Perpie in Pinas 2014 – New Year in Boracay

Tropical storm named Feria and Zest Air overshot Caticlan runway,
Getting lost in the new NAIA 3 and 2-hour Cebu-Pacific flight delay,
Come high or hell water, we made it to Boracay.

Dazzling blue skies, breathtaking sunsets,
Fine white sands,blindingly turquoise waters.
Parasailing, windsurfing, snorkeling…water activities of all kinds.
Good eats and thumping nightlife.

Moroccan cuisines at Kasbah, go Greek at Zuzuni,
Refreshing dishes at Lemoni cafe, tasty Thai at Sa’Neh Thai,
More ice cream, cold drinks, and milk shakes to refresh us,
Seafood shopping and paluto at D*talipapa.

Free lunch buffet at Astoria Boracay only to be held up for sales talk.
We saw Boy Abunda as endorser, we left the building.
Another poster of him at Station 3, that prompted us to return to Station 2.
Then we met Jim and Michelle, that started a party.

Early night mojito at the top of Tides Boracay
More drinks and some dancing at Juice Bar, mojitos overdose!
I finally declared Andok’s as the best meal everrr, then got some verbal spanking.
Longest walk ever but friends were there to take me home.

Visit to Puka beach and a bat cave,
Reaching Boracay’s highest point, Mt Luho.
My newfound talent, quite a quackery, tapping coconuts for water.
Strike conversations with locals, haggle for pasalubongs.

Leisurely stay in Residencia Boracay, a relaxing, homely spot in Station 1,
Beach volleyball with fellow vacationers, scribble at or play with beach sand,
Slumber under the coconut tree, head-to-toe massage and braidworks,
Fire dancers at night, fireworks in the sky.

– Perpie in Boracay, 2009

These are the fond, lingering memories of my first Boracay trip with friends. It’s really been awhile and boy how I missed it! Away from home, it’s only through pictures and stories about this island I am reminded on how I always yearn for a beach life.

After five long years, I got a chance to visit this beach paradise again, to celebrate the New Year this time around, together with my husband and his longtime friends.  Then I began to wonder.

Is the same island I visited before would captivate me in a way it did long time ago?

It could be sweeter the second time around.

Boracay in Pictures

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Lo and behold, it’s Zest Air! I hope it won’t hold us stranded in Manila. Running over in Caticlan’s runaway wasn’t really fun. But it might be the last time I would see ZestAir as such – the green-orange brand colors that remind us so well of the classic favorite juice drinks in foil packs, Zest-O.

Zest Airways and AirAsia went into strategic alliance, and have rebranded to a new airline called AirAsia Zest. So expect Zest, oh, AirAsia Zest planes to be painted all red.

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We’re up in the air! It’s aerial views of Manila Bay and SM Mall of Asia.

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We’re somehow hoping we can get an aerial snapshot of Boracay island too. I’m quite unsure on whether this photo shows the right one. The island doesn’t seem to have a shape of a dog bone!

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At last, we finally arrived. Despite the visible rain clouds, I was already very pleased to see this familiar sight. As I expected, the beach was full. Boracay’s peak season actually starts in December and ends after summer, around May and June. Although one local told me, that because of the earthquake disaster in Bohol and Cebu and the Haiyan mega-typhoon in Leyte, lesser tourists came over for this new year’s celebration.

I saw more Chinese, Japanese, Koreans and Europeans, as always. Then interestingly, I noticed a lot of Russians, too.

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We’re officially away from it all!

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Especially in the morning, Station 3 is overrun with these boats, big or small.

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It’s the official hangout for late breakfasts and apero drinks. The resto serves Japanese cuisines, and all the dishes I tried were very nice. It really tasted authentically Japanese. My most favorite is their takoyaki, which coincidentally, I had been craving for a long time.

