If anyone wants an example of how the slow yet promising growth in local and foreign tourism is helping transform the landscape in the Lianga area, one can be found right beside the national highway some 16 or so kilometers north of Lianga and just before entering Barangay Gata of San Agustin town. There on the side of a hill, the Department of Public Works and Highways has recently built a rest stop for motorists that offers, as a bonus, a view deck that allows visitors to enjoy a spectacular view of the Bretania Islands and the mangrove forests that line much of the coastal areas in this part of eastern Mindanao.
The islands, of course, have become in recent years a huge attraction for visitors drawn to its white sand beaches and pristine, blue waters. The Barangay Gata rest stop just happens to be located right by a portion of the national highway that snakes up a hill and curves around a natural cliff the overlooks the islands.The small, compact building near the entrance with toilet facilities for both sexes would obviously be a welcome first destination for the weary traveler but this particular pit stop has an even better and more welcome attraction for tourists and visitors.
Before the rest stop was constructed, motorists zipping along could usually catch, through tangled grass and thick shrubs, tantalizing glimpses of the island group floating like priceless jade pieces on the blue-gray waters below them. Nowadays they can gaze upon and relish the scenery without any obstruction hampering their view while parked on the view deck and safe from the constant road traffic or (better yet) by getting out to stretch their legs and standing just behind a protective yet decorative wooden barrier.
On a lower level of the view deck are several Pinoy-style, thatched roof cabanas which visitors who have time to kill can freely use to seek protection from the elements. Whoever designed the whole complex did reasonably well in blending the man-made structures with the majestic scenery and created something that rightly complements rather than out-stages the majestic display of natural beauty.
There is talk from the municipal government of San Agustin which has territorial jurisdiction over the Bretania Islands that hints of plans to put up a zip line or aerial rope slide attraction that would have the present view deck in Gata as a starting point and culminating at some point near the seashore several hundred meters below. This could mean that the area surrounding the present DPWH rest stop could become a visitor destination in itself and the economic benefits to the nearby barangay and the town could be considerable.
Several days ago, I drove into the view deck's parking area and got out of the car to sample the view. It was almost late afternoon yet the islands in the near distance were still brightly and vividly lit by the sunlight beneath an almost cloudless, azure sky. There was a fresh yet slight breeze coming in from the sea and the light from the fading sun was no longer harsh and glaring but softer,gentler and even refreshing.
The first thing that came to my mind when I stood at the cliff's edge that afternoon was the singular thought that when God created these islands and the sea stretching below and beyond me, He must have stepped back after that very act of creation, took the time to stand where I stood and for a while gazed upon the results of His mighty labors. Even the Creator himself, I know, would have been exceedingly and immeasurably pleased at what He had wrought.