|The "look but don't touch" beach that is Lapuz-Lapuz|
Date: March 3rd, 2013
Time: 10:39 pm
Location: My room
Recently I’ve been missing my life abroad. I like to forget the everyday drudgery and focus on the good times, like that one time in Boracay when I was detained by the police. That was fun. . .
The clear light filtered through the palms and glinted off the windshields of the passing tricycles. I sat back with my coffee in hand and looked at Kate across the remains of our breakfast. We considered the options the island had to offer and decided to dismiss the popular White Beach in favor of an adventure. Veering left after crossing the bridge that led to our hostel we made our way to Bolabog Beach where the wind tore at our hair and lifted hundreds of surfers’ kites into the air. Realizing this was not the place for sun bathing, we consulted our map and located a seemingly secluded beach to the northwest. I convinced Kate not to hail a tricycle and to mount the hill by foot.
As we climbed, tours of rented quads and dune buggies passed us, often manned by slight Asian men and their squealing wives. The heat from the pavement radiated up and burned through the soles of our flip flops and sweat gathered on our foreheads. Nearing the peak we caught sight of a pristine coastline, aquamarine water, and not a soul in sight on the golden sand. With that glimpse of a promise we soldiered on, consulting the map from time to time in hopes of gauging our position. Eventually the road began to descend, and we still hadn’t encountered a side path or even a sign. Turning onto the main road that ran the length of the island we passed a grand entrance to a golf course and resort. Our map indicated by a solid black line that our destination was directly beyond those gates via a paved street, but dotted black lines on the hill above seemed to suggest a path we’d somehow missed.
Despairing of a return climb, we scrambled aboard a tricycle and pointed to the general vicinity of where we wanted to go. The man dropped us off near a house listing to its right and a woman hanging linens across a rope slung between some trees. Exchanging a patter of Tagalog with the driver, the woman glanced our way and shook her head. Some local children ran ahead of us down a pitted dirt road and we cautiously followed.
After fending off repeated requests for money from the children and sidestepping some carrion, we finally hit a wall. Grey cinderblocks topped by barbed wire unceremoniously cut across the road – blocking would-be access to our coveted beach. Trudging back up the deeply rutted dirt road I cursed our luck and damned the island. As we again approached the dilapidated house, a teenage boy on his motorbike intercepted our progress and in questionable English told us that he could guide us to the beach we sought.
Leaving behind common sense in our desperate quest for cool water and bay breeze, we followed the boy to a secluded narrow path, down a hill, and past a reservoir. Dodging low hanging branches and skidding down steep embankments, our guide assured us that this was the path locals took. Ducking through a hole in a fence he led us out onto a pier and was taking us around a bend when a shout halted our expedition.
As we looked over our shoulders a security guard sprinted to where we stood. He gestured to the rocky cliff and the natural arch spanning the pier. He explained that because of falling rocks and potential injury we were prohibited from going any further. Kate and I looked from him to the beach behind him and asked if we were allowed access to that particular stretch of coast line. The man nodded and after tipping our guide 100 pesos we followed the security guard across the vacant beach.
After laying out our towels and stripping down to our suits, we gratefully dove into the refreshing waves. We paddled about for 20 minutes or so until we were again interrupted by shouts. I turned back toward the shore to see yet another uniformed guard motioning for my attention. I grudgingly left the water to engage in conversation with the guard. Without any preamble he asked me how I’d accessed the beach, whether I was a guest with the resort or whether I’d come by boat. Unfortunately, he either didn’t understand my English, or he simply didn’t understand my answers in general because we continued with this same line of question and answer until I waved Kate over, the second guard motioned over the guard who’d given tacit permission earlier, and eventually got on his radio to talk to yet another person.
More of the same questions were asked and we were then informed this was a private beach and we needed to gather our belongings and follow the security guards to the resort because we were guilty of trespassing. Leaving the ocean to enjoy itself we ascended the stairs leading up to a large building where we were told to wait on some stone benches. Then, some hotel staff came out and questioned us again on how we’d arrived at the beach. When we told them a local boy had shown us the way the staff wanted to know what agency we’d used. We denied using any sort of formal company and that we’d simply run into a teenager who had volunteered to guide us. They persisted in asking us what company we’d hired and where it was located.
This is about when I discovered my belligerence and decided I was done answering the same questions over and over again.
Then the police showed up, guns and all.
Apparently, firearms and displays of power only make me more obstinate. Luckily for us, this was not the case for Kate as she graciously fielded the expected questions, apologized profusely for our ignorant trespassing, and laughed good naturedly at our blunder. I sat across from her stewing about private land, the lack of any proper trespassing signs, and the waste of a perfectly good beach. (In hindsight, I realize slipping through a fence should have raised some questions of legality.) After signing a paper we were ushered into the back of a van with other hotel staff and transported to the front gates of the resort.
By the time we hit that main road, Kate and I were ready to be done with adventures – for that day at least.
In case you ever vacation in Boracay, Philippines, I wouldn’t recommend a trip to Lapuz-Lapuz Beach – I don’t think it’s going to work out for you.