First it was Manny Pacquiao’s purported mansion. Now, this.
“Buruanga, a town near Boracay in Aklan province, is currently in talks with a private stakeholder for the possible establishment of a casino operation as added tourism lure in the area.” (source: The Philippine Daily Inquirer)
A casino in Boracay? How much more exploitation can this island contain before the government finally realizes what is too much?
In these times, I can’t help but compare the island as it was nearly a decade ago when I first set foot on it, and when Jigs and I went back two years later, in 2006.
It was a November then, a typhoon had just passed. Compared to the summer months when tourists seemed like a disastrous oil spill, that particular November was squeaky clean. Only a handful of beachgoers were around, and shrewd beach parties were at a minimum.
Yet there was something missing.
The place in a way, underwent a disfiguring transformation. The change was radical, abrupt. Cemented structures crept up in burgeoning ranks on every corner of the island. Beach bars started to take over the immaculate sands a little more each year, and loud music drowned out the sound of the soft waves. It’s like Cancun on Springbreak. Year after year, Boracay seems to sink slowly to a more overcrowded, more commercialized and a more unappealing state.
As we sailed to the island hopping destinations of Crocodile Island, Puka Beach, and Crystal Cove, I was expecting to be wowed the way I was before. The islands physically didn’t change much. Puka Beach still had that grainy sand texture, bountiful sea shells and sparkling waters, and marine species over at Crocodile Islands still were average in number and variety. They were essentially the same in component as before, albeit with more visitors and vendors.
But as we went back to our hotel room in Station 1, all I could ever think of was the disturbing vision of Boracay being eaten up by too much globalization and commerce, specifically the small expanse of Station 2’s ‘D Mall. The island’s mystery and charm had gone to the dogs, swallowed by eager tourists and cement.
Don’t get me wrong, there was a point I liked Boracay’s hippie vibe. Even as I write this saddening memoir, I believe that Boracay was one of the most fascinating beaches I’ve explored. I wouldn’t say Boracay is overrrated. Overexposed, perhaps, but you gotta admit, its hourglass sand-like texture deserves that fame, and is still incomparable to any other Philippine islands’ to date. Its seafoam green waters remains soothing, tranquil, and clean. Whatever worldwide recognition it has achieved, it did because of its magnificent beauty and sweeping sunsets.
But nowadays, that recognition has given it a sort of superficial glow, with more and more tourists seeing it merely for its glitzy and gaudy appearance, not for the quiet, extraordinary island it once was. “Bora!!!”, the world clamors. Boracay has turned into one huge party hub from being a highly coveted cradle of utter serenity. And I’m just too old for loud parties, I guess.
I’d rather see a place from a vantage point, in its raw, unspoilt, virginal beauty. When I travel to an island, I do not simply wish to see it, but to experience it: the sight and sound of the shore lapping up against the waves, the soft rustle of trees against the wind, the feel of the sand and breeze skimming through my skin. No matter how inconvenient transportation and accommodation were in Boracay a decade ago, I would rather have it at that than this.
I am not alone in this lamentation. In an interview with Tourne owner and head chef Sandra Hataway last year, we tackled a bit about the island, and how inorganic it is now. “If I see a Jollibee in that island, I swear I will boycott Boracay and never come back,” she said.
During these times, I could only hope, too, that the local government finally sees the disaster it has created, and takes part in arresting further infrastructural development in the island. Maybe then, Boracay, could somehow regain the poise and glory it so peacefully basked in once. Maybe then, I could make a quiet retreat to the island, have creamy milkshakes at Jonah’s during warm afternoons, filling dinners in rustic Club Paraw, and a quiet, lone-woman swim at Station 1.