The last time I was in Boracay was years ago. I don’t even remember when. Because in general, because I’ve been there 4 other times, it’s not really a travel priority for us. I believe there are just so many other wonderful places in the Philippines that we haven’t visited, so why revisit a place we’ve been to so many times before? Plus, I prefer to go to non-crowded places. I go to the beach, to soak in the ocean, not really to party. But since my credit card offered a 3-day stay as part of their rewards, I couldn’t resist the offer. This is the first time I stayed in a resort that wasn’t on the famed 4-kilometer beach. Plus, since it was a spa resort, it had a totally different feel.
Surprisingly, I was still amazed at how beautiful the actual beach is. Many people describe Boracay as “destroyed” or “paradise lost”. The development I must say is really poorly planned, but the actual beach, just talking about the sand and the water, it was still stunning.
They say it’s because November isn’t really as crowded as the peak months. But many people we spoke with said Boracay really isn’t the hot spot it used to be. Many resorts are in the red because of low turnouts, many close to shutting down soon if the downturn doesn’t change course. Locals attribute it to many things, the droopy economy, typhoons, swine flu, less foreigners, security issues, etc. Many resort owners fear that the Pinoys’ honeymoon with Boracay is close to over.
But I must say, even if we went during a low season, Boracay still has 2 faces. One moment it’s eerily empty and tranquil:
And the next it’s like Divisoria on a busy day:
I noticed Pinoy tourists don’t like the sun. When we swam, only foreigners were in the water with us. But the moment the sun went down, the Pinoys started swarming out from their resorts. Don’t they want a nice tan? Are they afraid of the damaging effects of the sun? Will it counteract their whitening lotions?
Checking out the stores and restos that lined the beach, I hardly recognized the place. Boracay now has Yellow Cab and Starbucks! It’s a bit unnerving though. Besides, my only rule when it comes to food, is that we shouldn’t eat in a restaurant that has a branch in Manila. Unfortunately, one of my favorites, True Food, was renovating, so boo-hoo. But we discovered D’ Talipapa, which is like dampa, and it was dee-lishus! We had fried fish, halaan soup with kamote tops and a huge plate of my favorite, prawns!
We enjoyed our rediscovery of Boracay so much that we decided to extend a day. We did a no-show on our flight (total waste of money), and bought new tickets for an extra day. We booked in a real cheap resort, and extended whatever we could of what was left of our vacation.
What was really disturbing though is the current state of Station 1. I used to stay at Cocomangas all the time. Now, that whole area is flooded whenever it’s high tide. The restos there had to build higher areas because the sandy part that used to not be reached by waves, are now inundated. People had many theories. Some say it’s proof of global warming. Some say, all the cumulative sand that is lost through tourists bringing home bottles of sand, lost through the drain when we drag it into the showers, etc., have depleted the sand supply. Some say a construction in another part of the island changed the shape of the shoreline, thereby changing the way the direction of the water flows, sweeping the white sand elsewhere. Whichever the case may be, it merits further study. It’s just not normal. What if in 10 years the water goes even higher, reaching the resorts’ doorsteps?
I really fear for Boracay. I really think the place in trouble. What a shame because the beach is truly spectacular. Even after all the abuse we’ve dumped on it, it’s still stunningly awesome. Hopefully it’s not too late to save it, somehow. Baby steps? One ray of hope, I discovered one morning that a troop of teeners, numbering in the hundreds (?) went from one end of the beach to another, with sacks in hand, picking up garbage that they see. After the kids, all wearing uniform shirts, sweep through an area, the sand is immaculately clean. Of course by midday you’ll see it littered again with cigarette butts and plastic bottles, but at least someone’s doing something. I don’t know if that was a one-time thing or a daily routine.
In general, I’m glad we went back to Boracay, if only to see it’s current state. It seems to me an ecological disaster, but I must say, the beach aged gracefully, despite the unkind years. Boracay is like a pretty woman who has a fatal disease. You see how beautiful she is, but there’s a time bomb ticking inside of her, a disease that will eventually claim her if untreated. Visiting left me a little sad, mainly because I’ve been to lesser known places in the Philippines that I could only describe as “paradise”, and I fear for those places turning into future Boracays, raped mercilessly by man. I wish all the resorts in the country would be more like the Palawan resorts. They really drill eco-tourism into the heads of visitors before they unleash them onto their shores. They educate the tourists as much as they can without turning them off. Some tourists are really bullheaded and will do what they want regardless of how much you implore them to shape up. But many, just need to be enlightened, and will gladly pitch in to keep our wonders of nature in tiptop shape for future generations.