It’s easy to be content and settle on a location once we are awestruck by its unfamiliar beauty. We lose the feeling of wanting to explore and know further about the place.
Besides what more is there to see when we already have fulfilled the purpose of our travel, to see what we have not seen and to step where we haven’t step before?
Such travelling attitude should be considered as being superficial. Everyone must believe that places are like humans. Places want a meaningful interaction with people. Places want people to exert all required effort and resources necessary to know them deeply. Not just say “Hi! Nice meeting you! Goodbye!” before a location can formally introduce itself.
(With a perfect beach like this who wouldn’t want to just settle and relax?)
I have always believed that you must not budget your resources and time so tightly in order to travel the world on a quantity basis and create a long checklist of places you have been to.
Every person should be willing to spend and give what’s necessary to know a location’s real story. If he doesn’t, he is more an ordinary tourist than a traveller.
Harnessing this travelling approach would definitely be rewarding, like earning a new friend, you will entirely feel connected to a location and come out of it with a new understanding about the world and life itself.
(Discovered this wonderful worker’s food stall just behind Alibuhod Resort’s main restaurant)
(My search for something unique, led me to taste this yummy soup made mainly from monggo beans [lentil] and langka [jackfruit]. All for only 25.00PHP [0.62USD])
So this leads me to Guimaras, a perfect example of all the things that I just mentioned. From the surface Guimaras looks like a brilliantly written feel good story. Majestic natural white sand beaches, incredible island scenery and lush green environment will lead all to believing this place has a story which can only have a happy ending. But underneath all the beauty is a really sad story. A story of what Guimaras once was.
It is easy to feel content once you see Guirmaras’ beauty. Understandably it is hard to avoid the feeling of contentment when you see the white sands of Alibuhod beach and the gorgeous islands surrounding it. But in reality Guimaras has more stories to tell. You must just have the motivation to know more.
Luckily due to the noise and crowdedness of Alibuhod beach, I avoided the trap of settling and being content. After a sleepless night due to the 24 hour karaoke singing, I decided to find a more secluded and peaceful area.
At first light I rode a jeepney not caring where it was going to go. My aim was to further explore island deeper led me into discovering Guisi beach cove. Here I have found all the peace that lacked from my everyday fast paced city life.
On top of Spanish era Guisi lighthouse I found solace seeing the entirety of the ocean under the bright sunny sky.
(Solace on top of Guisi Lighthouse Guimaras)
Again the beauty of the place tempted me to settle, and having already gone island hopping earlier on my trip. I was skeptical that there were really islands to explore for there were no visible islands from the shore. Thankfully the local residents forced me into hiring a bangka (a small motorized boat) to show me around.
Exploring the islands surrounding Guisi beach was like salvation, a few meters beyond what is visible and just boat ride away to the farthest corner of the Guisi beach cove, I was instantly awed by islands upon islands of unique rock faces with caves which seem to float over the serene glassy calm waters.
(View from the boat ride tour from Guisi Clearwater Beach Resort, Guimaras. These pictures doesn’t do the sights justice.)
The sights would certainly lead anyone to conclude that nothing wrong could have ever happened to this paradise.
But underneath all of it, under the same water I was floating in hides the sad reality.
Dipping my head beneath the glassy water, l instantly saw the effects of human intervention and irresponsibility against nature.
When asked about where the coral reefs were, Juan my boy guide answered:
“Sir wala na pong buhay na corals dito mula noong nagkaoil spill [Sir, there are no more living corals here since the oil spill happened]”.
(Juan and his father Guisi, Guimaras Boat tour guides)
Both he and his father were very knowledgeable where the corals once were as they brought me to these former corals sites to dive.
Each time I dove, I saw no life.
It is as if they knew there was nothing more to see and yet they were hoping for a miracle that there would still be something there to impress me.
The look of their faces every time I surface told me they were holding their breath waiting for me to share joyfully to them anything positive about what I saw below the waters.
But such joyful tales are inexistent. The hopeful look upon their faces being squashed every time I surfaced broke my heart the most.
Location after location they dropped me off, only for me to see the marine environment struggling. Miles upon miles of reef, only for me to see it all dead.
(Long-term effects of oil spill)
I could only imagine how it must have been in the past, they would drop someone off the boat and the person would come back awestruck. Now it is the opposite, still trying to impress , disappointment is all they get.
Such an experience made me very depressed, questioning why I am embarking on a travel project for this nation when too few care. How am I going to promote this nation in the presence of human madness? I came back to the beach cove from the boat dejected, hopeless and unmotivated with my cause.
I pondered if I should just give this project up. Should I stop travelling this country and spare myself from being even more depressed.
(Lifeless table coral)
It was then when I talked to Rosie. She narrated the story of Guimaras from her point of view. Even though she is directly affected by all of it, she still believes and hopes.
Still she develops her simple resort, with every bit of extra income she can get from its small operations. In an effort to decorate her resort and impress her visitors she buys protective nets to protect her budding ornamental plants from ocean elements.
When I expressed that I see her resort and the province developing in booming in the future and to hold on steadfast, she replied “Nako. Tatanda na ako hindi pa tapos ito pero ok lang para to sa mga kinabukasan ng anak ko( I would have grown old and this place wouldn’t be finished, but it’s ok because all of this is for the future of my kids)”.
(Rosie’s simple Guisi Clearwater Resort)
She added “Oo mga foreigner may nagbubuddget yan para sa travel mga Pinoy hindi. Kung may budget man ang Pinoy mostly gusto nila muna magtravel sa ibang bansa bago sa sarling bansa. Pero mukhang dumadami na ang mga Filipino traveler na tulad mo recently.” [Yes unlike foreigners who allot budget for travel ,Filipinos don’t. If ever they allot a budget, Filipinos prefer to travel abroad first than their own nation. But recently there have been an increased number of Filipino travelers like you].
She still strongly hopes that people from our own land would see the Philippines and eventually see her resort.
I instantly had an epiphany. If the people who are directly affected by this man-made disaster still believe that there is hope, who am I, a person from the outside looking in, not to believe?
(The show must go on. Travelling solo even if my friends backed out due to unforeseen events)
Going back to Manila it suddenly came back to me. We should all embark in this advocacy for the benefit of the simple and powerless people like them. In order to help them achieve what they hope for in the future. If we give up then we are just like those people who wrecked Guimaras, people who just don’t care and would have forsaken this country of ours.
Thus I must continue my advocacy, so as to be able to help in improving the quality of life the rural Philippines. I must not give up on this country and the people that have nothing but this country.
Right now Guimaras and most part of this country is currently going through the sad part story, but we must strive not to let be the ending.
Kindly be a traveller and further explore the Philippines and understand our country.
(New signs of life. There is great hope for Guimaras’ recovery)
(Nicco Lampa visited Guimaras, Philippines from July 6, 2012 until July 8,2012)