Tales from Coco Beach: We Be Burning

This is part three of a series of posts about my stay at Coco Beach Resort in Puerto Galera, Oriental Mindoro, from June 10-12, 2006.

grilled skin! The problem with holidays involving sun and swimming is neglecting to replenish one’s sunblock. Before going swimming, I dutifully and liberally apply sunblock lotion on my skin. Unfortunately, I don’t reapply often enough, especially after towelling off. Between us sisters, I’m the one who tans deeply and almost never burns, and I thought it would be the case on this trip.

On our first day at Coco Beach, we managed to miss most of the midday rays because we had a late lunch. I didn’t get burned then. However, on the second day I don’t know what possessed me to use suntan lotion. That’s SPF 4, folks: for the fair-skinned, only four minutes of protection before skin starts to burn. We were out snorkeling at the coral gardens at Long Beach for three hours, then came back to the resort for two hours more swimming and poolside lounging under the sun. You know what happened next: sunburn. My skin was red, warm to the touch, but wasn’t painful. However, there was some discomfort since it felt like my skin was too tight.

kicking my heels up The next day, however, the redness had faded and I felt more like a human than a lobster. Because it was our last day at the resort, I decided to make the most of it by going swimming again. Since the pool opened at 9am and our checkout time was at 11am, I only spent an hour in the water before heading back to our cottage and packing up.

Even though I hadn’t bought anything extra to carry, my sunburned shoulders took the brunt of my luggage’s weight, and my already-raw skin rasped against the rough canvas fabric of my backpack. It didn’t help that the path from our cottage back to the reception desk had virtually no shade at midday, and to add insult to (my self-inflicted) injury we had to wait on the beach for our boat. Aside from a few palm trees, there wasn’t a patch of shade sizeable enough to accommodate three potential boatloads of people.

that's a hot beach! The first boat approached the beach and was immediately met by a rush of people desperate to get out of the sun. Among them were the Rotarian women and the Indian family with whom we had arrived at the resort. Nobody paid attention to the clipboard-holding guy shouting out instructions like, “Pakihintay lang pong tawagin ko ang inyong numero! (Please wait for me to call out your number!)”

My companions and I decided to wait for the next boat. While standing there, we noticed several boxes full of eggs and other miscellaneous goods piled on the beach. Initially I thought these were things that had been brought for the resort’s use, but as the minutes ticked by and nobody was evacuating them from the beach, I realized that these things were to be shipped off the island.

The next boat came in, a thirty-seater, and the resort’s porters jumped into action and scrambled to carry the luggage of a group of fifteen Europeans towards it. We approached the clipboard guy and asked if we could get on this boat. He replied, “Hindi po, magkakasama po ang mga Pilipino. (No, all Filipinos will be riding together.)” We were to be loaded onto the third boat, and since the pile of boxes weren’t being carried on board the second boat, we realized we’d be riding with the boxes.

It must have been the sunburn or the heat. More probably, it was the racial segregation I was experiencing from my own countryman. I snapped. “At bakit kailangan magkakasama ang mga Pilipino? (And why do all the Filipinos have to ride together?)” I said to the clipboard guy, who even seemed pleased that he was cramming all the Filipinos into one boat. He asked me how many were in my group, and I informed him that there were five of us. He waved us onto the boat with a shrug. Aside from us, seven other Filipinos were able to get on the boat, and we were on our way home.

I’m not sure if the people who run these tourist spots (like hotels and resorts) know this, but Filipinos can be tourists, too. Shakespeare’s Shylock said, “If you prick us, do we not bleed? If you tickle us, do we not laugh? If you poison us, do we not die? And if you wrong us, shall we not revenge?” Filipino tourists are perfectly capable of choosing where to spend hard-earned money on luxury items like vacations, and we will talk about whether something was worth it.

Coco Beach was a mixed bag of experiences, but I still enjoyed myself. You really can’t go wrong with sun, sand, and a refreshing drink in the hand. How interesting, though, that this trip was peppered with instances of colonial mentality as memorable as a bad sunburn.

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