By AA PATAWARAN

BEACH - Six Hours In The Sun

I didn’t realize I did a terrible thing, until I went to my derma two weeks later. I guess I knew I shouldn’t have done what I did, having worked for over 25 years in lifestyle newspapers and magazines, including a couple of magazines devoted to fashion and beauty, in which I might have written a number of articles cautioning against UVA/UVB exposure.

But I was in the sun in every sense of the phrase. I was glamping, first time to do it, at the Bluewater Sumilon Island Resort in Oslob, Cebu, so I didn’t really have a choice, unless I was willing to stay in the tent all day, airconditioned as it was, its fridge packed with all the goodies you would like to eat on a do-nothing day, especially as there was no TV in the tents.

The truth was I did find the glamping site of the resort a piece of paradise, a whole section of the 24-hectare coral island off the southeastern tip of Cebu mainland, 125 kilometers from Cebu City. The island is chockful of activities, from plain lazing around to biking through its forested trails, cave tours, and climbing to the old lighthouse and the 19th-century watchtower, the Baluarte, to enjoy a spiritlifting view of the island, from fishing, kayaking, and pedal boating to shark feeding, snorkeling, and swimming by the famous shifting sandbar. Of course, there’s glamping, which is limited to a few because, so far, there are only five tents available. The week I stayed, we got all four tents and the last one stayed vacant, so that whole part of the island, exclusive to glampers, was in fact for four days and three nights exclusive to us.

On one of those precious days, for nearly six hours, from 8:30 a.m., just after breakfast-under-the-trees set up on a roofless gazebo by the lagoon across the beach, to half past 2 p.m., while my travel companions went off to visit the old church and ruins of Oslob across the Tañon Strait, I had it all to myself. I was never even once in the tent, except to fetch a bottle of water from the fridge.

You know the moment you catch a glimpse of blue water/while meandering down a hill in a moving vehicle and you feel like jumping out of the car and right into the water or, if it’s some majestic scenery like mountains sloping into lush valleys or a raging waterfall, you feel like putting yourself right in the picture.

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BEACH SOLITUDE Alone on the shifting sandbar on Sumilon Island

Well, this was that moment. And I had it for six hours.

If you’re lonely when you’re alone, you’re in bad company.

—Jean-Paul Sartre

I was alone on a desolate beach, my feet soaked in crystal clear water, my toes buried in sand. I was looking out on the horizon, five empty tents behind me, a natural lagoon lined by thick mangroves urther behind, and I was thinking: I have interminable hours ahead of me to immerse myself in this picture. SPF never once entered my mind.

There were hammocks hung on the talisay trees, and each was mine in which to dream the day further away, but I didn’t want to sleep. Although a nap on the beach would have reminded me of the summer days I spent sleeping on sand when I was young, pouring Coke or beer on my skin in pursuit of a good tan, I wanted to be fully awake this time. A sort of butler, biking from the main resort or otherwise driving the golf cart, would show up every now and then to inquire if I would want a massage (I did try Amuma Spa’s Hilot Lamang with a view that night, though) or a cocktail or snacks or lunch and always I sent him back with assurances that I was fine. I even had a good book with me, the complete stories of John Cheever, but all I read, while reclined on a flurry of wind, was a single story.

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I WOKE UP LIKE THIS I rose to this view from my bed inside one of the airconditioned tents lining this stretch of white sand on Sumilon Island

I guess I was in meditation. And my body cooperated. Even at noonday, sunshine felt like a hug, warm and snug and comforting, never painful, while the wind was a zephyr and the water was mild. I spent much of my time in the water swimming or just trying to be still in the current of varying hues of aquamarine. Or I’d be in a horizontal back float pretending to be asleep, lulled by the rhythmic splish-splash, or in a deadman’s float, my eyes wide open underwater, staring blankly on the undulations of the sandy bottom.

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Kayaks on the natural lagoon

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Luxury tents on the beach

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The Bluewater Sumilon Island Resort’s private dock in Oslob for the boat trip to and from Sumilon Island

The first marine protected area in the Philippines, Sumilon Island was made a fish sanctuary in 1974 under the guidance of Siliman University Marine Reserve. Home to varied marine species, it allows even occasional sightings of black tip sharks. During a dive or even a snorkeling expedition, one swims right through the kaleidoscope of live, moving colors, sizes, and shapes that give a sampling of the marine biodiversity that makes the Philippine waters richer by far than most other destinations in the world. There are coves of pristine white sand beaches around the island too, in which, like my friends and I did on the shifting sandbar, you can ask the resort to set up a sunset dining experience.

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Dinner setup on the shifting sandbar

By the time this essay finds the light of print, I would have shed off my tan. Meanwhile, I spend hours at the derma undergoing a treatment that provides the moisture my skin needs to recover from sunburn and addresses the inflammation caused by the sun while I was happily soaking it up.

“This is bad,” said my therapist at the Luminisce skin care clinic at BGC in whose hands I underwent a treatment called Skin Oxyglow, which delivered oxygen and hydrating nutrients deep into cells to repair and rejuvenate my skin.

“But good for my soul,” I mumbled. In my head, I was thinking how I could do this again next year. I’d like it to come with a tan this deep, though. Maybe I could use Hawaiian Tropics dark tanning oil with sunscreen on top, but won’t they just cancel each other out? I must remember to ask my derma when she’s less disappointed, though I know, as American actress Gabriele Union has said, that “there is no such thing as a healthy tan.” SPF 50, to the rescue!

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Images by FRANCISCO DACUYCUY

bluewatersumilon.com.ph | Manila office: (02) 817 5751
Luminisce is at Mercury Drug Bldg , 4th Avenue, 32nd St., Taguig, Metro Manila. luminisce.com

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