The Philippines’ ‘beloved’ island of Boracay has been receiving a lot (and I mean A LOT) of bad press lately. You’ve probably come across an article circulating on Facebook about the island being one travel blogger’s most disappointing beach experience. The island, while being revered as paradise, is really nothing but a tourist trap.
We’ve heard it all before—it’s crowded, it’s dirty, it’s plagued with annoying vendors and double crossing water sports operators. Someone was food poisoned, a hotel has bad service, a tourist tripped on a rock that wasn’t supposed to be there… the list goes on and on.
In all honesty, all of these complaints are completely valid. It is a tourist trap, as it’s only the most heavily promoted island in the country. So, it is bound to get crowded, it is bound to get dirty, especially during summer. Vendors will abound as tourists mean more people, and more people, mean more business. A bad oyster? There’s bound to be at least one among thousands in The Talipapa.
I can defend this seemingly overrated, overpopulated (read: Laboracay. Cringe.) and overused piece of land over and over, and people will still disagree. But the truth of the matter is: I love Boracay. And I probably always will.
I don’t know exactly when my love affair with Boracay actually began. Perhaps it was love at first sight—when I first came to the island back in the early 90s. I kept coming back ever since, so it could be the amount of time I’ve spent in Boracay. I’ve spent numerous family vacations there and exhausted a chunk of my 20’s, partying my summers away with my closest friends, one of which is my fellow Kate editor, partner-in-all-things, Vicky. One reason could be the memories I’ve made on the island, one of which is most dear to my heart—I’ll get to that later.
So how do I love thee? Let me count the ways.
It is the reason why throngs of people troop to the beach around 5pm. Yes, it is the same sun as anywhere else, but I for one have always been enthralled by how the sunset in Boracay turns the clouds into a slowly evolving spectacle of candy colored lights. It always feels like a blessing, basking in the glow.
I’m a loyalist of the Boracay of old, when it wasn’t so commercialized. When there were only a few places to eat, and those places were not found in Manila. So, since I really can’t stop capitalists from capitalizing on Boracay, I just choose which places on the island to patronize.
When in Boracay, I always go to Real Coffee Cafe. It’s my happy place on the island. For me, it’s everything that I love about Boracay. It’s low-key and unpretentious, it’s beautiful in its au natural kind of way, and it feels like home. I always make it a point to have a Jack’s Omelette—with pesto—for breakfast. Then, have their famous Calamansi Muffin for dessert. I also never leave the island without a box of those yummy muffins in tow.
… when you know when to visit. I for one will never visit Boracay on Labor Day weekend or at the height of summer. I prefer a “friendlier” Boracay, when it’s not stoked on raging hormones or drunk on alcohol. I recommend going to Boracay in the off season. There is exponentially a lot less people, no loud music, and more stretches of sand for you to take a stroll on.
I’ve been to the island so many times that I could safely say, “I’ve been there, done that” to almost all its gimmicks. When I was younger, I did the whole henna tattoo, hair braid, ride the flying fish until my throat was sore from screaming. Now, I like the more boring stuff.
While I don’t really go on any of the “attractions” when I visit the island, I appreciate the occasional sunset Paraw boat sailing. It’s a wonderful, peaceful experience, just quietly sailing on the clear waters, the occasional swell touching my toes.
Even in its early years, Boracay always had a buzz, a kind of electricity that runs all day and all night. There’s always somewhere to go for drinks and a bit of dancing. It’s youthful and it’s fun—the perfect place to be with friends and to meet new ones. It balances out the tranquil paradise and gives it a little more oomph, a bit more personality.
They say, “what happens in Boracay stays in Boracay”. It’s true for me too—sort of. While on the island one summer, Vicky and I were chatting away at a bar when a guy introduced himself. We hit it off immediately and began a relationship. After 2 years, while on a 2nd anniversary trip to same island, he proposed. A year and a half later, we got married on the very shores where we met.
My husband and I now have 2 beautiful children. Last January, we went to Boracay as a family—another milestone and memory made on the island we love.
I’ll be the first one to admit that Boracay is not like it used to be. It has become a noisy, commercialized monstrosity to some extent, but like in all things, it’s all a matter of perspective. Sometimes, you just have to step back, admire the view, and see that under all the trimmings, Boracay is indeed still paradise—at least for me.
Main photo: il Portico Boracay
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