Aug 24, 2010

Pearl of the Pacific - Boracay Island 1990

I first discovered Boracay in 1990. This was the Philippines I never quite discovered after immigrating to California at the height of my teen years a decade prior. I was a city kid  whose one "life threatening" encounter with a jellyfish in Matabungkay, Batangas, forever marred my desire to be in the vicinity of salted water. 

My cousins highly recommended this piece of paradise an hour and a half plane ride south of the capital. I endured a bumpy plane ride in which a "yaya" of one the kids on the plane had to vomit her entire meal upon
landing in Caticlan airport. A five minute tricycle ride from the airport took you to the shore where an army of boat captains and porters await to carry your luggage to their decorative wooden bangkas. For those who wished to keep their feet dry, these smiling porters offered their backs for a quick piggy back ride up the wooden plank leading into their boats. 

The sound of the boat engine mixed with the fresh island breeze, the splash of salted water in your face and the picturesque blue water were in a weird way, in harmony. I was happy to be home, but even prouder that a place like Boracay, or Bora as the locals call it, existed.

Bora today is nowhere near what the island was like in 1990. It's now home to a five-star Shangri-La Resort, a beautiful golf course, hundreds of bars, discos, restaurants, dive shops, Korean and Japanese karaoke joints and even an outdoor shopping mall called D'Mall. In 1990, Bora was still relatively new to the Manilenos and only the adventurous Swiss and German tourists could lay claim to its Western discovery. The pearl white beaches were peaceful with the occasional massage lady and jewelry merchant begging you for their services. At $5.00 a massage, how could you refuse? Most of the restaurants and lodges were mom and pop operations. European backpackers mingled with the locals. It was a "safe" haven for American tourists and their Filipina dates recruited from the red light district of Manila. Days were longer and nights of partying at the Hard Rock Cafe (the local version) always resulted into the long walk back to the lodge in complete darkness with only the sound of the waves as your guide.  

They say that Bali was just like Bora before the throngs of tourists started arriving in the 80's. While the rustic Bora is long gone, my only hope is that this island oasis is able to navigate its growth with thoughtful planning and a sensitivity to its natural setting. Perhaps, we have already surpassed that expectation. But despite its rapid growth in the past two decades, the sound of the boat engine mixed with the fresh island breeze, the splash of salted water in your face and the picturesque blue water remain as if it was still 1990.

Cliff divers on the north end
North end cottages
The view before reaching shore
Bora is a windsurfing haven
Miles of pearl white beaches
Colorful scarves in the market
A corner of paradise
"Baggage claim" in 1990
This was the main airport terminal!
Puca shell bracelets
Wooden bangkas
Cocomangas was a great hangout at night
Typical cottages on the beach
Paradise Lodge - this is where I stayed during my first two visits
Resort seating
Market entrance
The library taken from a tricycle
Fresh fruits
Fish nets by the "wet" market
Banig mats for the beach


eileen said...

Thanks for sharing the photos. I remember Boracay being like that in 1987. We stayed in Pearl but it was so dark at night and so far away that we checked in Mango Ray which was closer to the center. Oh how I miss Boracay the way it used to be. Of course I would not mind being in a Shang villa either ;-)

Hotels Grants Pass said...

I just love Boracay! One of the best destinations in Asia.