Andi Eigenmann’s Insights on Trading City Pleasures for Island Living
Building a home in an idyllic beach destination may be a dream for many; Andi offers insights from a fulfilling experience—the necessary considerations, pertinent realizations, and certain essential fundamentals included
As a mom to three growing gorgeous kids, Andi expresses how protective and considerate she is when making important life decisions. Her move to the island paradise of Siargao wasn’t decided overnight. It was the culmination of a long thought process that involved both her and Ellie’s feelings and fundamental needs.
Sure, you’ve seen impressive images from your friends and even Andi’s social media. The charming island seascapes, the excitement of the local nightlife, the thrills of water sports and island activities, and most important of all, the promise of escape from the city hustle. It is with no wonder that the pre-pandemic world saw people come in droves to what was once surfers’ well-kept secret.
Becoming Sure for Shore
But before anyone thinks of dropping everything and moving to their favorite seaside haven, Andi offers sound advice, especially when one intends to start a family. Sure, her social media may seem to house pretty images of her troop of happy islanders, but she reminds everyone that it’s not as effortless as it looks. It’s Instagram magic, as she says. “And it’s not sunny every day on the island—it rains too. So you have to be ready, and you have to be prepared for the worst as well.”
She adds, “For me, the most important thing is, the move or this change in your life has to be something that you really want. That you really think would work better for your family or would make your family happier. Because it’s not just about convenience. Sometimes you think that it could be easier or better because people there are happier. But, for you, it might not be the same.”
For Andi, who grew up in Manila, it took a couple of years before landing a solid decision. And understandably so, as she explains that it wasn’t just a decision entirely hers—Ellie also has a say. As a mom of a child in her formative years, she, too, had to think about her daughter’s schooling options. What would she do if the standards do not meet hers? And so, she advises taking into account each family member’s perspective. She suggests, “Take it one step at a time: make sure it’s what you really want, that it’s what your heart desires, and be prepared for the worst.”
Co-parenting from the Island
Andi admits that Ellie was able to adapt faster to their once-new setup. Being away from family was a primary concern for them both. Andi has a tight-knit family, and Ellie is really close to her dad Jake Ejercito as well. Andi takes a huge responsibility for making this life-changing decision, ensuring that Ellie knows that she, as her mother, considers her feelings and allows her to visit their relatives when she wants to. Of course, missing her in her lengthy stays in Manila is part of the equation. But Andi takes it upon herself not to pressure her daughter to cut her trips short just for her: she wants her to enjoy spending time with others too.
Impressively, Ellie eased her way to enjoying the perks since she first stepped into her island home. Andi dotes on her daughter, “She made so many friends, it was so easy for her to understand and learn the language. And I love that about her—how she’s like a chameleon. It’s so easy for her to blend into the lifestyle and the people here, whether the locals or other kids like her who have just moved from other countries or Manila. And when she’s there with her dad, she’s doing whatever she wants. Just adapting and enjoying her family there. She just likes both worlds.”
So far, Ellie has been able to go visit her dad twice since they moved to Siargao, a welcome treat considering the strict travel bans our country has experienced in the last several months. But Andi is glad that she and Jake can maneuver with each other’s schedules to make things more convenient for their daughter. “We try our best to compromise. Like when her dad is free or when there are special occasions coming up on his side of the family, Jake will try to schedule with me when she will fly to Manila. And I’m so happy, and I’m so grateful that Jake is a cooperative co-parent.”
“We’re not necessarily friends,” Andi says. “Like we don’t talk about each other’s feelings. But when it comes to our schedule for Ellie, he seems to really be supportive of the fact that I made a move here, and I also have a family and other kids. And even if I didn’t ask him, he would offer to go here and fly here to pick up Ellie himself, instead of me having a difficult time figuring out how to leave my younger kids just to take her there. So that’s been going well. And so Ellie would spend like a month there and then come back here. Two to three months later, she will come back there again.”
The Pandemic and the Paradise
While there haven’t been a lot of COVID cases in Siargao according to Andi, she and her family practice strict health and safety protocols. Many people on the island seem to forget about (and for some, refuse to believe in) the perils of the pandemic, she supposes. “Because it’s not there. They don’t experience it around them to think that it’s true or to fully understand what it is or what it can do. But for me and my family, we still do our best. We don’t know what it can do to us or when it could happen.”
Andi reveals that Philmar has had an asymptomatic bout with COVID, and the experience has made them all the more guarded and mindful of their activities. “Now, because there are tourists and people like stopping by our house to see us and take pictures, especially when I’m with my kids, I have to respectfully decline. Because I’m scared of that happening to us again.” Trips outside have been reduced to essential errands. And going out for the entire family is limited to the beach where the open air is much safer.
Expressing her genuine concern for the safety of the locals, Andi shares that it is more crucial than ever to think twice before hopping on a plane and heading for Siargao. “I care about the safety of the people that live here. Especially since we don’t have hospitals with advanced medical systems, and the people here also cannot afford to put themselves in a hospital in case something bad happens. A lot of people actually ask me, ‘Can I ask if it’s safe for us to go there?’“
Admirably, her answer is both intelligent and thoughtful, emphasizing the preservation of the community her family belongs to. “For me, it’s like, it’s not that it’s safer for you to go here. But is it safe for us to have you here? Because you are the tourists. You are the ones that are coming from a place that’s dangerous. And they don’t realize that. They think they want to come here for themselves, but they don’t realize that they are putting a lot of people at risk. And it’s sad. So for us—me and Philmar—we just try to set a good example and remind people here to follow the rules: wear your mask when you need to, do not attend mass gatherings, and wash your hands.”
Lessons from an Island Mom
Making that big move is a huge decision that parents should take ample time to think about. With Andi’s example, it took her years of preparation before committing to a final decision. There will always be doubt and uncertainty. But above fears, it should be about what’s best for the entire family. And if the island life ticks all the boxes in your list of non-negotiables, then perhaps this may be what you and your family needs. Take everyone’s feelings into consideration, understand the feasibility of such decisions, and in settling in your new island home, don’t forget to always wear sunscreen.
Words PIPO GONZALES
Photogrpahy CECILE LAMBERT
Hairstyling TISH MAHTANI for ULO SALON