Welcome back, Boracay!

Then and Now

2003, White Beach Station 1

2003, White Beach Station 1

2019, White Beach Station 1

2019, White Beach Station 1

When I say then, I mean it as a throwback to fifteen years ago. The first time I went to Boracay was for my honeymoon and I was blown away. I never really liked the beach. It wasn’t one of my family’s go to places growing up but when I stepped on Boracay’s friendly shores, I was hooked. My beach standards leveled up significantly after that fateful day back in 2003.

Poor husband, no other beach trip after our honeymoon could compare to how it was during our ten-day vacation in Boracay. He has taken me to Bataan, Batangas, Bohol, Calatagan, Cebu, Zambales, and even Palawan but nothing ever really came close to the magical feeling of stepping on the finest powdery white sand I’ve ever experienced and swimming in the crystal clear waters of Boracay.

2003, White Beach Station 2

2003, White Beach Station 2

So let me start off my story with some throwback images from 2003 — my first time in a bikini, my first time to have a massage in public, my first time to actually fall in love with a hot and humid place, my first time to actually appreciate the beach. Throwback to when I was actually thin!

2003, Caticlan Airport. The husband trying to figure out how to get to our resort because his contact forgot to have us picked up. Google Maps, Siri, etc. weren’t a thing back then, but thank God for mobile phones!

2003, Caticlan Airport. The husband trying to figure out how to get to our resort because his contact forgot to have us picked up. Google Maps, Siri, etc. weren’t a thing back then, but thank God for mobile phones!

2003, Seawind Resort (White Beach, Station 1)

2003, Seawind Resort (White Beach, Station 1)

2003, Willy’s Rock (White Beach, Station 1)

2003, Willy’s Rock (White Beach, Station 1)

I know what you’re thinking. If I loved it so much, why didn’t I go back? Well, because adulting had to take precedence and when we could finally afford to go on other trips, we kept on thinking we should see something new and explore the Philippines one province at a time.

And then came the news of Boracay being too much of a party place and being the introverts that we are, we couldn’t even fathom going there to deal with the crowds and the noise while on vacation. We get enough of that from our usual daily grind in Manila!


BEAUTY AMIDST THE RUINS

2019. Beauty amidst the ruins along the stretch of the island’s main road.

2019. Beauty amidst the ruins along the stretch of the island’s main road.

I’m glad we never really saw Boracay during the time that it was considered a cesspool. This is another reason why we never found ourselves back in Boracay’s shores until just a few weeks ago. News of the ongoing rehabilitation got us curious and when our schedules freed up, I booked an impromptu trip for the family and decided to rekindle my love for the island.

2019, Bulabog Beach. This place was all over the news again earlier this month due to black water being discharged directly to this beach. Looks like TIEZA is doing something about it as the water is clear and the beach is clean. True, the pipes are an eyesore but I suppose that’s proof that something’s being done to solve the problem.

2019, Bulabog Beach. This place was all over the news again earlier this month due to black water being discharged directly to this beach. Looks like TIEZA is doing something about it as the water is clear and the beach is clean. True, the pipes are an eyesore but I suppose that’s proof that something’s being done to solve the problem.

2019, White Beach. There are still a lot of demolished structures that used to encroach the 30-meter shoreline easement while some of the operational beachfront resorts are still undergoing renovation to comply with the new rules being implemented by the DOT, DENR and DILG.

2019, White Beach. There are still a lot of demolished structures that used to encroach the 30-meter shoreline easement while some of the operational beachfront resorts are still undergoing renovation to comply with the new rules being implemented by the DOT, DENR and DILG.

2019, White Beach. While the structures on the left can be a bit of an eyesore, it’s important to note that even with construction and debris in the vicinity, the area is still clean and the beachfront is pristine.

2019, White Beach. While the structures on the left can be a bit of an eyesore, it’s important to note that even with construction and debris in the vicinity, the area is still clean and the beachfront is pristine.


same, but not really

I booked at the same resort where we had our honeymoon because I’m a sentimental fool and I wanted to share with our daughters almost everything that we experienced, and this is to quote them, '“back in the olden days.” That phrase can really make one feel old! Is it funny to call Sea Wind Resort home when it’s only my second time there?

