I grew up in the film industry, my uncle being a producer of international movie and television productions that film in the Philippines, with my mom working for him as a Location Manager. Movie sets became childhood playgrounds whenever my cousins and I had the opportunity to visit locations during school breaks. This involved tremendous movie sets that were constructed in studios, islands, beaches, forests, jungles, and mountains. It was fun getting to travel to different parts of the country growing up.
Although I spent most of my childhood holidays outside the city, I still considered myself a city boy through and through. This was especially true when I was a teenager and young adult and found myself disliking the beach and not particularly attracted to anything related to nature. I would get invites to go to the beaches but I would suggest watching a movie in Rockwell instead. Anything that involved water, sand, trees, rocks, and mountains, I avoided. That was until I graduated from university and started working in the industry I grew up in. Location shoots would be all over the Philippines and finally, as an adult, I realized how truly beautiful our country is and how blessed the Philippines is with its enormous and beautiful natural resources.
It was in March 2016 when I was sent to Caramoan in Camarines Sur to film a popular reality show franchise. I spent almost 5 months there and loved every single moment of it. I loved how fresh the air was, how refreshing the ocean was and how magnificent the sunsets were. I was in awe every single day and considered myself blessed to call that island my home and office for a few months. I admit there were lots of times when I would miss the comforts of being in the city – having reliable internet and phone service, relaxing in air-conditioned cinemas, not getting bitten by insects every minute of every day, and having Jollibee nearby wherever you went. Being in an island makes you- as cliche as it sounds- appreciate the small things. I loved how I didn’t have to deal with Manila traffic for months. I loved how different this life was from the monotonous nightlife in the city. Most of all, I loved waking up to the breathtaking beach every day.
Being on an island for months with production teams from all over the world, it only made sense that we find some sort of outlet to unwind. And boy did the production team come up with the best outlets. Marathons, beach volleyball/football tournaments, beach movie nights, bonfire nights, and the best of them all – theme parties. After filming, production teams from each country would throw themed parties for the rest of the crew. I’ve always loved making my own costumes. It was easy in the city with malls nearby for whatever materials I needed, but the fact that we were on an island with very limited resources, I took that as a challenge to make costumes with whatever I could find. I must say, free time in this island was grand.
As expected, the locals in Caramoan were friendly and very accommodating. The local fiesta scene is something I would only hear and read about in school growing up, but getting invited and actually attending one was a very good experience. The locals lived a very simple life and seeing them look forward to the fiesta and dance like no one was watching warmed my heart and put a smile on my face. I must say the foreign crew thoroughly enjoyed mixing in with the locals.
Living on an island, I expected things like blackouts, intermittent internet and phone service, horrible sunburns, and limited resources but I didn’t mind them as much as the sand fly bites I got every day. No insect repellant would repel those pests and their bites would spread and often lead to infection. Thankfully, we have great doctors in our production team but I would say my time in the island would be 100 times better if sand flies did not exist.
Overall, filming in the island for months has been a wonderful experience for me. Hearing the foreign crew express how much they love our beautiful country and how they would love to stay here if they could makes you appreciate the beauty of God’s natural creations. Actually, many opt to stay for a few days to go around the country after filming. Among all the filming locations I’ve been in, the Caramoan Islands really has a special place in my heart and I am lucky that I was able to come back this year to do it all over again.