Sea change: In new docu, a La Union surf family returns to fishing roots

Jun 9, 2021
PHOTO: Michael Eijansantos

SURFING put San Juan, La Union on the map. But when the tourists go away, what’s a surf town to do?

Filmmaker and surfing correspondent Michael Eijansantos spent two months filming a San Juan family who found themselves in dire straits as tourism trickled down to zero during the lockdown. In his documentary Ang Dagat Ang Pinagmulan, he takes a look at how that family, and the rest of the community, is slowly recovering from the pandemic — and rediscovering San Juan’s roots as a fishing town, before the big surfing boom.

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“Nag focus kami sa Ebueza family at ang kinalakihan nila na bayan ng San Juan,” explained Eijansantos.

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The patriarch of the Ebueza family is Jose “Manyong” Ebueza, one of San Juan’s first surfers and a local legend in town. Ebueza has two sons, Jomarie and Justine. It is their family’s story that forms the core of the 20-minute documentary. Watch the full documentary here:

“Ipinasa din ni kuya Manyong ang kaalaman nya sa mga anak nya sa pangingisda. Bago pa maging ‘Surftown’ ang San Juan, fisher's town talaga muna. Simpleng pamumuhay at pangingisda ang pangunahin pangkabuhayan dito tapos biglang sumikat ang San Juan sa mga turista,” continued the filmmaker.

Michael himself is based in San Juan, La Union. Though he grew up in Manila, he’s already been living there with his family for the last two years. Plus, his work as founder of the surfing and board sports publication My Life On Board meant that he’s been visiting Surftown for more than a decade already.

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“Dito sa San Juan, simple lang ang buhay,” said Eijansantos of his current life there. “Malapit ka sa kalikasan which is yun ang isang importanteng aspeto ng pag lipat namen dito lalo na para sa mga anak ko. Gusto lumaki sila dito sa La Union at matutunan mangisda, magtanim, at mamuhay ng simple.”

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Ang Dagat Ang Pinagmulan is now free to watch on the Facebook page of the Provincial Government of La Union and on its YouTube page from June 14 all the way until the end of the month.

But still, Eijansantos is thinking about revisiting his film to flesh it out into a more feature-length documentary.

“Sa tingin ko, gagawa pa kami ng mas mahabang version, yun director's cut para mas masagap pa yun mga usaping pang kabuhayan dito sa San Juan at pang kalikasan,” he said.

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PHOTO: Michael Eijansantos
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