Renting an apartment in San Juan- the best decision I've made
The Philippines,  Travel Stories & Inspiration

Renting an apartment in San Juan- one of the best decisions

On my three months vacation in the Philippines, I came to San Juan to travel with my friends and learn to swim. Little did I know, I was also renting an apartment room at Locsin’s residence in San Juan, La Union, aka Elyu. It was an unexpected event, yet, one of the best decisions I’ve made.

Renting an apartment room in San Juan, Elyu- an unexpected event

I told my husband about returning to San Juan for a few days. For a reason- to learn to swim.

He gladly agreed and was excited for me. I was delighted.

My husband he’s not the type of man who asks so many questions, as long as you’ve already told the details. Most importantly, he’s supportive of my endeavors.

I started searching for an Airbnb, a dorm room, or even a hostel where I could stay only for four to five days. No luck. Exchanging messages with Rowdy about when I wanted to start the swimming lesson, he offered a room on the second floor at Locsin’s residence, where he was staying. I could rent this for only 500peso per night, he said.

And so, I took it.

It took a while before I finally had the will to go back there again, let alone rent an apartment in San Juan, Elyu, for a month because I was too comfortable at home in Calasiao.

Eventually, I returned to San Juan and stayed in this small room for six days. It had a communal kitchen, toilet and bath, and kitchen. There I had housemates like Rowdy, Jade, and Abi. They were nice to me. We shared meals sometimes, and we got to know each other.

I liked it.

As fate would have it, one day, Rowdy and I passed by this apartment room while walking down to the beach. Located on the first floor of the same Locsin residence building.

We peeped. We went inside, and I interrogated Rowdy since he was a landlord. Then I decided I liked it and I wanted to rent it. He told me to tell the owners, and he will try to help me.

The thought of renting this apartment in San Juan, let alone staying in it for a month, lingered with me. I’d never get over it when I liked something until I finally had it.

Mami said ( the owner, whom I called Mami) she could not decide to allow someone to stay even for a month. I asked why, and she said it was complicated and told me to talk to Papi, her husband. And good luck.

I tried to be as friendly and kind, and polite as I could to convince Papi to have me rent the apartment. He said he’d think it over. A day later, I sweetly greeted and bribed him that if he said yes, I’d immediately pay for the whole month.

We negotiated a bit, and then voila, he just said yes!

I paid Php8,000/€150

Then I told my husband again. And he said, of course! That way, you could practice swimming more! Oh, what a stroke of luck!

How the apartment looked like

When I first came in, there were pieces of wood, some small trash, plenty of dried leaves from the tree, and leftover equipment for paintings and construction on the balcony.

The balcony but no roof. So in the daytime, it got scorching, and sometimes when it rained, it was all wet on the ground.

Inside, It was almost empty besides having its toilet and bath, a table and two chairs, two dark brown curtains, and a mattress on the floor. Also, it was not as clean and tidied up to my standard. The ceilings were unfinished as they removed the wood that caused termites to build homes. It had six small windows, including the one at the bath. And a mini kitchen behind the door. The apartment room was effortless, yet so minimal, relaxing, and painted bright yellow.

But despite all of these characteristics, I fell in love with the apartment room.

Because the most important to me was it’s my room and the beachfront.

Also, the apartment is humbly located between the local and tourists area. The famous surfing capital of the North and plenty of bars, coffee shops, and restaurants are located 15min away by foot through the beach. Or you can also take the tricycle for only 5min- probably 70peso.

When I moved in, Mami apologized to me that she couldn’t clean it up as she was very busy with other stuff. I didn’t care, I said.

So I grabbed a broom and a dustpan and began to tidy and organize it a bit. I changed the bed and pillow covers. Pulled out one of Mami’s beautiful plants in front of her mini-store and placed it inside the room.

That same day, my friends Mara and Jon arrived for the Blogger besties’ getaway.

Life in San Juan, Elyu

I got to spend time at the beach every day. As a beach-lover, It’s the one thing I loved the most. My daily routine consisted of waking up, meditating, and eating breakfast when I was not fasting. And going for quick swimming practice, returning to the apartment, reading or writing, relaxing, having lunch, and going for a quick swim again. By then, it was already dinner time, and I was cooking.

In other words, it was like a holiday every day.

The weekend was my favorite because it was market day. I went to the San Fernando local market. Buying rice and fresh fish and products like vegetables, fruits, and coconuts- three pieces for 100peso. And sometimes, I went to the night market to eat or buy anything I needed. Like sweet rice cakes or turon. Filipino foods I rarely eat back in Germany.

Every day, I watched the sunrise and sunset, the local kids running around, chasing and throwing sand at each other. Admired the surfers and their students braving the waves. Or I watched in awe as the big angry waves splashed back and forth. And witnessed high and low tides.

I constantly invited my mum and my sister. Like my two friends did together, we spent time, relaxed, and treated the place like our vacation house.

