If you found yourself on social media, if not Roxas Boulevard in Manila, this past weekend, chances are you already know that there’s a new Manila attraction set to officially rise in the Philippine capital in the coming months. Not just a visual instalment, it’s also meant to help Filipinos cope with their mental health amid rising coronavirus cases in the country, so a national official says. It’s no other than the Manila Bay white sand.
How the Manila Bay white sand, or Manila Bay Sands, came to be
Wait, white sand? In Manila Bay? The idea of these words coming together sounds baffling, to begin with, especially for one who’s lived in Metro Manila for a very long time. Sans the amazing sunset and nostalgia it offers, personally, the Manila Bay I know and grew up with is far from glamorous. If I had enough resources, I would gladly improve it myself through sustainable clean-up and research-based development plans. Covering it with white sand, specifically crushed dolomites from Cebu, will never be an option, though.
But yes, thanks to a budget of about ₱400 million, the Manila Bay white sand, or more hilariously known as the Manila Bay Sands (Marina Bay Sands is shaking), is happening. Soon, it will formally open to locals and foreign visitors alike. And from 19 to 20 Sep 2020, some Filipinos had the honour of seeing the sparkling place of interest for the first time as Manila City officials opened it for temporary viewing to the public. And that’s where it got even more interesting.
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Why it’s trending and had an online challenge named after it
Without getting into the politics of it all, I won’t be the first one to say that destroying natural resources to beautify another is in itself immensely questionable. But as it turns out, this has become the least of our worries when the government decided to encourage people from across Metro Manila to see the new beach with their own eyes. From its still unresolved budgetary and environmental concerns, the focus has now been shifted to the health risks the Manila Bay white sand viewing posed for all those who visited and continue to visit it.
On 20 Sep 2020, thousands of self-created memes popped up all over social media when photos of the new attraction’s opening came to limelight. Most of these photos show a throng of visitors crowding Manila Bay, from Roxas Boulevard to the shore area, completely ignoring social distancing protocols. Most notably, some visitors are seen crammed on the narrow footbridge facing the white sand area attempting to take shots of their own, making social media users wonder how social distancing was observed, if it was at all.
Ako lang 'to guys. Bigay ko wantawsan mamaya ✌🏽
Posted by Macoy Dubs on Sunday, September 20, 2020
A single photo of the people on the footbridge then became the centrepiece of a new social media trend, the #ManilaBayChallenge. Basically, people make a collage of two photos, where one is of the sightseers on the footbridge and the other of any eye-catching beach or water photo you have. The idea is to make it look like these people are desperately trying to take photos of you because, well, in the age of social media, who doesn’t like the idea of other people giving you the attention you feel you deserve, right? Naturally, you’ll have to share it on social media with a fun, relevant caption.
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What to expect from the new ‘Manila attraction’
Having seen the Manila Bay white sand myself (a few days before it was opened and got overcrowded), I can tell you that the polished part is only a tiny fraction of the entire Manila Bay stretch. I had to say it because people are still spreading faux photos of the new Manila Bay white sand claiming that it takes up the entire length of the coast from the US Embassy to the Cultural Center of the Philippines side.
After its temporary opening last weekend in observance of the International Coastal Cleanup Day, the Manila Bay white sand beach is again closed for further rehabilitation. Opening the beach for swimming when it opens in the future is also unclear as the ongoing Manila Bay rehabilitation is only centred on the shores.
Featured image credit: Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) | Official Facebook page