Sta. Ana is at the north-eastern tip of the Philippines. KM 642, which is the last highway marker in the north of the country, is here. Just across its port is the island of Palaui where the Cape Engaño Lighthouse is located.
The outrigger boats were ready. The boatmen wore red sweatshirts that had the faces of political figures printed on their backs. It was only weeks away from election day.
Kuya Ronald and Efren were our tour guides for that day. Our first destination was the Cape Engaño Lighthouse. On the way up to the lighthouse we started throwing questions to Kuya Ronald, who tried his best to answer.
“So when is the Survivor team coming?” we asked.
“In May, but not all of us will be working for them,” he said.
Kuya Edwin, the owner of the boat that we contacted for the tour told us prior to the trip that Survivor, the famous reality game show, will be shooting a season on Palaui Island. The locals expressed their concern over the impact of this project to the environment and their lives. Kuya Edwin said even the mayor expressed disapproval and the residents were ready to rally. However, the Cagayan Economic Zone Authority (CEZA) told them that they were the ones who would be working for the project, so they conceded.
“So what will happen then?” we asked.
“Cape Engaño and two more beaches will be off-limits so no visitors can go to these areas. They will be shooting from May to August so less visitors will be coming in for four months. The shoot was supposed to start in March but we asked them to postpone it since many visitors will be coming in for the Holy Week,” Kuya replied.
The locals’ island-hopping income will be affected during the four months that the show will be filming on the island. But this show will surely boost tourism once the season has aired. While the filming is being done the province will benefit in terms of employment and local business should rake in more revenue as well.
“When you’re not guiding tourists, what do you do?” I asked curiously.
“Fishing,” he replied.
Sta. Ana is a coastal town and is nicknamed the Game Fishing Mecca of the Philippines. So a lot of locals here are fishermen. The boatmen only guide tours when there are visitors, but on normal days they fish. Some even plant rice during the day when farmers need help and then go fishing at night.
On our way down to the beach from the lighthouse we crossed paths with two men who were from the Philippine Coastguard. They maintain the lighthouse. Unlike other Spanish lighthouses we have seen, Cape Engaño Lighthouse is clean and no rubbles were lying around everywhere.