If only the rest of Boracay could look something like this once again.
I personally think this article is very timely, considering Boracay has won Condé Nast Traveler’s Reader’s Choice Award for Best Island. I’ve been to Boracay three different times in my life, and I’ve witnessed its evolution from being beautiful, pristine island, to becoming an overcrowded, polluted, tourism powerhouse in less than a decade. I feel very lucky that I’ve been to Boracay years before its prime, as it now seems impossible to get Boracay back into that old state. I visited Boracay three different times within a decade, and it’s incredibly sad seeing a place so beautiful turn into another commercial moneymaking venture. Unfortunately, I don’t have any photos because as I said, I lost them all after my old laptop broke down.
The first time I went to Boracay was the year 2002. I was obviously younger back then, so my memories from that trip isn’t exactly crystal clear, but I still remember some things nonetheless. In fact this trip was one of my fondest memories of travelling in the Philippines. Back then, there was very little development whatsoever. There were no cemented roads, cars, tricycles, or any vehicles in the island. Along White Beach, there weren’t any big hotels and resorts covering the entire stretch. The best part is, there were barely any people. There weren’t any big crowds back then since Boracay was more of a “secret”, only known to travellers, not so much to tourists.
As I said, there weren’t any roads whatsoever, nor was there a pier. We were the only ones in the boat, other than the crew. We weren’t accompanied by hoards of tourists going to the island. When we got dropped off to the island from Caticlan, the boat docked right in front of resort itself. The water was crystal clear and the sand was pristine. No cigarette butts or algae in sight. It really felt like someplace special, like a paradise hidden within the seven thousand other islands in the Philippines.
I remembered that we only stayed in this small resort. It wasn’t very big, in fact it was mostly wooden, and we spent every single day swimming in the beach. I don’t remember the name of the resort we stayed in, and I do wonder whether it does still exist. It’s possible that it might’ve been bought by some developer to be turned into another hotel.
I came back in the year 2005, and again, I don’t remember much, except that there were more people. It was already quite developed, but not as bad. There were a lot more people, and buildings and establishments started popping up along the beach. We stayed in a different hotel; this one was more developed and less rustic. I remember seeing a fire dance for the first time during that trip. It was fun, albeit less memorable than the first.
This is how it pretty much looks now, taken on 2015 by Anna Everywhere. It was probably a bit less crowded than this, but it was still really bad.
My last visit was on the year 2008, and the experience was eye-opening and incredibly saddening. The flight was full, the airport was full of people, and the boat going to the island was also full. I was quite surprised to discover that we were heading towards a cemented structure, and to my dismay, it was a pier. It looked so different compared to the Boracay I remembered years ago. We then took a tricycle going to the hotel, and I was just as surprised seeing a cemented road being built on the island. It was no longer peaceful, in fact it was very loud because of the vehicles, and not to mention dusty. Once we got to the beach, it was full of tourists. This time we were advised to wear our slippers in the sand (as opposed to being barefoot like in the past), as we were at risk of maybe stepping on broken glass. This time, Boracay was slowly growing into a party island, with multitudes of nightclubs and bars opening up along White Beach.
The trash on the beach, taken by Misadventures of Tintin.
Although Boracay is also famous for the picturesque sails during the sunset, it looks horrible when the sails are nothing but advertising platforms.
The most horrific part about the trip was seeing the carpet of disgusting green algae covering the water and the sand. It was disgusting to look at and disgusting to touch. Of course being on Boracay, the thing that we would love to do is to go swimming, but we couldn’t find a spot in the sea that wasn’t covered by the green algae, so we had no choice but to swim there in the water amidst the algae. It wasn’t very fun anymore, with the crowds, the noise, the pollution, and the dirty water, so we moved to one of the quieter beaches on the island.
On 2015, there was an official report regarding the alarming coliform levels in Boracay’s waters. Waste management isn’t executed well, so untreated waste water flows freely into the sea in Bulabog Beach, which is on the other side of the island opposite White Beach. This seems to be the reason for the extreme algae growth. Algae normally grows in the sea, but once exposed to chemicals from waste water, they end up growing rapidly which becomes disastrous for the environment. It destroys the underwater ecosystem by sucking away all of the oxygen in the water, turning it into a barren wasteland. It kills all of the fishes and the corals, which we all know becomes an environmental catastrophe over time.
It’s really sad that the government isn’t really doing much about this. Because the Philippines is a poor country, they want to continuously expand and promote tourism to boost the economy, even if it’s at the expense of the environment. It’s extremely disappointing that they ended up exploiting the natural resources of Boracay and turned it into a capitalist haven. As usual, the government here isn’t doing anything because they are selfish and corrupt, and it’s really sad because Boracay used to be one of the jewels of the Philippines. I just hope that this doesn’t happen to the other beautiful islands as well. I’ve recently seen some of the horrible development going on in another island called Camiguin, and it looks terrible.
I really miss the old Boracay when development wasn’t rampant yet. I really do wonder if it’s possible for it to still become rehabilitated. I’m glad that at least some resorts and organisations are doing their best to stay sustainable, but what Boracay really needs is one giant face lift. Or at least a time machine to take it back to its original state.
So because of all this, I won’t be going back to Boracay anytime soon. I might as well go to Palawan instead or something.
Photos courtesy of: