A salt farm at the entrance to Lido Beach Resort today.
CAVITE CITY – Ever wonder what used to be one of the hippest beaches of the Philippines when life was much simpler?
Just a quick drive or ride from Metro Manila is Lido Beach in Cavite City, whose popularity in the '50s and '60s can be likened to that of Boracay today.
The Lido Beach resort, started and owned by Celedonio Santamaria, became a popular destination when Manila Bay was still relatively safe and clean to swim in.
Families and friends would flock to Lido Beach, stay a few hours to enjoy the gray-sand beach, and travel back to Metro Manila the same day. It's a quick 30- to 40-minute ride or drive from Roxas Blvd.
Back then, most Filipinos still couldn't afford to travel to white-sand beaches in the Visayas and Mindanao. Air transport was generally still a Philippine Airlines (PAL) monopoly, and budget airlines and piso fares were unheard of.
Many got to Lido Beach by taking a mini-bus from Roxas Blvd. or via the family's first car, the Beetle or Combi.
Benedicta Laurente, a resort staff since 1976, shared that guests would come even on weekdays, and that the beach would be full of people on Sundays. Guests would have picnics in huts or on the beach or buy food at the resort.
“Noong kasikatan nito, talagang maraming tao. Masaya, lalo na ‘pag Linggo. Makikita mo mga tao naliligo dyan at ang makikita mo lang ay mga ulo nila. Ganoon karami...Kahit ganitong ordinary days, maraming customers,” she recalled.
She said people who visited the resort declined over time after Manila Bay's pollution reached Cavite's beaches and as tourists chose to go by air to explore the country's white-sand beaches in the Visayas (Cebu and Aklan), Palawan, and even hard-to-reach places in northern Luzon.
Laurente said they still have guests coming in, especially after re-opening back in 2011.
“Iba ho talaga noong araw, talagang marami…. Nag-close [ang beach] almost 10 years, binuksan [ulit] noong 2011...Mga dati naming suki, ayun, bumabalik.”
Resort staff member Carmina Quiamzon Yan said guests would sometimes share their memories about Lido Beach, citing one guest who recalled getting engaged there.
“Historical talaga ang Lido Beach. Kasi nga po minsan meron kaming mga nagiging customer na nagsasabing ‘Alam mo, memorable samin ‘to’ kasi dito raw naganap yung engagement nila. Totoo po, at napapangiti ako,” she said.
Cavite provincial tourism officer Liberty Herrera said Lido Beach has changed over the years, primarily because the polluted waters have reached the shores of the beach.
"Naging famous noong '60s [and] the family decided to open it up again... [Pero] hindi na kagaya nung dati dahil sa coastal waters along that side," Herrera said.
However, local tourism has increased in the area ever since the Manila–Cavite Expressway (Cavitex) was opened. It has improved shortened the travel time going to Cavite by around 15-20 minutes.
"I believe nag-increase. Naging madali at mabilis [ang biyahe.] Cavitex helped with shortening of travel time and [helped limit] the traffic," Herrera said.
Herrera also said guests and visitors will be able to expect new sights and places to go to this summer, noting that one of thrusts of the local government of Cavite is eco-tourism.
Today, the go-to destination of Cavite is cool Tagaytay City, which received 1.4 million out of the 1.7 million tourists who went to Cavite province in 2012.
Lido Beach Resort continues to be under the management of the same family. It is now handled by the original owner’s son, Eleuterio Santamaria. Old photos courtesy of Lido Beach Resort
Throwback: Owner Celedonio Santamaria at the height of the resort's popularity in the 1980s.
Today: The Lido Beach Resort at present with the abandoned restaurant in the background.
Throwback: The beachfront back in 1965, when people flocked to the popular beach resort.
Today: Remnants along the beach in the neighboring resort provide a glimpse of its once grand stature.
Throwback: The crowded resort back in 1965, when festivals were even held along the beach.
Today: A few people go to the place today on weekends for videoke sessions.
Throwback: Up until the early 1980's the resort had numerous visitors.
Today: The popularity of the beach declined along with Manila Bay's deterioration.
Throwback: Beach huts were always full on weekends back in 1983.
Today: The resort's facilities have also disappeared along with the crowd.
Throwback: The familiar sign welcomes visitors as one enters the beach resort back in 1981.
Today: The sign still stands today, more as a testament to the once popular beach destination.