Some say that it’s outdated as compared to the other resorts in Station 1 but I like it. It’s homey, it’s open and airy, and a lot of the staff members have been with the resort for years. In fact, my husband’s masseuse was the same one who massaged him 15 years ago! It was a hoot looking at photos of them together way back when.

2003, Sea Wind Resort. We’d spend the afternoons under the shade of the trees until such time when the sun wasn’t scorching hot anymore.

2003, Sea Wind Resort. We’d spend the afternoons under the shade of the trees until such time when the sun wasn’t scorching hot anymore.

2019, Sea Wind Resort. Our kids pretty much did the same thing as us back then.

2019, Sea Wind Resort. Our kids pretty much did the same thing as us back then.

2019, White Beach Station 2

2019, White Beach Station 2

Both of our trips to the island were quite similar. We wanted to see how much has changed and we wanted to share our Boracay (mis)adventure pre-kids compared to what we were experiencing with them. The only downside with traveling with minors? I get disapproving looks from my girls whenever I order an alcoholic drink. They get their Jonah’s fruit shakes and I get my vodka. Doesn’t that sound fair?

D’ Mall is now a spruced up outdoor mall which is a far cry from how I remembered it. It used to be a tiangge type of place but now there are cemented and closed structures. I don’t know how I feel about it exactly…I miss its rustic vibe but at the same time the new development looks like it won’t be a fire hazard like how it was before. It’s still has its charm, although a bit more metropolitan than before.

2019, D’ Mall

2019, D’ Mall

2019, D’ Mall

2019, D’ Mall

2003, D’ Mall

2003, D’ Mall

2003, Real Coffee

2003, Real Coffee

2019, Real Coffee

2019, Real Coffee

2019, D’ Mall

2019, D’ Mall

2019, D’ Mall

2019, D’ Mall

The sunsets are still downright stunning, the sand is still as white and fine as powdered milk, and the the water is completely clear and bright and just simply a sight for sore eyes. I’ve been trying out meditation lately and when I close my eyes I try to envision these images to help me clear my head.

2019, White Beach Station 1

2019, White Beach Station 1

2003, White Beach Station 1

2003, White Beach Station 1

2003, Sea Wind Resort

2003, Sea Wind Resort

2019, White Beach Station 1

2019, White Beach Station 1

2019, White Beach Station 2

2019, White Beach Station 2


A wake-up call

2019, Ilig-Iligan Beach accessed via Boracay Newcoast. This is usually overshadowed by the more popular White Beach so it’s pretty quiet and serene, which could change soon once the development of Boracay Newcoast is in full swing. If you decide to go here, make sure to bring your aqua socks. Sand and water are as gorgeous as White Beach but there are rocks under the water which could hurt your feet.

2019, Ilig-Iligan Beach accessed via Boracay Newcoast. This is usually overshadowed by the more popular White Beach so it’s pretty quiet and serene, which could change soon once the development of Boracay Newcoast is in full swing. If you decide to go here, make sure to bring your aqua socks. Sand and water are as gorgeous as White Beach but there are rocks under the water which could hurt your feet.

Other islands are learning from what happened to Boracay. In this BusinessWorld article, Crecencio Cruz stated that other popular destinations such as Bohol and El Nido are already working towards the concept of sustainability.

2019, view from Mt. Luho

2019, view from Mt. Luho

What we’re trying to do right now is getting people to be more aware [of the lessons of Boracay]. It’s not an option anymore, it’s a necessity.
— Pocholo Paragas, Chief Operating Officer of Tourism Infrastructure & Enterprise Zone Authority (TIEZA)
 
2019, White Beach. This is the designated spot for water sports in Station 1 to prevent overcrowding the beach line.

2019, White Beach. This is the designated spot for water sports in Station 1 to prevent overcrowding the beach line.

2019, White Beach Station 1. I was having my morning coffee when I saw these instructors on their way to work picking up trash.

2019, White Beach Station 1. I was having my morning coffee when I saw these instructors on their way to work picking up trash.

2019, Boracay Newcoast. We took this little cutie for our island tour and although it costs a wee bit more than a regular tricycle (Php 600/hour), we decided to go for this option since it wasn’t as bouncy as the other one, it reduces carbon dioxide emissions, and it minimizes air pollution.

