April 12, 2013

boracay from the eyes of a noobie

photos c/o french living in boracay in the author's post "remember... the old boracay"

yes, i was informed

my chemistry teacher in high school used to tell me stories about aklan. she told us that she worked before at denr as a chemist at boracay before she became a teacher. 20 years ago from when she told us the story, she said boracay was a virgin island. wild monkeys trek down from the forests to the beachline to take a bath or just play. forests were still thick and it was cooler especially at night. when she came back to bring her family for a vacation, she was surprised to see the "devastation" brought by tourism. boracay was not the pristine virgin island she once knew. in her own words, "it was a different set of monkeys i saw at the beach!" since then, she never came back.

i do feel her somehow but with my experience at anawangin. before anawangin was advertised to the public, i've been there once. when we arrived, there were only 7 tents: 4 from our group and 3 from a different group. no latrines, no mini stores, no massage services, no henna tattoo people, no music, no police, no tent fee, no entrance fee. just the sand, the beach, and a few strangers, and friends. everything was free except for the outrigger ride which only costed 500 pesos per 4 people. you can sleep there anywhere with all your valuables even holding your mobile phone. the next day, you'll wake up on the same spot with all your stuff. anawangin back then was a haven for people who craved for peace and solitude. when we came back, it was agoo during faux prophet judiel's time. many people camped out at all places, the noise was overpowered the sea waves, there were fees for almost everything, one of my friends phone was stolen, in short, the old anawangin was gone and we don't want to come back again.

a very old photo of boracay c/o wikipedia
it was not only from my chemistry teacher in highschool i heard bad experiences about boracay. there were a lot of people who wanted me to scrape off the place in my list. a close buddy of mine even once said, "kung gusto mong pumuntang boracay, pumunta ka na lang ng malate. tapos isipin mo na lang na may malawak na buhangin tapos tubig alat. yun, boracay na!" (if you want to go to boracay, go to malate instead. just imagine there's vast sand and saltwater. there you go, boracay!) 

in online diving communities, boracay was even abhorred to an extent that when some people write their reports, they're almost banning everyone to go to the place. there's even a diving trip report at scubaboards entitled, "bleh boracay," which one of my buddies, jag, posted. the report reflected his sick sense of humor (which i also have) that i even bookmarked his thread in safari so i have something to read whenever i need a good laugh. kidding aside, his article gave me doubts about boracay below sea level that i almost cancelled my diving activities.  

there have been a lot of chances for me to go to boracay in the past but i refused because of what people told me and of the reviews i have read. instead, i went to subic, potipot, daraitan, panglao, baybay (chocolate brown sand ftw!), samal island, and anilao, which are gaining high reviews from the tourists who went there. i told myself that i'll only go to boracay if there's a need to, like friends' weddings, or if someone's going to pay for my stay. my reason for going to boracay was a manny librodo seminar on 23rd and 24th of february. when i told my friends that i am going to boracay, they only told me i'm going to enjoy the seminar.

the first-timer

i woke up very early that saturday to attend a photography workshop. at 07:00, new wave was still closed. back at station 1, our models for the photography seminar haven't arrived yet so i roamed around. fearing i'd lose a large chunk of space from my memory card, i did not take too many photos of boracay in the early morn.

view of boracay from the beach
good morning boracay
for me, boracay is like panglao -- only an overdeveloped version. at 06:30, you would already see a lot of people bathing, jogging, or getting a good tan. majority of the people i've seen there were foreigners and only a few filipinos. at boracay, at night, you'll hear music bars with pumped up bass empowered by subwoofers. if i am not mistaken, i heard the "harlem shake" four times a day from different bars i passed by. at boracay, the music didn't stop. you can still hear party music during breakfast. in other beaches i have visited, the first ones to wake up early were the fishermen. resorts were still closed and music only starts at around 09:00. if you wake up early, either you're  going out for jogging or you were drunk somewhere else the previous night. boracay is manila because of the number of people you could see (of course, less the high-rise buildings and the beach). my friend, jonathan, at new wave told me that there's more people during summer. i only said, "wtf, really?" i can't imagine myself moshing with a lot of people at the beach. i am used to retreating to bohol, my mom's province, to stay away from people and find peace and solitude.

the "swarm of photographers". bts photo by nenita ramos
unaltered photo shot by myself. yes, our main model is ms rachel lobangco, who is also the organizer of the photography seminar. she is ageless! 
at noon, before we had our lunch at tbraz, the facilitators said that there will be a travel photography contest in the afternoon. we were given a choice to stroll around with manny or wander off somewhere else if we're not that confident in winning. after seeing my co-participants in their bazooka lenses and all thingamajigs they have; after knowing who my co-participants, who are mostly professional photographers; after knowing i'm the only olympus camera user with a very old and battered camera while the rest have the latest canon or nikon models, of course, i am not confident! my choice was easy: wander off... into the deep ;) lynette, again being the very helpful person that she is, informed the rest of the new wave team to refer me a place where i can shoot for an hour after i spammed her inbox with a lot of emails (thanks to 3g).

