On the beach

If we don’t transcend past exploitative follies on our beaches like what painfully happened with Boracay, our beaches will be distant memories.

Our fabulous beaches pull the rest of the world in.

And, in the process, silences foreign visitors during a limpid rosy sunset trance, transfixed before the sea’s all-consuming infinities “in a way not possible on a hill, or canyon, or dune.”

Yet, we have rough love over the caresses of our delicate white or golden powdery-sand beaches and the clearest textures of our waters, iridescent in its diverse cerulean or turquoise, or teal hues.

A rough love that often turns destructive which makes me wonder if we truly deserve the grace of having the world’s best beaches as recently recognized when the country was awarded as 2022’s “World’s Leading Beach Destination” at the 29th World Travel Awards.

For the first time, the country bested other nominees such as Jamaica, Greece, Santa Monica in California, Turks and Caicos Islands, Mexico, Thailand, Maui, Maldives, and Ecuador’s Galapagos Islands.

The same travel awards also hailed the country as the “World’s Leading Dive Destination” for a fourth consecutive year, beating even Australia’s Great Barrier Reef.

Still, reward or no reward the country cannot but beam with pride over its beaches and dive sites.

Spoiled for choices have we of splendid beaches that idyllic Boracay’s world celebrated “White Beach” and its “glorious, powdered-sugar sand” is but one sun, sand, and surf paradise.

Another one is San Vicente, Palawan’s 50-meter wide “Long Beach 2” seven-kilometer uninterrupted stretch of a beach quivering under the lights of a liquid pink-hued sunset; or there is isolated “Toytoy Beach” on the remote northwest of Catanduanes, sanctified not only by its dazzling virgin sands but also by its marvelous coral formations out in the offing; or there’s Instagram delicious “Sandira Beach’s” white sand and shade umbrellas backdrops, five kilometers east of Santa Fe, on Bantayan Island, Cebu; or there’s the “Great Sta. Cruz Island, Zamboanga.” Named one of the 21 best beaches in the world by National Geographic, this marine reserve beach, gently washed by the Sulu Seas’ pure sea, has a face powdered with blushing pink sands.

Plenty indeed are other spectacles of beach wonders in almost all our islands.

Yet, all these beach beauties are not inexhaustible and can be no more than evanescent whispers should we not seriously care and sustain them in our frenzied rush inviting, enticing the world to visit and take a cool dip as we again re-open all of them.

Doubtless, the country’s year-long sun and beach tourism plays a substantial part in our economy.

In pre-pandemic times it accounted for a major share of the Tourism industry’s whopping 13 percent contribution to the country’s Gross Domestic Product.

Yet, if we don’t transcend past exploitative follies on our beaches like what painfully happened with Boracay, our beaches will be distant memories.

In fact, a policy paper from the Asian Development Bank warns policy makers to shy away from “business models that are purely extractive in nature and more towards integrating conservation, protection, and rehabilitation” of our marine ecosystems like our seas and beaches.

And time isn’t on our side. The country scores below the global average score of 71 on the Ocean Health Index, which is the framework for comprehensively assessing an ocean’s socio-ecological marine systems.

An alarming fact since it suggests the country has been exploiting the ocean and its marine resources in ways that are not sustainable.

Our exquisite beaches and their lingering freshness just cannot exist in the absence of healthy seas and oceans, by the way.

Significantly too sand and beach tourism similarly got despairingly low scores for sustainability, largely because of over-tourism that’s tautening to the breaking point of many of our beach destinations.

Confronting face-to-face, therefore, tourism-related environmental cruelties — overcrowding, destruction of natural habitats, poor waste management, and pollution — is the necessarily responsible pause we need to do even as we celebrate our beaches.

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