At Sea with Aika Pineda

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Aika Pineda treads the waters between her career and her advocacy with eco-organization Ocean Ripple

“The ocean isn’t really hard to love, and the connection isn’t difficult to find,” says Aika Pineda. Having spent childhood summers in a house fronting the sea, she developed an affinity for the water at an early age. “I learned to throw cannonballs and swim into the ocean with my cousins—destructive kids who love the sea so much that we’d spend the entire day under the sun until we burnt our skins,” she recalls fondly. “I suppose that’s when I first fell in love with the sea—through the simple joys that it brought to little Aika.”

These days, Aika is a PADI Divemaster who also runs Ocean Ripple, an eco-organization and movement of sustainable efforts. Through this lifestyle advocacy, the organization aims to raise awareness and create initiatives to reduce plastic footprints. They conduct frequent ocean cleanups, as well as sell merchandise such as t-shirts, bamboo tumblers, reusable straws and utensils, and accessories.

“Anybody and everyone is welcome to become a part of this advocacy. Ocean Ripple isn’t just a group of individuals who share advocacy,” she says. “It’s also a lifestyle, an eco-organization, and an avenue for people who want to protect our ocean. It is a place where you and I can talk about our love for diving and the ocean. It’s a safe haven where we can share our thoughts and interests about the sea.”

Aika envisions to see Ocean Ripple’s advocacy shared not only nationally, but on a global scale. “It would be great to see people unite for a greater purpose,” she shares. “For the time being, we are looking into ways to contribute within our capabilities, as well as opportunities to develop a more tangible solution to help save our ocean, seeking information on ocean science.”

Looking back, Aika admits she had reservations if Ocean Ripple made sense. “But then I finally had the courage to start it the moment I realized that life was no longer about me, that life is about how much I can contribute to the world, about how I can be a better part of the world,” she explains. “And I had a distinct feeling that I wasn’t the only one who felt this way. At the back of my mind, I’ve always wondered whether there were others. That’s when I had the thought to create an avenue for people like us to connect and meet. A space where we can collaborate and create tangible solutions together. A place where we can express and share our love for the ocean. As [the marine biologist] Sylvia Earle once said,  ‘No one can do everything that needs to be done, but everyone can do something.’”

Having just started Ocean Ripple a few months before the pandemic, Aika likewise experienced setbacks once strict quarantine measures were implemented. “We had cleanup plans canceled, and even our online shop—which supports our cleanup initiatives—had to halt operations because of the restrictions,” she remembers. “It was difficult for us at first, but it eventually served as a redirection rather than a rejection. We discovered new ways to make it work even when the pandemic struck. I believe the key was learning how to handle uncertainties with grace.”

It’s just one of the many life lessons that was taught to her by the ocean. “Life can be very simple and yet can be beautifully lived,” she says. “The ocean’s simplicity brings me so much peace and joy, and it truly serves as a great reminder that we are very fortunate to be able to live it for free.”

When she’s not busy with Ocean Ripple, Aika dotes on her niece, having a good laugh, and spending time with family and friends. “I believe in the power of equilibrium‑ balancing my time with the things and people who matter to me. And I suppose that the best thing we can give to those we care about is our time,” she shares. “So, as much as possible, I try to make time for the people who are most significant to me. Apart from that I just treat every day like my last day, I try to do things to fill my tank physically, mentally, spiritually and so on.”

Having attended the International School for Culinary Arts and Hotel Management International School for Culinary Arts and Hotel Management (ISCAHM), Aika also helps run Benjie’s, which opened at Hostel 7 in November 2021. She manages it with two of her closest friends, serving chicken sandwiches and tenders, among others. Additionally, she works as a senior project manager for a digital marketing agency.

It’s a balancing act, being busy with her career while also focusing on her advocacy. “Like I previously mentioned, I believe in the power of equilibrium. Find ways to enjoy what you’re doing while also exploring new opportunities,” she says. “In different facets of your life, both your career and your passion may serve different purposes. Maintain balance and build up your discipline by putting heart and intention in everything that you do.”

Finding your purpose has something to do with your own strength. We all have different capabilities, talents and skills, and as long as you find that strength of yours, take a hold of it, mold it and put action into it. Thoughts are just thoughts, as well as dreams are just dreams if we don’t put action to it. Although I also believe our purpose changes over time as we grow, so when you feel your heart pumping a little faster while doing something, don’t stop doing them; that might be your purpose for that season in your life.

Aika Pineda

“To be honest, living a life of purpose filled my tank with sunnier days, it filled me with joy, love and laughter, wisdom, and a lot more. It may not always be sunny days but I always try find ways to dance gracefully under the rain,” she concludes. “We only have one life, so we may as well live it with grace.”

Photos courtesy of Aika Pineda

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