Mum liked it, although somehow she wondered why I was renting an apartment in San Juan, even though we had a big house waiting for me.

After then, my other friends Paula and Noel, with three children, also came to pay a visit. Their sons became my beach buddies.

Then my nephew, aunt, sister’s friends, and almost my entire family came to sleep over at my place.

Do you see?

Renting this apartment in San Juan was worth it.

Learning to swim

I met Rowdy, a surfing instructor. He’s a friend of my friend Tita’s hubby. I told Rowdy I knew a bit about surfing and liked it, but it did not interest me then; I was looking for someone to teach me to swim. That was y top priority.

We exchanged contacts.

My friends and I were still traveling to Baguio city, and then I returned home.

Finally, I contacted Rowdy and told him I was ready.

I packed my backpack, and off I went.

Rowdy taught me advanced skills right away. I only learned that from my husband when I told him what we did that day. Even so, it was a good start; my husband said to keep practicing.

Swimming in the open salt water was challenging for a beginner like me. I didn’t know the basics, even though I watched some YouTube videos on how to float, how to breathe correctly, and things like that. It looked easy while watching, but the truth is, it was never easy as it looked.

I kept going while Rowdy was by ensuring I was in his sight.

Once, we went far to the shore, to the deep part of the water with his surfboard. He let me go so I could practice my floating. He said, hold on to the surfboard if you can’t breathe anymore. So I did; I was an obedient student, And because of that, I almost drowned several times.

The near drowning was okay; I could handle this, But not even learning to float was my biggest insecurity. I almost gave up and hated myself for not learning to swim.

That didn’t end there, though. As my dear friend Tita said, keep calm and talk to the water. And as my husband always said, there’s nothing to lose. Keep going, So I did.

Eventually, I learned to swim while out in the water one morning.

Since then, I have run to the beach every morning and afternoon to practice swimming.

Rowdy is a good surfing instructor. If you ever come to San Juan, Elyu, look for him. He’s the best at what he does.

Renting an apartment in San Juan brought many good memories to cherish forever.

Renting an apartment in San Juan, Elyu, didn’t provide me only a place to stay but also contributed to many good memories that I will cherish forever.

When I thought about renting that apartment room in San Juan, I didn’t only think about staying alone all the time. Instead, I already considered it a vacation house where my family and friends could come over, and I would host them.

I had the privilege of inviting the people I liked, and we had great times together without breaking the bank. Moreover, making friends with the local neighbors was one of the ingredients that made my stay in San Juan unforgettable. Sometimes I got to chat and gossiped about things and laughed out loud with them.

Betting on jueteng– a numbers game played locally- was also one of my best memories.

Simple yet fun things I could not do back home in Germany.

Also, because of this apartment, I rode a local bus back and forth back to our house to pick up my mum in Calasiao, and vice versa. It’s only a three-hour bus ride, and I was so fond of it. Living in Germany and having a comfortable life, this simple chaos made my stay in San Juan memorable.

There were also a few days when I was alone and with my thoughts.

During this time, my mind was so relaxed and at peace. Most of all, I immensely enjoyed my apartment room and the beach.

The apartment grew in me very much. Thus, I was saddened that I had to leave after one month. Besides the unwritten contract, I also needed to return to Calasiao and pack my luggage for Germany.

I know.

On a personal note

Looking back, it made sense to me why I could not find a place to rent in the beginning because this particular room was waiting for me.

Renting this apartment in San Juan, Elyu, was the most unexpected event yet, one of the best decisions I’ve made during my stay in the Philippines. I never got over it. I remember my days by the beach and lying down at the hammock my Mommy lent me.

If we return to the Philippines again, I will ensure I bring my husband here.

To (re)create memories and say hello to Mami and Papi again.

I am beyond grateful to Papi and Mami for letting me stay in their place, even if it was almost impossible to say yes. And to the people who graced their precious time with me. My dear friends Mara, Jon, Paula, and family, my sister Amber and her friend, Kat, my nephew, Don, my Aunt Lyn, and my not-so-sweet but dearest Mommy, Insaw. And my ex-housemates who had been so kind to me, Rowdy, Abi, and Jade. Thank you, friends.

P.S. I know what you’re thinking, but don’t get your hopes up high. This particular apartment room in San Juan, Elyu, is not for long-term rent, even if it’s only one month. But you can use it for transient for around 700peso per night. Good luck, and please be friendly and kind and show respect o the residents there.

?Locsin Residence is located at San Fernando (geographically), La Union, in front of Boondocks resort, a few meters away from NFA San Fernando.

Born, raised, and forever loyal to the Philippines. Catherine is a teacher and a BA in Mass Communication graduate who loves anything child-friendly. She loves writing in her diary every day and is in love with beaches, books, Safari, and Tokyo. Her ultimate dream destinations are Madagascar, Mongolia, and Hawaii. Check out her van camping adventures in Europe at

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