Espinoza: Buyer beware

·2 min read

Its name notwithstanding, it is obviously no longer a virgin’s island. Commercialism has crept into what must have been a poor man’s paradise, disrobing Bohol’s Virgin Island of its innocence.

But what else is new? Many years ago, my wife and I visited Anda, also in Bohol, spending one night in a cottage by the beach. Our room was so small that one edge of the mosquito net that embraced our bed would have extended all the way to the shower if we tried pulling it.

The accommodations were primitive by today’s standards. But what the lodging house lacked in amenities, the owners, a German and his Ilonga wife, more than made up for by their warm welcome. Besides, we were traveling on a tight budget so our expectations were limited.

Anda was beautiful, its charm lying mostly in its relative seclusion. We woke up at five o’clock the following morning to walk barefoot on a long stretch of fine sand and, save for a stray dog, met no one along the way. It remained so even when the sun shone with only our shadows keeping us company.

We went back to Anda five years later, this time with a large group of friends. I had foolishly hoped to find the Anda that I had known and once again soak in its – and my – anonymity. It wasn’t meant to be, of course.

The cottage was gone, replaced by modern beach houses. Anda had lost its native charm.

I thought of Anda when I learned about a netizen’s complaint that has gone viral, of overcharging by Virgin Island food sellers. Twenty-six thousand pesos for food served on 13 people is indeed a little too much. It couldn’t have been because of the war in Ukraine and the accompanying surge in oil prices since the food was served alfresco.

But what is wrong with charging five-star hotel prices for food served in a makeshift hut? The guests brought the food on their own accord. If they did not inquire about the price first, it was their fault. Caveat emptor.

Unless we are prepared to condemn big businessmen for the same “offense,” we cannot fault the small-time food sellers in Bohol for following the law of supply and demand. The visitors wanted to eat, the sellers had the food. If their minds meet, neither can complain later about having been disadvantaged.

It is called free enterprise and it is not different from what hotel operators do during the Sinulog when they charge guests three times the usual room rate.

I feel sad about Virgin Island losing its innate charm to commercialism as Anda did much earlier. Sadder still that there is nothing we can do about it.

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