Tuesday, March 19, 2019

The Great Sta. Cruz Island: Zamboanga City's beautiful secret

PINK BEACH. The Great Sta. Cruz Island is one of the pink beaches in the world.

The color pink symbolizes delicateness, sweetness, and tenderness. In gemstones, morganite symbolizes serenity, relaxation, and contentment. In Zamboanga City, there's a place where this color brings so much more than the symbolism that people give. An island where tenderness is written in the sand and relaxation meets the beauty of the summer sky. It is a secret that has been revealed to a few but ready to show its softness to many and to bestow its charm to everyone—for a whole new world to see.

The Great Sta. Cruz Island of Zamboanga City needs more than a bird's eye view. With the breathtaking aerial shots of the crystal-clear water that reflects the mesmerizing blue sky, tourists will surely be in need of keen lenses that would capture how the pink mixes with the white. Since the 1970s, it has been recognized as one of the pink beaches in the world. The pink coralline sand mixes with the white ones, making it look like fine particles of crystals under the blistering heat. This pink color comes from the pulverized parts of red organ pipe coral, which makes it more amusing to look at.

The beautiful island of the Great Sta. Cruz.

This tourist haven is located four kilometers downtown the Sta. Cruz banks in the Basilan Strait. The Pink Sta. Cruz Island was declared as one of the twenty-one best beaches in the world, according to the National Geographic Channel. Because words and recognition wouldn't be enough as proof, tourists from all around the world can prove everything about this southern paradise. For the past years, it has been admired by an upsurge of eco-tourists, both local and international. It has been featured in programs like Byahe ni Drew.

VINTA. Aboard the iconic, colorful vinta of Zamboanga, these Pangalay dancers come to the shore while dancing.

Aside from the pink sand beach and people of the Sta. Cruz Island, what makes this island even more interesting is its marine biodiversity, whether under the water or not. This biodiversity has been protected and taken care of, and it shows in every angle of a tourist's camera. The boat travel to reach the island has never been more satisfying than once we reach the beach. Upon sinking my feet into the pinkish sand, I feel the breeze of the fresh air, accompanied by the sway of palm leaves. The immeasurable sea reflects the richness of life below the waves. The marine life, including the vast coral reefs, is bursting with colors and life.

As I step my feet below the cold waters, I feel its unique vibe of serenity and tenderness—and it really complements the pinkish sand. Looking around me, I see beyond the tall trees a panoramic view of beautiful Zamboanga City Proper. Stepping out of the water, on the other hand, make me think twice, not wanting to leave behind abundance shown in the marine life—corals, fishes, sea plants, and even the other out-of-this-world species down below. It is a view that will be fixed in my mind for life.

Colorful vintas of Zamboanga.

Even above the marine life, the richness of culture in the place is also embodied in how the locals overwhelm me with their hospitality. They offer us fresh or cooked crabs, shrimps, and large fishes that would really make our mouth water, and for a friendly, affordable price. The whole place embodies rich and improved ecotourism. In a couple of years, I am sure, the local government of Zamboanga will shape its ecotrousim through the conservation, protection, and rehabilitation of this small paradise within our reach.

PANGALAY. These performers dance Pangalay, a traditional fingernail dance of Tausug people.

While the local government unit that oversees the Great Sta. Cruz Island does use the phrase "a responsible eco-tourist takes nothing but pictures, leaves nothing but footprints, kills nothing but time, and gathers nothing but memories" as its motto, this reminder tells us that even though a place may be as rich, abundant, and vibrant as this island, its future still lies in our hands. Wouldn't it be great if decades from now, the pink stays pink, and the memories created will turn into the paradise of the future we have been imagining?

It is up to you. To me. To us. To take care of our own paradise. The true secret lies behind the color pink sand is the cumulative efforts of the people preserving, conserving, and protecting the sweet Sta. Cruz Island.

This trip was part of Flavors of Zamboanga Tour, a media familiarization tour organized by the Department of Tourism - Region IX, Zamboanga Peninsula, in coordination with iTravel Tourist Lane.

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