Monday, November 5, 2012

Boracay: Still My Happy Place

So I had the good fortune of visiting Boracay twice this year, once in June and more recently in October,.  In the short span of time between those months, a good deal has changed, more buildings finished and more stalls were added at the market area or “talipapa”.  Those changes are nothing compared from the last visit in 2004 to this year’s visit 2012.  The beach has become urbanized, commercialized and still disorganized.

After taking the plane to Kalibo on my latest visit, I took the usual bus and boat ride to Boracay.  In 2004, my pump boat would have landed me in Station 1, 2 or 3 after the 2 hour bus ride, but now the air conditioned boat lands me in a port where I have to take a special trike ride to my destination. So that is a total of three rides from Kalibo to Boracay which means additional expense for a local like me.  In this port,  I am charged a terminal fee and an environment fee total of P175.  Upon alighting from the bus, it is not clear what is required prior to riding the boat.  Several times I was asked to go back outside to settle a fee then re-enter all over again waiting in line for my turn to have my bags cleared.  There should be some clear instructions, in the form of a signboard or an usher to direct the crowd.  The tourists were looking at each other along with the locals wondering what next to do. The little fees here and there seem unprofessional so tourists question these fees.  Why not package one total fee for the whole trip  so as not to inconvenience and waste these tourist’s patience and precious time. So that area needs to be improved.

Another annoying realization is upon paying the bus and boat package fee of P250 I discover that the adjacent stall charges only P200.  When I informed them I would want to check around for other rates, they outwardly lie that all the rates are the same. So shouldn’t there be a uniform fee so as not to make the tourists feel duped?

You would think that by this time, they would have found an efficient way of transporting tourists to the destination and make them feel good about coming over.  Instead they are greeted with unfriendly and not too smart people who make them go back and forth and confuse them with lousy instructions.  Especially since a lot  of the tourists  I encountered were not too fluent english speakers from Korea, China, Russia and the like.

Upon reaching the island, you would notice that it has become a busy place like a place of business.  So many restaurants and fast food outlets belonging to international groups dominated the sea shore area, which once upon a time was dotted with simple sari-sari stores.  Paths  of retail shops ran a mile deep from the beach area to the mains streets at the back.  I’m not totally against it as it gives more choices for the tourists with varied pricing budgets.

When one walks farther down station 3,  you would get a glimpse of the old, quiet boracay with nipa-type homes occupied the uncrowded  area.  Groups of 3 or 4 were simply sitting around having drinks and a laid-back conversation minus the fancy lights and loud music.

What still remains and still a personal attraction for me is waking up to the sight and sound of the waves over coffee and the “quaint village feel” that I still experience when I am there.  When I walk around on my own, I feel safe.  When I can’t sleep and want to look for a snack in the middle of the night, There’s always a lot of tourists around until the wee hours of the morning.  I can just walk out of my hotel room and check out the 24-hour fast food outlets or food stalls available, something I wouldn’t be able to do years before.  I like that freedom of walking alone picking up a take-out and chill in my hotel room or write in peace.

Who would not be affected by a picturesque sunrise and sunset? I hear of new and better beach spots such as Bohol, Coron, Quezon, Batanes and the like, but when I did visit one or two of them, I realized they lacked the charm of Boracay for me.  It’s not just about the place alone anymore, it is the combination of people, the interaction, and the safe-feeling that not many beaches can claim.

No matter how many negative things they say about Boracay, It is till my personal happy place.

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