Life on the Island

by Monika Rivilla

I recently took a job as a construction manager-architect for a few resorts in Siargao, an island south of the Philippines. I came here with my best friend who is also an architect. Although it took great courage to make the move, working here has been a dream. And at the same time it’s not exactly what I thought it would be. It’s much harder, tiring and demanding than I hoped. We work 6 days a week. Mondays through Saturdays.

 I’ve been surfing for almost two years now.  To me, surfing makes life more interesting. It has taught me to be humble and helped me discover inner strength and power that I didn’t even know I had in me. Whenever I get on a wave, it’s as if time ceases to exist, even if rides only last for a few  seconds.


monikasurf You get to stay in the moment a little longer than it actually is. Surfing is magic.

monika2 Siargao is an isolated island far from the comforts of the city, but one that is very much alive. There are no malls or cars. The internet doesn’t work sometimes. We do not own a TV. The tides change every hour, and I get to witness that everyday. I came here with only a few possessions. And now, I feel like I have so much more in the form of new friends and a solitary environment.The simple life. Here, I am reminded of how little we really need. Sometimes, I think “What if that’s all there was?”

On Sundays we rest


One Sunday, my friends and I decided to take a short drive to the beach. We watched the water move and curl into beautiful waves that crashed on the shore. The sky was pastel with blue and pink. At that moment, bliss filled every corner of my being. It left me thinking: “Why should anything be more than this?” A simple life with simple desires with only what you need. The city is always buzzing with more and more unnecessary things –monika4 its almost  impossible to feel content.

The sun started to set, it was calm, cloudy but the sun shined through it. The water was baby blue with purple hints and strokes of pink that came from the light of the sunset. I still don’t understand how we sometimes allow ourselves to forget the connection we have to this life and to each other. How is busy better than breath-taking? What if we only dazed ourselves with love and wonder? Live in every moment.

The sky turned black and my friends started to build a bon fire by the beach. It was beautiful. The stars started to come out, and it was the clearest sky I have ever seen. The city smog and busy skyline did not exist here. The stars glowed and the blackness filled the voids in between.

“What do we do with all this space? What if we do nothing? …”


[What do we do with all this space? What if we do nothing? What if we just allowed ourselves to exist in it? What if we just let it be? Learn how to be content in it? In a place that makes you remember that good things come to those who appreciate life? And everything that comes with it – the good and the bad.

It looked like we were in a movie. I kept on saying it looked like tumblr. We danced and sang and watched the stars. A comet flew above us and we screamed in excitement and amazement and shock. It was too stunning to describe.]


Despite the hardships my job entails, I know we are lucky. We’re all growing up, evolving, enduring, surviving. We are alive. Chests falling and rising involuntarily.

This is what it means to be satisfied. Allowing life to take you on a good long ride and tumbling around like waves in the sea.

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Monika Rivilla is an Architect and Entrepreneur. Born and raised Manila girl, she is currently living in Siargao island. She may not know exactly where she’s headed, but she believes that it’s all about the journey rather than the destination.


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