Guest post Michael Pecot
The Ultimate Paradise Beach
Well….. after Fort Barton I thought I had experienced the best the Philippines had to offer. But as I take off to explore the nearby beaches I am shortly in for a startling surprise. At the end of the main beach here is a small river flowing to the sea out of the mountains. It’s only about fifteen meters wide but there is no bridge crossing it. Instead the family owning the property there constructed a small raft made buoyant by a huge piece of styrofoam and held sturdy by pieces of wood and bamboo. It’s a small square platform made for two with catamaran style supports to prevent it from overturning. A rope above the water attached high to trees on both sides is connected to it by another small rope that it can glide along with the aid of a pulley. The craft is then accessed by another rope connected to it on the other side of the river by which I can pull it towards me. After boarding I pull the rope again in the opposite direction and the raft glides me towards on the other side, it’s a very simple and ingenious system. All this luxury costs a mere quarter, twenty pesos and now I have access the hidden beaches.
It’s less than an hour’s walk from here through the dense jungle scenery along a narrow path that first traverses several densely packed rows of palm trees, a few tiny beaches as well as an area of mangrove swamp. I stop along the way to chat with a local woman sitting quietly in an open air shack with her child at the water’s edge in the middle of a long stretch of water front coconut plantation. It’s so nice that she speaks English. She proceeds to tell me about her family’s job of harvesting coconuts.
In the distance is a larger structure where her husband is drying coconut meat. As usual in friendly island style he invites me over for a chat. He explains in detail the whole process of the harvest which begins every three months by collecting thirteen thousand of the older coconuts. The trees take only three to five years to begin producing and each tree yields about eighty coconuts.
First the hardened husk must be chopped in half with razor sharp machetes. Then the
white meats are quickly separated with a special tool made especially for that purpose. They are then put in a large bamboo shack on a drying wrack and a fire is lit under them until they are smoked dry for fifteen hours. The time he stresses is very important as too much or too little heat or time may leave too much or too little moisture in the finished product and mold can set in and ruin the batch, so experience and know how is of the essence.
The dried finished product is then packed and shipped to many processors overseas in Europe and America to make the many ingredients that contain coconut milk and oil. Soaps, shampoos, cosmetics and various creams and oils use coconut as the main ingredients in these products and this one of the Philippines top exports. In all the thirteen thousand coconuts yield two tons of raw finished product. The typical market price of about twenty five pesos per kilo which is two point two pounds translates to about fifty cents per kilo. The math reveals that just under five hundred dollars is the gross profit from all this labor. With four harvests per year this amounts to about two thousand dollars or about one hundred dollars per month which I guess is enough money to support the average family. Wow, I just never know what I’m going to encounter on my daily outings. What an interesting stop along the way!
Before long I arrive at the first of the longer beaches and it is gorgeous and completely isolated and uninhabited. This is a beach which would make Robinson Caruso eat his heart out. It exudes peace, quiet and calm and is sprinkled with an abundance of beautiful sea shells and corals. I find a perfect seat of smoothed washed ashore tree trunk and bath in the blissful peace.
Since it is a bit of a tradition that Isabelle and I make artistic mandalas out of shells in these types of locations and since we just barely missed sharing this place before she left I construct a small heartfelt one in her honor. Above it I write in the sand, thinking of you and take a photo of it to email her. She ends up appreciating it immensely.
After a while I continue down the jungle path once again and shortly another even more amazing beach peaks from behind the jungle foliage. I can hardly believe my eyes as this pristine half a kilometer stretch of sand is lined by a densely packed row of palm trees so stunning that it completely blows my mind. The look and feel of this sun drenched paradise is one of the most idyllic beaches I have ever seen. My blood is now boiling over with mind altering endorphins. I’m ecstatic!
As I approach, a tastefully done but abandoned resort is revealed with a thatched shelter filled with artistically designed bamboo furniture as well as an inviting bamboo hammock. I can’t resist pouring myself into it and swinging myself into a long comfortable rest. The sound of the repetitive gentle sea, trance inducing breezes combined with the music of the many rustling palm fronds and the distant sounds of tropical bird calls caresses my being and soothes me deep into my soul. I have arrived to the ultimate dream beach. If I should leave this earth tomorrow I would leave a happy man completely and deeply satisfied that I have experience the best that life on earth has to offer. What another incredible day in paradise!