It was a rainy, misty and cold morning but even then the panorama before me was still spectacular and breathtaking. A deserted beach, a few small boats sitting on the sand, the calm, blue-green waters of the Pacific below the pale haze of thinning, milky gray rainclouds, and in the distance a couple of small islands set like green encrusted jewels on the coastal waters.
That was just a couple of days ago and I was standing on the seashore of Barangay Britania in the municipality of San Agustin some twenty or so kilometers north of Lianga. Directly in front of me and some fifteen minutes by motorized boat from the shore was Boslon, the first of the already well known Britania islands, with its dazzling white beach and crystal clear waters.
There are several other islands, each with their own unique attractions and between them are pristine waters teeming with magnificent coral formations and exotic marine life. A boat ride where you go island hopping would be, without a doubt, the highlight of any visit to this tourist destination.
For someone who has visited the islands many times. I have always felt that the islands were not just geological formations of exceptional beauty. They have a mystical hold that went far beyond mere sentimentalism. They are akin to sentient, living and breathing organisms that have existed since time immemorial and whose constant brooding presence provided a reassurance and an affirmation of Mother Nature's benevolence and abiding generosity towards man.
Over the past decade or so, the rampant quarrying of sand and pebbles from some of the Britania islands have saddened many who wanted the government to exert measures to preserve their pristine and unspoiled nature. Dynamite fishing and the use of chemical poisons have caused widespread damage to the extensive coral reefs that made the area a haven for fish and all kinds of marine flora and fauna.
There is, however, a continuing albeit protracted and seemingly half-hearted program by both the San Agustin municipal government and the Department of Tourism to develop the entire Bretania area into a tourism destination. Much of it has been rhetoric but there is some optimism that something may eventually be accomplished if the residents of the barangay can get their act together and decided what they really want to happen to their village by the sea. All it takes is a deep appreciation of the priceless natural treasures that they have in their islands on the sea and the acceptance of their obligation and duty to preserve and protect these treasures for the future.
It was raining when I took this pictures but the images in my mind were not of the islands appearing like green, ghostly images wreathed in mist beneath the overcast sky. I saw the islands as they should be seen, like green, shimmering emeralds on blue baize gloriously bathed in the blazing hot rays of the midsummer sun, their white beaches glinting like ivory teeth in the distance.
Then I remembered the boat rides there, the clean and transparent waters hissing and bubbling in the boat's wake, the islands like green gems in the near distance and around and beneath the shadow of our sea craft the wide, table-like outcrops of living coral seemingly close enough to touch in the glassy clear waters, so clear that you can see up to more than twenty feet below you.
Then there are the islands, the bleached white, powder like fineness of the sand on the beaches, the exotic, dark green vegetation that covers most of them, their splendid isolation and pristine nature and the dark, cool and refreshingly clean comfort of their waters as you plunged into them. Truly natural treasures of the most intoxicating kind.
Britiania may be just another impoverished barangay in this part of Mindanao, a small agricultural and fishing village one hardly sees noted in local maps and travel guides. It seems to be one of those places where nothing really happens and where there is nowhere to go. But with the islands and their exceptional tourism potential, it may have the last laugh yet.