STAY IN SCHOOL, SURF AFTERWARDS. What a wonderful thought. Exactly what Filipino kids need and exactly what this non-profit group provides. Translated as “returning wave” in Surigaonan or possibly Visayan, Balikbayod is comprised mostly of Fil-Americans in the California Bay area that are literally returning and giving back to the surfing community in Siargao, in the form of surfboards.
Balikbayod saw that there is a lack of surfboards in Siargao for the youth to use. However, they also saw the pressing occurrence of children dropping out of school whenever they have something to play with. Kids tend to surf all day and disregard their schooling with the hopes of winning competitions because of the big tournament money. Accounting all these into perspective, Balikbayod came up with a program that promises good incentive. With the Cloud 9 Board Borrowing program, a “surfboard librarian” keeps all the donated surfboards and only allows kids who currently attends school or is a part of the Alternative Learning System to borrow the boards. This way, kids come to school everyday and is rewarded with the pleasure of having their own boards after school, weekends and holidays. Math seatwork done, Cloud 9 surfing accomplished.
Lynn Bryant and Victoria Fabella are the founders of Balikbayod. Both are big surfing enthusiasts based in San Franciso. Ever since they’ve visited Siargao many many years ago, they have vowed to come back not just to surf but to also help the community. Here they are in an interview explaining more on what they do with AdoboNationTV, a Fil-Am lifestly show on TFC.
The surfboards that Balikbayod collects are repaired with their own hands then container shipped to Siargao. With the help of the San Francisco Filipino Cultural Center, their fiscal sponsor, the group aims to donate 35 to 45 boards this year. Let’s take a look on the Balikbayod team hard at work.
putting gloves on, ready to repair
thrusters and twin fins
that’s a nice board
this one’s good to go
ready to ship ’em out
the Balikbayod team
As realistic goals, Balikbayod plans to increase the number of boards each year and send a shipment at least once a year. They would also like to employ a resident to run the program and also teach the kids to surf and maintain the surfboards. Another thing, Balikbayod wants to become a registered NGO in the Philippines as formality and also to avoid taxes and fees at customs. And as for big plans in the future, the group would like to raise enough funds to buy a property that will become an after school center with computer equipment for kids that includes tutoring.
What Balikbayod does is truly remarkable. Even though they’re miles away from the island, their heart and helping hand reaches out and touches lives in Siargao. Education is a big problem in the country and in their own way they are able to address the issue and do something about it, surfer style. In a special place in Siargao right now, a kid is putting on boardshorts along with classmates smiling and eager to head out for the ocean. The waves indeed has returned, and it also gave something back.
It’s always good to hear stories such as this. True is the saying that love begets love. Out of surfing comes care and compassion. That is what the lokal soul is all about. Visit Balikbayod’s blog at balikbayod.wordpress.com for more info. For donations, volunteering and other matters, contact Lynn Bryant at firstname.lastname@example.org. Hope you like our story and hope we all spread the good word of Balikbayod’s wonderful cause.
happiness shared. real and priceless.
*we would like to thank Gerwin Baustista of Alon Skimboarding for sharing the link to us. We wouldn’t have known sooner if it weren’t for him. thanks to Lynn Bryant and Mercedes Cormier for accommodating our questions. More power and much love to Balikbayod.