“Beauty is an event,” contends Bruno Forte, a renowned Italian theologian. He says further, “It happens when the Whole, the All, offers itself to us in the fragment when the infinite makes itself little.” He then asks, “How can immensity become small and still exist?”

Manamoc, an island barangay in the municipality of Cuyo, is small but beautiful. With a land area of only 516 hectares and a population of 2,545, her relative smallness does highlight her unique beauty. Like pearls and diamonds, they do glitter if shaped and cut carefully and elegantly. What significantly adds to its being small is its location on the map. It is somewhat distant, farthermost (1139 kilometers, or a 16-hour trip) from Puerto Princesa City on mainland Palawan. Its off-the-beaten-track position makes the island village even more attractive to tourists, especially those of a more adventurous type. Hence, it could be said indeed that Manamoc is small but beautiful and far but somewhat spectacular.

While you may still be shaking your head in disbelief, I just have to say early on that the proof of the foregoing contention is that it is home to Amanpulo, one of the world’s most luxurious resorts. Among many things for their guests, which include Hollywood celebrities, business tycoons, and magnates, Amanpulo is an event for the people of Manamoc as well.

Since 1993, the year when the expensive getaway was established, Amanpulo and Manamoc have been a showcase of symbiosis. Playing host, the people of Manamoc can extend genuine hospitality through the expression of humane values and profound cultural heritage manifested by their employees, who happen to be locals of the island. On the part of the exclusive destination, through the Andres Soriano Foundation, they have been consistent in providing assistance to Manamoc in the form of livelihood programs, scholarship grants, healthcare benefits, aid in the protection of marine coastal resources, solid waste management, and other social services.

Furthermore, Manamoc is able to cultivate land, grow livestock, and do a lot more agricultural activities, which they could effortlessly deliver to the resort. In return, Amanpulo affords them all at lesser prices, freshly packaged as “catch of the day” products.

What is rather remarkable, too, was the significant influence of Amanpulo’s philosophy and work ethic on the local government unit at the barangay level. Most, if not all, of the elected officials were once employees of the resort. As such, they were able to imbibe practices that were akin to Amanpulo’s tag as “world-class.” “Kung ano pong natutunan sa training at kung paano magpatakbo ng kumpanya ay naia-apply din po namin dito sa aming barangay,” was told to me by a barangay kagawad.

Surprisingly, Manamoc, as one coming from a somewhat unfortunate circumstance, enjoys a 24/7 supply of electricity. (Say what?… Sana all.) If that is not beautiful for such a distant village, then what is? Remote barrios, especially in the islands, are not about to speak yet of uninterrupted power supply. As a matter of fact, where I live (West Coast area of Puerto Princesa City), the majority of the people are “powerless,” still waiting to see the light, literally and figuratively.
Perhaps it is right to ask: How does Manamoc do it? At the end of the day, it is really about people. Beauty as an event is created by the people themselves.

I was fortunate that when I made a visit to Manamoc, Fr. Alex Abia (my classmate) and his parishioners were celebrating the Balangay Festival. The event brought together people from the Quinuluban Group of Islands (comprising 2 Agutaya barangays, Concepcion and Algeciras, and 1 of Cuyo-Manamoc). While the term “balangay” speaks of a traditional wooden boat, it has come to be known for local folks as an acronym for BAyan ng Diyos, Lingkod na Alagad ni Kristo and NGAYon at Ganap na Buhay. Balangay then served for me as a window to see people in their own context and their very way of being.

In so many words, what easily caught my attention were the simplicity, audacity, and religiosity. All these were observable at the barrio fiesta luncheon and during the cultural show. Performances, singing, and dancing, accompanied by live “tipano,” were a treat and feast, showcasing the rich culture and a profound sense of history. Bishop Pabillo had whispered, “What we are watching is actually outstanding. Look at the costumes, too! And to think that it is all happening here in a small and remote barrio.” I really could agree more with what he said.

Don’t get me wrong, though. I am not portraying the place as perfect or heavenly. Not at all. Manamoc does have her share of watchamacallits. Among others, there is the garbage problem. Where do they go? Or, where should they go? A small island with a voluminous and non-stop entry of manufactured commodities will be problematic sooner than later. When that happens, God forbid, nature, which is the God-given capital of place, will just come to naught.

Henceforth, the principle of subsidiarity should come into play. In a sense, subsidiarity is about the duty of the larger institutions or of higher order to provide assistance to the smaller institutions when befitting. Conversely, it becomes the right, and responsibility, of that lower order to seek proper action from the greater or central body. Viewed this way, the municipality, province, congressional district, and national government must come to the aid of Manamoc. As a matter of course, subsidiarity guarantees both independence and harmony for the parties involved. Sensibly, beauty here is expressed in “the Whole (that) finds a home in the fragment…”

By the way, why is this place called Manamoc? Your guess could be as good as mine, but I could also tell you that we could be both wrong. Hence, it would be equally beautiful to discover how this place got its name. Make it happen. Make it an event.