Many streets are named after Jose Rizal. I do not know how many beaches were named after him but the one that we go to often is called Rizal Beach in my husband’s hometown of Gubat in Sorsogon. On a recent trip there, we decided to stay at a hotel near the beautiful beach where an old movie, The Longest Hundred Miles, was shot. It starred Doug McClure, Katharine Ross and Ricardo Montalban.
Our children spent many summers there. Since they enjoyed the sea so much, we “slow baked” them by taking them to the beach every morning from 6 to 9 a.m. and then again in the afternoons from 4 to 6. There were times when we would go night swimming too. As they got older, we were able to leave them there for one whole month, coming for them only on weekends. It was the best way to learn their roots.
There have been many changes through the years. The shore has receded a bit and many coconut trees have fallen, but everything else seems the same: the estuary, the tides, even the undertow! Like before, we’d see people fishing on the shores. But this time, we saw a couple casting their net.
Each time they cast the net, they caught a few fish. Maybe if they continued fishing till the sun was hot, they would have caught enough for their family for the day and maybe a little more to sell. Obviously, it was hard work.
And then I thought of how it would feel to depend on the sea for food--the same sea that we enjoyed only during vacations. I’ve seen its waves turn an opaque white on the horizon as a storm came in. I’ve enjoyed its clarity and calmness this time of the year. Many, many years ago, I walked on dead coral just as the tide receded but soon found myself running as it rushed back inland. I have also seen people riding large waves that came in one Easter Sunday.
Surely, the water here is somehow the same water that reaches the other side of the island. But it is so difficult to see how it can be the same sea I knew as a child--on a different shore, in Manila Bay on the other side of Luzon. I’ve seen the tides meet on the south near an island off Matnog and I have watched the mighty Cagayan River join the sea in Aparri. I have also seen other coastal areas around Luzon that may have been touched by the same tides.
The beach and the sea are always a mystery. And, like many things and events we do not understand completely, there are superstitions about them. Some say that if a wedding is held at the beach, that marriage will not last long because like the tide and the shore, they are forever saying goodbye to each other. There is also the belief that the stairs of a house built on the beach should have stairs running parallel to the tides or else all the blessings will be taken away by receding waves.
Whether or not these have a basis, the fact remains that these shores on which the same seawater come to rest for brief moments are different things to different people. For that couple and other fisherfolk, the sea provides food. For some, these shores are jump off points to diving adventures. For others, they are destinations that provide relaxation and rest from the daily grind. For me, the sea is so much more--beyond the different roles it plays in other people’s lives, I have come to regard all the beaches I have been to as one perfect whole: a repository of memories--as a child, as a friend, as a lover and as a mother. I feel like I have developed permanent ties with the sea, and my fascination with these shores will last a lifetime. Rizal Beach will always be a special part of that perfect whole.