In pictures: Siargao surfers join paddle-out ceremony for the ‘Godfather of Philippine Surfing’

Surfing communities around the world share strong bonds through friendship and values. Following a tradition that has its roots in Hawaii, surfers pay tribute to those who passed away by marking the environment they cherish: the ocean. Siargao island in the Philippines made no exception to this custom as hundreds of surfers paddled out to commemorate how Jaime Rusillon, former mayor of General Luna, contributed to the flourishing development of surfing at the country’s surfing capital, which has been named one of the World’s Best Islands.

On a sunny Friday morning, all surfers who answered the call from SISA (Siargao Island Surfing Association) gathered at the iconic boulevard of General Luna. Surfing areas at Cloud 9, Quicksilver and Jacking Horse were closed for all surfing and swimming activities that day.

Mr. Rusillon was the mayor of Siargao island’s tourism center for decades before he died last week. Through policies focused on sustainable tourism, he helped improve the lives of local surfers and became a valued member of the oceanside community. Mr. Rusillon’s involvement since the early stages of events such as the National and International Siargao Surfing competition earned him the monicker “Godfather of Philippine Surfing”.

“I grew up seeing how (the) mayor has been generous to us, especially in terms of support during our surfing events. He was very genuine, had a great sense of humor and always spoke his mind! Definitely a Siargao legend and will always be remembered,” champion pro surfer Aping Agudo tells Smile. “He was also very happy to have visitors in Siargao and was interested in their stories — even willing to help out some of the foreigners who want to settle in our island.”

“A true legend that brought tourism in Siargao through surfing. (Jaime Rusillon) also set up internet on the island and is the man that gives many the ability to work and surf remotely,” writes World Surf League’s James O’Donnell, who also helps run Greenhouse, Kudo Surf Community (fb.com/kudosurf) and SEA Movement, in a tribute post on Facebook. “He ran a solid ship and anyone who ever surfed in Siargao has a lot to thank him for.”

Family and friends held a quick ceremony on the shore to remember and honor Mr. Rusillon’s life and actions, before paddling out to sea and formed a big circle around members of his family.

Cebu Pacific Air flies to Siargao from Manila and Cebu. cebupacificair.com

Written and Photographed

Yann Guilbert

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