BEFORE anyone gets smart and thinks that 88 days is too long a time in this age of airplanes or engine-powered sea vessels to go around the country, we have news for you: the man in our story did it in nothing else but a kayak.
Meet Erwin Glenn “Buzzy” Budlong, the man who currently holds the title “Longest Filipino Kayaker.”
For the record before any debate ensues, he technically didn’t really “go around” the country. But he did manage to paddle from Sarangani Province in Mindanao, to Pagudpod, Ilocos Norte in Luzon late last year in just less than three months. He did this together with Khoo Swee Chiow of Singapore.
"It feels good to actually go from island to island by just human power. Come to think of it, it’s how our ancestors traveled before,” Buzzy shares.
Growing up in a coastal area had a tremendous effect on how Buzzy now looks at the sea. He has been into kayaking since 1998. He remembers going out for a ride just around Mactan Island, Cebu with the Baruto Paddlers, which was founded by Danny Ebrada, partners Chris Courtney and Chico Estrera.
Eleven years after, the man still loves the water so much. Case in point, during the 40th anniversary of friendship between the Philippines and Singapore held last year, he decided to pursue the “kayak challenge.”
“It started one summer, I was looking at the sunset, and I prayed that if I attempt to ‘paddle’ the whole Philippines someday, I may not do it alone and that some crazy individual will show up to paddle with me. Because sometimes, even I think it’s a crazy idea. But I always believed that it was possible,” says Buzzy.
The man was able to accomplish the feat alright. But it goes without saying that the trip was also threatening and had also turned out to be scary at some point. During the 87th day nearing the end of the expedition, Buzzy and his Singaporean buddy got caught in a big surf break with strong winds—both vessels capsized and were separated.
“That was the time that I had to think fast and focus on my survival,” Buzzy recalls.
The pair was able to recover after a while of struggling in the water.
Of course, kayaking is not only for the strong and experienced.
Even beginners can benefit from this fun sport as well. Buzzy believes that sea kayaking in our country is now growing in popularity, and that Cebu and Bohol are the “paddling capitals of the Philippines.”
He also says that introducing kayaking (or any paddling sport for that matter) in schools will help enhance the youth’s knowledge of the Philippine seas and develop more respect for the environment. Indeed, sea kayaking is for all ages.
After the 88-day trip, Buzzy still wants to paddle some more. Perhaps hopping from one island to another? Who knows?
But it’s not always about action. Sometimes, it’s just about re-connecting with Mother Nature in the silence, drifting above her sea, swaying with the waves and enjoying the fresh air.
Like Buddy shares: “Sometimes I paddle out into the water with friends with just a flask of good brewed coffee. My friends and I would simply drift during sunset and share stories. Being out there also is a better place to meditate and inhale the power of Mother Ocean.”
Buzzy thanks the Primer group of companies, Recreational Outdoor eXchange and Habagat, as the “keys” to his dream of traveling from south to north of the Philippines by kayak.