Tourist Spot for Locals
I was in a rural town in Bohol, an island in the Philippines best known for its beautiful beaches and natural sceneries. While walking towards the town center, a motorcycle driver offered to take me to a distant village to see a well-known cave. He was charging me 250 pesos though (about $6) which is way too steep so I declined. The standard fare is only 15-20 pesos.
“Why are you going to the town center anyway? There’s nothing to see there,” he said.
“I just want to look around,” I answered.
The town has an old church that dates back to the Spanish period and I thought century-old structures are definitely worth seeing. When I got to the town hall though, what caught my eye was a long stretch of beach with powdery white sand and clear blue waters just a few meters from the main road.
I had to wonder if that motorcycle driver was blind or just completely oblivious to postcard-worthy scenery. Real estate developers would kill for this location and tourists would bust their cameras taking pictures of the view.
I imagined what the place would be like if it were developed as a major tourist destination: beachfront hotels with fancy accommodations, bars with overpriced cocktails, foreigners and urbanites in fashionable beachwear.
On that afternoon, there was a group of local kids squealing with glee while swimming in the shallow parts of the water. Some young boys were playing football on the sand with a homemade rubber ball. An old man and his three-year-old granddaughter were walking on the beach.
Good thing this place wasn’t tagged as a tourist spot. Not yet anyway. This is a community space the residents can enjoy for free.
Aside from its environmental impact, tourism development can at times lead to alienating the locals from the most scenic spots in their own towns. Exclusive private beaches and upscale villas are well beyond the price range residents can afford, most of whom make their living as fishermen, drivers or through small retail stores.
This long stretch of beach doesn’t have to be on a postcard. It just has to be a place the residents can truly call their own.