12 noon. Habagat is here, blowing its winds while the June sun bore down really hard.
We are back on the island, back on one of our favorite haunts, waiting for one of our favorite comfort food — a bowl of agedashi tofu, which unfortunately is prone to inflation, as is everything else in this place.
Exactly a year ago we were probably doing exactly the same thing, seated on the same table, famished but happy. We’ve come twice more between then and now, and Owen and I would always find ourselves in this spot.
Everything looks as I remember it from a year ago: the umbrella tree in front and the plastic lounge chairs surrounding it; foreign families just off the beach coming in — spattering water all over the floor in the process — to order fresh fruit shake to be delivered later to their spot under the tree; somebody kitesurfing on the beach; the beach’s sundry hues of blue.
But this year, there was something else.
There were giggles and laughter as the surf crashed into shore and the wind blew harder.
On the beach were kids — tiny specks of brown against the blanket of blue — swimming naked without a care in the world.
It was a perfect day in Boracay.
Words by Nikka, Photos by Owen
Other Boracay posts
When Owen and I learned that MNL Boutique Hostel in Makati is branching out to—wait for it—Boracay Island, we couldn’t wait to visit. First of all, their growth was very impressive—Maica, Celina, and Gonz are opening hostel no. 2 less than a year after the first one. We know next to nothing about the hospitality business, but that is undoubtedly a big feat. We love their hostel concept too, and pulling it off in Boracay was something we wanted to see. We think it’s working really well, especially for young backpackers and, well, young backpacking couples.
Living area — and an awesome artwork by Gonz. And that’s Yolanda in the news.
During Happy Hour, beer in Boracay averages P70 for two, which makes it P35—or less than a dollar—a bottle. We don’t know about you, but that’s cheap, especially if you factor in the ambiance—beautiful sunset, fine sand on your toes, cushy chairs under coconut trees. Meanwhile, a tricycle ride is P10, a filling meal P50, a liter of water P5, a bed for the night P400—that is, if you’re not picky. And, not to forget, four kilometers of white sand—one of the best in the world—costs absolutely nothing.
“The sand, just wow. I’ve never seen anything like it,” she exclaimed.
We were by the garden having dinner—chicken tinola which Owen had cooked—and Ms. Grace, the owner of the house, was telling us about the first time she had seen White Beach—then unnamed and uninhabited—on this island the whole world now knows as Boracay.
“We were just passing by, and then we saw this long strip of sand that looked as white as paper. The coconut trees were all green, and the water was so clear!”
We were on our last night after a week-long stay in August, and we’ve had many of these conversations, for sure. She would tell us all about their dive trips around the island—how she saw, on her first deep dive, three thresher sharks (yes, in Boracay waters!); how they would all swim drunk from one end of the beach to the other and sleep on the sand; how they would all sit on the beach, form a long line, and pass along a joint; and how they would drink beer through their regulator(!)
Bone-shaped Boracay was not well loved. We have always thought it was a hostile place for the average Pinoy with the hard-earned vacation leave and even more hard-earned vacation money. We’ve had more fun for less in other places.
But we found ourselves staying in this island for a month, partly for work and entirely by choice. The people we had met during this time—people with easy smiles who welcomed practical strangers like old friends—compelled us to look at the island the way they do. And in this respect, Boracay the pricey island was shoved, and in its place came an island that’s easygoing, laidback, and generous. It was generous in its natural beauty, and even more so in its people.
But then again we also had to live with things that lead many to call the island a sh*thole. I won’t be calling anybody’s home that, but this doesn’t make the bad drainage, choking traffic (both vehicular and pedestrian), and many other unpleasant images, mostly at the expense of the environment, any less real. They are.
White Beach itself isn’t as placid as I remember it from two years ago, and the changes in the tides have become drastic. There were days when we could barely walk along White Beach from Diniwid, as crashing waves lent some parts practically impassable with the slightest rains.
On the other side of White Beach in Boracay Island is Diniwid Beach, whose sand is just as fine and white but whose turquoise waters and jagged rock formations make for a unique beach experience altogether. With thinner crowds and less establishments, Diniwid Beach gives you peace and quiet—save of course for the crashing of wave against rock—a sound that lasts all day, every day.
Flying can be very expensive, not to mention inflexible. Unless you’re swimming in cash, you don’t—and can’t—usually take on spontaneous trips somewhere far.
These are the two voids in the traveling world that sailing wants to fill. Overnight or multi-day ships aren’t exactly new to the local market, it being the preferred mode of transport to the Visayas and Mindanao because it’s the cheapest direct route.
But tourist-class accommodations is what’s new about all these—something that takes after cruise liners—aiming at the tourist market.
This is exactly what I tried when I was invited by 2Go Travel to sail from Batangas to Caticlan for a trip to Antique. As you know, Caticlan is the gateway to Boracay Island in Aklan.
The trip would take overnight, departing at 8 PM and arriving at 5 AM the next day.
Accommodation classes (according to price):
Stateroom (AC) – fits two people in a double bed
Cabin (AC) – fits four people into 2 bunk beds
Tourist (AC) – passenger occupies a bunk inside a big Tourist Class hall
Super Value Class (non-AC) – same as the Tourist Class, but without AC, and occupies a separate hall
Our cabin for the trip. This room has a TV, toilet & bath, and lifejackets
If you’re seasick, you know what to do before you sail. In any case, seasickness tablets should be available on request onboard.
The Tourist Class hall
A mezzanine lounge overlooking the lobby
The upper deck has an entertainment and lounge area
Arriving at Caticlan early morning the next day. From here, you can ride a boat on the same port to Boracay Island