Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Paradise In Waiting

Of the location's pristine, scenic allure, there can be no argument or contention. It is simply one of those special places where God on those early days when He fashioned the universe out of nothing, must have felt extra generous and, thereafter, artfully crafted ocean water, rock and sand into a panorama of such natural and scenic beauty that many nature lovers who have been there swear it is the nearest thing to being in tropical paradise.

The Bretania islets is a distinct grouping of some 24 small islands located just off the shoreline of Barangay Britania, a small village belonging to the municipality of San Agustin located some 26 or so kilometers north of Lianga. For decades now, local residents and visitors from nearby municipalities have wondered and marveled at the islets' crystal blue waters, their dazzlingly white and powdery sand beaches, the fantastic undersea coral and reef formations and the area's one of a kind tropical scenery.

And the question foremost in their minds remains why until now has there been no sustained, coherent effort on the part of both the local government of San Agustin and the provincial government of Surigao del Sur to develop the tourism potential of the islets while at the same time protect and preserve their pristine and natural beauty.

I have kept hearing over the years of government programs to implement some sort of ecotourism development plan for Bretania and a lot of excitement and high expectations among local residents here have been raised by these reports. Tourism officials from Manila as well as from the provincial capital in Tandag have conducted numerous inspections of the islets over the years and have raved over their beauty and tourism potential yet little has been heard of anything concrete resulting from such official visits.

One wonders if many of our tourism officials have been spending too much time at being tourists themselves for their own good, hmmmmm?

Perhaps what Britania is waiting to come fully in its own full potential as a premier destination for both foreign and domestic tourists is the completion of the on-going Surigao-Davao Coastal Road program which will eventually link San Agustin and the entire province of Surigao del Sur with the rest of Mindanao by way of modern and concrete-paved roads and highways. Many local residents are guardedly optimistic that with the proper road infrastructure in place, access to the islets will be easier and more convenient to visitors from outside the province thus encouraging the influx of more tourists.

Manuel Alameda, the municipal mayor of San Agustin, currently sees the municipal government's primary role in the case of Bretiania as primarily custodial and essentially to preserve and protect the islet's fragile environment for the future. He cites his municipal government's successful mangrove reforestation program in Britania and continuing efforts to curb environmentally destructive fishing practices and the illegal quarrying of sand as proof of this commitment.

That is well and good but I have been more than occasional visitor to Bretania for decades and I have yet to see any definite proof of a development plan for that area. It remains, to this day, another sleepy, backward and impoverished barangay like so many others like it in Surigao del Sur. It certainly is not benefiting much from its possession of its fabled islets and is certainly not prepared to benefit from it if and when it does become a regular tourist destination.

Visitors to the the barangay and the islets, in the meantime, have to rough it out there. There is very little in the way of tourist assistance and visitor facilities are largely non-existent. What you have is basic ecotourism of the backpacking, "slap at the mosquitoes", "make do with what you have" and "no guts no glory" variety which can be fun if that is your kind of thing.

Back in their rude huts, the residents of Barangay Bretania dream dreams of tourist heaven and the money that can be made from the promised hordes of beach lovers, sun worshipers, water sports fanatics and weekend vacationers. Yet one wonders if this is really more a case of "counting the chickens before they hatch" than anything else more definite or substantial.

And as to the big question of when the tourist carnival will finally come to town, no one really knows, or, based on what little is being down nowadays to build the needed tourism infrastructure for the islets, whether it ever will.

No comments:

Post a Comment