Boracay (pronounced barak-eye) is a small island in the Philippines located 196 miles south from the capital Manila. Boracay was awarded as one of the best islands in the world from Travel + Leisure magazine. We stayed on White Beach which is the touristy part of the island. White Beach extends 2 1/2 miles long.
It’s divided into stations 1, 2 and 3. We stayed in station 3 which is less crowded than stations 1 and 2. A path along the ocean front known as Beachfront Path connects all 3 stations.
Boracay is home to the Ati Tribe. Their story reminded me of the Native Americans. This island was once their land, but over time they have lost most of it to the government and high demands of tourism. Today they have only been given .02% of the land for their reservation. The Ati people have darker complexions, which unfortunately is discriminated against for opportunities others would easily get. It’s estimated that of the 200 Ati in Boracay, less than 20 work in hotels. In my opinion their looks were beautiful and exotic. Some of the local Ati children and elderly were begging for money at night on the beach. Once a year there is a festival on Boracay called the Aklan’s Ati-Atihan Festival. The tribes dress in their traditional tribal clothing and have a parade on the beach. The Ati people are very spiritual and non-aggressive. Unfortunately this has made it hard for them to be forceful about where they stand in Boracay. They would rather leave the island than stand their ground when conflict arises.
Upon arrival we hired a transportation company to assist us with transportation from the airport to the hotel. Boracay is an hour and a half away from the Kalibo airport. The company sent a representative named Ara and the driver to meet us at the airport upon arrival. From there we drove 1.5 hours to the ferry pier.
We were thinking of how much to tip Ara who was assigned to us the entire journey to the hotel. After we arrived at the ferry, a girl named Beth and a “trainee” (his name tag) greeted us in addition to Ara. Now we were thinking if we should tip Beth and the “trainee” for getting our luggage.
After we arrived on the island another “trainee” greeted us and took our luggage in addition to Ara and Beth and the first “trainee”.
When we met the van waiting, the driver brought his young son who sat on the center console. Getting in the van we were accompanied by six people now (driver, child, Ara, Beth and two trainees). We rode in the back while they filled first two rows of the van. Finally arriving at the resort we were escorted by four people. What do you do as far as tips now? I ended up getting out my stack of $2 bills (USD) and handed one out to each person. It was crazy tipping four people for two bags.
Along Beachfront Path there are many restaurants featuring multi-ethnic foods, hotels, shops and bars.
At night this path really comes alive with live music, henna tattoos, hair braiding, outside buffets, fire dancers, hookah lounges on the beach and a few beggars. There is so much action its hard to keep your attention on one thing because the next thing is even crazier.
It was here I realized that Filipino people know how to have fun. Mixed in with the shops are some big name American chains like Starbucks, Johnny Rockets, Shakey’s and even Friday’s. This area is really built up and geared toward tourists from all over the world.
One of my favorites was the dancing chefs at the Regency Boracay Buffet. Periodically during the dinner buffet the chefs came out and performed a group line dance to high energy music both indoors and outdoors. Occasionally they would pick someone out of the crowd, put a chef hat on them and ask them to join in. Everyone they chose caught onto the moves really fast and were in sync in no time. There were over 25 chefs dancing, some were really into the moves and some were just tired and barely moving.
Dinner buffets are the everywhere. We ate at the Paradise Garden Buffet the first night. This is where I had the best macaroni salad on the planet. The buffet had everything you could imagine steamed clams, sushi bar, rice and noodle dishes, salads, seafood soup, desserts and a whole roasted sucking pig. Unlimited ice tea was included. All of this cost only $11.00 (USD) per person.
The modes of transportation on Boracay are Philippine tricycles (a motorcycle with side car), pedicabs and walking.
During this time of year the ocean front was filled with with green sea algae otherwise known as algae bloom. The sea algae was thick around the shoreline but about 6 feet into the sea it almost disappeared. This is due to the ecological changes caused by mankind. I didn’t mind it but I could see why it wouldn’t be inviting to swim in. I figured someone somewhere on earth is paying big money in a spa for a seaweed treatment so it can’t be that bad.
It wouldn’t be a perfect visit without a interaction with an animal of any kind. I had a little friend on the beach who came over and ate pork rinds with me in the hot sun. The breed of dogs in Boracay resembled the breed I’ve seen throughout Asia but with short legs and huge paws. Most of the wild dogs were this breed. Most dogs here were kind towards people and were owned with collars. The ones that didn’t have collars, looked healthy and hung around the same spot and locale each day.
Another best part of my visit was a massage by a blind man named Leto. Blind massage is very popular throughout Southeast Asia. I had many chances to get one but the places didn’t look very inviting. Leto’s massage stand was right on the beach with professional massage tables. There was something about the ocean air and the clean linens on the massage tables that called my name. For $9.00 (USD) an hour I had the most relaxing, therapeutic massage. His enhanced sense of touch stood out from the best trained masseuses around. His attention to detail in the muscles was incredible. I was so sad I found his place on the last day of the stay. This would have been part of my daily routine for sure.
Leaving Boracay was a sad day. Spending the extra money on a private transfer to the airport proved to be the best option. We didn’t have to think, all we had to do was follow. From the hotel to the private van, to the ferry, to the taxi to the airport was flawless. The only problem was everyone had their hand out for tips. Even when we paid the required 20 pesos (40 cents (USD)) per bag to the luggage handlers at the pier to carry our luggage on the boat, they wanted more. At the airport, our bags were over by 41lbs (combined), we had to pay $50.00 (USD). Last payment was to leave Boracay, there was departure tax of $5.00 (USD) each. The feeling was we were walking ATMs.