Pill Journeys: La Union

The surf town’s mix of slick and slack might just convince you to move.

La Union sits beside the Cordillera mountain ranges and faces the South China Sea. It takes 7 hours to get there from Manila if you travel by land. The combination of LU’s prolonged dry season and beaches make it a mecca for surfers—most popular among them is the San Juan Surf Resort.

 

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Note that it has also grown beyond its core surfer demographic who come and go by whim. People are settling from backpackers to corporate slaves. What initially was a hobbyist’s haven is turning into a gentrified capital that can keep its chill in check.

 

Kiddo Cosio, owner of El Union Coffee, is attracting a community from former flight attendants to physical therapists. They’re busy serving cups of horchata or specialty coffee if they’re not finding their place in the sun. Kiddo says, “I think specialty coffee is the best thing to happen in the coffee industry of late. It is trendy but at the foundation of it is a social consciousness and a care for the farmers.”

 

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On the flip side, there’s James, a California native who’s been living in LU for years. He calls the place a “helladise.” He laughs, “It’s hell because it’s the third world; I don’t have internet or power half the time. It’s paradise because of the klima and Filipinas are the sexiest girls in the world.”

 

Electronic music dominates the airwaves during surf breaks or long weekends, leaving LU’s shores lined with tanned bodies in stupor, but on most nights, it’s the crashing of waves that completes the aural landscape. There’s a movie about it too called Flotsam, a reference to Flotsam and Jetsam Hostel and a paean of sorts to the beach life.

 

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LU is where the bum and the busy bee happily coexist. It’s an emerging community that’s comfortable in its own sand stripped naked from fancy establishments. And as community implies, it’s more about the people than the beaches. Sure, the days are warm and the waves are fine, but the friendly force—it’s fire.

 

Text and Photography Tin Dabbay