(Photo: Courtesy Jennifer Logronio)
The Daily Rally

Jennifer Logronio Discovers Calm After the Storm

A typhoon devastated the surfer’s island community. In its aftermath, she found peace in the same ocean that had wrought such destruction.

Courtesy Jennifer Logronio

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Jennifer Logronio told her story to producer Stepfanie Aguilar for an episode of The Daily Rally podcast. It has been edited for length and clarity.

The wind stayed for at least four hours. A strong wind that you could hear your ear having that pressure. You can see the roof of your neighbors flying around, fridge on the ground, everything, basically. The trees especially.

I’m currently residing in Siargao Island of the Philippines. I was born in Davao.

I teach freediving. I’m passionate about actually quite a few things. One of them is teaching. I’m also very passionate about giving back to nature, especially in the ocean.

When I was 19, I started moving around. First I went to Manila. It was very eye-opening for me, because coming from Davao that doesn’t have very many people, I was like, Oh wow, there’s so many things here. But then after a couple of years working there, I said to myself, I can’t do city living anymore. Then I started to check on jobs in Siargao.

Siargao is a small island down south of the Philippines. It’s a surfing capital. So I thought, OK, maybe I belong here. So I started working in one of the resorts here, and that’s when I got into surfing. I work, I surf, I work, I surf. And then COVID hit, and the resort closed. Most of the people did not have work at that moment, but that’s when I started to learn more about surfing.

It was December 16th, 2021, when another thing happened, which is the typhoon. It destroyed the whole island. No electricity, no food, no water.

Unfortunately there were not a lot of warnings coming from the government. They didn’t say anything, like “OK, you evacuate here,” and whatnot. So we chose somewhere uphill, and there were around 80 people in that house. We stayed there overnight. Because it was uphill, we were scared of storm surge. We had some snacks with us, but there was not enough water.

The day after it was a beautiful sunrise, beautiful sunset, like nothing happened. After three days I left the island, because I didn’t feel very useful. I didn’t think I could help any of the people I know that were in need, not even for myself. And so I left, I went to Manila.

I felt like everyone that got out of here was carrying this weight in their heart. Because we felt guilty, leaving the island. But I couldn’t go back yet because the house was destroyed. The electricity was not back until almost two months later. And I had to continue working, I could not stop my life.

A friend of mine owns a freediving school in Batangas, that’s three hours from Manila. It’s a really nice spot for swimming, freediving, a lot of coral. I was not that interested. I was thinking, Oh, OK. I just go down and go up and that’s it. What else? Those were my thoughts. And so I did and I was like, Oh, it’s actually really challenging. Holding your breath with all the movements you need to do and equalization in the ears, it kind of made me think, Actually it’s not easy.

The challenge I had was my breath hold and equalization, basically the two big factors in freediving for you to go deeper. I started with a 30-second breath hold, and could barely reach three meters.

Most of the sports that I get into, what makes me do it is the challenging part. It kind of hits your ego in a way, like, Hm, you can’t do it. So your ego’s like, Can you not do it? You can do it. It’s a lot of self-talk. So I started doing a lot of training.

I told my friend, Hey, I wanted to learn and I wanted to teach under your school. So they agreed, like OK, you work for us, you can train, and then you can teach for us.

My very first deep dive, I hit 28 meters. I reached negative buoyancy, where your body just falls without you doing anything. We call this free falling, and I did not want to stop. That was the time that I knew that I’m gonna do more and I wanna do more.

I got back to Siargao, and you could still feel the devastating part of the typhoon. You could tell that everyone was trying to rebuild their stuff. I was here for a month, fixing our place and the things I needed to settle. But I did not want to give up freediving, because I saw so much potential in it for myself, and I liked to teach.

So I had all these big thoughts, like OK, so I’m gonna have a freediving school in Siargao and then if I get funding, I’m gonna teach all the locals, then this, so on, so forth.

Freediving kind of changed my perception in life. You learn a lot in freediving, the technicality of it. But the thing is that you can also apply it off-water, like being patient, calming down, relaxing. If off-water, let’s say if you have an argument with your boyfriend or whatnot, and you step back, relax first and then speak. Before, I was a very impulsive type, I didn’t have much patience. The thing is that it kind of makes me wonder, I don’t have a lot of patience for other things, but I have patience to do my training. So it made me think that maybe I have that patience inside of me.

I told this to myself. OK, the typhoon was a good thing and a bad thing. It was a bad thing because destroyed my island and my home. But then it was a good thing because I found something that I would never have found if it didn’t happen. I was directed to that. I was directed to freediving.

I found peace in freediving for sure. I did not need to see anything, coral or fish. It’s just the feeling that the water is accepting you, being there, not spitting you out. I’m already too grateful for it.

Jennifer Logronio is a freediving instructor and surfer based in Siargo Island, Philippines. One of her hobbies is crocheting beachwear and accessories. To learn more about her, check out her Instagram @jendivefree.

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Lead Photo: Courtesy Jennifer Logronio