BORACAY IN MY MIND
By Pablo A. Tariman
I am not one person you can invite to a place just because it was fashionable to be seen there.
Thus, many years earlier, I was not in a hurry to see Boracay.
I was born in an island probably as idyllic as Boracay and I am not easily impressed by tourism come-ons.
Imagine my shock when a major network invited me to cover a re-screening of an old film called “Temptation Island” with all its original cast attending. When I first watched the film in 1980, the members of the cast were mostly beauty queens in their 20s or 30s and meeting them once again in this paradise island many decades later would be a virtual test if they grew old gracefully.
After swimming at day time (by the sea and in the hotel pool), a media colleague and I were invited to beach party with some of the members of the original cast of the campy film in attendance.
When you have turned 60 and find yourself in a beach party for movie stars, you know this was not the place for you. The music was not pleasing to my ears and to drown recurring attack of ennui, I downed one bottle of beer after another and soon I became friendly to the stars now into their 50s and 60s.
“Temptation Island” is not a favorite film but as I reflect on that Boracay trip some years back, it might as well describe the island for all that it has become.
When I said yes to the trip, I imagined a quiet moment by the beach, contemplating the moon and the stars and enjoying the fine, golden sand.
But none of that would happen.
The beach party music was the moment of truth and even as I enjoyed one bottle of beer after another to blend with the dominantly young crowd, I felt betrayed. You get a good hotel accommodation and meals, but you have to survive this party, survive the crowd and survive the banal conversation.
Nearing midnight, I went with a media colleague who was a cross between a movie star and a beauty queen and together with another media friend, we lay over the fine sand and reflected on the beauty of the place now reduced to an inferno of sound from drums and electric guitars.
That was all I enjoyed in the island, this moment you could lie on the sand and contemplate the universe.
My favorite spot in the island was a coffee shop called Sonata and while I enjoyed the mineral water which was all I could afford, I wonder how the place looked like minus the phalanx of tourists literally crawling all over the place.
Years later, my granddaughter would make sand castles in Boracay and I would avoid it like a plague even if hosts would dangle free hotel accommodation and other amenities.
This year when the island earned the moniker “cesspool” from no less than the president of the country, I knew that this moment of truth was bound to come sooner or later.
Like the banal film I re-watched, the place has evolved into a virtual Temptation Island with luxury hotels and casinos sprouting like mushrooms, so to speak.
As it is, the closure of Boracay is a wakeup call for LGUs to take care of their natural attractions. Its message is beware of tourist influx at the expense of the environment.
Because when a natural paradise deteriorates into a “cesspool,” no one is to blame but the very important visitors masquerading as tourists and investors.
Also equally guilty are the local villagers and the island demigods who allowed the virtual rape of paradise.