With her tanned skin and sun-streaked hair, Lea Duhaylungsod is the epitome of a beach girl. Followed by 50,600 people, her Instagram profile Lea Goes On chronicles her life on the island of Siargao—it’s hard not to get caught up in wanderlust when you’re looking at snapshots of her riding the waves on a surfboard, lounging on the beach underneath coconut trees, or silhouetted against the orange and pink sunset over the water.
In her opinion though, none of that is all that remarkable. “I’m still just a normal girl sharing photos of what I want the world to see,” she says. “I guess people like going through my feed to get a dose of sunshine.”
The 27-year-old Lea had been interested in photography since she was a little girl. “I remember using a compact point and shoot that I won from a raffle. I only got to have a proper DSLR when I was 18,” she recalls. Despite the lack of proper equipment though, she developed an eye and aesthetic that was her own. “I like taking portraits, and playing with shadows and natural light.”
This early exposure to taking photos was coupled with an early appreciation for the sea. As a child, Lea’s family had constantly moved back and forth between Oroquieta in Misamis Occidental, where her dad was from, and Cebu. “We lived by the sea in both provinces, so swimming has always been part of my childhood,” she shares.
“Our family’s main source of income is fishing, so that explains it,” she continues with a laugh. “I remember our favorite thing to do with my cousins during Sundays was to take our company’s boats and just sail to the ocean. I can never imagine myself living far away from the ocean.”
It might have been inevitable, then, that Lea now lives in Siargao full-time as a hotel manager at Arka Hayahay. She’d visited the island for the first time in 2010 with her family, but it wasn’t until she returned for a solo trip in 2013 that she fell in love. “I explored the places all alone, and I already felt like I was home,” she admits. “I love the simple and laidback lifestyle that we have here. We even walk around barefoot.”
It’s that quintessential island lifestyle that Lea captures perfectly on her Instagram feed, and the secret to it might be in how she does it all in a relatively organic way. “I just simply take a photo from my perspective. I take a photo of something based on how I see it,” she explains. “It’s my sister who takes most of my photos, or whoever in the house is available. I compose the photo first and ask them to click the shutter.”
Despite her considerable following, though, Lea does not like to call herself an online personality. “Being an introvert, I’m really very shy whenever people ask to take a photo of me, so that itself is a challenge,” she admits, although that hint of bashfulness seem to add to her approachable charm—snapshots of her looking away or hiding her face behind giant leaves add a sense of mystery and playfulness that makes her work all the more appealing.
Lea does admit this careful curation can sometimes feel like a career in itself. “My Instagram has become a part-time job now,” she says. “I get sponsored internationally from different clothing and bikini lines, to skincare products, watches and sunglasses. Products that perfectly fit my lifestyle.” Some of the brands she’s worked with include international swimwear lines like In Your Arms, Kulani Kinis, Storm Swimwear and Taje Clothing.
It’s clear that Lea has a good sense of who she is, and working with brands loyal to her lifestyle makes it easier to integrate into her feed. Of course, it helps that Siargao’s photogenic landscape becomes the perfect backdrop to these snapshots.
“The tower is still my favorite go-to place whenever I want to unwind, although I have a lot of secret spots,” Lea shares about her favorite spots on the island, referring to the tower at the end of the Cloud Nine boardwalk. “There are many things to do on the island, and one of them of course is surfing.”
Lea herself had recently developed a passion for surfing, although she first tried it out three years ago. “I only used to do it very seldom, but now I’m surfing almost everyday to the point that I get frustrated whenever I can’t surf,” she laughs. More than just a fun way to stay fit, Lea enjoys it on an almost spiritual level. “It’s like being one with the ocean. It makes me feel free whenever I ride on a wave.”
Despite the way Lea Goes On has given her a huge reach online, at its core is still a girl who likes posting photos of where she is and where she’s going. “I’m really happy that I get to share the beautiful places that I visit, and show the world that the simple lifestyle I’m living in Siargao, hoping that it will make us realize that we don’t need much just to be happy in life,” Lea shares.
Through her island aesthetics, Lea seems to have proven that simplicity is indeed beautiful and that a laidback approach to life might be the secret to happiness. When asked what the most important lesson she’s learned in life is, she smiles and answers quite fittingly, “It goes on.”
Aside from surfing, what’s your workout routine?
Running…away from bad food. [laughs] I don’t work out at all. I just try to eat real food as much as possible.
What sunscreen do you use?
Zinc for surfing from Key Sun PH
Beauty product you can’t live without?
Kapuluan Coconut Oil
Considering you’re at the beach a lot, you have a beautiful tan. Do you think there is still a prejudice against morena girls in the Philippines?
I think as long as the whitening products exist, there will always be a prejudice against morena girls, especially in the big cities. When I’m inside a mall, I keep getting a lot of ruse stares, people looking at me from head to foot. All I do is walk straigth and smile.
To you, what is beauty?
Beauty is more than just physical appearance. It’s not just the fairness of the skin, the smoothness of the hair and the body type. It’s being genuine and pure. It’s being able to recognize the beauty in you, and the beauty in each one of us.
Who are the women in your life that are beautiful?
My mom, of course. And you, the one reading this. Remember, you are beautiful.