SOMEWHERE in the western Pacific Ocean lies an island so small you can miss it on the map. It is three hours 30 minutes aboard Cebu Pacific Air from Manila.
In this small island you can shop with wanton abandon because retail goods are tax-free. On a good day, they cost 30 percent less than in Cebu malls, and on a super fantastic day, even 70 percent.
You can have free access to the beaches anytime, high tide or low tide. You can run from your car to the beach, your bridal veil or toupee blowing behind you in the wind, without anyone barricading you to collect entrance fees.
You can wear shirt and shorts anywhere you go.
And in this small island in the western Pacific Ocean, things get started or accomplished in half a day. Everyone greets everyone Hafa Adai (pronounced half-a-day)! No day is ever full in this part of the Pacific.
This small island is Guam. Population: 160,000 or thereabout.
Guam is a US territory in the Micronesia, whose proximity to the Philippines makes its inhabitants resemble Filipinos in looks and disposition until you hear them speak with an American twang. It’s not a surprise then that the number one ethnic group in Guam is Filipino.
Since it’s a US territory, a US visa is required to enter Guam. Even flying Cebu Pacific Air for only P6,000 or so one way won’t help if you don’t have a US visa. Without a US visa, you might opt for a smaller island, like Bantayan, that unfortunately doesn’t offer the same kind of shopping frenzies Guam does.
If you have a valid US visa, book a roundtrip ticket now for travel anytime between Nov. 10 and Feb. 28, 2018. It’s the Shop Guam Festival!!!
It’s a triple exclamation point because the best shopping deals happen within this period!!!
During the Shop Guam Festival, the price drop is stupendous, you’ll find out that your $100 already buys you five pairs of Nikes or Naturalizers!!!
Book that flight now!!! Cebu Pacific flies to Guam from Manila three times a week. If you’re coming from outside Manila, take a late night flight to Manila and hang around Terminal 3 of the Ninoy Aquino International Airport until check-in for Guam at 2 a.m.
Don’t scrimp on the hotel because you will need a luxurious bed to rest in after a frenetic “half-a-day” of shopping. Think Sheraton Laguna Guam Resort where the beds provide you with the comfort of a deep slumber.
Shop till you drop is taken literally in Guam. With retail prices so low items are almost given away, you will want to buy the entire mall.
Without duties, retail goods can be sold cheap. The retail goods are a mix of the baratillo and the branded. You find the labels at the Tumon Sands Plaza, which cuts prices at specific hours and thereby keeps you raring to swipe your credit cards.
Sale hours at Tumon Sands Plaza convert female shoppers into a prayerful lot. Lord please don’t let anyone else see that Fendi bag Please God don’t let me exceed my credit limit Please Lord derail that woman because she’s eyeing the last pair of Tod’s.
At times God answers their prayers. Most often, He directs them to Guam Premier Outlets (GPO).
At GPO, you are advised to check your sanity every so often because you can go overboard with shopping because, like, it’s grabe ka barato. You can buy clothes one season late for only $5 or $10 and a big pack of Jelly Belly for $5.
Ross Dress for Less, one of the stores inside GPO, is open from 6 a.m. to 1:30 a.m. the next day. In Guam, they make you shop till you drop.
That’s why you do need a comfortable bed to sleep in after shopping. Sheraton’s bed revives you from shopping stupor.
With all the stuff you’ve shopped, how you take them home is a matter of style. You buy baggage credits, you wear some of them on your flight back, or stuff them in your carry-on (only one carry-on bag weighing seven kilos maximum and your handbag if you carry one).
Is there anything you can do in Guam aside from shopping? What if you run out of money, which is not far from happening, even on your first trip to GPO?
There is more to Guam than shopping. There are the beaches, but we have them in Cebu, too. Diving is popular in Guam, so is it in Cebu. Cebu’s nightlife is better than Guam’s. Food in Cebu has more flavor and prices don’t differ much.
Among its attractions is the Two Lover’s Point in Tumon, where it can get blustery and mess up your hairdo and billow your loose-fitting clothes.
There’s also the Valley of the Latte Adventure Park where at some point, you are treated to the sight of young, strapping Ulitao men in g-strings. Not bad.
Aren’t there US military bases in Guam?
“We don’t promote the military bases because they are not tourist attractions,” Pilar Laguña, director of global marketing of Guam Visitors Bureau, said in an interview with journalists from the Visayas and Mindanao at the Pacific Star Resort and Spa in Guam in late August 2017.
True. The bases are off-limits to tourists for security reasons.
Is Guam safe amid security threats from North Korea?
“Guam is very safe. It is very significant to the United States and the US will protect Guam. If you know Guam, you are very safe,” Laguña assured.
*The author has returned from Guam in high spirits after four days of shopping and touring, proof that Guam is a safe place for everyone. The trip on August 26-29 was sponsored by Cebu Pacific Air and Guam Visitors Bureau.
Published in the SunStar Cebu newspaper on October 12, 2017.
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