What’s life like on the beach?
El Union’s Kiddo Cosio on what he’s learned since leaving the city life
Apr 4, 2017
April 7, 2015. San Juan, La Union, golden hour.
A boy cries because a jellyfish stung him. A little girl, in her tiny yellow bikini, frolics around the shoreline. A young woman sitting on a blanket, cuddling her baby, comforts the crying boy. She then turns to the little girl to make conversation about cute-cumbers. And the young man beside the woman, whose life is stirred by the current around him, turns to me and says, “This is what we literally do. It’s not that exciting but it’ll do.”
It has been two years since Kiddo Cosio and his wife Amy moved to La Union. “It is better,” he tells me; no regrets on leaving the city life behind. “I get to spend time every day playing with my children, surfing, watching sunsets, teaching the little ones to swim, or taking walks on the beach.”
“Water is such a wonderful object lesson for life: teaching us flow, the importance of being in tune with the elements around us, the importance of washing oneself clean of the stuff of life, and starting fresh.” Kiddo Cosio
Looking back at his past city life, Cosio tells me that he has always been drawn to the water. “I’ve always lived in big cities. But my fondest childhood memories are of short boat trips with my family around the Hong Kong islands, where we lived when I was a kid.” The place they had lived in overlooked the busy harbor. “[It] further fueled this romance with the sea,” he recalls. It wasn’t long before he answered its call. “I took up surfing, and traveling to surf was how Amy and I dated.” Both had been regularly taking trips to La Union, and it was in 2013 that staying there became a full-time arrangement. They got married, and when they had kids, moving to the beach was the only way they could sustain their ocean-loving lifestyle.
I was expecting a lot of idleness in Cosio’s life but it’s quite the contrary. Apart from family life, he also runs a business, the famed El Union coffee shop that serves specialty-grade coffee. The shop keeps life interesting as coffee makes way for conversations with visitors and introduces him (and even his wife and kids who hang out there by midday) to people from the city and other parts of the world. “Meeting a diverse mix of travelers on an almost daily basis has given me an even greater appreciation for people and how they go through life in their unique ways. It’s humbling to be reminded regularly that you are not the center of the universe, much less the world,” he says. I also became curious about how their day progresses, but he assures me that life by the sea could be just as predictable as it is in the city. “Truth be told, our family’s life [here] is more of a routine than wild Manila. But it is a good and healthy one that involves work, family time, recreation, and social life. It’s quite balanced. I know that one can achieve balance in the city; but it’s a lot less simple and a lot more expensive to do so.”
“Meeting a diverse mix of travelers on an almost daily basis has given me an even greater appreciation for people and how they go through life in their unique ways. It’s humbling to be reminded regularly that you are not the center of the universe, much less the world.” Kiddo Cosio
Unlike me who settles for meditation in the four corners of my room by sunrise, Cosio is up by dawn checking if he can lock in a good surf session before work and family come calling. “Living by the water means that I have an outlet for my energy. Same goes for my entire family. Water is such a wonderful object lesson for life: teaching us flow, the importance of being in tune with the elements around us, the importance of washing oneself clean of the stuff of life, and starting fresh,” he muses. By nightfall, he and his wife read books to the kids. Some nights, they’re out hanging at the town’s hip hostel Flotsam & Jetsam. “There, we play music, hang out with travelers and friends from Manila.” Kind of like the night we were having. “It bears mentioning that our life is not always as idyllic as it may sound. We have late nights when the kids refuse to calm down and sleep.”
His wife shares that they are very hands-on with the kids and do not have helpers by choice. “All my energy is for the kids and I know some day it will pay off,” she says. Cosio adds that their house is often a mess: spilled milk, a naked toddler peeing off the staircase and onto the laundry down below, crushed cookies scattered amid a sea of toys. “It is a beautiful mess—the evidence of creative energy, rather than destructive force. Kids are kids, and we are not ashamed to be authentic about that. We are not apologetic for their wildness,” he says.
April 10, 2015. Manila, my room, 6:41 a.m.
I still think about the Cosio family and what it would be like for me to live away from the city for a while. Will I be able to do it? A question that haunts me since the day we met. I recall him saying how simple life is: “The beach is always a good idea—whether our day was fun and the kids were manageable, or whether it was a day of toddler tantrums and stress, we always go to the beach.” I close my eyes and imagine the shoreline, and then I drift for a while in the middle of the water before I get ready for work. And like the image of the sea I am in, I hear Cosio say, “Nothing in life is static.” An assurance of change to come.
This story was originally published in Northern Living, May 2015.