Manic is the word for the weeks leading to Christmas this year- like it’s mortal sin to pause and take in a breath or two. So, when on the night colleagues and I arrived at the venue of the members’ assembly and year end gathering we’ve been organizing the past month and came to this feline napping on luxe settings by the entrance, our reaction was that life is indeed unfair sometimes.
My notion of the place which I haven’t heard of before is that of a typical poolside resort and what with it’s name – Pooten – it failed to elicit excitement. But then I was surprised to see that the main building is styled in French colonial. The owners – a retired lawyer and his wife – were in residence. Their private quarters on the ground floor – lounge, dining, kitchen, rooms – are open to visitors albeit relatively un-used and cordoned off with a “Do Not Enter” sign. I surmised that the business was conceived following I believe an empty nest syndrome: kids all grown up, with families of their own, happy in the places they built on their own, visiting once a year or once in ten, so then in between what to do with their old-ish selves in the huge house? I guess considering that an empty house is worse in comparison it’s why the couple was tolerant of karaoke singing into the night but nonetheless we had to go pour cold water on participants who continue to sing past eleven o’clock at night.
The entire venue was reserved for our group as we expected a huge turn out although day swimmers were still welcomed. Our rooms are on the second floor via a very grand staircase. A wrap around terrace connects the rooms although the view can be appreciated only at daytime. There’s nothing to see out there at night as the area, relatively un-developed, is bathed in natural darkness. But our room’s cavernous toilet/shower room where a hundred or so people could fit in at once and a closet area with similar proportion are definitely pleasant surprises.
The only thing I wasn’t comfortable with are the hidden CCTV cameras or in other words, recordings of myself although on one hand I understand the owners’ desire to put in safeguards in as far as securing their property is concerned (but that’s the issue right there: when does somebody’s property rights infringe on another’s? I mean, my body is my property, right (in the logic of, “places where s/he has the (reasonable) right to exclude the public or deny them access“)? In the absence of a data protection law, the win-win solution to this as far as I’m concerned is to have property owners with CCTV cameras register as data controllers with a national authority, to sign an explicit understanding with visitors or users of their property in which provisions would include, consent of the visiting party, right of the visiting party to the information/images recorded of him/herself, right to copies of these, right to know how the recordings/information are kept and destroyed in the future, and for the property owner to be barred from publicly sharing their recordings unless it’s court ordered. A tedious process, the property owner would argue but that’s the point. It’s the price of any infringement of another’s privacy. Besides, the use of CCTV recordings as court evidence is for me the same as owning to the entire world that you’re the culprit- what if you’re set up? of what use then are legal arguments in defense of clients? Beyond CCTVs, the matter also touches on issues surrounding this modern-day invention called convenience and we know the repercussions of standard, off-the-shelf solutions, one of which is, it makes us increasingly mindless, less critical, and more importantly, less and less sensitive and more and more suspicious of others. Hence: Do we really need a camera to address our security concerns? Is a camera the best solution? Is there a less intrusive but equally effective alternative? But what thoughts on Christmas!)
On the walls are the owners’ extensive photo collection of the 1904 St. Louis World Fair that featured Igorots who were part of the contingent in the controversial Philippine Exhibit. There are also a number of paintings depicting native Cordilleran life. In fact, the second floor looks like a museum. Besides the photos and paintings, custom made rattan chairs to fit the average preschool-aged child lined the length of the walls. I didn’t dare sit on one. The image of the curious Bears breaking poor Goldilocks’ chairs flashed in my mind.
The main attraction are the pools of sulfuric water, several of these scattered behind the main building. I went in alone after lunch on our second day, during the two hour break before the start of our year end celebratory program. Everybody had taken a swim the night before and at dawn that morning and nobody wanted to get sunburned. But I quickly made friends with the ladies in the pool. The talk was about, yes, Ms. Philippines as the new Ms. Universe. The place is purposefully cut off from the world of information – no TV or wifi connection – but we had our mobile broadband connection. Talk was also about the varying degrees of warmth in the pools and the danger of blood elevation at high temperatures. Our pool was the hottest which explained why the ladies were only half-submerged, getting out of the water now and then. I believe they were wondering how I could be in the water the entire time without disintegrating.
Breaking away from the discussion to my own part of the pool, I gazed at the cloudless blue expanse above, felt the sun burning bright and hot on my skin, and lulled by the joyful chatter of happy people about, I re-affirmed to myself that I definitely don’t want to be a cat, even if sometimes life seems unfair.