The Soul of Shores

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Despite climate change, summer getaways are still in vogue, taking up new ideas on having fun in the beaches. Philippine islands are truly gifted with the best beaches in the world, and they are all sure destinations for many Filipinos and foreigners who long for the waves and breeze. Beach resorts vie their place on this profitable industry. By today as you read this, women are now clad in their bikinis and men are trying some extreme water sports. People seek the beaches either as a tranquil paradise where they can relax, or a party spot where loud music, flirtatious fun and booze are around.

I am not fond of beaches as a tourist spot or summer destination. Perhaps because of some awkward memories I had in my previous visits. I would rather prefer reading a book or going to a park than visiting a beach. But as I visit one, I could not help but be entranced by the blue waters. I am no more fond of taking a plunge, but I like wading my feet on the small waves that reach the shore. I just Love to be in the beach with nothing to do at all. My partner Claire and I have visited some of the wonderful beaches in the country in the past 3 years, and our adventures have allowed me to see what lies beyond them.

I begin to appreciate the sacred beauty of the shores first through their natural magnificence. I had my first snorkelling in Siquijor; despite my fear on open water, we braved our way and witnessed the bursting of colors of many sea creatures. In Camiguin we saw giant clams co-existing serenely with many corals. After accomplishing a peacemaking mission, the whole team of my friends went to Masbate’s Bontod Island and we were lured by a field of healthy mangroves. These are just a handful that I visited among many Philippine beaches, but each visit was a magical experience.

The sea is the source, the one that concieves many blessings, but the shore is where the sacred waters becomes at hand.

If in the Jungian perspective the sea represents the unconscious, a symbol of change and birth, I would safely presume that the shore is a doorway, a bridge where the unconscious and conscious meets. It is through the shore that the mystery ends and begins. It may partly explain our desire of being drawn to the beaches, although most of the deep symbolisms still remain undiscovered. I can, at best, intuit on its nature. Because of this, it is perhaps why seashores are associated with anything romantic and erotic, especially for couples who find them literally the same.

For the ethnically diverse Filipinos, shores are meeting point of life. Baybayin is the Tagalog word for shores. It also refers to the manner of traveling if used and pronounced as a verb. It is also the term for the ancient script early Filipinos used, which I have been personally learning. It is linguistically related to the word babae, or woman, and symbolically to its capacity to give birth  and to nurture. The sea is the source, one that conceives many blessings, but the shore is where the sacred waters becomes at hand.

(c) Antonio Oquias/

Sadly, our seas and seashores have been treated with sacrilege, all because of our penchant for social and economic progress. We have lost touch with this sacred vitality brought by these coastal and marine wonders. Until we recognize this, we would only find the shores as a mere destination to enjoy summer heat, and unfortunately, a mere place where we leave our garbages behind. How we treat them is a reflection of how we treat our deeper humanity. Until we rediscover the soul of the shores, we would continue to treat them as a commodity or place of amusement. This is more than just an environmental issue, because the sea and its shores are not just an environment; they are always a dimension of our own soul. What we do to these treasures is what we do to ourselves. It is always a reflection.

To come back to the shores is a soulful and sacred experience. It is a symbolic and literal return to our nature. I am grateful for realizing this in many of my travels. I found the brilliance of darkness under a bright full moon in Ilocos Norte’s Pagudpod beach. I found the hypnotic poetry of the wind and wind turbines along the pebble shores of Bangui. I found compassion in the calm waters of Davao City’s Samal Island. I found the sweetest romance in Laiya, Batangas. I found the quietude of yellow stone mandala we created in Guimaras. I found the gentle fierceness of the waves in Morong, Bataan. I found my spirit divinely transfixed over the waters of Boracay. In summary, I have seen all of them more than just a place  – I am captivated by their presence, I am captivated by their soul.

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