It is midnight, and the streets are filled with the sound of rolling wheels. An outlaw longboard race is going on. People sit by the side of the road, enjoying conversation, and witnessing this now more regular past time. Even the kids join in, practicing their speed tuck while waiting for their turn to go round the block. No bright lights, no fancy award…This is how it’s done in Nopo.

Just over the bridges, a FREE culture is flourishing in the island life of Mactan. From the easy-paced steady vibe of living in a place where beaches break, to empty streets lit by the moonlight. A lifestyle that’s being carried by the youth of Opon, and it is best seen on the streets. This is ground zero to the members of GRUPO NOPO.

Grupo Nopo (Opon spelled backwards), is a group of people that share a common local pride, at the same time, spreading a principle that adhere to Free Energy. With origins of skimboarding and eventually skating, they started in 2003, as most groups do, as a barkada. Now, they promote a community of skill that has become a pool for many brands such as Driftwood Local Enterprise (from design, to production and testing) and Free Energy Cooperative, to whom they skate and even deliver products with the use of longboards. They can make great videos, skate and be in videos, rap, grapple, and surf, while having a grand time. Along with an ever growing community of long boarders, they raise awareness to the alternative of public transport when they skate the streets, choosing Free Energy and making that personal contribution in the spirit of sustainable living. Grupo Nopo has also become a steady source of raw talent. Arjun Jimenez, Dandoy Tongco, Rico and Ering Ricablanca are just some who have carried the GN banner participating in longboarding events all around the country. While this piece is being made, I find myself cramped with twelve members of Grupo Nopo. We are currently in Metro Manila as they will be competing in skating events here. As they bring glory to the Southside, we look forward to the newer bloods of skaters from the streets of Nopo, ready to prance on this winding playground and taking free energy home.

Check out Dandoy and Grupo Nopo skate it out on YouTube – driftwoodlocalent’s channel

John Doy Tongco was only 14 when he competed in his first freestyle long boarding event. Even then, he was the young blood to watch out for, a radical skim boarder from Opon who eventually added long boarding in his arsenal of mad skills. On a longboard, he manipulates and balances albeit the fact that the board is taller than he. His tricks have given him much respect, much more when you consider his age and size.

Southwestern University Freestyle and Cansaga Bay Bridge Outlaw September 2009. Photo by Rafa Itchon

Now 17, he’s the young new gen everyone’s expecting him to be and more. An active member of Free: Energy Cooperative, he represents and personifies possibility in the alternatives. All over the Philippines; this kid of the streets, he’s taking it all in. From creating new freestyle moves such as the “Siquijor Trick” to surfing a stoked set down south. He’s even skated in front of the President, to inaugurate the tallest bridge in the Philippines, in Sogod, S. Leyte. Dandoy, who races alongside Grupo Nopo, now focuses on the highly competitive and high-speed downhill longboard racing. This young pro, used to be the new kid on the street…. now he rules it.

Words by Paulo Varela.

This article was also published on BLISS at Cebu Daily News.

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