especially thank the Gubat Surfers for hosting us. They are a great group of people with a big heart and a great passion for surfing and helping the community. They are really trying hard to establish their region as a surf destination and their involvement and engagement was just great. The Gubat area is a great place, good for surfing with several classy breaks from beginner to advanced, but also offered more than enough highlights for the non surfers. The best thing however is that the mass tourism has not at all hit the region. You can really experience the local life and have a great time with these super friendly people. I am usually a little it hesitant about recommendations but I can absolutely recommend everyone out there, surfer or not, visiting this great part of the Philippines. And do it before tourism picks up because it will happen soon.
Thank you Gubat Bay Surfers and thanks to all of the new friends we have made.