2019, Boracay Newcoast. We took this little cutie for our island tour and although it costs a wee bit more than a regular tricycle (Php 600/hour), we decided to go for this option since it wasn’t as bouncy as the other one, it reduces carbon dioxide emissions, and it minimizes air pollution.

2019, Bulabog Beach. This is where a lot of water sport activities are held and people claimed that it’s a polluted dump. It didn’t look that way when I went a couple of weeks ago though. Yes, there were pipes and construction sites but this is understandable as renovations are still ongoing.

2019, Bulabog Beach. This is where a lot of water sport activities are held and people claimed that it’s a polluted dump. It didn’t look that way when I went a couple of weeks ago though. Yes, there were pipes and construction sites but this is understandable as renovations are still ongoing.

2019, White Beach Station 2. It can get quite crowded in this area especially right before sunset but when I looked around, it seemed like everyone was pretty behaved with managing their litter. With trash bins located every few meters along D’Mall, there’s really no reason for people to leave their trash along the beach. There’s hope for humanity yet!

2019, White Beach Station 2. It can get quite crowded in this area especially right before sunset but when I looked around, it seemed like everyone was pretty behaved with managing their litter. With trash bins located every few meters along D’Mall, there’s really no reason for people to leave their trash along the beach. There’s hope for humanity yet!


a better boracay

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Welcome back to Boracay, or, would it be better to say, welcome back, Boracay.
— Bernadette Romulo-Puyat, Secretary of the Department of Tourism
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There’s been a lot of negative feedback regarding the island’s closure last year as well as the speed of the rehabilitation, and understandably so. Locals had to scramble and find other ways to earn a living. Now that the island has reopened, there are still ongoing construction and some of the locals are saying that the government is taking its sweet time getting things done.

Now I’m not an expert in these types of things but I would think getting an island back to its original state (or close to it) would take quite a bit more time than the 6-month closure. It’s not an easy feat to correct years of neglect and bad governance but given the lapsed time since rehabilitation started in April 2018, I think the island has come a long way.

2019, White Beach Station 2

2019, White Beach Station 2

Besides, we can’t really blame our government entirely for the island’s mishap. If business owners complied with the rules especially on waste management, and if the tourists were more mindful about respecting the island, then we wouldn’t be in this mess in the first place. If only we were responsible human beings looking out for the environment.

DPWH and TIEZA in particular have been getting a lot of flack from the general public as the former is in charge of roadworks while the latter has been given authority on Boracay’s water and sewerage systems. The original timetable of 7 years was reduced to 3 years and it’s been just 1.5 years. Let’s cut them some slack, shall we?


Frolic with Mother Nature

2019, White Beach Station 1. It was  habagat  season (Southwest monsoon) during our short but sweet vacation so the waves were a bit strong. We still spent hours in the water though, and we have the tan lines to prove it!

2019, White Beach Station 1. It was habagat season (Southwest monsoon) during our short but sweet vacation so the waves were a bit strong. We still spent hours in the water though, and we have the tan lines to prove it!

So what else did we do aside from rolling around with the waves and lounging on the fine milky powder sand? We barely scratched the surface of the new Boracay as we only a few days to spend on the island but here are our recommendations! For a more extensive list, I found a great resource article on The Poor Traveler’s website.

Shop and eat! So many interesting things to find at D’ Mall and Puka Beach. As for food, we love to eat and our favorites were Aria’s pizza and Marinara pasta, Two Seasons’ oyster sisig, and Seawind’s sinigang and liempo. Of course, Real Coffee’s calamansi muffins is still quite popular with the tourists. I would prefer it more sour than sweet but that’s me. I still enjoyed it though!

People watching is always an interesting activity. The sartorial choices of a lot of the foreign tourists were quite interesting but unfortunately I wasn’t able to take photos of most of them.

Get henna tattoos. Price varies depending on design and ours were in the Php 350-450 range. It lasts for at least a couple of weeks so make sure this won’t be a problem in school or at work!

And as always, take loads of photos! I love collecting photos and since I have limited walls to display them, having an online photo journal is the next best thing.


How lucky I am to have something that makes saying goodbye so hard.
— Winnie The Pooh
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Erin was the saddest when it was time to go. I promise we’ll be back, my little island girl.
♡♡♡

Workaholic and multitasking momma who absolutely enjoys what she does as Executive Producer for OTT.  Has faulty memory so taking photos of almost everything is part of her everyday life.