Lola Sayong: the hidden surfers’ paradise of the Philippines
Lola means grandmother in tagalog and lola Sayong is the old Filipino lady who took the initiative of transforming her beautiful beach land in Gubat into a surfers’ paradise where local street kids found shelter and job. Today a team of young surfers and great instructors is managing the surf camp. They live together like a family and welcome all visitors as one of their own. As amazing as this is, what made the spot even more interesting is that it remains hidden from the international touristic scene.
We struggled to find the location of Lola Sayong’s surf camp as only few articles have mentioned it (check thepinaysolobackpacker). Dedicated to visit off-the beaten surf spots, we hurried and took a 13-hour bus trip from Manilla to Sorsogon. Sunlight rays were barely peaking when we arrived at the small beach-town of Gubat. A tricycle driver hurried to offer us a ride by yelling the old generous lady’s name: Lola Sayong? We hopped in and in less than 5 minutes we were standing at the entrance of this hidden paradise.
Check SIARGAO: THE SURFING GEM OF THE PHILIPPINES for additional surf stories
Eco-surf camp paradise
Our jaws dropped with amazement as soon as we entered the place. 2-level bamboo huts were scattered between skyscrapers coconut trees, tents were strategically placed in a small camping area, and colorful hammocks hanged in a relaxing corner. The whole camp was built with sustainable materials (bamboo rods for the walls, anahaw leafs for the roof etc.) making it harmless to the environment while giving it a cozy look. Besides the camp’s chilled and serene vibes was the marvelous Rizal beach: an infinite stretch of golden sand with a consistent swell of glassy crystal green waves.
As much as the place was surreally beautiful it wouldn’t have prospered without its community spirit. The Gubat Bay Surfers (GBS) worked there, hand in hand, to build this magical place and keep it going. Most of them are street kids with a great passion for surfing. As explained by Noli Mercader, the man in charge, being part of Lola Sayong’s surf camp has allowed the kids to keep up with their school studies while earning an income from giving surfing lessons.
Yeah kids teach you how to surf there! And they’re great at it!
It gets even better. Everyday they cooked breakfast, lunch and dinner inviting us to share each meal with them for a small amount of money. They often climbed coconut trees to remove the expired ones, keeping us safe from unexpected coconut drops. They taught us how to dance on traditional rural music – doodoot– as we cooked them banana pancakes. We even got invited to a local Filipino wedding that took place in the surf camp.
Apart from enjoying our surfing experience, we were very lucky to partake in this cultural exchange with people from a completely different background yet with so many shared values.
A hidden paradise
It is a great feeling to be disconnected from the business of life and far from the usual heavy crowd of touristic surf spots. During our two weeks stay in Lola Sayong, we were the only visitors enjoying the whole surf camp for ourselves. Morning surfing sessions were a daily ritual and enjoyable ones especially that only few of us were in the water. Occasionally, we would go for long beach walks discovering the neighborhood, spending time with local fishermen and their families, shooting ball with local street kids, relaxing in the sunset…
In Lola Sayong, like in Hotel California, you can check out anytime you want but you can never leave. We kept extending our stay, refusing to escape this hidden paradise. Our experience there was enriching on so many levels and a perfect introduction to the island life of the Philippines.
Best time to go
The spot is fully functional throughout the year with a high season between October and March. Head for morning and sunset sessions as the waves can easily get wiped out by mid-day winds.
Waves and swell
Beach break with consistent swells peaking to over 6 feet and suitable for all surfing levels.
In low wind conditions, waves are glassy and A-shaped.
Free rental surfboards are available. They have been provided by ABC-CBN news in support of this community development initiative. However, these boards are not in their best conditions and rarely waxed. Hence, for established surfers, it is better if you guys get your own surfboards along with the wax.
How to get there?
The fastest way is to take the plane from Manilla to Legazpi City Airport. Then grab a van or a bus to Sorsogon City and finally take a Jeepney bound to Gubat (Jeepney fee = 0.5 USD)
If you have time more than money, you can take a direct bus-trip from Manilla to Gubat (fee = 20 USD).
P.S: Better contact Noli before heading there (+63-0947-882-0191 or +63-0905-242-1693)
How long does it take to get there?
Taking Metro-Manila as the point of reference, it takes about 13 hours by bus depending on availabilities and schedules.
- Closed cottage: 16 USD (good for 4)
- Tent rental: 3USD (good for 2)
- Surfing lessons: 3USD per session
Where to eat?
Daily Delicious dishes are prepared by the resident surfers. You can share it and even cook with them in exchange of a small amount of money. Normally, fresh fish is on the menu along with eggs, rice and vegetables.
If you prefer eating out, you can always head to down-town Gubat and try the food there.
- Shakey’s if your a PIZZA fan.
- Have a taste of the delicious and healty Malunggay pandesal, the traditional bread of the Philippines.
- Visit Bulusan lake
- Hike Bulusan active volcano (check its volcanic activity first)
- Take a dip in the Hot and Cold springs (don’t be surprised by locals staring, they are not used to tourists around here)
- Take a ride on the top of a tricycle or a Jeepney.