BORACAY, BC (before the closure).
In September of 2014, I may have been the most dressed person ever to stride on the powdery fine sandbar of the country’s most famous and now, most contested tourist spot.
In my pants, T-shirt, sneakers, socks, and cap, I accompanied my sister and nieces, visiting from Sydney.
Even now, I don’t think of Boracay as several beaches. It is an item to cross out in a bucket list, a spectacle, a market. It is what happens when you put side-by-side a pretty shore and a strip of land embellished with all the contraptions and establishments answering the human craving for the exotic and the familiar.
Boracay is what happens when tourism meets its targets spot on, and the whole world checks out the fabled sand and takes a selfie against the advertised sunset.
It was in Boracay where I saw the first selfie stick, as demonstrated by a peddler and his smart phone. During one afternoon stroll, I was mistaken for three Asian nationalities, none of which was Filipino. And the persons guessing were fellow Filipinos.
While a street artist embellished keychains with the names of all the relatives and friends back home—not once repeating a design—I listened to his stories of traveling from Bohol with his wife—offering massage nearby—to find their fortune in Boracay.
Hours later, when I tried to find him to order more key chains, I could not find the young couple from Bohol. Or maybe I just couldn’t remember their faces in the waves of people endlessly breaking up on the strip and drifting away like sea foam.
I had looked at their eyes as I listened to their stories. Initially as a journalist checking out non-verbal cues to gauge the real value of what was verbally offered. Then, without my knowing, as someone who also had been young and followed impetuously where dreams beckoned.
In Boracay, I forgot. That is not due to the place. It is easy to forget as a tourist. The beaches I remember are the ones I went to as a child, a lover, a mother.
In the southeastern coast of Cebu, a colleague and I documented fishermen installing artificial reefs (ARs) made of bamboo. The village had finally decided they would not fish in the waters for years to allow marine life to recover.
When D. and I came out in frumpy one-piece bathing suits, the fishermen looked away. They said their wives would give them hell if they transported in their banca women undressed like prostitutes.
So, in our report, there are photos of D. and I beaming with the village men after we made the “wet launch” of the the villagers’ marine sanctuary.
The lousiest of swimmers, I am clinging to a bamboo outrigger, struggling to stay afloat while fully dressed in jeans and T-shirt.