The Philippines–what more to say? A country with over 7,000 islands, each having their own culture and affair; it’s no wonder people from all over the world seek refuge to this undeniably beautiful and unique enchantment of islands. For the lone traveler craving adventure, or, for the honeymooners looking for an array of crystal clear beaches to spend their getaways–it’s got it all. Not to mention the diverse culture each island comprises of: language, custom, food; almost making each island seem to be a country of their own.
Our first stop in the Philippines, Mactan, couldn’t have been a better introduction. It taught us the know-how on taking Jeepneys (the infamous transportation of choice by the locals), delicious street food, beautiful pristine beaches, wonderful people, and so much more. When flying into the Mactan airport, it’s more common to head straight to Cebu, and by-pass what Mactan has to offer. We decided to stay on Mactan since we found a pretty cheap Airbnb in a great location. A decision I’ll never regret. It also set the mark for what would be the start of our “island-life” trek for the next few months traveling around the Philippines and Indonesia.
But despite the charm, beautiful beaches, jovial smiles from every local passer-by, I couldn’t help but notice something while exploring this beautiful and quaint island…which was, how separated the local communities were from the touristic establishments surrounding the island. I use the term “separated” in a more literal and aesthetic sense. Literal, because much of the island is literally separated by large walls, sometimes barbed-wired, between the local communities and the established tourism–and aesthetically, because it made for such a symbolic representation.
As with most go-to tropical islands, Mactan’s coastline is hugged with hotels/resorts and since our Airbnb was a Jeepney ride away from any beaches, a good chunk of our time was spent wandering the central areas of the island, and looking back, I don’t ever recall seeing a foreigner/tourist. So this gives you an idea of what the dynamic was between the coastal and central areas. Also, due to the islands small size, it seemed to be much more apparent.
The first few days arriving and exploring the island, it was a bit unsettling gazing up at the giant walls twined with barbed wire and realizing that every person who had come, could probably care less about what was on the other side–the local community. But I soon realized that none of this seemed to be relevant and the local community still thrived. It was as if each community (local and tourist) were their own entity minding their own business. Whether thats good or bad I’m not really sure, but nonetheless it didn’t really seem to effect the locals; economically or morally. This might of been the most intriguing part about our experience here–really shedding light on my Philippine experience on the island of Mactan.
My assumptions of a “touristy” place, such as Mactan, is that it makes for potential issues within the local community–mind you, every place works in its own way. In actuality I’ve come to realize that this is a terrible assumption to begin with. For any place, it has both positives and negatives–so who’s to say? Don’t get me wrong, the impact on factors such as infrastructure, the environment, socio-cultural aspects, etc., have there place, but that matter is for a different time and place. This was just a simple observation I thought would be worth sharing.
Nonetheless, Mactan island is extremely beautiful and I would highly advise anyone not to miss it. We had an incredible time here and it also proved to me that the Filipino people sure do have a way with their smile; some of the kindest people I have ever met. It was such a compelling time, I even decided to write a little poem. Not only about Mactan, but the Philippines as a whole. A country steeped in uncanny beauty and mysticism, I thought it would be best to sum up our experience in some word-play. Enjoy!
Keep your light bright so I can come back to you…
I see the way you walk and talk as if no one is watching. Little child, if I were to lie, there are no eyes on you, but in reality the whole world is watching. We stumble and fall to catch your pace, like the empty hands of a missing butterfly.
They see your shine, they see your clear blue. From the concrete jungles of Manila to the humble alleyways of Lapu-Lapu. When we first came to the shores of your embrace, I knew something was different. We had come to a new place where we’d fall for the charm, making it that fall-in-love kind of chase.
I can see the bottom of your ocean floor with my bare eyes leaving nothing to hide. The sun glimmers through each ripple and wave like a smiling rip tide, never to be forgotten–not a care in the world…not a care in the world.
You dance through time taking pride in each blemish. Your people, your poise; it reflects its shine like the sun bouncing off your clear blue…not a care in the world.
The sandy dollar signs wash against the barricade you never asked for, only to recede back and pushed forth again, like a dirty rag swimming to sink in mucky water…but you don’t mind, because the cycle of life keeps going and it won’t stop. It’ll keep going until your clear blue starts to get a bit more hazy. Like a dream you’d be willing to die for to remember…like you–a dream to die for.
As the new sun rises, the warmth stokes a fire to bring new light to the buried seeds from the past. Rooted ancestors sprout their stories of strength. Branches–ever so slowly but surely–breaking through thorny barricades, breaking through what was never meant to be, breaking through to me.
Keep your light bright so I can come back to you. Keep your light shining so they can find their way. Any ordinary soul can be lost at sea but with your glistening bright light, I will be directed. With sail or none–I will come back to you.