Somber Boracay gears up for October 26 reopening

AKLAN, Philippines – Top tourist hotspot Boracay Island is ready to receive tourists once again, 6 months after being closed to the public.

The island will "officially" open its shores on Friday, October 26, but many businesses are not expecting that much visitors after its months-long hiatus.

Many establishments will also be closed then, pending permits from the government. (READ: Businesses still 'confused' over Boracay opening plans)

Jecil Rabanes, a service crew at Plato D' Boracay Resto, told Rappler operations will remain the same when the island reopens on Friday. They have not changed their menu, but many items are still unavailable. 

"Ready na kami magbukas sa October 26, pero parehas lang ang trabaho mula nung nag-open kami noong September 28 dahil nakuha na namin permit namin. Pero kasi, hindi naman namin alam kung may papasok ba na maraming bisita," Rabanes told Rappler.

(We are ready to open on October 26, but work will be the same since we opened on September 28 when we got our permit. We don't know if many visitors will enter the island.)

Staffing will remain "as is", Rabanes said, with 5 workers serving guests during the opening. They used to have 10 to 12 workers prior to the closure, but they will still see how it will go in the coming months.

But Rabanes said they have started to stock up on seafood, as those are usually ordered by tourists.

"Bali inisip namin 'yung ibang guest, excited din naman na pumasok dito kasi ilang months din sila na hindi naka-pasok. Nag-stock kami ng mga seafood, so baka magbenta na kami ng lobsters, prawns, at crabs, na hindi namin binebenta nung sarado," Rabanes added.

(We thought that the other guests are excited to come here because it's been months since they weren't allowed to enter. We stocked up on seafood, so maybe we will start selling lobsters, prawns, and crabs, that we didn't sell during the closure.)

'Not the same'

A convenience store along the White Beach in Station 2 has also opened just on Wednesday, October 24, but it was still visibly empty.

Mary Joy Jamili, a cashier for AS Pascual convenience, said that they have only "slightly" prepared for the reopening, because they are not expecting many tourists to arrive on Friday anyway.

Jamili, who hails from Bacolod City in Negros Occidental, said that Boracay will reopen "but it will not be the same."

"Slight lang, hindi kami masyado nag-stock pa. Magbubukas na nga sa Friday, pero parang iba na. Hindi parang Boracay," Jamili told Rappler.

([We only prepared] slightly, so we didn't stock up. [Boracay] will open on Friday but it's somehow different. It's not the same as the Boracay [we were used to.]

Jamili said that there are a lot of things banned now with the "new Boracay" – no more parties at the beach, less sandcastles, fewer vendors. (READ: What to expect when Boracay reopens on October 26)

She also said that Boracay will open but with roads that are still yet to be fixed. (LOOK: Boracay to open with war zone-like roads?)

Only a part of the Boracay Circumferential Road – from Cagban Port to Hue Hotel – will be open come Friday. Motorists are still advised to take the alternative access road to travel around the island. 

New rules

President Rodrigo Duterte ordered the island shut in April for a major effort to fortify weak infrastructure and crack down on the rampant overdevelopment that had turned it into, what he termed, a "cesspool".

When the government throws open the doors, Boracay will have fewer hotels and restaurants, a cap on the number of visitors, and anti-beach boozing rules aimed at taming its party-hard reputation. 

SAVE BORACAY. A tarpaulin being fixed shows 'gratefulness' to President Rodrigo Duterte and the government for 'saving' Boracay. Photo by Adrian Portugal/Rappler

SAVE BORACAY. A tarpaulin being fixed shows 'gratefulness' to President Rodrigo Duterte and the government for 'saving' Boracay.

Photo by Adrian Portugal/Rappler

Under the new rules, only 19,215 tourists will be allowed on the island at any given time. The government said they will be limiting entry, with around 6,400 allowed to enter per day, assuming that they will stay for at least 3 days. (IN CHARTS: Boracay is bursting at the seams)

Visitors will also have limited hotels and resorts to choose from, with only 115 accommodations with 5,365 rooms open for bookings as of October 19. The number is heavily slashed from the 525 hotels in the island with over 14,000 rooms.

All of this is intended to protect the bruised beauty of the island's turquoise waters and expanses of white sand beaches which were being loved to death by two million tourists per year. – with reports from Agence France-Presse/Rappler.com

Aika Rey

Aika Rey covers the Philippine Senate for Rappler. Before writing about politicians, she covered budget, labor, and transportation issues.

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