top of page


In Between the Tides


Words by Nina Unlay  | Photography by Camille Robiou du Pont

Photograph by Camille Robiou Du Pont

Time passes differently in Siargao. Mornings and afternoons craftily turn into weeks, and then months, in a fog of sandy beach air and never-ending waves. Sunrises on the pier pass like seconds. Surfing is a year-round occasion, with swells that rise up to twelve feet, like Cloud 9, the name given to its most hallowed one. Siargao is the kind of island that people move for.


Camille Robiou du Pont did. Four years ago, she moved to the Philippines (“to be closer to the ocean,” she says) after completing a masters degree in graphic design in Shanghai and then working for a big advertising company. “I completely fell in love with the [Philippines]. Even after four years, the island inspires [me] a lot.”


Now she lives in a dream of her own making, or so you would think from the images she shares, magical swirls of sea and sky; these are scenes from Siargao through Camille’s lens. Water is now her favorite subject.


“I’ve always been fascinated by people who could tell a story without saying anything,” she says. “I feel water and women put together is pure magic, because the water is always in movement and the light [is always] changing on the body. This combination is also a medium to create unique images, and allows to explore so many different scenes.”

Photograph by Camille Robiou Du Pont

But as the Philippines’ slowly settled into its long lockdown, the waters of Siargao have never been so still. Swimming, and consequently surfing, was banned in the beginning of community quarantine, forcing the local surfers to make a shift both in their livelihood and in their lifestyles. “It was a little bit hard in the beginning,” Camille confesses. “All the local surfers [had] never experienced not going in the ocean.”


As the months passed, time also seemed to crawl backwards. The usual crowd of tourists disappeared, reminiscent of an older Siargao. Days on the island were quiet. The residents started a barter system on Facebook, an exchange of goods (“two flowers for baby milk,” Camille throws in as an example) in order to get by. Camille now barters her clothes for the essentials, like chia seeds or vegetables, even plants; others began to farm, looking to grow their own food.


It started small, with roughly 2,000 square meters of land at a vacant lot behind an elementary school. Slowly, the community-driven initiative earned the name Hardin ng Pagbabago. Small changes led to bigger changes, and now the local government is working to provide each barangay its own communal garden, a place to grow organic fruits and vegetables for their constituents to eat and sell. Everything from lettuce, chili, bell peppers, and eggplants, to mint and mongo.

Photograph by Camille Robiou Du Pont

“There is still so much to do, but this is just the beginning of another chapter [in] the long journey toward peace and sustainability,” Camille says.


“I’ve been very grateful the virus didn’t come to the island, didn’t touch the locals’ family. The island is not ready [for] anything [to] happen. We have no hospital and a very poor sanitary system…I really hope people will respect the rules if the island opens again.”

Photograph by Camille Robiou Du Pont

Food continues to bring the island together. A small marketplace now happens once or twice a week at surf resorts, where residents gather to support both friends and farmers. They share cake and cookies, samosas and barbequed chicken. Once a month, another market is held so artists and craft makers gather to sell their soaps, candles, and cement pots.


“The [residents] are doing activities together, such as going fishing,” Camille says. “I’ve never [seen] so many young kids going freediving and learning how to fish with their family.”

Photograph by Camille Robiou Du Pont

And as soon as the quarantine ended, there was another gathering, a reunion between the residents and the waters. “We basically live with the tides and the swell. Actually, as long as I have the ocean around, I feel okay,” Camille says. “As soon as [we were] allowed to go back to the water, everyone got so excited and we all went surfing. The feeling was amazing.”

bottom of page