I was out on the beach a little earlier than the previous days, but I didn’t feel like going in the water. I just sat down, sifted handfuls of sand through my fingers, and rubbed my sunburned shoulders while looking at the kind of people who’d be around at 5am. Workmen were raking the sand for rubbish and cigarette butts. Policemen riding on 4-wheelers were out on patrol. Some people lolling about in the sand looked like they’d been up all night sitting on the beach. On the waterline, mommy and daddy types were taking a morning hike with each other.
And then it was time for the family to hustle. After making sure we hadn’t left anything (or anyone) behind, we took a short walk away from the beachfront to reach a two-lane road that ran the length of the island. Motorized tricycles, multicabs, and motorcycles used the road to transport goods and people, and the road branched off into smaller paths that led deeper into the island. We were taking a tricycle to get to the island’s jetty port.
I have this old postcard of Boracay that shows a vast expanse of virgin rainforest blanketing the interior of the island. I once stuck the postcard onto my dresser mirror and said that one day I’d get to go to the place in the picture. As our tricycle hauled us away from the place we’d called home for three days and three nights, I remembered my old postcard. I could finally say I’d been to the place in the picture, but the place didn’t look like the picture anymore.
From the Boracay port, we reached Caticlan in 20 minutes, then got into our rented van for the four-hour ride back to Iloilo. The long drive seemed shorter, probably because we weren’t looking forward to anything in that city other than our plane ride home. We had lunch in the town of Pototan at a roadside carinderia, where the menu options were tapsilog (tapa, rice, and egg), longsilog (longganisa, rice, and egg), and porksilog (porkchop, rice, and egg) — but they were all the options we hungry travelers needed. And at 35 pesos per person, the price was right, too.
We were in Iloilo City by 2:30pm, but our flight was scheduled for 7:20pm. In the interim, Aunt Gel’s friend entertained us at her house, where they served us La Paz batchoy from Ted’s as an afternoon snack (!!!).
We landed in Manila at 8:20. Marielle and I met our parents at the airport gates, then drove home with them, away from sun, surf, and sand toward the city’s metal, dust, and concrete.
I can’t wait to go back, and I don’t want to wait to go back, either. Some say that with the rate of damage being done to Boracay, in ten years it could be totally ruined. My dad says that the ruination of the Pasig River began when algae started multiplying and killing off the microorganisms that were the base of the river’s food chain. The algae fed on waste products that were dumped into the Pasig River, and this is what’s happening to Boracay, among other distressing developments.
There was a PCIJ report in 2003 on the ecological destruction of Boracay, and it seems greed and booming, reckless tourism are the main culprits. Something has to be done, or else Boracay will become Burak-ay.
Rome Jorge in a column on Holy Week tourism suggested some practices that tourists can adopt:
- Pick up trash found along trails, beaches and rivers even when it is not yours. Bring a sack if you have to. Dispose of it properly in urban areas.
- Patronize local products and cuisines. Pay a fair prize. For tourism businesses, employ locals and promote local themes.
- Chat with the locals. Learn their culture and history.
- Do not buy seashell lamps, tapang usa, or other wildlife products. Do not even bottle white sand. Do not light bonfires unless for emergencies. If everyone did the same thing, there would be nothing left.
- Report illegal logging or wildlife poaching. Do not stop until proper action is taken. Alert the media.
- Patronize eco-tourism programs and regional art center events.
So, to those who are looking into taking a vacation on Boracay, I would say go now but leave Boracay a better place than when you found it. Once a paradise is lost, it could be lost forever.