Boracay closure: 'The island needs to rest,' says tribal musician

AKLAN, Philippines – For  Boracay resident and musician Buboy Tulosa, all he wants is to see the world-famous island restored to its pristine state.

For the past 4 decades, the tribal musician witnessed the tide of tourists in Boracay, and with their increasing numbers, also the commercialization of the island.

"'Yung isla kasi, naging commercialized na siya (The island has become commercialized). We cannot stop the progress. We cannot bring back the image anymore of the island. I mean, okay naman (it's okay). Yes to rehabilitation of the island," the 40-year-old told Rappler, after his group performed on the last day that the island was open to the public.

Tolosa said that if the island could only speak, it would ask for a closure.

"'Yung island, gusto niya rin magpahinga. Pagod na pagod na siya. Kung nagsasalita lang siya, 'yun din ang hinaing niya, 'Kailangan ko rin magpahinga,'" he said.

(The island also wants to rest. She's exhausted. If she could only speak, that would be his plea as well, "I also need to take a break.")

Tribal musician

Tolosa leads 10-man tribal music group Island Drum Beaters. They are known for their tribal music with some reggae influence.

On the side,  after their performance, they sell ethnic-inspired trinkets similar to what they wear.

Tolosa said he had seen the music scene evolve in the island. But ethnic music will never fade because of its roots.

"Binubuhay lang namin ang sinaunang kultura dahil ngayon iba na. 'Yung tribal music hindi talaga siya nawawala. 'Yun 'yung root eh," he said.

(We are only making the ancient culture alive because now it's different. Tribal music will never fade out. It's rooted [in our culture].)

LAST PERFORMANCE. Island Drum Beaters perform their last song on April 25, the last day prior to the shut down. Photo by Aika Rey/Rappler

LAST PERFORMANCE. Island Drum Beaters perform their last song on April 25, the last day prior to the shut down.

Photo by Aika Rey/Rappler

On the eve of Boracay's closure to the public, the Island Drum Beaters took the opportunity to thank their audience, and played their last song as a tribute to the island for "giving them a good life." (WATCH: Tribal performers thank Boracay for 'good life')

"Ang tugtugan naman namin pasasalamat sa isla para sa magandang buhay na binigay nila sa amin (Our performance is to thank the island for us a good life)," Tolosa told Rappler

"You have to accept the closure whether you like it or not. The island needs to rest," he said.

Waiting

Boracay Island was officially closed to the public on April 26 as ordered by President Rodrigo Duterte, to address the environmental problems of the tourist destination. 

In the meantime, Tolosa said he will still accept invitations to play tribal music but he will have to go back to mainland Aklan to farm and earn a living.

"Magtatrabaho muna ako sa farm ko sa lupa ko diyan sa Caticlan. Back to farmer uli. Ganoon talaga, I hope sa 'pag open, maging maganda na siya (I will work in my farmland in Caticlan. I'll be back to being a farmer again. I hope when it opens it will be beautiful again)," he said.

The island shutdown to tourists led to businesses temporarily closing shop. Like Tolosa, many informal sector workers in the island had to look for other means to support their daily expenses.

According to the social welfare department, some 36,000 workers were affected by the closure of the island. The labor department offers cleaning jobs to displaced workers for P323 ($6) per day for 30 days. They can't reapply after that period.

Tolosa said all he's hoping for is that when Boracay is again open for business, he would still be part of the pool of performers providing entertainment to tourists in the island.

"Gusto naming kabilang kami sa nilalang na nakakapagbigay ng kasiyahan dito sa isla. (We want to be part of those who give happiness here in the island)," Tolosa said as he sold a trinket to a tourist. – Rappler.com

More stories from the Boracay closure coverage:

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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