Masasa, Trash, and Other Injuries: The Side-Effects of the #Trending Phenomenon

The holy long weekend has our feeds flooded by #HolyWeek2018 #Summer2018 FB posts and IG stories of sun, sea, and sand.

Thanks to the recent “trending” phenomenon, the disillusioned, traffic-harassed, overworked, underpaid Filipino twenty-something gets to spend vacay in more accessible and affordable ways.

The ease of sharing our experiences through social media has made many places the haunt of many weekend warriors and other bakasyonistas.

Small localities-turned-tourist havens now have bustling experience economies. Jobs, formal and informal, are generated; investments made, and the Filipino “gets to discover and experience” the country. These are reflected in 2017 films such as I’m Drunk, I love You, Sakaling Hindi Makarating, and Siargao, hyping further the “YOLO-so-travel” trend.

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However, a shadow has cast itself over these sunny trends.

On Good Friday, a photo album of Masasa beach in Tingloy Island, Batangas went viral because of the huge crowd and the trash all over the place. That same day a post by media personality Karen Davila also went viral. The post recounts her family trip to Siargao “gone wrong” when one of his sons was injured while surfing. The incident exposed the lack of life-saving and emergency health services in the beach area, irregularities in the surfing business, as well as the inadequacy of the local government to respond to the large influx of visitors.

Masasa and Siargao are beneficiaries of the trending phenomenon. Also, its victims.

Masasa entered the limelight in 2017 due to its nearness to Metro Manila, the affordable travel costs, and the undeniable beauty of the place. (A Tingloy-native colleague once told me that before trending, Masasa was only known to the Manileños they invited since they didn’t want the beach soiled with overcrowding.)

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Once these places acquired trending status, people cannot be prevented from going. That is what happened when mountain climbing became trending after That Thing Called Tadhana (2014) spurred the many moving-on climbs to Mt. Kiltepan, Sagada.

The trending phenomenon, with its throngs of tourists, unintentionally contributed to the degradation of the environment. Beaches have become gutters of human waste. Mountains face garbage problems, not to mention the disruption in wildlife activity.

Human carelessness led to 1.5 hectares of grassland burned in Mt. Pulag.

The hospitality and service industry, although generating jobs and income, drains the supply of successor workforce for the vital sectors of agriculture and fisheries as the younger generation leave for centers of tourist activity.

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Small municipalities are ill-equipped to cope with high densities of people and trash for prolonged periods and must rely on developers and other service providers which can result in the displacement of local communities and the alteration of the local landscape.

attempting to Make a place trend because you enjoyed it and because you want others to experience the same is not bad. But as Terry Goodkind says, “The greatest harm can result from the best intentions.”

The responsible traveler must not delude himself into believing that others are as responsible. There will always be bad ones, that is why responsible traveler advocacies must be intensified in tandem with LGU campaigns for sustainable and responsible tourism.

It’s ironic that we hurt those that we love most. We enjoy at the expense of the environment.

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If we think we deserve a good rest after months of accumulated stress, shouldn’t also the mountains and seas deserve some time off without humans after long periods of environmental stress?

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