Postcards from the Philippines

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When reaching out for Lockdown Stories, we were thrilled when Isabell from the Aurora district in the Philippines got in touch. Over the coming weeks we will be sharing a series of stories from Isabell and her skate community, but first a little background…

“When the pandemic first set foot in the Philippines via a foreign traveler at the end of January 2020, the Philippine government still hesitated to react right away and did not record any cases for a month. Yet, at the beginning of March, the first local transmission was confirmed.

Jerome Farao

The lockdown, in the Philippines known as community quarantines on different levels, has been imposed throughout the archipelagic state since March 15. Especially heavily urbanized areas such as Metro Manila and Cebu have been hit hard with the virus but in Aurora Province, where the following story takes place, people have been lucky. While the country currently counts more than 224.000 (Sept.01), only a few cases have been confirmed in Aurora which, thanks to strict local lockdowns, contact tracing and enforcement of common measures such as social distancing, wearing masks among others, has been contained.

Aurora Province has been advantageous due to its only three major roadways, of which two are connecting towards Metro Manila, hence restricting travelers and easy discovery of potential carriers of the virus.

These roads not only make it easy to monitor incoming people, especially those returning to their homes, but they generally make for great downhill skating. Aurora’s mountain roads can be daring, they are close serpentines cutting through the coastal rainforest and often trucks pass by to deliver cargo to and from the town of Baler and adjacent villages and towns, adding to the thrill!  Baler is mostly known as an uprising surf tourism hotspot and has only been recognized in the last six years for its waves, friendly people and surrounding nature; a biodiversity hotspot of the world which is a gem in itself.


I, Isabell, a marine biologist and outdoor lover, surfer and surfskate enthusiast, have been locked down in Baler. Having lived in Metro Manila for a year to set up an NGO with a friend, Plastic Tides Philippines, I knew how potentially dangerous the situation in the very dense mega metropolis could be. Now, decided I’ll call it my home since July, moved here and we are working online, making baby-steps in setting up our non-profit – whose advocacy is still very timely, as the pandemic’s consequences are an increased use of disposable plastic-based items. During the lockdown period, I kept on working voluntarily for a local nature conservation NGO, another reason why I decided to move to this magic town. Skating and surfing for me is important, as it brings me outside and connects me to nature in a very playful way – and I get to meet awesome personalities and create new friendships.

After a few months of stressful times locked down, it turned out that no Covid-19 cases were reported in the province. The restriction eased in in May, so I started going out with my flatmates to surf whenever there was swell in the vicinity and, shortly after, acquaintances opened the doors for me to the skate community. Among many local Filipino skaters, I also met Angelo Umali (follow link check to out his crazy video and photos), an avid downhill skater with a certain kind of connection to thrill, who likes to share his knowledge on downhill skating with his peers.

Diteki, a barangay [local government unit] in the municipality of San Luis in Aurora is one of the downhill groups favourite spot. Angelo describes it as a very technical road as the curves of the asphalted road are very sharp and you can speed up to around 80kph and more! Angelo directly recognized my passion for outdoor and sports photography when I took photos of the group. When he discovered Thrill Magazine’s call for #lockdownstories, it was a natural move to send those photos over. In these times of crisis and staying at home, stories like these may be uplifting to the worldwide community. We want to share the stoke, and tell everybody that there will be days where we will all skate together again.

In the upcoming weeks, I want to present stories of diverse Filipin@ skaters to you. You get to know how they experienced the lockdown – and how even the lockdown shapes exciting future skate plans in the community. Stay tuned for seven upcoming interviews from young inspiring men, women and kids from Aurora!”

Isabell Kittel – Author

Thank you so much to our friends in the Philippines for sharing their stories; we look forward to hearing all about them.

As Isabell says: Let’s share the stoke!

Words & Images: Isabell Jasmin Kittel

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