Boracay: Hits and Misses

Monday, August 27, 2012Ryan Mach

As I was taking a swig of Cuba Libre at Epic, one of the many bars in Station 2 in Boracay, a small commotion erupted from an adjacent table. A large chunk of dried coconut leaves fell from the sky and landed unceremoniously on a group of foreign party-goers, momentarily breaking the monotony in that part of the bar. It was such a miracle that no one got hurt, except perhaps for a few scratches on one guy's arm. Like everyone else, he laughed it off. Grinning, I took another sip and looked overhead, wondering if 'falling dried leaves' was a common occurrence in Boracay's famous White Beach.

Night parties are, even in low season (June to October). The long stretch of walkway running from Station 1 all the way to Station 3 is dotted with restaurants, boutiques, bars, hotels, cafes and other tourism-related establishments that get swarmed with tourists especially at night. Some parts of this small path that had become more of an alley can get clogged. You'll practically and literally rub elbows with people from different countries. Parties do get wild and normally last till dawn.

What's so special about Boracay? It's the white-sand beach, baby. But then again, the Philippine archipelago abounds with white-sand and powdery beaches. Well, then, it must probably be the parties. Beach and parties make a perfect combination. Boracay is the country's top tourist destination, no doubt about that, but over the years, it has declined - some say it's no longer what it used to be.

Boracay is too touristy for my taste and yet I can't deny the fact that it's got charm. Massive charm that lures people from all over the world to go and experience it. The beach is still white as ever, although during monsoon season, seaweeds and other pollutants litter the shore. Boracay is beautiful and ugly at the same time. But that's just me. I'm sure others have different ideas and impressions on the island. Deteriorating or not, Boracay has its hits and misses.

1. Seafood
My Rating:
There's a wide variety of seafood to choose from. Various restaurants offer an array of fresh (and not-so-fresh) sea produce at varying prices - lobsters being the most expensive, followed by crabs. Prawns are sold at 100 pesos per gram, normally served with rice. There's no extra cost in having it cooked any way you prefer. 

2. The Beach
My Rating:
Hands-down. Boracay has one of the finest white-sand beaches in the country. You can walk from Station 1 to Station 3 (or vice versa) barefooted during mid-day when the sun's hottest and you won't burn your feet. That's the quality of sand I'm always looking for a beach. Mean while, the waters are safe for swimming. This is because the shallow part extends long enough so you'll know for sure that you won't drown in case you've wandered far off the beach. But don't get too far. There are also no sharks here, so that's a huge plus.

3. Prostitution
My Rating:
One star for the livelihood it offers. I'm just kidding of course! There are ladies at the beach who brandish their 'beauty' to potential customers, mostly foreigners looking for alternative fun, by blatantly calling their attention. I was walking from Station 1 going to Station 2 when I heard three women behind me wearing revealing attire greet a lone foreign guy standing beside the Beachfront. The guy smiled meekly at them, which the girls took as a positive sign. He walked, and they followed him. ""Hey man, where you going?" They yelled. "Tangina mo, wait for me." They giggled. A minute later, they seemed to hit it off and suffice it is to say that they lived happily ever after.

4. Night life
My Rating:
Boracay is most alive at night, when booze overflows, music booms, dance floors get crowded and sometimes, fight ensues. Several bars line along the beach - Epic, Juice, Summer Place, etc. Some bars exude a relaxing atmosphere while some pulse with quintessential night-life excitement. Others offer gimmicks that even non-barhoppers could enjoy such as fire dancing and live gigs.

5. Foreigners/Tourists 
My Rating:
The influx of foreign tourists to the island signals the growth of tourism - which means more local employment  but it also entails exorbitant prices. "Lots of Korean here, man," one foreign tourist behind me observed. His tone suggested that he's not too happy about it. "Yeah, they're all over the place," his buddy intoned. I nodded in agreement (nakisali daw ba). Some of these Koreans especially those backpackers can be rude and abrasive. 

I was told that before Boracay became a tourist destination, beach fronts featured a pageant of beauties and topless Caucasians from Europe and the US. No longer the case today. 

6. Commercial establishments
My Rating:

If truth be told, Boracay has turned into a Divisoria market of sorts - overcrowded and segregated. On the other side of the spectrum, the endless sprouting of commercial establishment provides more options for tourists looking for variety and that means lower prices on goods and services. 

7. Accessibility
My Rating:
With daily trips to Caticlan and Kalibo, Boracay is accessible from Manila. Travel time is less than an hour. From the airport, you just need to take a trike (80) to Tabon Port when you ride a boat to the island in no more than 20 minutes. Boats operate daily with trips starting at 5am and last till 10 in the evening. 

8. Hotels
My Rating:

From the most luxurious and expensive hotels, down to the cheapest inns, Boracay has it all. These hotels also serve as a good metaphor of class segregation. Station 1 for instance is for class A citizens, those who can afford deluxe 5 star hotels that hang precariously on the cliffs with majestic views of the sea. Station 2 is for the middle class whose budget allows for decent accommodation. And Station 3 becomes a place for lower class, also known as the 'masa.' 

9. Cleanliness
My Rating:
Boracay is being criticized for its inability to maintain environmental cleanliness. The presence of algae in its shore is an indication that the once pristine beach has been deteriorating. During monsoon season, seaweeds can be seen littered along the shore. In its effort to keep the cleanliness of the place, the local government has issued an ordinance that prohibits any individual from littering. Still, you can occasionally see cans, bottles and plastics in the beach.

Despite the island's lowlights, the fact remains that Boracay is a must-see place for tourists who love to frolic in the beach and to party all night. For everyone else, there are far better beaches in the country that are worth checking out. 

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