WITH the unmistakable Wonder Girls’ notes in the saline-tinged air of Alona beach, Cel—the newlywed—with her two bridesmaids entered the area dancing to the tune of the Korean’s pop song Nobody. The bride wiggled her hips and pointed at her Hungarian groom every time the song hit the ‘you’ part.

Her dance version suggested several moves from Marimar whom she idolized. Her husband, with his towering height, imitated her rather awkwardly.

Under our table, my foot danced with the tune as the pale creamy sand teased the hem of my white dress.

The happy movements in the open space contrasted the candle’s calm flick on our table, bright enough to illuminate the quote “The one thing in my life I’m sure not to regret is the chance given to me by God to know and love you.” It was a table of single ladies garbed in white who, at the back of their minds, must have had different definitions of the much-abused, yet still most interesting notion: love.

It was a table of single ladies and a guy in a barong. The barong and the slacks surprisingly suited him. With his smile, he looked—or pretended to be—comfortable talking with Ellen and Virhenia—my friends from work. With his mouth shut, he could pass for a Filipino, but his eyes betrayed him. He was the bride’s student at an online English school, who flew in from Japan for her special day. We travelled to Panglao for the same reason: a wedding.

As the night drew near, curious tourists of different skin tones and heights grinned when the father joined Cel for their antithetical father-and-bride dance. Cel in a fuchsia pink doll dress imitated her father’s antics. With her hands under her chin, she sat in the air and bobbed her head as her hands moved forward. Unmistakably, Cel had the time of her life.

As we enjoyed our dinner, we could hear the neighboring resort’s live band that sometimes interposed with a Celine Dion song from the rented karaoke box. Past the newlywed’s table, tourists walked the beach—the feminine waves unrecognizable from our seats.

Alona at night is a beach of frenzy. The beach seemed heavy with excitement. The beach is one of those places where the unexpected mostly happens: a wedding of festivity, a night of assuming an alcohol-tinged persona, a night of pretending to be single and uncommitted. The beach strikes me as the place where sins can be executed, where sins can be washed away, where sins can be forgotten.

With the haphazardness of the celebration waning, we hit the beach with our bikinis underneath our immaculately white church dresses.

The night has what the day does not: concealment. It hides what needs to be hidden, it shows what one chooses to bare. As a fortunate consequence, the night, especially on the beach, can make one imaginative. On the dimly-lit shore, the ugly becomes beautiful.

Alona at night is full of presumption and playfulness.

Not far from the resort, two men created balls of fire. First, the performer made a very lazy one. He gradually gained momentum and created hoops: an inferno in a ball.

Women in bikinis strutted the beach with ease, confident enough that darkness would blur the unwanted blubber and blemishes. Yes, we were some of these women.

The day has what the night tries to dispense: truth. Or face value. Under the seeming blueness of the sky, everything is manifest: beautiful, ugly, surprising, commonplace.

“Naunsa na ning kalibutana ron!” exclaimed a mature-looking Boholano upon seeing a transvestite garbed in a skin-toned bikini holding hands with a foreign guy. Like me, they were having breakfast at the cheapest carenderia dwarfed by a row of resorts and restaurants along Alona beach that catered to foreigners and the financially capable.

“Makaingon tingali ang Ginoo ’di naman ko kasabot sa mga tawo ron oy’!” he continued; his companion laughed. By the look of it, they were carpenters building a new resort somewhere. In front us, framed by the talisay tree, foreigners—mostly Caucasian—lay on the shore sun-tanning. Some local tourists walked the cream-colored beach holding a towel on their heads. An old couple applied sun-block on each other’s backs and walked around the beach hand-in-hand.

Together with her lover and two trans friends, the transvestite—who looked more feminine than me—passed by again. The man shook his head and continued eating his pansit. Some onlookers didn’t bother to hide the disgust on their faces. The foreigners by the talisay tree eyed the fellow Caucasian with astonishment. Under the seeming blueness of the sky, everything was so clear.

Dawn and dusk interposed between night and day. Dusk is the masking, dawn the unmasking. They are the times of day when the degrees of darkness and brightness are most visible. Perhaps that is the very reason why we find them beautiful: it is a muted fight between concealment and revelation.

Alona beach is named after Alona Alegre, informed the waitress at the wedding reception. Alona was Fernando Poe Jr.’s leading lady in the predictably action-packed “Esteban,” which was shot at the bare beach.

A movie clip I found online showed her being held captive by a goon. It was set at the beach with a dilapidated structure, a lighthouse perhaps. For a woman with a gun pointed at her temple, she did not look frightened. Instead, she looked like she was being caressed, yes, like she was in a delirium of pleasure while the goon shouted Esteban’s name. The goon’s grasp was not too tight. She could have broken loose and kicked him in the groin instead of writhing like a snake in heat. Most Filipino action movies do not need a good actress. Or perhaps, action movies make women look dumb and weak. Because without her acting so, Esteban would have no damsel in distress to save, it would terribly wound his ego.

Why is the beach named after her? She must have had something special. She must have had extraordinary beauty that the low-quality, black-and-white movie was unable to capture. Perhaps contrary to her damsel-in-distress character, she must be a fighter in real life. Perhaps it is because of her name alone—Alona. What a beautiful name.

Once uttered, the sound seems to ride with the wave. “Alon” means wave, “a” in Spanish means feminine: a feminine wave. And for me, feminine waves, soft, hushing, are the most alluring under the ostensibly April blue sky.

*Published on Sun.Star Cebu | December 6, 2012

 SIDE STORY

I left my newly bought pair of bikini at Bohol Sea Breeze, a humble and affordable cottage in Alona, Panglao. The owner willingly couriered them for free. How nice of her. If you ever stay in Alona, Pangla and are looking for an affordable accommodation, try Bohol Sea Breeze.

Contact #: 09203788208

December 6, 2012

Travel Essay: Alona in Panglao

WITH the unmistakable Wonder Girls’ notes in the saline-tinged air of Alona beach, Cel—the newlywed—with her two bridesmaids entered the area dancing to the tune of the Korean’s pop song Nobody. The bride wiggled her hips and pointed at her Hungarian groom every time the song hit the ‘you’ part.
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