A place is as vibrant as its people and so whenever you can, mingle with the locals. Talk to them.
There seems to be so many things to complain about the Philippines these days—the historical revisionism, the indiscriminate killings, the rising cost of everything and the sinking feeling that things are slowly going down the drain for all of us.
And so, while we all still can, I say let’s go to that one thing we can’t bitch about in the Philippines, the beach.
Okay, I can already hear naysayers snapping, “How about Boracay?” Well, you know, it wasn’t Boracay’s fault that it became such a mess. We did that. It was obvious to everyone that the tiny island must have a threshold of some kind, but developers continued to build resorts left and right. The local government allowed them, and the public patronized them. It is all very unfortunate.
Beaching the islands
In one of my past reincarnations, I was the editor of a travel magazine, flying in and out of Manila every month or so, exploring the beauty of the islands. The gig was as tiring as it was exciting, but it only made me love my country even more. That experience, along with so many other trips I’ve taken through the years, schooled me in how to make the most out of every beach experience. Here are but some of them.
Walk a little further. Don’t set camp on the first available spot of sand you see. Wander around. In Boracay, we found a quiet cove with a beautiful cave formation just waiting to be explored. At Patar Beach in Bolinao, we walked towards the edge of the coast and found bamboo tables under this massively beautiful tree. The shade sure beat lying under the piercing rays of the sun.
Manage your expectations. You may have been told that this is the best so-and-so or it’s a beautiful this-and-that, but until you’ve actually been to the place or you’ve read a review from a credible source, don’t hold your breath. I once went to a junket where we were to spend the night on an island and sleep in tents. The island was fine, but the accommodations, not so. I thought the only way I was going to get any sleep was if I was drunk! So that’s how I found myself, and a bunch of other journalists, walking through farmlands in the middle of the night in search of something exciting to drink! Mwahahahaha!
Listen to the fisherfolk. Because our country is comprised of more than 7,000 islands, you’re going to be riding a lot of boats to get to your destination. Always keep safety in mind. These seacraft are going to be in various states, and if you think you’re not going to be safe then don’t push your luck. And always, always listen to the people in that coastal community! I didn’t listen, and I lived to regret it! Thank God! We were going to Malapascua, but the fishermen had warned us that the waves were too big and that we should stay the night at the port. I didn’t listen, of course, and ended up sailing through a very rough seas, with our boat traversing through waves as big as houses, I kid you not!
Mingle with the locals. A place is as vibrant as its people, and so whenever you can, mingle with the locals. Talk to them. Drink with them. Sing with them. They’ll let you in on little secrets that most tourists wouldn’t know about. Oh, and yes, please contribute to their livelihood by purchasing their products and patronizing their services. We spent a couple of days in Subic Beach, in Matnog, at the edge of Luzon. Some of the folks, after hearing of the presence of tourists, walked for a couple of hours to offer their products—these beautifully woven bags with lovely color combinations. I got a bunch of them. They were so pretty!
Don’t be a bitch. Don’t go asking for WiFi or complaining if there isn’t any. You’re at the beach. Get off your phone, and enjoy the view. Obey house rules. Respect the culture.
Respect nature. And don’t be litterbug. Take home any trash you brought with you.