We disembarked after breakfast of coffee, bread and cheese, scrambled eggs and hotcakes at the pre-assigned table in the fine dining area of the ship where Bernice and Anthony served as our wait persons.
At Nassau port, many locals offered you rides to the city. Andrea whose husband was one of the regulars in the port, in a “barong-tagalog” look-alike, showed us the map of the island and the places we can go to. Andrea drives a Daihatsu van while her husband stays at the port to look for more tourists.
- Nassau: Population 301,790 (2005 estimate) Population density 30 persons per sq. km., 78 persons per sq mi (2005 estimate) Urban population distribution 89 percent (2003 estimate) Rural population distribution 11 percent (2003 estimate).
The chief revenue of Bahamas is from tourism and could be the reason why the locals would treat tourists so well. No fast break operators who would rip you off of your precious dollar.
The inhabitants are dark-skinned but are tidy and I see no one sporting rugs and begging on the streets for food and you have yet to hear someone swearing loudly or speaking in foul-language. At the port, we have to haggle for a price of services with Andrea, who drives a van to bring you in any part of the island, but you would not quibble for a price of food they vend because it might be too embarrassing to ask for a dollar off your food from a street vendor. Though one “buko” sells at $5.00 at the water tower at Fincastle where the locals also sell island memorabilia to tourists.
The city streets remind us of most of our two-lane streets in Manila so were the houses in the island are identical to houses in the skirts of Metro Manila; medium size, simple and of mostly paved and cemented with corrugated iron sheets for roofs. Only that their community is cleaner and there is no apparent pollution.
Cars are small and there are no trucks. The driver seats of some cars are on the left hand side just like our cars in the country, but some cars have the driver seats on the right like the cars from Europe and you have to drive on the left side of the road.
The city is the seat of government of the Bahamas Island which comprises several islets. It has its own Parliament whose members are elected every five years by the locals. It has achieved its independence in 1973, though it has been the colony of the British since 1717. However, up to this date, the Governor remains the representative of Queen Elizabeth of England which is quite odd.
It is much warmer in this City compared to most U.S. States but the atmosphere is not damp. The island’s climate brings my memory back to Manila and my boyhood in the fishing village of Bagacay, Tinambac, Camarines Sur. The sea breeze as my mother used to say when she was still around, was good for clearing up your sinuses and your lungs from asthma and pneumonia infection.
The Atlantis Hotel which is about 10 minutes ride from the port of Nassau offers its bed to guest from $400 to $2000 a night. It is one of the engineering marvels of the modern times. The entrance is built on the edge of the island and its main structure is built on seabed. Huge palisades at the entrance ushered by 7 winged horses in bronze sculpture in galloping or flying positions around a fountain.
At the hotel basement are six panels of thick glasses; two on each side which served as the wall of the basement and separated by huge concrete posts.
On your side is the inside of the hotel while the other side is the open sea. The fish are in controlled area where they can swim freely except towards the sea.
You can see through the glass panels variety of fish like milkfish, pampano, talakitok, the bigger version of “sapsap”, tanguigui, kiskisan, malasugui, stingrays, sharks and palad. Palad is a fish variety where one side is different from the opposite side. There are other fish I could not name and identify in this pool of sea creatures gliding elegantly beside this basement glass-cage and the suave fins that propel their graceful motion under water hardly mirrors their objection to the constriction of space in this basement exterior. They were there to regale their guests.
I would bet though that had my father been alive today and could have afforded him the pleasure of bringing him to this famous hideaway of Western tourists, he could identify every fish in this hotel sea-basement.
The water in this basement sea-aquarium is placid and bluish and is matched only by the serenity and poise of these fish swimming graciously and they were not fighting for a territory or a piece nutrient that could lie in the sea’s underbelly. There is total symmetry not only of the structure that houses the fish but also of the calm and tranquil environment. I can tour the three walls and be soothed by the peace and stillness of the surrounding and chilled only by a nostalgic memory of my father who died poor as foreman of road repair crew of the province after he had left fishing in Bagacay.
At another part of the island we stopped at Mckenzie, our “turo-turo” counterpart to lunch. A small plastic plate of “conch”, a delicacy in the island consisting of a shell entrails, the meat of which has the texture of an escargo (kuhol) or squid or octopus, minus the slime and fish odor, and is being served raw, “kilawin” style; its pinkish white meat is sliced thin then mixed with fresh lime and lemon squeeze, bell pepper, onion and black pepper and slices of fresh tomato. The exquisite taste of the conch “kinilaw” is matched only by its price of $9.00, though locals claimed that you can gather conch buried in the sand in most beaches of the Bahamas. You can also ask your host to fry the conch instead of serving it fresh, with baked banana slice, fried rice in soy sauce and French fries for the same price.
