My country, the Philippines, is an archipelago of approximately 7,107 islands. The exact number would depend on whether it is high tide or low tide.
Among these islands is one close to my heart. My husband and I have been coming to Boracay since the early 80s, as newlyweds. Boracay was a bit of a challenge to get to then. One had to take a plane ride to the provincial capital, Kalibo, about an hour by air away from Manila. From there, you would have to negotiate with a jeepney driver to take you through 3 hours of dirt road to the sleepy town of Caticlan. You would then get off the jeepney, caked from head to toe (even the eyelashes) in fine white dust, and then negotiate with a boatman to take you across the channel on his little pump boat. Twenty minutes later, as you round the island’s tip, you glimpse the 1 km shoreline of sparkling blue water and fine white sand that is your destination.
You alight from the boat, unbelieving that such a beautiful place exists, and are amazed at the sand so fine and powdery under your feet that it remains cool under the tropical midday sun. And yes, you think, this was worth the trip.
Boracay back then was a backpacker’s secret island paradise. Only a handful of mom and pop resorts, no electricity (unless your resort had a generator, and then only at night to run a few lights and an electric fan). The available cuisine was basically the catch of the day salted and grilled over hot coals, and a cup of rice. Softdrinks were priced at a premium, and ice a rare commodity, handed out sparingly by your waiter/porter/resort handyman and only by request. At night we would walk the length of the beach by moonlight and flashlight, to the talipapa or wet market, where we would haggle with the vendors for the local produce and a few kilos of meat/poultry, and pay a cooking fee. You would spy a few topless sunbathers, mostly Europeans, and learn that some of them came to Boracay and never left.
Times have changed. Twenty four years and 5 children later, we still enjoy Boracay, or “Bora”, as this generation knows it. But now there is a (gasp) Starbucks in D’Mall (The Mall), where you can dance the night away and sip frozen margaritas, or dine under the stars on foie gras and a bottle of Chateau Margaux, and enjoy a chocolate souffle for dessert. Check your email while having a mani pedi on the beach, or just chill and enjoy a double massage (two ladies, one working on your upper half, the other on your lower) for USD10 under the palm trees. Oh, and getting here is easier too. You take a 35 minute flight on a jet-prop and land on the Caticlan airport, where, depending on your resort, you will be met by a valet at the airport, given a garland of flowers, an iced tea, and cold towels to freshen up, and take a private speedboat to the island.
Still, though no longer unspoilt, the island is beautiful. Our children enjoy it as much as we did, in our youth. We enjoy the Choco-Peanut-Banana Shakes or the Mango Milk at Jonah’s, where you can chat with the real Jonah and his mom, who have made a small fortune selling their fruit shakes, and learn that during peak season they sell close to 1500 shakes a day. We have lunch at Aria, where the pizza is paper thin and baked in a brick oven, and the squid ink pasta a family favorite. If we have room for dessert we have the panna cotta or a selection of cakes and pastries from nearby Lemon Café. We stroll around D Mall where the kids get henna tattoos, shop for trendy beachwear and havaiianas, try our hand at a few arcade games, and people-watch. For merienda (afternoon tea) we either have French style crepes with Nutella and mango balls, or the Chocolate Sin at Zuzuni, a molten chocolate cake served with vanilla ice cream. 6 orders, no sharing. And yes, you can still have your Iced Mocha Frapuccino when the craving hits you. Sadly for my teenage sons, though, there are no more topless sunbathers.
For variety, there’s also a lovely Mexican restaurant called Manana, French/Italian/Continental fine dining at any of the luxury resorts on the strip, fiery bulgogi and kimchi at the huge Boracay Regency which caters especially to Korean clientele, a very good (and expensive) Portugese place called Banza!, curries and more at the True Food Indian restaurant, and if you are in the mood for Peking Duck, you can head on over to Bamboo.
Teens and the young at heart can enjoy windsurfing, kite surfing, parasailing, banana boating, or you can rent an ATV and explore the back parts of the island. Or if you crave some quiet time, we rent a paraw (sailboat) at sunset and watch Bora from a distance, with just the sound of the wind and the waves in the background.
Or, you can do as my kids do and check their Facebooks. :-)
About the author:
Michelline Suarez is the proud mother of five; from Alex in her early twenties to Vito, the latest addition to the Suarez clan. In her "spare" time, she is involved with T Bags and Shoes and The Blue Kitchen - both popular retail stores in Metro Manila.
The pearl-white sand beach
Preparing to sail on a bangka
Coby on the receiving end of a welcome foot massage at Discovery Shores Resort. Now, I'll take that over a welcome punch any day.
Marco, Alex, Coby and Sam at Jonah's world famous fruitshake stand
Alex, Sam, Marco, Coby, Leo, Michelline and Vito having chocolate cakes at Zuzuni
Facebook is not forgotten on the island