Why I’m Never Going Back to Boracay

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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.

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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.  

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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. 

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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. 

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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. 

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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. 

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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:

Condé Nast Traveller

boracayinformer.com

Anna Everywhere

Misadventures of Tintin

Wikipedia

Rappler

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2 comments

  1. Good press doesnt get nearly as many shares as a nice negative blog.

    Sure, Boracay had an entirely different allure in the early 2000s. Large increases in tourism has had their effects, definitely, and Boracay has evolved into something different. And it’s still special. And there are still places in Boracay for everyone off White Beach. Or in Aklan. Or throughout the Philippines.

    There is algae there too… and roads, and motorbikes, and Smart Telecom ads.

    That Algae photo is from the hottest months of Philippine summer; as there is across ten thousand Phil beaches. That crowd photo is from La Boracay, the absolute climactic peak of Boracay tourism. Trash is picked up very morning across the beach, and the overwhelming, vast majority of the time, White Beach is pristine. The garbage photo looks like after poor weather, waves pushing in, and tide receding. You will very rarely, if ever, see that on White Beach for more than a moment. Boracay has teams and volunteers and environmentalists keeping the lifeblood that is Boracay tourism to White Beach in top shape. Perfect? No. Does it ever really look like that series of 3 cherry picked photos at any moment? No.

    Of course in 2002 it looked much different. The wonderful thing about Boracay is that Ili-iligan beach or even Puka still are like that. 1.5 M people come to Boracay, and 1.4M stay on White Beach for everything else it has to offer.

    That comes with progress.

    I hope you do come back. Obviously there was one side of Boracay that no longer appeals to you, and Boracay still has more to offer. Please let’s also not completely influence today’s Boracay experience wuth “older days” of Boracay, and the romantic attachment to the feelings and thoughts of a younger, more rustic traveler “back in the day”.

    I don’t think there is a need for rehabilitation. Rather breakneck modernization and rapid evolution needs to be organized, checked and planned for an greater number of tourists in the coming years. The Philippine enigma that is Boracay can’t be solely judged on the way you remember it 15 years ago. The same way that farms of ubud, the shores of the Themes in London, and the fishing island of Singapore can’t be solely judged on what used to be.

    Boracay has a different appeal now. And the ever increasing number of arrivals attest to that appeal, and the worst hand-picked photos that could never appear together at the same time assembled to reinforce the nostalgic feelings of the writer shouldn’t dissuade people from coming here.

    Most certainly the government isn’t doing “nothing”, most certainly there is no need for the island to return to it’s original state. Boracay is an anomaly, and with that also comes some pretty great things for the Philippines.

    Let’s preserve some other islands, and we do, for Mathias – in their original state.

    (Nice blog and quality writing, by the way)

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you for your comment. It’s nice to know that people are actually doing something about the litter on the beach; I really detested the cigarette butts, the plastics, and the broken glass shards when I was last there. I beg to differ regarding the algae though, as I’ve been going to the beaches around the Philippines for many years now and I’ve never seen any other beach in the Philippines (during summertime) with algae blooms as bad as Boracay’s; but yes, I agree with you, I have seen some algae in a port the last time I went to Camiguin as well. The phenomenon is unnatural though and can be attributed to human activity. I don’t believe that the island, as well as other tourist spots such as Bali and Phuket, could benefit from further development either. I truly believe that what the government must do now is to limit the number of tourists going to Boracay, the same way the Italian government limits tourists to Cinque Terre; I’m not an expert though, it’s just my opinion. I also do stand by my opinion that Boracay has to undergo a lot of ecological rehabilitation. I’m not trying to dissuade people from going to Boracay, I’m just stating my observations and opinion on how much the island has changed. The primary issue here isn’t about Boracay being unappealing to me anymore, the issue is the environmental consequence that the island is suffering from due to the increasing development. Thank you once again for your comment, I do appreciate reading your contrasting perspective regarding the Boracay phenomenon. Let us just hope for the best for Boracay’s future.

      Like

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