Waves and Melodies of the Sun Surf Strum Festival 2014

Four weekends ago, amidst the threat of Super Typhoon Ruby (international name Hagupit), my friend Silia and I headed to Sitio Liwliwa in Zambales for the SSSF 14 weekend. SSSF, short for Sun Surf Strum Festival, is a yearly event organized by Ukulele Manila together with partners and sponsors.

Clear skies and the ash-filled riverbed
Clear skies, majestic mountains and the ash-filled riverbed on the way to Liwliwa

True to its name, the Sun Surf Strum Festival lived up to the expectations of festival patrons — bright and sunny days, awesome waves and chillax music!

Afternoon tide
Afternoon tide

It was the fourth time I’ve been to Liwliwa since the fateful surfing trip (I like referring to it like that!) we took in August 2013. It is, however, the first time that I’ve been there for a mixed event — surfing and music festival weekend. Actually, truth be told, it’s the first time I have been to a music festival, ever!

Mainly a ukulele-centered and inspired music festival, we saw lots of people carrying uke bags or strumming the day away while chilling at the beach or hanging out at The Circle Hostel, a popular backpacker-friendly type of accommodation (which also happens to be our hostel of choice in Zambales and La Union).

Beach scene at 12nn!
Can you see that guy’s ukulele?

The festival’s performers included French trio We Were Evergreen, young and borderline edgy Filipino band Ourselves the Elves, and my favorite of the night, energetic and refreshing Ransom Collective.



Silia and I arrived at San Felipe at about 1030, about 4.5-5 hours after we departed via the Olongapo/Iba bus from Victory Liner Terminal in Pasay (PhP303/$7 fare). We partied the Friday night away at Universe Gastrolounge and Night Club at the Newport Mall in Resorts World with our friend Hanne (who was supposed to go with us but was held back by #RubyPH emergency response duties), my boyfriend Niklas and his friend Erik (aka the really tall Caucasian guy. Haha).

Partying at Universe
Partying at Universe

So by the time we got on the bus, us girls are already too hammered to function! Haha we have concluded a while back that in our group of partying and traveling friends, this is how we roll. Eso!

The green rice fields of Central Luzon

When we got down at San Felipe (it’s on the way to Iba and Sta. Cruz), we first retreated to the familiar comfort of 7-11. Although disappointed that they didn’t have brewed coffee (mandatory for Silia to function properly), it still served as a good place to reorient ourselves (and repack our blankets and sleeping bags) with the environment we are now in. After a refreshing fresh coconut water drink from the local market, we headed to Sitio Liwliwa through a 15-minute 3-4 person tricycle ride found by the side of 7-11 (PhP35/$.75 each, applicable when at least two people; otherwise, pay P70/way minimum).

For this weekend, we were informed that there are no more bunk beds at The Circle Hostel or rooms available with other accommodation options. So, I brought a tent and my beloved pillow-and-blanket travel gear with the best case scenario that we can pitch it under a raised kubo/hut at Kila Bot Sir Ping Spot to have some kind of cover if it rains or if Ruby comes early in Zambales. But, when we got there, we tried our luck with The Circle Hostel since, with Ruby looming in the otherwise super sunny northwest Luzon horizon, we were hoping there would be cancellations in bunk bed reservations. And there were! We ended up sleeping on the 3rd floor bunk (PhP 400/$9.25 each) which is pretty cool but is also pretty tricky to climb up or down from, especially when you’ve had quite a few bottles of beer!


And a few bottles, we definitely had! 🙂 Hungover and tired that we were from the party and the trip, we checked in and had lunch, napped on the beach and woke up, with finality, when it was almost time for more food (Silia tried isaw baboy and isaw manok — brave girl!), beer and some more sunset.


After the sunset, we had another round of food at Aling Fely’s (right across The Cirle Hostel) where we met two fellow travelers whom we stuck with for the rest of the music festival and through the surfing day! I didn’t take much photos of the night I think. But, even with only the video (above), the howling wind and the swaying pine trees, the stars illuminating the sky, and the melodies ringing in my ears, it already remains as a great memory. I did take some mandatory surfing pictures with first-time (or second?) surfer Silia the next day.

Surfing lessons is a must!
Surfing lessons is a must!
Surfer babe! (super mandatory surfing photo with your board!)
Surfer babe! (super mandatory surfing photo with your board!)

As a first-time surfer, Silia must have an instructor, not only to learn how to surf but to also learn how to surf safely! As for me, I am proud to say that I am not ashamed for getting an extra push for my board when my paddling is not enough! 😀 Hehehe I am, however, truly proud, for having been able to ride the waves and then paddle some more (while kneeling) to soldier on till the next tidal force pushed my board again! In short, during the Sun Surf Strum Festival weekend, not only did I learn how to [kind of] play the ukulele (to the tune of Jason Mraz’s I’m Yours), I also learned a new surfing trick!


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