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Another island

By Jullie Y. Daza

Boracay, “hindi ka nag-iisa.” You’re not the only paradise to be lost in order to be found again. As the Wall Street Journal reports, Thailand, Indonesia, and other countries in Southeast Asia are doing the same with their once-idyllic beaches.

Indonesia’s fabled Bali is the site of a “garbage emergency” where hundreds of volunteers are deployed to “cart tons of plastic trash off beaches.” Thailand’s Maya Bay on Phi Phi Leh, where Leonardo di Caprio filmed The Beach, will be shut down “four months a year to allow it to recover.”

In another sense, Boracay is not alone: There are other dream destinations in our 7,000 islands. Not too long ago, Tourism Secretary Wanda Teo was quoted by a newspaper as saying, “Forget Boracay. Go on a tour of Malabon,” where upon she gamely boarded a pedicab.

While our most famous resorts are far from Manila and accessible only by air, there’s one beach that’s reachable by land, three hours by car from Manila on roads that are incredibly smooth and wide. I’m thinking Montemar Beach Club in Bagac, Bataan, which offers unexpected pleasures such as its nearness to the West Philippine Sea, which should be of particular interest to those highly skilled and extremely adventurous in water sports. For landlubbers, the resort boasts a luxuriant mini-forest of indigenous trees that harbor a colony of native birds, perfect for birdwatching.

(The club manager is himself a birdwatcher.) While you watch the waves, the trees and birds, it’s the baby turtles – pawikan – that will delight the children as they (turtles) crawl out of the sand almost as soon as they’re hatched.

“Montemar is the home of pawikan,” proudly announced a beachcomber as he prepared to fly his drone to take pictures from the air.

The best thing about Montemar is that it’s not Tagaytay and it’s not Baguio – no traffic! – and it’s not Boracay. Out there under the moon and stars at night, I’m free to do nothing but to call it a day after achieving nothing.

The club is “for members only,” a cachet that shouldn’t be a problem in a country where everybody knows everybody and looking for a friendly member to endorse one’s stay is as easy as taking a walk on the seashore. On the other hand, the lessons of Boracay, Phuket, Bali seem to imply that from now on we should be very possessive of whom we allow into our islands in the sun.

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