We also had our New Year dinner here, too! It’s pretty special, in a way that we’re able to freely come up with our own menu, and we’re away from the hustle-bustle of the maddening crowd. Besides, the owner and the staff here were ever-friendly and trustworthy and the Boracay boys are seasonal suki (loyal customers) of this nipa-styled, Japanese resto.

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Where do we go next?

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There’s no snow in Boracay, but we still feel it’s Christmas here.

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Two hours before the stroke of midnight, it started to rain hard. It didn’t even stop when everyone’s ready to welcome the new year. It was a pity that we had to be under the umbrella at the beach, soaking wet, while watching the fireworks display. In the end, I wasn’t able to take nice photos of the fireworks, or at least, of everyone celebrating. Pffft.

Nonetheless, it’s still Happy 2014 in Boracay!

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Nigi Nigi Noos was also another place we hang around for some before and after-dinner drinks. Where’s the party?

It had been cloudy most of the time during our stay, and the Boracay sunset was a rare chance. By the time I saw it, I didn’t let it pass by without taking photos of it. It’s just breathtaking, so beautiful.

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Boracay After 5 Years

Indeed, a lot of things have changed in Boracay for the past five years.

More resorts and restaurants at the island’s White Beach, its beachfront now looked more cramped than ever before. Diniwid Beach is used to be an underdeveloped but quiet and secluded spot, of which Nami Resort would have enjoyed long time ago, but now it’s also filled with new resorts. Even Boracay’s neighbor, Carabao island, wasn’t spared. A local boatman told me that there were already private resorts in the said island, owned by foreigners who are likewise married to some locals.

The cost of vacationing in Boracay went up. If I compare how much I spent five years ago and this year, considering also other factors (measurable i.e. off-peak rates, and immeasurable i.e. my spending behavior), I’d estimate that it has gone up by around 25 to 30 percent. The inflation does make sense anyway. It is a good indicator that the island’s economy is growing. However I couldn’t help but wonder on whether Boracay is still affordable for local tourists. By foreigner’s standards, meals and drinks are cheap, so as massages and accommodations, but still it depends on where you stay i.e. station 1 is a bit upscale. A bottle of beer in Switzerland for example would cost 7 CHF.  Our local beer, which can be as good as Swiss (I’m not kidding), costs 80 – 100 PHP (2 CHF) in Boracay.

Yet given that I’ve just been away for 3 years, I can still tell that almost everything in Boracay is overpriced. Unless you know the reasonable prices and you can haggle (typical Pinoys love doing it), some sneaky locals would cheat by overcharging you. Anyhow, massages and yoga sessions, seafoods and beers are outrageously pricey from where I live, so it’s still a very good deal. Anyway too, I am contributing more to the economy.

For every 5 meters walk in whichever direction, barkers, peddlers and beggars would pester you and every other tourist they can find. It can be so annoying but saddening as well. They’ve been around ever since, but I think they’re a lot more this time around. It must be because it’s peak season, so they’re taking this opportunity to earn more. Perhaps also I was going along with my newfound foreign buddies most often; for one my husband is also a foreigner. At most, I’d end up asking my fellow kababayan (in my language of course) to leave us in peace.

At any rate, there were signs of improvement. Caticlan airport has been renovated. It looked way better than I first visited it. There are more fun activities and water sports to offer, more new restaurants to explore. It’s also generally safe in Boracay. Especially during our stay, local police appeared to be almost everywhere. Even though it’s busy times in Boracay, the beach was surprisingly tidy and well-kept.

With all the progress and the attention Boracay is reaping by now, I just hope that the locals in this island would benefit fully from it. Five years have already passed by, yet the only thing that hasn’t changed significantly in Boracay is the quality of life of the local people. Ironically, the indigenous families have been neglected the most; they who were been stripped off the right to a decent living in their ancestral island. It’s a sad truth.

Third time’s a charm they say. Maybe on my next visit, I’ll see the changes I hope for, and I’ll get mesmerized all over again.

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