Hands up if you love the beach, but to you, the beach will always be just an escape—something to run to when you’re blessed with that rare four-day weekend, but not something you realistically see yourself facing 24/7.
Now, hands up if you love the beach, but with city life getting more unbearable by the minute—the worsening traffic, the skyrocketing prices, the piling responsibilities of adulting, and throw in your boss breathing down your neck every goddamn minute—the beach is becoming less like a momentary escape and more like the one true goal.
Here, we got five men who made that goal a reality to share what their lives were like before their move, and how moving has ultimately changed the way they live. Read on to get inspired to make that move and finally be on your way to being surfing buddies with Andi Eigenmann. (Hey, a guy can dream.)
Abe Navarro Tolentino
Occupation: Businessman; president of the Siargao Tourism Operators Association
Originally from: Quezon City, with family roots in Siargao
Now based in: Dapa, Siargao Island for the past 2.5 years
Before I moved to Siargao, I worked many different jobs: Trucking ore from mine sites in Luzon, importing pharmaceutical products for USAID programs, and ultimately running my organic farm, Abe’s Homestead in Bulacan.
I moved to Siargao because I was spending an average of four hours on the road in Metro Manila, which adds up to more than 20 hours a week or 80 hours a month in traffic. If you do the math, that’s 40 days a year stuck in traffic!
Here are the ways my life in Siargao is different from my life in the city: I definitely get more done here in less time, leaving me with more quality time with my wife and more time to keep physically active. I didn’t leave Manila to be less busy; I moved to be healthier, happier, and more productive.
This is what a typical day in Siargao looks like for me: I wake up at around 6:00-6:30 a.m., kiss my wife good morning, get up, greet Bruce my American Bulldog, then have coffee and breakfast. At 8:30 a.m., I head to my office which is just 12 minutes away and run errands. At 12 noon, I head back home for home-cooked lunch, oversee construction or renovation projects at home, then take a siesta or tinker around the house fixing stuff. On days I don’t go to the gym, I stay at home and have an early dinner at 5:00 p.m. with my wife, then watch a series or movie on Netflix before passing out before 8:00 p.m. On gym days, I head over to the Sons of Siargao (SOS) Gym and do kettlebell strength training and Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. I’m home before 8:00 p.m., then I have a good dinner. From 8:00 p.m. to 10:00 p.m., I read a book on my Kindle, play something on my PS4, or watch Netflix. My wife and I go out for dinner once in a while, but we don’t drink, so late nights-out are not our thing. We enjoy staying at home, love our beach and front yard, and love having our friends over for home-cooked meals.
The main lesson I have learned from my move is: The most valuable thing you can own is your time. You get a finite amount, so you might as well spend it with people in a place you love.
Andrew John Y. Fernandes
Occupation: Hotel general manager
Originally from: Valenzuela City
Now based in: Tagbilaran, Bohol for the past 1.5 years
Before I moved to Bohol, I was a college professor. I spent 15-hour days teaching tourism and hotel management at Our Lady of Fatima University in Valenzuela. I worked near home, but the traffic made the trip as long as 30 minutes to an hour. I barely had free time as I spent Saturdays in graduate school working on my master’s degree and Sundays moonlighting as a trainer or a tour guide. I tried to run or go boxing to get in a sweat. During semester breaks, I went wakeboarding in Clark, surfing in La Union, or went to Tagaytay to chill.
I moved to Bohol because I got burned out from the mess of the city. I worked in the U.S. for a bit, particularly in Vail, Colorado and Laguna Beach, California; the boarding lifestyle, snowboarding for a couple winters and surfing in the summers, were really appealing. My friends at the time were surprisingly older than what they looked and the secret was being in fresh environments and having a great work-life balance. That made me decide to move to the province when I returned home.
Here are the ways my life in Bohol is different from my life in the city: First, my days start early and end early. As a morning person, it’s nice to be productive so early, starting the days running on the beach or going for an early swim in the sea. I love my work because I live where people vacation. I love spending my days seeing the waves and hearing it crash on the sand, and feeling the breeze blowing in my hair. It was a dream realized daily, chasing sunsets and looking at star-studded night skies. I fell in love with Bohol, and I actively help clean the touristy beaches with my squad from Plastic-Free Bohol. There is no traffic, air is fresh, and people are generally nice and laid-back. I live a dream life.
This is what a typical day in Bohol looks like for me: It starts early with me going for a run or a swim with my German Shepherd Compton. Afterwards, I go for an early breakfast and check on the ground: are the gardeners watering the plants, are the beach cleaners tending the beach, etc. Then I go for a bath and check emails. When I’m done, I go around and check on guests at the front desk and the restaurant if they’re doing well, find out what they are up to for the day or if they need recommendations on what to do, where to go, or what to eat. After spending the day checking on rooms, books, and staff, I end it by going to the gym or hanging out with friends who are general managers in their respective resorts and enjoying happy hour. After a quiet dinner, I read a book, watch some TV on Netflix, or FaceTime with my fiancée.
The main lesson I have learned from my move is: Living in the province is an underrated move. If you find a job that pays as much as the city job, you save because your life becomes more confined in a good way, and there’s no place to spend your money since the malls carry more modest inventory. Your days-off are unusual luxuries, as they become dining out in rustic restaurants or taking excursions to different islands and swimming in the sea, drinking from fresh coconuts, and eating freshly grilled seafood. The province is a great place to raise a family since the sense of community is evident and people are kind, polite, and engaging. Fiestas are a big thing here, and people prepare for them even more than they do for Christmas. Life is simple, yet very good. I get to maximize time instead of wasting it getting stuck in traffic, and peace of mind is easier to get since a lot of peace and quiet is abundant.
