LET'S  TALK  BEACHES

MANILA, MARCH 5, 2008
(STAR) By Wilson Lee Flores - (The three elemental sounds in nature are the sounds of rain, the sound of wind in a primeval wood, and the sound of outer ocean on a beach. — US writer & naturalist Henry Beston)

It’s apt that Albay Governor Joey Salceda publicly apologized to President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo for calling her a bitch. Whether we like or dislike GMA, whether she is culpable of the shocking multi-billion peso ZTE NBN corruption crime or not, name-calling only detracts from the serious issues, it demeans both the name-caller and the one called names.

Even when I complain about certain politicos acting as shameless lapdogs, that is a statement of fact not derision. I don’t resort to gutter language, even though lapdogs, bitches and SOBs are all similarly dogs. My apologies to dogs, by the way, for the unfair and odious comparisons to human SOBs.

It’s almost summer, so let’s talk beaches. I often invite foreign friends to visit the Philippines during the summer. When our tourists do come, where do we suggest they tour outside of our overcrowded, traffic-congested cities, which have more shopping malls than parks and museums? There’s definitely more to the Philippines than Metro Manila.

TOP 10 BEACHES

If only our bishops would pray for the mass deportation of our corrupt politicians to Iraq or Afghanistan, then this archipelago of 7,107 isles — with double the total coastline of the continental US — would truly be paradise on earth!

Here is my list of what I believe are the top 10 beaches in the Philippine Islands:

1. Boracay Island, Aklan — In an Internet poll of thousands of Yahoo! Travelers of the best beaches in the world, the thousand-hectare paradise of Boracay Island is No. 7, but it is the only Asian beach destination in the top 10 list which doesn’t even mention Indonesia’s Bali or Thailand’s Phuket. Internet website AskMen.com, which claims more than five million site visitors monthly, placed Boracay on the eighth spot. The powdery white-sand of Boracay feels like sugar, the breathtaking sunset, the cool waters and other features make this the most recommended beach in Asia. I recommend that government impose high standards of cleanliness, ecological balance and other safeguards to sustain its success as the best of the Philippines’ tourist destinations.

2. El Nido, Palawan — This place of lovely sandy beaches, 45 isles, stunning inlets, crystal clear waters and jagged limestone cliffs in northern Palawan province is sometimes called, “the Island of the Gods.” It has been known to overseas Chinese as “Nido coup” or the famed bird’s nest soup exported all over Asia. Unlike Boracay with its tourist crowds, this is an oasis of tranquility, with scenic landscapes, dive sites and other island adventures. England’s Guardian newspaper in 2007 listed “Anywhere in Palawan” as No. 4 best beach in the world like El Nido, Honda Bay and also citing Sangat Island Reserve “for isolation and some of the best wreck-diving in the world.” With 1,700 isles, Palawan is the only Asian beach destination in their world’s top 10 list.

3. Siargao, Surigao del Norte province – This teardrop-shaped island in northern Mindanao is known as the surfing capital of the Philippines, with powerful swells of up to 12 feet high. Its reefs by the Pacific face the 1,320-kilometers Philippine Trench. Siargao’s pristine white-sand beaches and coal or rock reefs are also untouched and unspoiled by urban chaos. American photographer John S. Callahan published the first major feature on Siargao Island in the US-based Surfer magazine in March 1993 and named its most famous wave as “Cloud 9.” April to October are the best times for surfing here. It has many natural attractions for non-surfers and all tourists.

4. Camiguin Province – A tropical garden of Eden, this volcanic isle in northern Mindanao has beautiful beaches, clear waterfalls, active volcanoes, forests, as well as hot and cold springs. The first recorded Western tourists here in 1521 were Spanish conquistadores Ferdinand Magellan and Miguel Lopez de Legazpi. It is the second smallest province in the Philippines in terms of land area, next only to the smaller and also beautiful Batanes up north. This isle is also famous for its lanzones, and it has a yearly Lanzones Festival every third week of October.

5. Puraran Beach, Baras, Catanduanes Province — One of my five office secretaries Mela said that her home province is one of the best kept secrets of Philippine tourism due to its world-class surfing sites and awesome white-sand beaches. March to August are the best times to visit. The best time for surfing is from May to October. Non-surfers can enjoy snorkeling, swimming or exploring the diverse nature of this place. Since Catanduanes isle is the first Philippine land group facing the Pacific Ocean, it has often been hit by typhoons for ages and its economy has suffered. I’m sure tourism can bring progress and international attention to this beautiful Bicolano province.

6. Cemento Beach, Aniao Islets and Casiguran Sound, Baler, Aurora Province — Senator Ed Angara and his son Harvard-educated Rep. Juan Edgardo “Sonny” Angara recently launched a 272-page coffee-table book about their hometown of Baler, also the home place of President Manuel Quezon and his First Lady Doña Aurora. Congressman Angara told me that people started realizing the surfing potentials of Baler’s white-capped breakers in the mid-1970s, when Charlie’s Point was a shooting locale for director Francis Ford Coppola’s epic movie Apocalypse Now. The place is also ideal for snorkeling and diving, especially from March to May. The best time for surfing here is between the months of September to February. Baler is a great tourism gem wedged in the middle of the Sierra Madre Mountains and the Philippine Sea.

7. Malapascua Island, Cebu Province – It is amazing that I first heard about this quiet pristine white-sand island of eight kilometers north of Cebu City from a family of European tourists I bumped into at the Sheraton Lido Hotel in Chengdu City, China in early 2007. They said it’s a tropical paradise with only a few hundred inhabitants. When I said I’ve never heard of that place, the teenage-daughter of the family joked that she’d volunteer to be my tour guide there! This is said to be one of the most beautiful among the 166 isles of Cebu Province.

8. Calicoan Island, Guiuan, Eastern Samar Province – One of my two drivers Lino said that their typhoon-frequented and economically depressed area has among the best surfing sites in the whole Philippines, with pristine beaches, six lagoons, lush forests and rugged landscapes ideal for tourism. I thought he was just exaggerating, but Eastern Samar indeed has vast tourism potentials. With powerful waves rolling in from the Pacific over the 10,000-meters Philippine Deep, it is a surfer’s dream.The 1,600-hectares Calicoan Isle in the third-class municipality of Guiuan is hugged by the Pacific Ocean on the east and the Leyte Gulf on the west, a real tropical paradise and also growing in popularity among foreign surfers. The eastern coastline has miles and miles of breathtaking white-sand beaches interspersed with rugged cliffs and crashing breakers. Ferdinand Magellan first landed here in 1521.

9. Panglao Island, Bohol Province — This island is famous for its world-class diving locations and is home to numerous tourist resorts. At the pristine Alona Beach, one could join tours to world-famous diving sites..

10. Pagudpud, Ilocos Norte Province – About 10 hours by land from Metro Manila is the white-sand and blue-waters resort town of Pagudpud at the topmost part of northern Luzon. The strong winds and waves can be compared to that of Hawaii, making it also a favorite of surfers. Its continuous coastlines of beautiful beaches make Pagudpud an ideal destination for appreciating nature, swimming, boardsailing, kayaking and scuba-diving. It is quiet, secluded, isolated, tranquil.


Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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