Saying my pleasant farewells to the wonderful people who accommodated me in Nabas, Aklan, I headed out to Boracay Island which is just 15 minutes away. Stepping into Boracay Island is nothing new to me. I remember ten years ago when I first stepped into the island and it was a memorable experience. The world-famous island I saw only postcards and in my relatives memoirs I now experience, I was ten years old then. The last time I have been to Boracay was three years ago when I also took the same route I traversed in my Viaje Sur journey that inspired me to travel this way again. As I view pictures of online forums, I noticed that a lot has changed with this island paradise and I went there to find out.
Boracay Island has three gateways with Caticlan Airport serving smaller aircraft from Manila, Cebú and Puerto Princesa, Kalibo International Airport serving international flights with domestic services from Manila and Cebú, and Caticlan Port serving those who go by sea from Roxas Port in Mindoro. Caticlan’s status as a primary gateway to Boracay practically made this little baranggay the most prosperous in its mother town, Malay, Aklan. The area is always busy with tourists boarding the boats heading to the famed island. Getting there requires you to pay three kinds of fees with the Pumpboat Fare at P25 or Montenegro Fastcraft Fare at P30, Environmental Fee at P75 and Terminal Fee at P50. I got my fees together and headed to the island.
The glimpse of the island from the shore already got me surprised with random settlements sprouting up in the area. The Boracay of today is not anymore the Boracay I first experienced as a ten year old kid. What looked like an island paradise now looks like a random seaside town somewhere else in the Philippines. The feeling of awe and sadness just got into me and I thought that they have messed with this island so much. The island’s main thoroughfare, just behind the resorts that line the White Beach is busy with people peddling their products and wares. Random apartments, stores and even a wet market can now be seen in the area. Development? Over-development I say which made me want to get as fast to the beach front and check it out.
After I found a place to have me settled, I immediately wormed my way to the White Beach. In contrast to the hustle and bustle of the back-alleys of Boracay Island, the White Beach still looks pristine with random boats passing the the shores. The jetty port for the island was transfered to the lonely corner of Brgy. Manoc-Manoc to have this serene view of the sea. Since it’s Christmas season, people crowded the beach to get a suntan or just go along the little waves. Most of the people crowd in the Station 3 area where most of the affordable accommodations are while it’s most spacious at Station 1. I hanged out at Station 1 just to have a time of relaxation alone under the sun while enjoying a glass of mango smoothie at hand.
After finishing my drink, I immediately headed out to explore more of Boracay Island. From afar, I spotted the iconic rocky outcrop on Station 1 which has been the staple of Boracay pictures. This rocky outcrop has built a reputation in itself apart from that of the island. I saw some tourist take pictures atop the rock so I set out to have so myself. This part of Boracay Island is most pristine and no winder why some people stick along it’s shade as the cool breeze touches the body. With my frustrations with the overdevelopment that has damaged the island, somehow this is the redeeming face of it all. I was thinking that this part of Boracay must be preserved at all costs for it shows the best of island life, laid back, green and serene.
From atop the rocky outcrop, I even spotted fishes swimming near the safety of the rocks. Fishes swam across the sun’s glitter on the clear waters. The presence of fishes proves that Boracay Island’s waters is still clean after all. Measures to curb coliform count that was once disturbingly high on the shores must have worked after all. There’s not much garbage too from what I saw just three years ago. Boracay Island has been recognized as one of the best islands of the world and this gave the Department of Tourism more pressure to exact changes in the island. The island’s ecosystem is a fragile one with some rare geological formations like the rocky outcrops where the controversial resort of Manny Pacquiao was built on.
With the intellectual sides aside and mind free from worries, my Boracay getaway is just right from all the stresses and work that Manila life presses on me. While lying on the sand and watching the view, I cannot help but think how many days of pressures from workload will this vacation ease. There is nothing perfect than just being in a place with just you and nature both giving praises to the Almighty Creator. I was able to have a bit of sleep and luckily, no one ever thought of robbing me. The sun’s glitter over the splashing waters and the powdery white sand had a therapeutic effect on me. After a while, I felt that I need to eat and so I went on walking the whole stretch from Station 1 to Station 3 just to find the perfect spot to eat.
Finding a nice spot to eat in Boracay can be a bit of challenge too. Trying not risk everything, I decided to eat at my usual Manila favorite, Yellow Cab! My food may not be the island-ish type but I amuzed myself by watching the people passing by. Filipinos among a crowd of foreign tourists, foreigners with their Filipina girlfriends or Filipino guys with their foreign girlfriends, locals peddling their wares to Muslim traders selling their pearls, people in beachwear from the revealing to the most beach conservative. The Boracay crowd is indeed a case study in itself, a cosmopolitan crowd cramped in such a small island. How much more can Boracay hold? Well, it was not for me to think because I came here for rest and relaxation.
A day’s worth of walk merits a nice sleep in my little niche for after Boracay is a 5-hour long travel to Iloilo City on my way finally to Bacólod City. The boat service from Caticlan to Boracay and vice-versa via pumpboats are not a 24-hour operation but they ferry tourists between ports early dawn and late into the night. I took a humble pumpboat out of Boracay early to catch a trip to Iloilo City at the bus terminal. Vallacar Transit services commuters from Caticlan to Iloilo City daily via the airconditioned Ceres Tours or the non-airconditioned Ceres Liner. After a long journey through beautiful islands and scenic seas, it is now time for me to take the last long trip that will take me home and explore my own home island I call Negros.