Let me just point this out before I write anything else: The only reason I never visited Boracay in my 26 years of existence was because I thought it was too overrated and crowded. Everyone has been to Boracay for different reasons. People talk about the parties, while others say they like the crisp and fine sands. Living in an island myself, none of these reasons were strong enough to convince me to visit.
But one hot day as I looked up at the clear blue sky, sweat dripping down my cheeks, I thought of the beach. Nothing specific, just the image of a calm blue sea, powdery white sand, and coconut trees.
So when my dad brought up Boracay and that my brother knew a way to visit the island with a budget, I immediately got sucked into the idea. I was desperate for a vacation. I had not been to the beach in ages and I was after all in the Philippines—a country known for its beautiful beaches!
We (My dad, three brothers, and I) arrived in Kalibo on a Friday afternoon and found a van outside that took us straight to Caticlan for about a couple of hundred pesos. The service included a boat ride to the island once we got to Caticlan. It was an hour and a half ride with nothing much to see but rice fields and power lines running with us, never stopping.
I closed my eyes for a few minutes and woke up to dark blue skies outside the moving vehicle. It was already 6pm and we were only a few kilometres from the port. My mind goes through a loop asking one question: Are we there yet? To which the scene next to me would reply: No. My legs were growing impatient and I was half-afraid that there wouldn’t be any boats operating at this hour.
Fortunately, there were several boats when we arrived and it didn't take long for us to reach the island. A lady dressed in green uniform helped us find a room without asking for a fee. As in most cases, I hesitated at this offer. Nothing is for free.
I gave in. She spoke bisaya so it was easy for us to communicate with her. Upon arrival at the front desk of a small guest house near the famous D' Mall, she helped us bargain with the lady behind the desk.
The rates were high because it was almost peak season. Holy Week was just around the corner and people flocked to Boracay for the holidays.
After we dropped our things in our room, we headed out for food. The small restaurants lined up by the beach, each offering different cuisines. Filipino, American, Italian, Mexican, Thai, Indian...There was a handful of choices but seeing the menu made me gawk. 300-400 pesos for a dish!
We walked for about 30 minutes before we found a Mang Inasal tucked inside the outdoor mall just a couple of minutes from our guest house. Meals were decently priced and the servings seemed reasonable. Thus we came back to our room content and happy.
When I found out that there was a yoga place near where we stayed, I jumped around in excitement. My brothers were not too excited about this news as I was but they helped me locate the place anyway.
Google maps made us walk 8 minutes before we realized it wasn't accurate so I asked several folks who worked at the restaurants for direction and they told us it was actually just near where we stayed. In fact, we'd already passed it.
The scorching heat of the day started to burn our skin but we patiently trudged back, retracing our steps. Finally, there it stood. An Indian restaurant on the first floor and the yoga studio on the second. My brothers took off and I went up the wooden staircase.
I remove my slippers and place them gently on a shelf. The soles of my feet touch the rattan mat covering the entire wooden floor and like an insect drawn towards the light, I moved towards the huge window at the front part of the studio.
Outside you can see the postcard-perfect blue sea and some coconut trees lined up perfectly. It was so relaxing. I couldn't keep my eyes off the landscape in front of me.
"Breathe in and breathe out with your nose" I tried to synch my breath with the sound of the ocean. A boat with blue sails slowly drifted in the horizon. My eyes followed.
An hour and a half later, we're lying down on our mats for the final resting pose. I note the feel of the ocean air on my face. It swept through and back lulling me further into a trance.
I could live like this. I could.
Drifting in a constant trance. Floating idly with my senses.
When we were kids, we visited the beach frequently. Sometimes almost every week during the summer break. So I grew up feeling like the beach was home. I've countless fond memories of playing in the beach with my siblings. We built sand castles, pretended they were real; swam from morning till night until our fingers turned into prunes. I could meander in that memory for hours and hours but my brain is reminding me that I have to finish writing this.
Loud party music starts to blast through speakers as we parade the long stretch in search for food. Each restaurant blaring its own song from the most recent popular hits.
I look at my brothers and see sunburnt skin from head to toe. We'd been out in the sun for too long that we forgot to reapply sunblock. We were red and brown or brown and red combined. Like sausages!
By then, I'd already said no a trillion times to the persistent vendors asking "Hopping mam?" or "Tattoo mam? Massads?". They were everywhere! It felt like time stopped working and we were trapped in this constant loop where people did the same thing over and over.
We stopped by one of the restaurants to observe a person dancing with fire. I remember commenting to myself: These people probably have super strong arms from all the swinging. And, I wonder how long it would take me to learn this skill?
7:00 AM Took a stroll towards the northern part of the island. We followed a straight line stopping from time to time to observe the scene.
Committed to reaching the north western tip of the island, we encouraged each other to move forward. Up ahead, the number of people on the beach dwindled to about half until there were only a handful of us walking. The fancy restaurants also transformed into fancy hotels.
The tip was visible after an hour of walking. Here, it was almost empty except for some locals swimming in the sea. We congratulated each other and soon started our way back to the guest house.
9:00 AM The mid-morning sun beat us before we could reach the guest house. We made it though, all in one piece.
Spent the rest of the morning indoors recovering from the heat. Our room came equipped with a television so we flicked the channels for a good film. Being kids again, we ended up watching cartoons all morning while lying on our beds. I know most would think this was such a waste of time especially since we were on vacation and in paradise but it was pleasant for a change.
On Sunday mornings in our old home, we woke up at around 10 in the morning to watch our favorite cartoon shows and were only interrupted by lunch time.
That afternoon, I took my book with me to a coffee shop a few blocks ahead. It was a book by Charles Yu called How to Live Safely in a Science Fictional Universe. Jeremie had finished reading this and said it was amusing.
My younger brother was sitting next to me reading an article on his phone while my dad was on his pad. We sat on bar stools facing the beach. Nothing beats reading a book with a view in front of you.
When it wasn't too hot anymore, I sat on the sand and continued reading my book there. I buried my legs under the sand and raised the book in front of my nose. The next thing I knew, the sun was starting to set.
Sure the beach was crowded, and it wasn't exactly my idea of paradise, but there was one thing I liked about Boracay and it was the sunset.
At 5 in the afternoon, flocks of people gathered by the beach to witness a breath-taking spectacle. Several sailboats started to move parallel to each other in the distance while the sun began to descend. Like dancing, they gracefully moved past one another, forming silhouettes against the sinking source of light.
Surreal. My camera could only capture how it looked but I wish it also captured the smell of the ocean, the feel of the cold sand, the sound of splashing water as children jump in the ocean. For a moment I felt peace. I'm forgetting all the thoughts that used to consume me before coming to the island. Thoughts about the distance that Jeremie and I are currently in.
Once again we are worlds apart but this time the gap has stretched further. He's all the way in San Francisco while I wait here in Cebu for the visa interview. With him in Singapore, it was really easy for me to fly back and forth. No visa needed, just the price of purchasing airline tickets.
Four days in this tiny island and I am content to leave. I was honestly wishing I could go home and spend time alone in my room. I'm not used to being around so many people. Drained and used up, I needed some time to recharge my batteries.
I still stand my ground on my initial thought of the island. It is crowded and overrated, overpriced and commercialised, but it does have its own charm if you just try hard enough to look for it. Dad's happy he's finally ticked off one item on his checklist though. He'd been talking about it since I could remember. So there's that.
Bags packed, we finally said goodbye to Boracay.