Flemming with Eden in Paradise
“We ran away to Bantayan Island” says 48 year old Flemming with reference to his wife, Eden and their escape from Cebu in 1999. Her parents did not approve of her acquaintance with the Dane and besides she was on her way to get married in USA.
“We stayed in St. Bernhard Resort sometimes and one day the previous owner came up to me and said that he had to leave the country right away. He left me the keys and I was supposed to give them to his wife when she showed up”, Flemming tells. When the wife turned up, she offered to hand it over to Flemming who in spite of being paralyzed from the chest and down, accepted.
“It is paradise here. Sometimes I don’t even leave the resort for weeks”, says Flemming who honestly does not remember the last time he went to Santa Fe – a 5 minute drive from the resort.
Flemming has been in a wheel chair since he broke his neck in a game of sack race at the age of 23. The walk paths of St. Bernhard have therefore been paved and the cottages are all handicap friendly.
“We often have wheel chair customers”, says Flemming. He admires wheel chair users who have the courage to go to the Bantayan which does not have its own airport.
“We once had a German guest here. He was a big guy who had been in a wheel chair all his life and he had therefore never been swimming in the ocean. But during his stay, we tied him to a bamboo chair and put two car tires underneath. It took 8 men to carry him out to the sea and to the first swim of his life”, Flemming explains. The German customer was thrilled!
A young apprentice
The resort has 7 small cottages and a restaurant right on the beach front. At the water entrance a Danish flag sways in the wind. “We even serve Danish meat balls”, Flemming says proudly. He runs the place with his wife Eden and her 11 year old daughter, Erica, who is like a daughter to Flemming. “She is an excellent employee”, he says about the girl.
“Last year when her mother and I were in Denmark, she ran the place herself. She thoroughly goes through the accounts and pays salaries to our other employees. No child in Denmark could cope with that responsibility – if they were ever given the opportunity”, he adds. Unfortunately, Erica has no plans of getting into the growing resort industry of the Philippines. “She wants to be a doctor”, says Flemming who has explained to his daughter that it might require a bit more studying than what she is performing now.
Flemming is still very fond of Denmark. He has never broken his ties to his country and he is planning to move home to Denmark in a couple of years together with Erica and Eden.
“I miss looking my parents in the eyes”, he says. “My mother just had surgery and my father is in a nursing home”, he says sadly. To Flemming, the frequent skype conversations with his parents are not enough anymore. When he moved to the Philippines, he did not sell everything he owned as many other Danes have done before him.
“I kept a room in Esbjerg, where I was born and a couple of years ago, I bought a small house near Ringkøbing Fjord”, he says.
If you take a pump boat from St Bernhard’s resort and sail two and a half hours westwards you should wind up on White Beach where another Dane has set up 7 huts on the beach. At the island of Malapasqua, Kurt is keeping him self busy with the maintenance of the huts, a 2 year old who does not sit still
and local politics of the worst kind.
For sale or not for sale
White Sands Resort is recommended in the latest edition of Lonely Planet, but according to the recommendation, the resort is for sale.
“Actually the resort is not for sale right now”, says Kurt who has been on the island for eight years. “But it is a kind of gimmick and because of the words of Lonely Planet, our customers expect to see the sign”, he explains.
There is some truth to the rumours though. The governor of Malapasqua Island wants to establish a road around the island leading to a harbour. But in order to do that an environmental ‘salvage zone’ of 30 meters is to be established.
“It used to be 20 meters and we have respected that demand and didn’t build anything within 20 meters of the water front, but now they want to remove more of the huts”, says Kurt who suspects the mayor to have something to do with it. She has bought the neighbouring lot and wants to develop the area further.
Kurt thinks the area is as developed as it has to be. “There are just too many people on the island nowadays”, he sighs. “People saw that there was development going on here and more and more tourists coming and that attracted a lot of Filipinos who brought their families here and are now living in small huts without doing anything”, says Kurt who has travelled all over Asia before he settled down with a very young girl who later became his wife. They now have ‘Strong Charles’, a 2 year old boy who spends his days playing with the dogs in the water and running around on the beach.
“I cannot give Charles the freedom in Denmark that he has here, but he needs to go to e good school. Not a school in the Philippines where they put 70 kids in one class room. So we are probably going home within the next couple of years”, Kurt says.
Kurt is getting closer to the usual retirement age and even though he is reluctant to leave the island he will leave it sooner or later. “But the business is good. There are always guests in the huts and I guess if I wait a couple of years the price will be doubled – if the mayor and her bulldozers have not come first”, says Kurt.