My sister Marielle, my cousin David, and I decided to walk down the beach to take in the sights. We left the rest of the family — Uncle Rene and his wife and three kids, Aunt Gel and her daughter (David is her son), and our parents — at the cottage.
According to Aunt Gel, who honeymooned on Boracay in the 1980’s, two decades ago there were no commercial establishments on the beachfront itself. There used to be about fifty meters between the shoreline and the first of the rows of private houses and mom-and-pop resorts. Of course, two decades ago there was also no electricity on the island and only gas lamps provided illumination at night.
Twenty years make a big difference. As the night darkened around us, neon and fluorescent lights flicked on. We were walking on the footpath in front of the beachfront buildings, about a car’s width plus two feet on either side. On the beachward side of the footpath some restaurants had marked out their al fresco dining areas under the coconut trees, where strategically-positioned speakers blared out reggae, chillout, and rock music.
Clothing was also for sale, including the obligatory touristy souvenir shirts and caps with “Boracay” printed on them. Small stalls at irregular intervals along the path sold jewelry or hair braiding and henna tattoo services, and one of them sported a sign with a Korean greeting written out in the Latin alphabet. I said it out loud jokingly (I’d heard a Korean friend say it before, so I knew how it should sound) and all of a sudden the girls who were tending the stall got all excited, yelling the greeting at me. “I’m not Korean!” I exclaimed, and scurried away with Marielle and David. Apparently, Koreans make up a big portion of tourists to the island; some of the bigger establishments along the beachfront have signs with Hangeul characters on them.
I was surprised to see three Internet cafes along our route, but I shouldn’t have been because there was cable television back at the cottage. The island has two or three tall spires with satellite dishes providing telecommunications support: cable television, internet access, and cellphone signals.
With a jolt, I remembered that I had registered for the second Philippine blogging summit, to be held on April 18 — the next day — back in Manila. I had forgotten that our Boracay trip was scheduled on the same week. I shook my head and tried to shed a sudden impulse to enter one of the cafes and digitally splash a huge notice on my websites proclaiming “I’M IN BORA! W00T!”
We three seemed to have been walking in a straight line for hours, but when we met with the rest of the family for dinner at Sealovers Restaurant, it was only about 7pm. Time seemed to pass slowly on the island, in stark contrast to Manila’s frenetic pace. As a result, people took their time; unfortunately, the restaurant staff also took their time with our dinner orders. It took them an hour to get everything together, so David, Marielle, and I got bored and hungry and decided to look for someplace that served barbecued street food, like isaw. By the time we got back with twenty sticks of pork barbecue, the orders were on the table and we all proceeded to stuff our faces.
Tired from our long land trip, our evening ended early at 9:30pm when we all returned to the cottage. I barely heard the sound of live music from the bars up the beach as I drifted into sleep.
To be continued…