Sleeping on the Sands of San Juan
By Cecile Quindara
It was early Sunday morning, and I was greeted by the sun directly hitting my eyes. My skin felt sticky, and I could smell the saltiness in the air. The sand covered my body like a blanket, protecting me from being too exposed. I heard the gentle waves crashing on the sparkling shore. As I tried to stand up, I felt the worse hangover ever. Then I remembered — that’s what happens when you had too much fun on Surf Break in San Juan.
Just like most college students, I was craving for an unforgettable college adventure (or misadventure). I wanted to have those thrilling trips filled with spontaneity, bad decisions, and a good time. In one of my favorite movies, I’m Drunk, I Love You (2017), Carson, Dio, And Jason ventured on an unplanned trip to San Juan, La Union. They wanted to do something fun before their graduation, and spending a few nights there was the best idea they had. Since watching that film, I felt the strong urge to go to San Juan and get drunk. You know, to have the best and worst memories like the characters. I had been daydreaming about this for so long that when I got a chance, I hopped to the nearest bus and left.
October 26, 2019. It was an alright Saturday night. My friend performed at a musical play in their school and I decided to watch since I do not have anything better to do. As we were heading home after the show, I had a random idea that changed the expected narrative for the night. “What if we ride a bus right now and join the Surf Break in San Juan?” I whispered under my breath. We stared at each other for a while, then burst into laughter. We only have P500 in our wallets, and it’s already 10 pm. It’s impossible that we’ll make it to San Juan. Or is it?
Within a few minutes, we saw ourselves waiting for the next bus to San Fernando City then to San Juan. We invited a few more friends over to join us in a night of spontaneity. There were five of us waiting in line for the next trip. Baguio feels extra cold that night, as if it wants us to stay in bed. But, we were in our shorts and slippers, ready for the heat and waves of La Union.
The journey to San Juan was NOT EASY. For most of our 1 and a half-hour bus trip, we were standing. We paid P89 each to stand inside the bus. The curves of Naguilian Road made it harder for us to settle, and my friend even had motion sickness. We were so determined to feel the sand in our toes that we did not pay much attention to the crowded bus, faulty air conditioning, and mixed smell of sweat and vomit. Arriving in San Fernando, La Union felt like a step closer to heaven.
October 27, 2019. It was already past midnight when we actually arrived in Urbiztondo, San Juan. The traffic from San Fernando City to San Juan was no joke. We paid P30 each for the tricycle but ended up walking almost halfway to our destination. Our backs were giving up, and our legs were starting to feel heavy. I knew back then that we were all beginning to regret our decision, but I’m so glad we pushed through.
The angels from above started singing through the ascending volume of the loudspeakers playing party music. So this is Surf Break. I have lived in La Union for almost my entire life, yet I haven’t experienced Surf Break in San Juan. The lights were dancing along with the waves, and people were endlessly taking shots (whether photos or alcohol). Our fatigue immediately vanished when we saw the sparkling waters splashing along the shore. I’m home.
Surf Break is a three-day event in San Juan, La Union, where people celebrate the music and arts in town, simultaneously with the surfing season. Aside from surfing itself, there are more activities people can appreciate during the event like henna tattooing, music festivals, and the one we enjoyed the most, parties! Since we arrived on the second day (or night), we could only experience the nightlife and happy hour on the beach.
Our adventure-thirsty souls ran towards the nearest establishment, and we ended up in Fat Wave Resort. The buri mat and ashy pillows under the napa umbrellas were laid on the sand carelessly. It probably hosted more people than we could imagine. With the remaining P391 on our wallets, we decided to contribute P200 each to buy a bucket of eight Smirn-Off beers and a plate of nachos. The food and beverage were relatively cheap so our P1000 still had some change after purchasing. We decided to keep it until we felt like drinking or eating again.
It was already 2 am and we were drunk in late-night conversations. Under the moonlight and the glimmering stars, I felt free. The cold beer bottle on our hands warms up our heart-to-heart chitchats. We were laughing our melancholy off as if there was no tomorrow. As we discussed the most random things, a few people came over to our table and introduced themselves to us. Maybe to talk, perhaps to flirt. Who knows? *wink*
We met a lot of new people that night and even bumped into some Baguio friends who wanted to escape the city for a while. With our remaining contributed money, we bought a few more drinks and some barbeques.
Around 4 am, things started to get blurry. I remember screaming “Bagnet! Bagnet! Bagnet! Bagnet!” at the top of my lungs like the scene from I’m Drunk, I Love You, and I was so happy. I was living my Carson life. We danced to the music of strangers playing the ukulele and the sounds of the waves crashing. The night was filled with laughter, mischiefs, and memories. The spirit of alcohol inhabited our bodies, and we fell asleep on the beach. We saved around P650 by sleeping on the sand instead of getting a hotel room (a tipid tip, I guess). There were guards in the area, and some of my friends took shifts to ensure the safety of everyone while sleeping.
The following day, the chirping birds and early morning joggers woke me up. I looked at my surroundings and tried to get a hold of it. Ah, yes. It’s Surf Break. My headache was nothing compared to the memories I made that night. After gaining our total consciousness, we jumped on the sea right away and swam our hangovers away.
It was starting to feel hot, so we decided to go back to Baguio. We took a shower in some public restroom near the beach and hopped on a jeep heading to the Partas Terminal. Without having our breakfast, we rode the next bus to Baguio. We spent P99 on the way back: P10 for the jeep and P89 for the bus fare.
I counted my remaining money while getting comfortable in my seat. There was still P92 left from the P500 I had. I was surprised how I still had money after all that happened. I mean, those memories were made under P500 only? Now that’s a steal!
I leaned over the bus window and reminisced my Surf Break memories. Things were still kind of hazy, but I found myself smiling over my blurry recollections. That’s when I realized I had just fulfilled one of my college adventure dreams. Even though there were many mishaps and things could have been better, I do not wish to change anything that happened. It all felt like a movie; I was living my I’m Drunk, I Love You moment.