San Juan, Batangas, the Philippines
April 28 / May 1, 2015
Archie starts to knead my bare back. I partly bury my face into the cushion to shield my eyes from the refracted glare of sunlight against a swath of white sand before me. As Archie untangles every knot of stress below my nape, so I throw each care to the sea breeze gently ruffling my hair. Such is la dolce vita. Stretched out luxuriously in a wooden cabana, I close my eyes to savor the moment before it becomes a memory all too quickly.
But curiosity kills my catnap. I settle on small talk over snooze. While lathering my back with aromatic oil, Archie recounts her life in this slice of paradise she, at one time, called home. Her family lived here before the tourism and real estate boom. A few steps inland used to be an orchard. Her childhood memories are of fun and work as she played under the trees and harvested coconuts and bananas for the previous landowner, a prominent family in the province. Now a mother of three, she still works at the same place, but where a grove of fruit trees once lay, the clubhouse of Playa Laiya now stands.
A new time brings with it a new life for Archie’s family. The coconut plantation has given way to resorts and real estate development, agriculture and fishing to tourism. She and her daughters maintain their seafront livelihood, albeit in a different capacity, offering various services to clubhouse guests and future homeowners of Playa Laiya.
This residential beach development faces about a fifth of the seven-kilometer, Boracay-length coastline of San Juan. As public domain, the beach is shared by several resorts. Interestingly, sand quality varies throughout the waterfront. In Playa Laiya, it is fine and powdery; just a few resorts away, it becomes rough and pebbly.
The beach clubhouse is the center of leisure activities in Playa Laiya. The dining hall opens up to the panorama of sun, sea, and sky. The wind blows through unobstructed, carrying with it the laughter of kids playing at the kiddie pool below. At ground level, the lap pool stretches to infinity, melding seamlessly with the azure of the sea beyond. Several cabanas dot the walking strip toward the beach.
The romance of the sea inspires beach bums of all sorts. A young couple has set up a tent and a makeshift dinner table topped with a lighted candle. Family members are sand burying one another by the shoreline. But it’s not all play, no work at the beach. Further on, fishermen are packing up empty nets. No squid today, they say, but they will give it another shot tonight.
Mood lights illuminate the beach clubhouse as the hot summer day winds down. The dreamy reflections on the glassy pool inspire me to reflect on my dreams. I hope to live by the water. The call of the sea carries with it a compelling force. The rhythm of the surf can lull the soul as much as the salty breeze can awaken it. Perhaps the sea takes us back to the comfort of the womb. A kind of rebirth takes place each time we soak in sunlight and seawater, both life-giving elements. Perhaps that’s why Archie has never left the seaside.
If life’s a beach, I want live right here at Playa Laiya.
Big thanks to my dear friend Cel Caño for this wonderful day at Playa Laiya. For more information, you may reach her at MCBCano@landcosales.ph or +639178107518.