Boracay on my mind

BORACAY, Philippines – When one walks barefoot on the famed 4-kilometer white sand beach of Boracay in anticipation of a fiery sunset or to just laze around the beach, an obvious contrast offers a puzzle to curious minds.

Fixing one’s gaze at the open sea or swimming in its unbelievably crystal-clear waters will somehow satisfy one’s idea of a perfect vacation. Add in the picture a sunset that paints the whole sky red, and one can go home with the memory of paradise etched in his mind forever. (READ: Head to 'Borawan' and these 5 unspoiled PH beaches)

Opposite the shoreline lies a reality that has long degraded this island’s moniker of being a paradise. While it’s true that the massive development of the country’s top vacation island added a distinct feel to the so-called Boracay vibe, it cannot be argued that overdevelopment dramatically changed the face of Boracay as an untouched paradise.

Minus this reality, Boracay still carries a distinct Philippine charm. It’s never hard to discover why tourists from different corners of the world flock to its shores and fall in love with its pristine glory.  Setting foot for the first time at the prodding of well-meaning friends, I saw for myself  what they wanted me to see: the vibe, the sand, the sun, the crystal-clear. 

There’s no doubt about it: Boracay is a stunner. For one, the fine white sand that stretched four kilometers in what locals call the White Beach is a sure treat. I had never walked in sand as white and fine as Boracay’s. Its shallow water is also inviting, though algae is visible on the shoreline.

On this side of the island, people from different parts of the globe converge into what could only be described as a hubbub of all sorts of talk, all in different languages. According to Aklan Provincial Tourism Office, more than 1.5 million tourists visited Boracay in 2015; more than 760,000 are foreigners. (READ: First impressions of the Philippines, and why we were sad to leave)

In Boracay, sensory overload can drain any adventurous soul. Activities like parasailing, helmet diving and island hopping will truly make one’s stay in Boracay a worthwhile one, though it comes with a hefty price. 

As in life, the best things in Boracay are free. Aside from its talcum-soft sand, what really enticed me to go to Boracay is its postcard-perfect sunset. Upon arrival in the island after a long bus ride from Iloilo, the first thing I did was grab my camera and waited for the sundown. With the paraw and the silhouette of happy humans in sight, I witnessed firsthand that sunsets here are truly spectacular. (READ: 15 stunning PH sunsets)

It took me a few minutes to stand motionless to see the beautiful gradient in the sky – amidst a sea of humanity who also anticipated the sunset – before I started to transform into a trigger-happy person with my camera. For me, the time when the sun sets in Boracay is also the time when people pause for a few minutes and appreciate the stillness that comes with it.

After that, it’s business as usual in the island. These days, it’s hard to find a quiet spot in White Beach as it become crowded with tourists and locals doing their businesses.

For those who prefer a more laid-back environment, one can always go to nearby Puka Beach which is still part of Boracay. (READ: Diniwid beach: The quiet side of Boracay)

Only a few people comes here, making it a perfect spot for you to finish a book, laze around or play with the waves. Nipa huts are lined in Puka’s shoreline, a stark contrast to the suffocating development in the most frequented beach line of Boracay. I pictured in mind this could be the Boracay of a distant past, with only the sun, the sand and just a few souls meandering in its glory completing the scene. 

Reflecting on the sunset and the nipa huts reminiscent of the Boracay of the past, I cannot help but wonder how the island looked like before, and how it felt when you make footprints in the sand and discovering at the end of the long stretch of shore a group of giggling kids of the Ati tribes, the natives of the island. When life was easy and breezy in the island, people must have thought they were in the bosom of paradise.

The paradise that I have in mind can never be brought back, I thought. Sans the annoying development, Boracay still pulls a shocker that should compel each soul to enjoy the experience only Boracay can give to its visitors. 

In the midst of enjoying the island, don’t be too surprised if you find yourself in front of the beach and thinking of what could have gone wrong and what could have been done to help preserve the island.

Has Boracay changed? I cannot tell. But with what I saw, I know overdevelopment is slowly killing it. One can only imagine a more tranquil island when you are faced with puzzling juxtapositions right before your very eyes. As I watched the sunset on my last day here, I think of better days that come with every sunrise in Boracay. – Rappler.com