Seeking Solace: How Matt Tiongco And Mia Azurin Find Peace In The Mountains

Photographed by Artu Nepomuceno for the April 2024 Issue of Vogue Philippines.

Take a moment to pause. Nature is a pathway to inner peace and spiritual rejuvenation.

“Nature heals,” remarks 24-year-old mountaineer Matt Tiongco. 

“Sometimes, I trek in silence; moments where I’m just listening to the birds chirping, listening to water flowing, listening to the wind. There’s just something, I guess, primal about being in touch with your surroundings.” 

He recalls a multi-day climb, in the company of towering trees draped in moss, the swoosh of river streams, and a 360 degree view of mountains rugged against the backdrop of a sea of clouds.

“It’s a meditative experience in itself,” he shares.

The mountains are undoubtedly a stark contrast to the concrete jungle of urban Metro Manila. In today’s hyper connected life, we are glued to our mobile phones, viewing life through screens. We dream about our next holiday trip and sit waiting for the weekend to come for a hint of relaxation and rejuvenation. But, what if all it takes is to pay attention? 

Mia Azurin has always been passionate about the environment, evident in her work in addressing plastic waste with local impact organization Hope. Following the passing of her father due to leukemia in 2022, Mia found solace in her father’s love for hiking. “When my dad passed in November, I guess that really just pushed me even further to really connect with him per se in the mountains,” she shares. “When you’re surrounded by nature and you see how tiny we are, it keeps you grounded and it makes you put things into perspective that my problems aren’t as big as I thought they were.”

In the same year, she founded the Sunday Hike Club, a community of over 250 members, bound by a shared passion for conquering summits and chasing waterfalls.

The sustainability advocate believes that the growing interest in hiking activities stems from a deep longing for comfort and connection. For Matt and Mia, comfort is discovered in quiet moments, feeling one’s smallness within the breadth of landscapes and the intricacy of the living environment. The natural world coaxes them to slow down and to breathe. 

Alongside hikers in the club, this practice extends to other aspects of their lives. They take the time to live offline, run with friends, practice yoga, and observe the world through the lens of wonder.

According to trend reports in Wunderman Thompson’s The Future 100, a growing movement toward sustainability and a deeper appreciation for the environment is taking root among the digital generation, and trend predictions suggest these values will carry on. Instagram feeds are brimming with carousel posts not only of hiking adventures but of snapshots of the mundane: a fallen flower on the ground, a stray cat sleeping on a bed of grass, a city sunset.

Yutori” is a Japanese concept defined as “living with spaciousness.” It is the space you lend yourself to have time to settle and look around when you arrive early to an event, the space you give yourself to reflect on a poem after reading it. It is the space you consciously leave unfilled—to let yourself and the world around you simply exist. It suggests that taking a moment to pay attention to the natural world is akin to creating space within ourselves. 

At the summit of the mountain, whether collecting seashells and washed up corals on the beach, or simply observing sunlight refracting through the office windows, nature offers a chance to exhale. We don’t have to look far. Peace is all around us, if we allow ourselves to take a moment to pause, and look up. 

Vogue Philippines: April 2024 Issue

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