Lakawon Island, Cadiz City, Negros Occidental, the Philippines
November 30 – December 1, 2017
Regret put a damper on our trip to Lakawon Island from the get-go. Guimaras Strait made a winnowing basket out of our small boat. As billowing waves thrashed and tossed our asses off our seats, Ki scowled at every splash drenching our backs and bags. Wetness was the least of my worries; I feared for our lives. A recent celebrity death – Franco Hernandez’s – from drowning in similar circumstances was still fresh in my mind.
Needless to say, we made it to the island alive and well. Sheer survival was not enough to turn Ki’s scowl into a smile though. Lakawon Island Resorts & Spa was a tad too developed for his taste. I was likewise disappointed. The concrete and white sand island combination wasn’t going to cut it for us.
The fact that there was an “island paradise” near my hometown got me to book an overnight stay without doing research beyond Facebook photos. I had always envied the other Negros – the Oriental side – for their beautiful beaches; I jumped at the chance of seeing one not too far from Bacolod.
I did one thing right, at least – booking a “tropical bamboo house” (as stated in the resort website), one of the few traditional cottages in Lakawon. Crashing waves should lull us to sleep and wake us up in the morning, not the faint hum of air conditioning. Still, it was less than perfect. The rows of cottages were not seafront, and ours was next to a construction site.
I didn’t sweat the small stuff; the beach was a few meters away anyway. By late afternoon, the tide had receded considerably, exposing rocks and corals on the seabed and creating an illusion that you could cross over to Panay Island on foot. The resort’s touted floating bar rested on rocks and a banca lay grounded at the beach.
Our beach stroll was rudely interrupted by a sharp poke on my right foot. I lifted my leg and found a thistle-like twig dangling from my aqua shoe, its long thorn piercing through the rubber sole and narrowly missing my foot, perhaps by a mere micrometer. The potentially deep wound would have sent me back to the mainland for adequate medical attention.
The dining hall, built in the middle of the island, was yet another feature that didn’t go down well with Ki. There was no sea view to go with our resort-priced meals. I hadn’t thought of it, but he did have a point. The saving grace was our amiable server.
Left with nothing to do in the evening, we sat at the beach mesmerized by the gushing, glistening tidal current of Guimaras Strait. Night swimming was deffo a no-no. Even a strong swimmer would not stand a chance against this powerful stream in the sea.
The next morning, we found the sea calmer and more welcoming. Ki and I staked our sandy spot to watch a kiteboarding event. A plus point of an island resort was that the beach was never crowded, just about enough for people-watching.
Instagrammable trappings – umbrella huts, wooden beach beds and swing, the photogenic pier that stretched far out to sea – occupied us with selfies and videos. They inspired us to parody our favorite Temptation Island scenes to up the fun-in-the-sun factor.
The expanse of the beach held many attractions, but they should not distract from the real draw – the clear sparkling waters. We abandoned our gadgets at the beach and dove right in. The sea that was threatening just the day before was now a heavenly haven so far removed from the mundane, stressful grind of life. Floating on crystal waters and soaking up the sun, we had a taste of those private summers spent here by the affluent Negrense family that owned the island before they opened it up to the public.
Alas, communing with nature came with a deadline in a resort development. Check-out time was at noon. We dragged our golden-tanned bodies out of the water.
But at last, in the morning of our departure, Lakawon had finally won Ki and me over. It was with nature – pure and simple – and with none of the resort feels.