Sunday, April 11, 2010

Boracay ... 20 Years Later !


My kids and I traveled almost 4 hours from Laguna to Termial 3 Manila inorder to take the plane taking us to Caticlan airport. Nervous and stressed being caught in monstrous traffic jams not once but 3 times starting from Los Banos, then in Calamba and the worst one was bumper to bumper before Filinvest all the way to the entrance of the Skyway. Lucky enough we made it to Terminal 3 just in time for the flight ... wheww ... I was so relieved indeed !

It was an estimated 50 mins flight via Air Philippines but we landed in Caticlan ahead of schedule. The weather was great ... really sunny and clear with the spectacular view of Boracay from the plane . The sight of the island gave me a feeling of pride & gratitude also considering I'm extremely excited to have a glimpse again of my favorite island I had visited 20 years ago. First time I was there was in 1988 then again in 1989 and lastly in 1991.

Although I was nearly shocked to see how different the island is after all these years, we arrived in the island via the Ambassador in Paradise Banca safe & sound. Eventhough we waited almost 30 mins for the hotel shuttle to pick us up by the pier at the right tip of the island, we just feasted our eyes with the view all around us to entertain ourselves. There aren't any more drop-off of guests in Stations 1,2 & 3 inorder to avoid running over swimming guests in the sea. The shuttle bus driver was late but very apologetic . Anyway, along the way to the hotel passing the only road located at the backside of the rows of hotels, I had noticed the never ending shops selling all sorts of stuffs ( food, clothes, construction materials, just about anything they could sell, etc., ) and make-shift houses out of  dilapidated woods ( similar to those squatter places found in Manila ) housing the poor locals and their extended families as well as new inhabitants of the island. Upon seeing all these I got confused & can't help telling myself ... Oh no ! The Island had changed into a disastrous commercial area. All sorts of People are all over the place - vendors, local kids running on the side street , old dogs , tricycles going in all directions , tourists walking everywhere, it's manic ! I calmed myself and took a deep breathe... ok I'm in Boracay and hoping I was really in Boracay and not some place else ! Breathe in ... breathe out , c'mon 20 years had passed and lots of changes are just normal !

 I used to remember this place to be quiet. Hardly anyone on the island except for tourists who can afford the cost of hotel accomodations and expensive seafood. No other mode of transport except for walking along the beach or hired bicycles you can ride by the back alley which is not even cemented 20 years ago. Well, I guess, modern time had transformed this quiet island into something else ...
But never mind, what's important is ~ I was there then and had experienced the best state of this tropical island before its massive transformation and I'm here now again to see the changes that had happened , the effects and the positive sides or disadvantages after all these years .

Despite of all I see around here, this visit had started bringing in memories of how I had loved this long stretch of beautiful white sand and how unique this island was. It was magical !

I had been in a lot of beaches ~ Puerto Galera, Amanpulo & El Nido Palawan ( Philippines ), Maldives, Bali, Phuket, Khao Lak, Koh Samui, Belgium, Hongkong but I had never seen one really so fine and white like the one in Boracay. The sea is always inviting and I never had any fear to be in the sea water coz it's very shallow and sand floor is flat. Perfect place for non-swimmer like me. I can just either stand in the water or sit there for hours getting some more tan. Just a pity that this summer is the season for the "Algae" getting washed on the beach.

This "Algae" comes once a year especially during months of March to April but doesn't bother the swimmers much coz it is harmless and accdg to people around, it's very therapeutic aside from keeping the the sand as white as ever. It has a very cooling effect under your feet while strolling by the beach .

We were booked at the Ambassador In Paradise Hotel managed & owned by a Dutch guy alongside his Filipino wife . It is a 5 Star Resort nestled directly on one of the finest part of Boracay, located in Station 1. With 50 well appointed Guest Rooms and a luxurious Presidential suite, all with personalized Butlers. We had the Casita1 Honeymoon Suite for ourselves and it was surely spacious for the kids and I.

 All the staff are really friendly and always handy. A lot of OJT ( On The Job Trainees )  staff recruited from different provinces work for the hotel as waiters/ waitresses, beach staffs, etc. I found out that they work without any pay or allowances from the hotel at all. I had interviewed a couple of them to confirm if the case of no salary is true. I came across their hidden woes and they all say the same thing. It's a tough life for them. Being away from their families & working without pay at least a month or so ? No food allowance & No board & lodging ? Not even part of the service charges goes to these poor trainees. The trainees were not entitled to the centralized tips either. Oh Dear ! They have to shoulder all their expenses out of their own pockets ! What a cruel world they have !

My heart was really broken seeing people getting exploited this way. There must be something to be done to help these young workers ! What if they get sick while on their job ? Just come to think about it !

I remember when Boracay wasn't so popular yet and had only about 3-5 resorts ( Pearl of The Pacific , Coco Mangas, Jony's, San Lorenzo , Titay's ) even without any electricity in the whole island too. We are all obliged to go to sleep as soon as the glowing oil lamp had come to a stop. But now, there's no sleeping early anymore not until all the restaurants & bars had closed down .So many bars and 3-5 Stars resorts / hotels had sprouted all over the island!

 It's really very busy here and now is the peak season that's why the beach is always over crowded during sunset. I'm just happy to see that a lot of locals ~ fellow filipinos can now enjoy touring the island unlike before when only tourists can do so. A lot of teenagers and those in their early 20's, 30's are partying hard which I had never seen before. Meaning, a lot of Filipinos are doing ok financially. That's good to know & see !

Anyway, getting around the island is fairly easy. Just don't forget to rub sunblock on to avoid the unwanted burning of your skin. I didn't forget to bring sandals which can surely bear the never ending walk along the beach. These are the 2 must haves I had in our luggage. Kids & I always balance the beach and the sea and some sight seeing tours in between. It's a great need to keep them busy ~ Island Hopping, Banana boat ride, ZORB ride, Kayak Ride , Paraw sunset Cruise ... whatever activities available in the island  that can tire them so they can sleep soundly at night ! Prices are reasonable and since I 'm a Filipino, I can always do some bargaining & get the best prices . Good for me !

ZORB Ride = Php 2,200 for 2 persons / 3 rides

Banana Boat Ride = Php200 / per person -15 mins ride
 ( regular price at Php250/person )

Island Hopping Tour for 3-4 Hours - Php2,000 ( Good Price )
We have the boat just for the 3 of us + the Boat man and his assistant
( Regular Price Php3,000 )

Paraw Sunset Cruise -Php800 for all 3 of us / 1 Hour Ride
Kids & I had the Paraw for ourselves for 1 hour !

The Island offers a lot of souveir stuffs and I managed to buy some Freshwater Pearls ...

Our Holiday to this island is almost ending ... our last day here is tomorrow 12fth of April and we'll be flying back to Singapore via Singapore Airlines . I'll miss this place again and my kids would surely feel the same ...


These are the Flowers blooming by the Garden of Ambassador In Paradise Hotel.
They're really lovely , aren't they ?