The Sea Teaches Me

  Being one of the only few female surfers in Lanuza and rising from humble beginnings, Debie looks up to ‘surfing’ as her mentor as it teaches her humility, strength, and the fortitude to rise above all trials in life.

What was your first reaction when you saw people surfing?

 I was in an orphanage when I was 11 years old and when my lola spilled the big news of taking me into her arms, I secretly yearned for a simple place with a beautiful beach. When the priest from the orphanage accompanied me to Lanuza for the first time, I was so ecstatic to see that the beach was right in our own backyard! I really wasn’t interested in surfing before. When I first saw people surfing in my town, it piqued my curiosity and in retrospect, I remember asking foolish questions like do the boards have machines in them, do they gas it up so it glides on the water, or why do the boards fly up in the air with just the water underneath it.

 How did you get into surfing?

 I was always riding my bike before – even until now – so if you see a girl on a bike with a longboard rack in Lanuza, that’s me! When I was 17, there was this foreigner who always saw me biking around town and he thought I would really enjoy surfing since I look like the “surfer type.” So he just lent me his board, then a local pushed me, and the rest is history.

How do you feel about being one of a handful of female surfers in a small town? And what makes your surf spots so special?

I feel like one of the boys because most of the time, I’d be the only girl in the lineup. That’s why the male locals here always tease me. But they also helped me improve my surfing a lot. I remember that I never wore a bikini before. One time, I got so excited and didn’t have a bikini at hand, so I wore a pair of maong jeans and a t-shirt while surfing! They were actually comfortable. Haha! Honestly, I’m very thankful we don’t have white sand beaches because if we did, a lot of foreign and Filipino visitors would start buying land here. Haha! Lanuza is a very special place with uncrowded surf spots suitable for all levels. Although it gets flat a couple of months a year, there’s always a surf jewel lurking somewhere down the coast if you’re keen on exploring. But seriously, there’s nothing I want more than a pristine beach where I can surf all day.

Speaking of Lanuza being pristine, mining companies are alarmingly excavating the mountains in Surigao del Sur, what can you say about that?

 I think the current mining companies in Claver, Hayanggabon, Carrascal, and Cantilan are only hiring people out of self-interest. If you pass by those areas, it’s so sad to see the beaches turning chocolaty brown! And the worst part is because they’re mining the earth, a torrential rain can cause the soil to run off causing landslides. That’s what happened last February when typhoon “Basyang” struck two villages in Carrascal and killed five people – three of them were children. The siltation from mining is also affecting the livelihoods of farmers and fishermen – going home with fewer and fewer catches and destroying crops because of sediments in the rivers which they use for irrigation.

 What are mining stakeholders doing to help the surrounding communities?

 Although they have given several job opportunities, they have also taken several lives because of the aftereffects of mining. I am a self-supporting graduating college student myself and I know some of my classmates are given scholarships from mining companies but after all these mining projects are over, what will be left of our natural resources? How will the next generation of farmers and fishermen take advantage of beaches and rivers when mining companies have stripped them of all their natural privileges? It’s sad how people can get so greedy.

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What can the surfing community do if mining companies start to invade the mountains of Lanuza?

I will cry blood if my home break is ruined because of silt. I can’t imagine surfing in dirty and chocolaty brown waters! They can’t take away the natural resources that are bound to last a lifetime for our future families. If the entire community works hand in hand in protecting this marvelous place – I know we can shut our doors from mining companies infinitely. It’s also a great practice if we do our share in protecting our favorite surf spots by picking up floating trash in the beach after each session.

Shuffling between surfing and schooling, Debie believes that the only thing in the world you can’t get back is – time. Humbled by her dark past and hard-earned attainments, she has been adhering to her classes and supporting herself through surf lessons and surf sponsorships. Her only goal now is to join more competitions and encourage those who were also abandoned by their parents at an early age that no mountain is too high. Every negative experience is a stepping stone to greater things and if you’re grateful – good karma will knock on your door when you least expect it.

by Karen Faith

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