while walking from station 2 to station 1, where the new wave divers shop is, the diving trip report at scubaboards, "bleh boracay," gave me doubts, "will i take a good photo there?" and since i will be diving, "will i even enjoy the dive?" in fact, i did. not only because it's my come back dive but because i've seen the stuff i also wanted to see when i was a newbie diver on my first descent to openwater. check the "noobie" diver post to read more about my diving experience in boracay.

yannick webber, my dive master
after my dive, i walked from new wave to friday's. the sand castle builders caught my attention as they were all children. all the while, i thought it was the adults who built them. here's one kid who showed me how to build castles.



out of curiosity and disregarding the fact that i would be late for the next shoot, i talked to some of them. it was sad to know that most of the kids here aren't going to school f and had to earn extra by building castles. it was february but the kids say they'll just go to summer classes instead since they can't make it to 4th quarter.

unaltered photos
unaltered photos
unaltered photos

so far, i haven't read or seen any child prostitution in boracay. perhaps because of the many people who would easily report who are taking advantage of minors. i guess that's a good thing but then again, someone has to send them to school with all the profit generated by the place from tourism!

day 2 of our seminar was held at the asya resort. the resort is located in a different side of boracay: no noise, no drunk people, no bars, just a few umbrellas, and a few people. with beautiful architecture and a peaceful ambiance, asya is definitely a perfect place for honeymooners and for people who loves posh living and can afford 15,000 php a night's stay. and the best thing about this place is, there are no slimes.
view of boracay from asya

i was also told of another side of boracay, near carabao island, where there are a few people because of the strong sea current. the side where most tourists go does not get the wind's full impact. i was told that there are fewer resorts there and even some places where pitching of tents are allowed. 

night life in boracay is, indeed as told by my friends, like malate. if you went to boracay alone or you haven't met a few good people to talk to, you wouldn't enjoy the night. instead, you'll be disappointed because of the overlapping music coming from the different bars which eventually became noise, drunk people walking in the sand, a few hookers trying to get laid, and swimming at night not knowing whether you've swallowed slime. 

i spent my last night with manny, nenita, mj, kester, dada, rachel, and a few photographers whose names i have already forgotten. of course, the topic is photography. like any other bar, you would call it a wonderful evening if you had good conversations with good people. the difference is, boracay is a beach and there is no work to return to the next morning (unless you work in aklan or you have a very early flight).

from the eyes of a newbie

all was surreal. i did not have enough time to say good bye to everyone at the shop. the pump boat ride to caticlan and the van ride to the airport hostel was all too quick. i settled at the hostel at 20:00-ish where i repacked for my flight the next day. 

at 05:00 i woke up, logged out, and took a ticycle ride to the airport for 30 php. as we were all lining up to check in, the lady at my back was irate at her husband for losing their itinerary. i told them there's no need to worry. they only needed to show their valid id's to airphil to get a ticket printed. i don't have an itinerary too which led them to believe me. after all, i went first. if the airphil guy won't let me in because of a piece of paper, the couple won't too. "for how long have you stayed in boaracy" the lady asked. "4 days, 3 nights with my 4th night here in kalibo," i said. "wow, quite long! we were only there for 3 days! you must have enjoyed your stay," she said. "not really," i replied. "i was there for a seminar for 2 days." 

i'm not saying that the seminar was a hindrance to my boracay vacation. i am actually thankful for it. if not for the seminar, i would not see beautiful boracay because of all the bad things i've read. definitely, boracay is one of a kind (except the sea slimes) and is different from the ones i have visited before. it deserves another visit from me. there's too much to experience in the place not just white beach. i have not hiked yet at mt luho, which was supposed to be part of my itinerary if not for my very early flight, i only dove twice, i haven't done island tours, i haven't done a full rural trek. it would be unfair to say a place is bad if i haven't fully experienced it. 

but then again, despite the beauty, boracay is a dying haven. aetas, who once roamed the shores were pushed farther form the shore as merely squatters roaming the streets of malay. cyanobacteria are infesting the shores, perhaps due bad drainage system caused by too many people visiting the place. kids building castles for school because their families could not afford their tuition fees. if the older generations were depressed of what boracay became out of tourism now, how would later generations experience boracay?

1 comment:

  1. after all, Boracay is still one of the best beaches in the world for its natural beauty... it just need a little more preservation to maintain its beauty.