It was on Boracay in December 2015 that we found our first sax on the beach. We travelled from our home in India to see my wife’s sister in the Philippines. Our goal was to replace crowded, noisy, dusty Hyderabad with sand, San Miguel, and the soothing sound of the ocean.
We witnessed the sax on our third day.
We were decompressing from a three month old move to a country with 1.2 billion people. In addition to silence and solitude, we hoped to meet some entertaining and interesting characters—we were not disappointed.
Over the first few days we had beer with a group of electricians taking the day off at the beach, were photographed with midgets, and talked with a Canadian-Filipino hotel owner cum community activist about his efforts to treat fifty relatively poor Boracay children to McDonalds every Christmas. But on the last day we met our most colorful character.
What is that sound?
As we lay on the beach a sound pierced the otherwise soothing clap of the surf. I’ve spent a considerable amount of time among wildlife and this was not like any sound I’d heard before. It was scratchy and screechy, not like nails on a chalkboard, but rather the sound of a large bird of prey ravaging a rabbit. It changed in tone, high to low, as if following an agenda. It was not punishingly horrible, just extraordinarily youthful. It did not cease.
I rose from my chair and scanned the sand for the tortured beast capable of making a sound loud enough to overcome the cyclic rhythms of the ocean. Some sixty meters away a portly young man sat with a shiny instrument in his lap, putting the mouthpiece to his lips for several minutes at a time, and generating tones only a mother saxophone could love.
Hoping to chat and snap a few photographs, I introduced myself to the aspiring musician. He was tattoo’d about the arms, wore shorts which appeared a bit too small for his frame, sported sunglasses and a Bob Marley cap with a flat brim—gangsta style. But the best part of his ensemble was the saxophone hanging from his neck. He looked ready to rock.
Although his name remains a mystery, his personality—bright, bold, and friendly—is not easily forgotten. He spoke with a thick German accent and explained that his parents were from Italy, but moved back to Deutschland many years ago. He’d grown up in Germany with a love of music and hopes of playing the sax someday. Unfortunately, as so often happens, work and life combined to create a world with little time for musical aspirations. So he decided a change of scenery was in order.
Everyone should live here.
Five years ago, in his early twenties, he moved to Boracay, where he lives off rental income from property back home. It’s not a fancy lifestyle, but, he tells me, “The life quality is amazing.” He explains that he has all he wants: a nice but small home; a girlfriend; great, fresh food; awesome weather; and the nicest people on the planet as neighbors. But he never gave up his yearning for the sax.
“I was thinking about it yesterday,” he mentions, his English far better than my German. “I want to learn to play the sax. So, I woke up this morning and bought one.” A couple hours later he is on the beach, girlfriend in tow and saxophone in hand, blowing out the tunes in his head.
It was nothing like music—who could blame him, he played his first note only ten short minutes ago—but he was passionate and dedicated. He described how his lifestyle gives him the time to become anything he wants to be and he wants to be a saxophone player. He puts his lips to the mouthpiece and manages a few more notes, awkwardly fingering the instrument. “Here I have the time. It is a great life and very affordable. You should try it.”
Sitting on a beach facing an ocean of possibilities, he is highly motivated. John Denver said, “Music does bring people together…music proves: We are the same.” We may not all play an instrument, but music is in each of us. Today, on a Philippine beach a young German started realizing his dream—a dream to be a saxophone player.
I eventually get called for lunch. I offer words of encouragement and describe my own journey learning to play guitar in my mid thirties. I decline the offer to move to the Philippines just now. As I walk away, he resumes his practice and I can’t help but hope to see him on stage when we return next year—well, maybe in two years.
If you enjoyed one of my articles, or you’re just feeling left out, please subscribe to be notified as new material becomes available.
Unless otherwise noted, all photos and drawings are those of the author. Copyright can be found here.