By Jullie Y. Daza
Eric Torres, art collector and curator, poet and teacher, once wrote a poem about how we as a people blessed with an abundance of gifts have the perverse nature of squandering our blessings. His metaphor was the fire hydrant, an emergency device to help firemen put out a fire. It did not matter that the hydrant, once forcibly opened by neighborhood toughs to wash their clothes or take a shower, spewed out water by the tens of gallons by the minute, from here to eternity. Until some alert, civic-minded citizen reported the anomaly to MWSS or Nawasa, which could take forever, water poured like a little Niagara Falls.
What have we done to Boracay? It’s the story of the fire hydrant all over again. A once-pristine beach, white powdery sand gleaming under an eternal sun shining across an endless expanse of blue skies, a paradise that brought in tourists, dollars, international fame. A dream too good to last. The last time I was in Boracay I told myself I needed to flee, look for another paradise, for there was just too much of everything on the island – people, commercial establishments, traffic, vendors, peddlers, signs for every gimmick – and hardly none of that certain quality of space and quiet that urbanites escaping the city long for, tranquillity.
Fortunately I discovered Batanes, urging friends to visit and be awed by its raw and rugged landscape before it becomes another successful destination like Boracay. Fortunately Batanes is far from catching up.
The natives of Boracay have reason to resent media calling their jewel of an island a cesspool. Did they yell at their elected leaders when they began to notice the degradation, the spoilage, the destruction of beauty by the imperatives of “good” business? None of their environmentalists realized that the purity of the island was beyond the commerce of man?
The people may not have directly caused the spoilage, they just didn’t value the treasure in their hands, at their feet. They allowed the fire hydrant to spew out more and more water until it spewed out mud. With vigilance – This is our island, keep it clean or keep out! – Boracay would’ve remained pretty, prim and pristine. The island needs to be born again, pearls for your tears.