I was in Mainland USA for three weeks and yet I wasn’t inspired enough to write about what we have not seen on TV or the movies. At last, there is a place in the United States of America that I really, really like. Maui, Hawaii.
There is really nothing special about it. There are no historic places to visit. There are the usual museums, botanical gardens and large public sports parks for soccer, rugby, football, tennis and others. Most souvenir shops carry the usual Hawaiian lei, t-shirts and surfboards. There is the presence of American chain stores: Costco, Walmart, Safeway, Macy’s, Sears, Lowe’s, Ross, Radio Shack and others.
Maui is extra special—it feels like home, but much more exhilarating!
If we hope to boost our tourism industry, we have a lot to learn from Maui. Their major industry is tourism, next to agriculture. Pretty much like our country.
Maui has about 30 miles of beaches but no two beaches are alike. I visited and “swam” (more of dipped) in more than 10 of them in three days. According to two tourists I talked with, Boracay is more beautiful with its powdery white sand beaches. I agree. And I added that they should have also tried the beautiful beaches of Palawan, Camarines Norte and Sur, Pangasinan, Surigao and many others. However, I would swim in any Maui beach anytime. They are clean, not a single debris or food crumb or candy wrapper in sight. They are accessible to anybody and everybody. Structures, like hotels or residential houses, are required to provide easy access to the beach. Nobody owns the beach area. Nobody collects money for one to enter the beach. There are always warning signs about the condition of the water and there are sexy lifeguards all the time. There are either proper restrooms or Portalets everywhere and freshwater showers, too. Everybody, tourists included, takes care of the beaches by following simple rules of respect and discipline.
Maui has no distinct cuisine—their recipes are greatly influenced by foreign settlers, including Filipinos. They have food similar to our lechon, laing, kinilaw (ceviche) and maja blanca. But they have woven a story around it—they call it luau. They have native music, dances and even costumes accompanying a luau. It is similar to our fiesta, but more intimate and select. It is not a public affair; it is a special festivity, at once intimate and private, yet concelebrated with other people in a place. Our fiesta is a big carnival where you lose yourself—there are too many things going on and too much food that eventually go to waste.
Maui is a spiritual experience. My gracious hostess, Rozie Morala, drove us at 3 a.m. up the dormant but nonetheless majestic Haleakala volcano (10,023 feet above sea level with its crater 3,500 feet deep and measuring 2.5 miles wide with a circumference of 21 miles). At the crater we watched the great sun rise and fascinating landscapes. The rode was winding and well-paved. There is a parallel 36 miles of hiking trail but we opted to go in Renee Jorg’s trusty Prius. I’ve never seen the sun shine with such a glow—it reflects the clean refreshing air of Maui.
From the beaches of Paia, we also visited the private Sacred Garden with its amazing labyrinths. Although privately owned, the garden is open for everybody to admire their plant arrangements and walk the labyrinths. They also offered free tea, coffee and chocolates.
There are many other places I visited which I will write about and be inspired again in subsequent columns. One conclusion I can draw from experiencing Maui is that the Philippines is a much more beautiful and naturally endowed country. Yet, Maui is in every tourist’s bucket list. When I tell people I am from the Philippines, they only thing they know about us is “Pacquiao.” Tourists won’t visit here to see Manny. And the Philippines has a lot, lot more to offer.
Oh, I could write a book on Maui about my short visit there, maybe later. Meantime, to Maui, Rozie, Renee and her two handsome sons Nainoah and Kaili: Mahalo! See you again, soon!