After a bite of fresh conch, TJ said that he could live in the island forever subsisting on this delicacy and probably would live much longer free from disease-causing cholesterol and saturated fats. I can only nod my head in approval. The regular bottled water costs one dollar, a bottle of soda 2 dollars and a tin can of beer about 4 dollars.
Before Andrea toured us in this island, we haggled for the price of $160.00 over what she originally wanted as guide and car fee of $180.00. She drove us through the island and showed us the US Consulate Office, his mansion, the parliament, the police academy, the only college in Nassau, the mansion of the governor of the island, the water tower which is claimed to be the highest structure of the island, which in my estimate is about the height of a 16-story building. Below this water tower of 85,000 gallons capacity which serves as the water supply for the island is Fort Fincastle where three replicas of big canons are aimed towards the sea. The port was built somewhere in 1717 by the first governor of the island, Lord Dunmore, a British officer, to ward off marauders or pirates who wanted to seek provisions and amenities from the island.
We passed by the cemetery where Nicole Smith and her son Daniele were buried. Both were victims of what forensic doctors claimed to be drug overdose. Both were US citizens but must have found the tranquil environment in the Bahamas as a natural cure for depression and drug dependence. But once more, your
environment is what you make of it. It is totally impassionate over your conduct and your shortcomings.
This island nation has her own money and the forex is one Bahamian dollar to one US dollar. If everyone is in the tourism industry, you would find life easy, but those locals who are not earning from the tourist industry would find the prices of food and services beyond their reach. The locals are being priced out and deprived of essential services and food because these items are being catered to the tourists who can afford them. We have no data though of the percentage of the locals who are not dependent on tourism.
After eating plateful of conch, fish, rice and baked banana and fries, Andrea dropped us off at the beach the beauty of which is far less magnificent than the beach in my birthplace, the Atulayan in Sagnay where the water is pristine and clear, the waves calmer and you can see clearly through the water the pebbles on the ocean bed and the fish that glide beautifully underneath, just like the majestic beach of Caramoan. The flawless seashore of white sand and pebbles in my beach town is far more beautiful than this Bahamas beach but it is out of reach from most tourists to be of economic value to the country. The Bahamas, is a famous hideaway of American tourists because it is about an hour plane ride from the nearest U.S. State of Florida and about 12 hours by cruise ship, or maybe less by lighter boats which can clock more knots than the big cruise ships.
Andrea drove Noemi and my wife to the shopping mall, a walking distance from the cruise ship, while we bathe in the ocean under the searing heat of the sun and have fun. We did some funny stuff on the beach that only a father and his children can be thrilled about. At my age, I challenged anyone of my kids to swim to the farthest distance of the ocean from the beach, but nobody accepted my challenge fearful perhaps that I could suffer from exhaustion and heat stroke in the process.
At the beach we leased an umbrella and a plastic folding bed for $25.00.
This beach adventure was an opportunity to know my daughters and my son once again and it was also a time to reintroduce myself to my daughter-in-law, Aimee and her brother TJ. The beach swim was a time worth putting in still photos for posterity, it was an adventure worth reliving and an eternity highlighted by a paradox that it was about to end that day.
At 4 p.m., Andrea fetched us from the beach. Because there were more space in the van, she was able to pick up another five passengers from the beach and was paid additional money in the process. She said earlier that with the $160 dollars we paid, she already made the quota for the day, but you cannot fault her for being enterprising and make more money when there is an opportunity. She said she has kids that are in school and would go to Miami to shop for school supplies and clothes for her children because the price of these items were quite expensive in the island.
My two daughters were shocked to find that a gallon of milk in this island costs $8 while it sells at $1.99 dollars in the US.
Back at the ship shortly before 5 p.m. , we took our bath in the cabin showers and off to a diner of steak, fish, chicken, soup, fruits, salad and drinks. Bernice and Anthony were there to assist us with their usual unrestrained smile and glee.
Some Filipino crew would greet us in the corridors and were proud to speak Tagalog. Other non-Filipino crew members would greet us also in halting Tagalog like “kumusta” “sana bumalik kayo”, salamat”. They were speaking the language to seek your approval as if our approval means so much to them. Suddenly you become proud in the belief that your race could inspire, your language is not an incoherent birdlike chirping, but a language you think might become a major one in the likes of Spanish and French.
We skipped the karaoke bar and went to watch the live show at the auditorium after dinner. The dancing and the singing were of the Las Vegas quality, colorful lights were in the likes of the Sin City too, but there was none of the nudity and pornography of the city.
Day two was not over unless we dropped by the casino to try another adventure at the poker table. I lost again but Benjo and TJ just made even. But it was fun.