The sea has its way of calling wanderers in need of its calming embrace, and the beckoning is often strong on the coasts of the Philippines. Out of its 7,107 islands, it was the teardrop-shaped island of Siargao this time that called out to French photographer Camille Robiou du Pont, who had previously first visited the equally stunning Bantayan Island two years before.
Heeding the call, she traded the hustle and bustle of city life in Shanghai with the rough and tumble of the so-called “Surfing Capital of the Philippines.” Located 800 kilometers southeast of Manila, Siargao is frequented by both local and international surfers for its year-round waves, postcard-perfect islands, and stunning sunsets.
It was such a “visual paradise” for Camille that two months in the blissful company of the waves and friendly locals were not enough for her. She wanted to call it home.
“After 4 years in a city like Shanghai, I needed to take some time to go back to nature and be closer to the sea,” she shared. “These two months were just amazing and confirmed my decision to live here as long as I can. I can’t explain but I felt like home.”
For this Wanderlust installment, we caught up with Camille and asked her about her evidently unforgettable time in Siargao.
Hello Camille! It’s been a while since our last chat. How have you been and what has kept you busy?
Hi, Whattaroll Magazine! I’m good, thanks! A lot of changes happened in the past two years. I quit my job as photographer and cameraman in Shanghai a few months ago and I’m now planning to live in the Philippines in October.
We found out that you recently went back to the Philippines, this time in Siargao, one of the country’s best-known surf spots. Can you tell us some details about this trip?
I quit my job in March and I went to Siargao for two months in order to learn how to surf. I never had any chance to practice this sport before, and the Philippines was definitely the best place to start. Moreover, as a photographer, I felt very inspired by the surf spot and the island vibes. The Philippines has always been my favorite country in Asia and I was very curious to discover a new spot.
What drew you to visit Siargao? Did you have any expectations prior to your visit? Were any of them realized during your stay in the island?
After 4 years in a city like Shanghai, I needed to take some time to go back to nature and be closer to the sea. These two months were just amazing and confirmed my decision to live here as long as I can. I can’t explain but I felt like home. Siargao’s locals are so welcoming! I really wanted to learn how to surf and even if I’m still a super beginner, I discovered new sensations in the water. My only frustration was not having an underwater camera. But, I will get one before I come back for sure, and I’m really excited to test it.
What surprised you the most about your time in Siargao? Any memorable experiences or stories you can share with us?
I had a lot of new experiences but I think the relationship I had with the local people and surfers was the most important. Life there follows the rhythm of the ocean, and the people show you how to understand and respect everything around you. But hmmm, after giving it some thought, the best thing was maybe the coconut bread hot from the oven!
If you could describe your Siargao experience to anyone yet to visit, what would you tell them?
It’s a visual paradise — every spot around you is inspiring and peaceful. But, I hope the island won’t become like Bali or Koh Pha Ngnan. Siargao’s people are very respectful of the environment and I’m scared that too much tourism will change the mentality and the vibes of the island.
Which cameras and films did you use during this trip? How was it like for you taking film photos around the island? Did your visit inspire any new photo series or bodies of work?
I still have the same camera I used last time, a Canon A1, but I’m now using Kodak 400 and 200 films. Shooting film during this period was a bit frustrating because there was nowhere to develop rolls, and I had to wait a long time before I got my pictures. Also, I was very scared to burn my roll in the airport, it’s a real nightmare for me every time I have to pass the airport control. As I said before, my visit opened my curiosity about underwater photography and my next series will be more focused on this practice! I also really want to focus on the relationship between the ocean and the surfers.
Lastly, if you could take anyone, dead or alive, to share an island experience in Siargao, who would it be and why?
Oh wow, it’s impossible to answer this question!
To see more of Camille’s travel photos and the rest of her works, please head to the links below: