Trash Talk

By the Sunburnt Explorer

I find myself walking down the beach at sunset filling up a large sack with empty soda cans and Magnum wrappers. Having missed another beach clean-up earlier that morning, I try to make up for it at sunset by picking up litter on the beach like a crazy beachcomber, tut-tutting at tourists for leaving their plastic bags unattended and offering up my sack like a barefooted martyr to those in search of a much needed place to chuck their plastic coffee cups.

I’ve developed a facial twitch, it seems, every time I see somebody casually throw their trash on the ground and walk away from it. I’ve become that person, the cliché hippie that people make fun of, Geronimo with his hair whipping in the wind, a single tear crawling down his craggy, weather-beaten face. I have become Rain Man. The instinct to pick up trash is so overwhelming that I even have to stop myself from doing it at the most inopportune moments, like at funerals or in queues at the ATM.

I chuckle to myself thinking of something a friend said the other day, “You know somebody is a Boracay resident if they go around picking up empty chip packets on the beach after tourists like an OCD nut.” But I am brazenly unashamed to do it. Surprisingly, a lot of Boracay locals and residents are happy to do it, too. It’s like having a big beautiful public front lawn that the real owners do not really know how to take care of. So you end up cleaning up after them for free just so you can keep coming out to see it.  But then the visitors keep coming and the franchises go up, producing hundreds of plastic bags per day, thousands of candy wrappers, flyers, streamers, posters, practically turning the island into a veritable theme park. So, then, what can you possibly do?

First of all, did we not learn anything from what happened at Manila Bay? Years upon years of accumulated trash dredged up by the waves and spat back on land. Mother Nature’s middle finger is up in the air, loud and clear. We are a very lucky community in the sense that everybody is willing to act a little nutty in defense of it. Instead of corporations shelling out for ridiculous posters and flyers, why don’t they come down to the beach one day with a sack and pick up some trash with the locals? I’m sure they must have a pair of old trash picking jeans somewhere in that walk-in closet of theirs. Be neighborly.

I shudder to think of the day Katia Kalyani stops Ocean Hour, the day the BFI and the Yuppies quit their volunteer clean-ups, or when Elena Brugger finally hangs up her own sack in frustration. The little people that help out are among the many wonders of the island that surprise and delight me daily. And coincidentally, here’s to immortal trash, may trash of all stages of decomposition or never-ending life find people kind enough to get them into their appropriate bins.

Dragging my now full sack of trash back up the beach, I enjoy the last moments before tourists all descend towards the water, finally turning away as the sun sets behind me in a flash of camera lights and synchronized air jumps. I found my courage on the island. I found my calling, and I do not think my own particular beach front will ever be the same.

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