Room 137, The Manor Hotel, Camp John Hay. I am in Baguio as I write this, but two other places are on my mind.
Last month, I had the chance to join a trip to Boracay, which I first visited in 1999. I trooped to the world-famous beach along with colleagues from the local media, particularly those from the Provincial Capitol Press Corps. Of course, we had a lot of fun. The beach was superb. And there was overflowing beer and wine, countless platters of gustatory delights, and a lot of the three S= Swimming, Shopping, and Sayawan. No, there was no fourth S, it was all clean fun.
But my happiness was coupled with, and I think other members of the group share this sentiment, a certain degree of uneasiness marveling at how alive the scene in Bora is, and how many tourists, a number of them from other countries, visit. No matter how we rationalized, and no matter how much we love Ilocos as we really do, we had to admit to ourselves that Pagudpud is a little behind. But not in terms of beauty, God knows how more naturally gifted Pagudpud is, but in terms of amenities, events, and merchandise.
In Boracay, there is a wide array of restaurants you can choose from. For someone like me who really loves food (and SanMig Light), it is really a joy. There, you can buy cheaply-priced souvenir items; for example, shirts could go as low as eighty pesos apiece, colorful sarongs at one hundred something. At night, you can choose to party or simply sit on a bench facing the beach, while sipping on glass of freshly squeezed juice. I particularly enjoyed watching the fire dance by the shore. Heartstopping. Breathtaking. Fabulous. The show was so good that even kuripot Ilocanos like us were happy to give the performers our love offerings. If these things can be enjoyed in Bora, why not in Bura? (“Bura” is how my friends fondly call the adorable beach in Brgy. Burayoc, Pagudpud.)
The usual excuse of those who block further development in Pagudpud is the destruction of Mother Nature. Boracay, however, proves that development and the safeguarding of Mother Nature can go hand in hand. For instance, smoking is prohibited near the beach and violators are slapped with a five-hundred peso fine. This is strictly implemented as policemen in short pants patrol the area day and night. Also, an environmental fee of seventy pesos per visitor is collected before boarding a Boracay-bound jetty at the Caticlan Port. With almost a million visitors every summer, the environmental fees sum up to something really big enough to jumpstart and sustain ecological conservation programs.
The beauty of the place notwithstanding, it really means nothing if you are not in good company. Even in you are in the world’s most beautiful island, your vacation would turn out a nightmare if you find yourself with folks from hell.
I am lucky to have been in good company. The group is tightly-knit, and members call each other “doldog” as a term of endearment. There was Leilanie Adriano who was always perky, alluring, and sweet. Vicky Adena, the feisty queen of the Capitol Press Corps. The youthfully cute Argie Lorenzo who, together with Edmar Ines, consumed two buckets of San Mig Light faster than the drum beat of a Bombo. The picture perfect Maricel Laeda and Lani Pugat. The diminutive and charming Maggie Tunac and Arlene Domingsil. Ronald Valdriz who is an expert at mimicking voices. And the fun-loving folks from the Communication and Media Office of the Capitol—BJ, Reishan, Alaric, Ariel, Ricky, and Jun. But my most favorite was Anthony Dumlao, a very kind and caring fellow with whom, after a few swigs of beer, I had interesting conversations on the church and its hierarchy.