Happy tourist, will travel

I love to travel. I love to go to new places, see new sights and bring home stories and pictures of my adventures back to my friends and family.

Growing up, my parents would often take me and Nunik to various places around Luzon. It was mostly due to my grandfather’s job as a district superintendent that let us go places. Baguio, Lucena, Mindoro, Lucban were among a few of those. Others, like Tagaytay, where destinations of most family outings. Places like Bicol and La Union were considered extensions of home as we had family there.

But always, the best place to be was Candelaria. When I was a kid, I often thought that my Candelaria was the original one, even though many people knew the Quezon town more than the Zambales town. I was the very few among my elementary and high school classmates who spent two months of summer vacation somewhere other than Manila. I’d come home, sunburned and peeling, thanks to endless days of beach fun. My classmates would tell me of their trips to Singapore and Hong Kong, but nothing for me beats the beach.

And what a beach it is. Long before people heard of Boracay, hanging out on the beach was the norm for me, my siblings and my cousins. We’d be hitting the surf as early as 6 AM (which is the best time for me, as the water would be very calm and clear, and the sun not too hot), rising only when we get called for lunch and be back again until the sun starts to set.

Sunburns, jellyfish stings, swallowed salt water, gritty sand… we all took in stride. It was part of summer, and it was part of a tradition, a heritage passed on to us by our grandparents and parents. One that we would pass on to our future families when the time comes. One that we could share with our friends, many of whom fell in love with the beauty our town and its beaches has.

Before the Mt. Pinatubo eruption, the only thing Zambales brings to mind is the Subic Naval Base and Olongapo City. Not exactly your typical tourist getaway. Often, those who go to Zambales were either invited by residents or heard about it through word of mouth.

I love how I have the beach all to myself on most days. Well, me and the rest of the clan, that is. I love how the entire stretch of it is empty of people except for residents and fishermen. Sometimes, especially when we’re there during the early morning, we’d help the fishermen pull the nets from the sea and watch as the fish flop around the nets. Among the usual catch we’d something see other creatures and be amused at them.

There’s just so much to do and to see there. Perhaps then, it is selfish of me to keep this all to myself. But I am afraid that having more people come in will spoil it for me, for the residents. I am afraid that commercialism will take away the peace and tranquility that I enjoyed in the years past.

I suppose I’m being pessimistic, but life has shown that often, when a spot becomes popular, the environment takes a back seat. Which is ironic as it’s the very thing that made the place popular in the first place. I don’t want a crowded resort where you have to deal with the noise of other people who play their music up to loud or be up until the wee hours of the morning. Yeah yeah, it’s supposed to be vacation but there are people living there you know.

Geez, I’m beginning to sound like my great uncle.

That’s how I feel about Baguio. I love visiting it as a kid and really appreciated it when I lived there for four years to study. I was greatly saddened when SM was built on the “park” a lot of my schoolmates and I frequent. Yes, it’s progress, but is saddens me that nature has to pay the price.

Seriously, I hope that when the tourism starts to boom for Zambales (and I’m seeing that happen in the next two to five years), it won’t leave the residents out. It’ll be bad if we let the big players hold the reins in the tourism area, making money for them and not for the locals.

Perhaps there should be some guidelines for those who want to put up a business to cater to the influx of tourists. Resorts shouldn’t mushroom here and there, and should be done with great consideration to the environment. Also, a good sanitation plan should be done, as well as some sort of clean-up brigade separate from that of the private ones employed by the resorts. Maybe even a financial plan so that prices of amenities would remain affordable yet competitive.

I remember how in Sagada tourists are required to register at the town hall and pay P10 per person. I believe this is for the maintenance of the area, in addition to whatever budget the local municipality has for tourism. I think it’s a good idea. Registering will act as a sort of guestbook for the visitors and there would be a fund for the people who help keep the tourism in order for the town.

It works two ways, methinks. The town is responsible for helping to keep tourist spots beautiful and as close to what Nature made it to be, and tourists should respect that. I feel sad when I see a natural or cultural heritage left to die because of neglect or disinterest, not just from tourists but also because of the residents who are supposed to be the guardians of those places. I hate seeing graffiti, or trash carelessly thrown by people.

The two foreigners I met in Sagada had a lot of good things to say about the Philippines. One of them said we have so many beautiful places we should see, but most of all, take care of. Regardless of whether we live there or just visiting, we should all do our part in helping maintain it.

Lastly, remember this adage that many travelers take to heart wherever they go: “Take nothing but pictures, leave nothing but footprints, kill nothing but time.”

On that environment protection adage, here’s two interesting stuff you might want to read:

Take nothing but pictures
John Kay – Nothing But

Happy traveling!

Crossposted: Multiply
Pictures by me
Reposted from my old blog