Boracay – Then and Now

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Pictures don’t do much justice to the beauty of Boracay, at least that’s true for the pictures I’ve taken. The white sands of the beach is easy enough to describe, it simply illuminates the shoreline. But it’s one thing to use words to express the fineness of the beach sand; it’s another to actually touch it and feel it glide in between your fingers.

Boracay Island has indeed lived up to the world class caliber vacation spot that has been tagged on to its name for many years. Every year, Boracay welcomes thousands upon thousands of sun worshippers from all over the world, all determined to get their feet wet, so to speak, and walk the beaches of Boracay. Tourism has never been better.

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But back in the day, Boracay was a sleepy island of untouched beauty. I was fortunate enough to come to the island in 1989, a honeymoon destination for me and my husband. The raw beauty of the place was just beginning to create a buzz in the tourism arena, vacationers were scarce and amenities were a little too crude for comfort. For one, there were no 5-star hotels on site to provide a luxurious alternative to the simple bamboo cottages with native nipa roofs. And what about the local airport. You wouldn’t have guessed what it looked like then!

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THEN (Above) – we stayed in a bamboo cottage.

 NOW (Below) – we stayed in one of the many beachfront hotels.

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THEN (Above) – Caticlan Airport. Believe it!

For another, electricity was in short supply, thanks to a generator that allows only a few hours of power, just enough for us to do our bathroom routines before bedtime. Want to take an evening stroll to the beach? Well, bring the portable kerosene lamp with you. With not much night life to speak of, Boracay by night becomes a panorama of lamps moving along the beach shores in random patterns, creating a dramatic fire dance throughout the night.

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THEN (Above) – Boracay’s white sand beach minus the modern hotels that now dot the shoreline.

 

Today, the quiet is gone. But not the beauty.

With the upsurge of tourism and in line with the country’s campaign “It’s more fun in the Philippines!” a myriad of “fun” activities has sprung up in Boracay. From the moment our boat docked, we were greeted by friendly locals offering to arrange to take us island hopping, or scuba diving, or parasailing, and so on and so forth. There were plenty of water sports to choose from. Sandcastles adorned the beaches for everyone to admire. And for a fee to the guy who meticulously built it, you can have your picture taken with one of the sandcastles. You can also have it personalized temporarily. They will carve your name or your personal greeting for an hour or two, while you take all the pictures you want within that time.

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While walking on the beach, the locals competed for your attention (and business). Just for fun, my niece decided to have her hair braided by one of the local pros – a braiding session right on the beach! There were also a lot of massage places offering shiatsu, reflexology, Swedish pressure and several other massage types. An endless supply of souvenir items, pearls, shells, selfie sticks, clothes, bags, hats, and everything under the sun incessantly tempted our wallets and many found their way into our luggage before we left Boracay.

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As for the kids, it didn’t take much to make them happy; fun was quite effortless for them. Playing in the white sand kept them busy, unmindful of the festive crowd walking about them. Swimming in the beach, then in the hotel pool, and back in the beach made their day, and night was a peaceful slumber.

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Night life, I must admit, is mainly for the young. We did venture out in the night, hopping from one bar to the next, just trying to observe what sort of folks were drawn to the night clubs of Boracay. And across the board, I’d say each place was a gathering of mostly young partygoers, determined to drink, laugh and dance the night away. We ended up in a quiet pizza place, and decided we prefer to have conversations without having to strain our throats.

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Boracay has become a commercialized tourist destination. There is no denying that. Demand has brought about progress that has been good for the economy, but has necessarily led to a decrease in the pureness and quietude of the island. I can be on both sides of the argument. But I will be lying if I say that I did not enjoy Boracay during the three times that I have visited it. Each is a different experience, each is as much fun as the other. That is why it’s important to plan ahead, know where you want to go and what you want to do, and set your expectations accordingly. And Boracay will not let you down.

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