Boracay Island

Boracay islanders come together to help deal with mental health woes

Jun Aguirre

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Boracay islanders come together to help deal with mental health woes

CONCERN. A group of Boracay residents takes part in a beach parade to raise mental health awareness on the famous island in Aklan on Sunday, March 26.

Malay-Boracay Lifeline FB page

Boracay residents chip in to raise funds for local lifeline initiatives for those who suffer from depression on the famous island

AKLAN, Philippines – Residents of Boracay have come together to address creeping cases of depression on the island, raising funds to help a local psycho-social support initiative and some volunteering to help as counselors. 

The multi-sectoral group organized a parade to raise awareness of mental health issues on the island on Sunday morning, March 26.

Eufemia Umambong, the chairperson of the group Malay-Boracay Lifeline, said they were working to break the stigma surrounding mental health to encourage people undergoing depression to seek help. 

In 2020, when the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic were felt on the island and Aklan, the group started yoga meditation sessions that also served as fund-raising activities for those with mental health issues.

“In the past three years, at the height of the pandemic, our municipality was alarmed by the sudden rise of suicide cases, depression, anxiety, and other mental health conditions,” said Umambong. 

She said building mental health awareness would open opportunities for the community to share experiences, reach out for available support, understand that mental illness can be treated, and finally break the stigma.

The parade, which was held along the beach, was participated in by local government officials and workers, volunteers from the Philippine Red Cross in Boracay, various civic groups, and concerned individuals. 

They chipped in P50 each, with the funds gathered intended to financially support the lifeline initiatives for those who suffer from depression on the island.

The Philippine National Police (PNP) declined to release data about the number of suicide cases in Aklan from 2021 to the first quarter of 2023. But from January 1 to August 2020, it recorded 26 suicide cases throughout Aklan, with six of them in Boracay. 

The suicides included young people and businessmen who went bankrupt due to the COVID-19 lockdowns.

After the release of the 2020 report, the Aklan police turned down requests for data about suicide cases, citing privacy concerns.

Eric Egualada, a painter from Antipolo who has been training young people in Boracay and Bacolod, said several of his students suffered depression but survived it through self-expression.

Until now, “painting helps them express themselves and in turn, they learn how to cope,” Egualada told Rappler on Tuesday, March 28.

EXPRESS. A young woman participates in a painting session in Boracay which is helping some people cope with depression through self-expression. – photo courtesy of Eric Egualada

Paul Chatman, an American musician who plays jazz in Iloilo, Bacolod, and Boracay, said many Boracay residents coped with mental depression during the worst months of the pandemic by merely listening to music.

Despite the local music industry still reeling from the effects of the pandemic, Chatman said, “It’s important that people continue enjoying listening to music to help them relax.” 

Councilor Allan Palma Jr. of Malay town said he made it his mission to promote mental health awareness in various public fora and was glad to see many concerned Boracay residents volunteering as counselors to help people overcome depression. –

Jun Aguirre is an Aries Rufo Journalism fellow.

The Department of Health (DOH) has a national crisis hotline to assist people with mental health concerns. The hotline can be reached at 1553 (landline); 0966-351-4518 and 0917-899-USAP (8727) (Globe/TM); and 0908-639-2672 (Smart/Sun/TNT). For regional helplines, click here. Malay-Boracay Lifeline also offers psycho-social support through hotline 288-9732.

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