Exactly five years ago as of this writing, I had a chance to deliver a short lecture in Bangalore, India. Held in Dhamaram College, Christ University, it was a conference that gathered moral-ethicists, academicians, and church leaders from Asia and Australia the title of my humble conference paper was “The Price Of Being Beautiful”. I discussed about the ethical questions on tourism vis a vis Palawan context. Among others, the questions that I dared to ask were – What tourism has done to the once quiet Palawan? What changes and challenges are up as regards the integrity of creation? How will the relatively conservative local residents consider tourists coming from different mindsets in terms of propriety, like wearing bikinis around the neighborhood and several couples casually practicing public display of affection? In what way will parents understand and explain this adult spectacle to children? Can the predictable threats of the tourism industry be far behind? Prostitution, pedophilia, human trafficking, drug menace, displacement of peoples, the exorbitant standard of living, among others.

By revisiting the five-year-old lecture, I have in my thoughts the recent feat of our beloved Palawan. For the fourth time, our province is “Best Island in the World”, courtesy of Travel + Leisure. Instantaneously, our “kasimanuas” (provincemates) flooded social media with all there is to praise Palawan and to become proud of being Palaweños. I have to say that I was also in praise and of pride for the accolade rendered to the vastly acknowledged The Last Frontier.

While a celebratory mode is fine, it will not do harm to be circumspect on the one side though. We can go deeper more than just being proud. We must feel blessed. We will be proud when we acquire a thing through human efforts and blessed when somebody was generous enough to give us something precious. What makes our island as the best is not of our own making. To say the least, it is God’s own doing. As cited, “… rainforests, landscape and scenery, world’ longest subterranean river, beautiful beaches…”, do make Palawan as immensely blessed.

In this vein, have we ever paused for a while to sketch recognition to the One who blesses us with this tremendous natural bliss? Thanksgiving, no less. Known as a people of deep piety, Palaweños, regardless of religion or sect, are instinctually bent to worship Divinity. In some places, the communal act of thanksgiving is in fact now soaked into their very culture. What is more, the event has transformed into one wonderful tourist attraction itself. Thanksgiving in America, Semana Santa in Spain, Carnival in Rio de Janeiro, all these roots to acknowledge God as a source of blessings. They are now vastly popular as most legendary throughout the world in terms of people, tradition, arts, gastronomy, etc. All these and everything in between is elements that make the package of a complete terrific touristic experience.

Moreover, celebratory and events are not all there is. It cannot simply be a 24/7, year in and year out or non-stop activity. In the long run, it gets boring, dragging, and dead-tiring. Pahinga rin ‘pag may time. There is such a thing as hunting season and off-season. In truth, however, the off-season is not at all off. It is very much part of the process so that hunting season will all the more be bountiful. Nature has to rest. People must also sleep. A case in point is this current onslaught of the pandemic. When everything came to a halt, many of us posted on social media clear blue skies and crystal clear waters. There was a collective exhale beholding God-given nature as ever more beautiful. Said, “Nakapagpahinga rin ang kalikasan.”

If there is one thing that lockdown has brought us something heartening is this sincere realization of God’s blessings upon us in Palawan. For sure, we cannot claim that we are deserving of such. By all means and at all costs, we must show care. And be thankful. When we are not keen on being thankful, sooner than later we will be regretful. Again, the order, which is not tall enough, is to be caring and be in thanksgiving. If we won’t, our blessings will be laid to waste. Instead of beautiful, beauti-fool will all be.