65 summers by the sea
FROM FAR AND NEAR - Ruben Almendras (The Freeman) - April 30, 2019 - 12:00am

Summer in the Philippines and in other parts of the world is definitely my other favorite time of the year. In answer to a lifestyle question if the mountain or the sea is my preferred vacation location, I un-hesitantly answered the sea.

Looking back on my summers by the sea, I counted 47 beach places in the Philippines and other parts of the world that I have swam, and an additional 18 beach places that were walking distance from where I played golf, or had lunch or dinner, a total of 65 in all. I am definitely a sand and sea person. The chronology of my life can be gleaned from the summers I spent by the sea. The social, economic, and ecologic backdrop in those times and the social developments are reflected in my summers of those years. My personal circumstances and development are both the cause and consequences of those times.

The early 1950s up to 1960 were my elementary and high school years. The Philippine economy was still recovering from the war but life was good and economy progressing. There were less than 50 million Filipinos then and mostly living in rural areas.

People were poor but rural agriculture put food on the table and people lived simple lives. Our summers were spent in the town beaches that were walking distance and we just brought whatever food was in the house. The sand and the seas were clean and most of the time we just jump or run straight into the sea. There were no fancy beach resorts and we can just go straight into the sea as there were no fences.

1963 to 1970 were my college years and the Philippine economy was starting to industrialize. We still made it to the town beaches in the summertime and in the nearby towns as we already had jeepneys to drive and load with food. But we noticed that the mangrove swamps where we use to explore with dugout canoes were getting dirtier and had less shrimp.

Then, in the mid ‘70s a political upheaval led to martial law in the country, creating social unrest and a declining economy. I had a fairly good professional career in Makati and was able to spend summers in resorts in Batangas, Bohol, Mactan, and Waikiki, Hawaii, with my family. But in other summers in those years it was in my or my wife’s hometown’s beaches.

1986 to 1995, which was after the People Power Revolution, were the boom years for the Philippine economy. The newfound freedom bolstered economic confidence and GDP grew in the 4% to 6% range, and a growing middle class disposable income.

There were now luxurious resorts in Mactan, Bohol, Matabungkay, Badian, Argao, Davao, and many other places in the Philippines. We spent some summers in Bali, Indonesia, and in the Gold Coast in Australia, but we also spent some of them in Camotes, Sta. Fe, and Ormoc.

1996 to 2010 were continuation of the economic growth years except for some hiccups and the discovery of Boracay and Palawan as beach destination areas. Tourism revenues kicked in to augment the Philippine economy and more five-star resorts were established.

Plush resorts like the Mactan Shangri-La were abuilding and patronized by foreign and local tourists. We spent some summers during these times in Sta. Barbara, Phuket, Kota-Kinabalu, and Orlando, but Tubbataha and Malapascua were unbeatable as beaches. From 2011 to 2018 the Philippine GDP breached the 6% mark and tourism was at full blast. Even if we had gone to Ipanema, Copacabana, and Langkawi, Balesin, Boracay and Mactan were still the best places to spend summers by the sea.

Many years ago, my wife and I did “a sailboat in Capri” so I really know my summers by the sea and will do so for the next so many years.

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