Chloe Marion Samontanes
Originally from: Iloilo City and Manila
Now based in: San Juan, La Union for the past 2 years
Before I moved to La Union, I was already working as a barista. I first moved to Manila from Iloilo and worked as the admin assistant and coffee consultant for Talas Manileño, a really cool barbershop in Cubao Expo. During my stint in Manila, I would handle bookings and do customer service which also involved serving handcrafted, slow-brewed coffee to men while they waited for their cut. Since I’m also into bikes (I built my own custom bike back in Iloilo), I’d ride my bike around the busy streets of Manila. It was a good way to see and immerse myself in the city. My friends and I would hang out at a garage and build bikes or hop around coffee shops for good talks and a caffeine rush.
I moved to La Union because I felt that I needed a different kind of growth. I was becoming too comfortable with my lifestyle in Manila, just like how I felt before I left Iloilo. I wanted to push myself to move forward and learn more. One of my greatest passions is coffee, and at that time, I thought that it was best to pursue it and fully get into the industry. It was quite a bold move for a promdi like me to venture out into the big city; Iloilo was home, it was safe, and it was easy. And yet there I was, already in Manila yet packing my bags and taking my chances—again.
Here are some ways that my life in La Union is different from my life in the city: Cost of living is lower! There’s no crazy traffic. There’s always time to do a lot of things. People particularly care more for others around here. The community is more close-knit. Life is a lot simpler, and it’s always more fun at the beach!
This is what a typical day in La Union looks like for me: I usually wake up at a decent time in the morning and walk by the beach to work. I make and serve coffee at El Union and get to meet awesome customers who I usually end up being friends with. I head out to the viewing deck of Great Northwest for our daily sunset viewing ritual. Then post-shift, I do some cuts at my barber space. I end the day with good dinner and a few drinks with friends.
The main lesson I have learned from my move is: Trust my own process and not compare myself to others. I learned how to be okay with the now and work towards what is desirable and healthy for me. I became more aware of my actions and grew to care for the community and the environment that I work and live in.
Patrick Celso G. Taclob
Occupation: Country Manager, Free and Easy Traveler
Originally from: Cotabato City and Davao City
Now based in: General Luna, Siargao Island for the past 16 years
Before I moved to Siargao, I was a graduating student looking forward to becoming a soldier. I just went to university for my folks, to make my mom and dad happy. I felt school wasn’t meant for me, but the prospect of being a soldier and an officer inspired me to finish my degree.
I moved to Siargao because of surfing and freedom. Circumstances and fate brought me to this tiny paradise where I felt so free and learned how to surf. Here, I saw that life was so simple and there were no hassles. Fresh air. Pink sunsets. There were times that we had to walk from town to Cloud 9 because there were no bikes around. Sometimes, I’d join my friends and go spear-fishing, even though I could barely catch one. Siargao has been my happy place since then.
Here are some ways that my life in Siargao is different from my life in the city: Life in the island is so simple. You only need the basics: people only need to sleep, eat, shit, drink water, and that’s it. Back in the city, the moment I wake up, I compete with time, then there’s rushing to school, rushing assignments, rushing my thesis, rushing to meet deadlines, and all that. And when you have a job, it’s the same. It's a competitive cycle that drains my soul.
This is what a typical day in Siargao looks like for me: I wake up early, surf, do yoga, walk my dog Brando and the rest of the pack, do errands, have brunch, have afternoon loving, take a nap, surf again, hang out at Bulaloan, have dindin, play some music or head home, make more loving, then sleep.
The main lesson I have learned from my move is: You can’t replace the blues and greens of nature with worldly things.
Originally from: Malolos, Bulacan and Quezon City
Now based in: Baler, Aurora for the past 3 years
Before I moved to Baler, I was a graphic designer who spent most of his time in front of the computer. I spent my free time on workdays just resting, and on weekends and holidays, going out of town to surf.
I moved to Baler because I was offered an opportunity to live away from the stressful daily city life of traffic, crowded places, and high cost of living.
Here are the ways my life in Baler is different from my life in the city: In Baler, I eat fresh and cheap food, not the expensive and preserved food I used to have in Manila. I spend my free time in the water surfing instead of being stuck in traffic. And I’m in my board shorts all day instead of in work clothes.
This is what a typical day in Baler looks like for me: I usually wake up around 6:00 a.m. and the first thing I do is check the surf conditions. I eat breakfast, have some coffee, then surf. After that, I do all my errands until it’s time again in the afternoon to surf. At night, I usually eat dinner then hang out at a friend's house or just watch a movie on my laptop. I usually sleep around 9:00 p.m.
The lessons I have learned from my move are: One, because I spend so much time in the water, I’ve become aware that the Philippines, in general, NEEDS education on proper waste disposal. All our trash is going into the oceans and it’s causing a lot of damage to our environment, health, tourism, etc. Two, people who come to Baler, to me, seem nicer and happier. Maybe it’s because they live a simpler and less stressful life compared to all the hustle and bustle happening in Manila. Three, probinsya life > city life. I still go to Manila once in a while, but I’d rather stay in Baler.