Boracay is a paradise-like island south of the Philippines capital of Manilla and is one of the country’s most popular destinations for both foreign and domestic travellers alike. The island renowned for having one of the worlds best beaches and the community on the island is set up to cater to tourists making it an island resort paradise.
The island is located about 315 kilometres south of the capital of Manilla in the Western Visayas region of the country and is only about 10 square kilometres in size with a population of about 12,000 people with labour imported daily from neighbouring islands
The island was originally settled by the Ati people, one of the Philippines indigenous groups and the name "Boracay" comes from their original name for the island. These days however the island is controlled by the Philippine Tourism Authority and is designated as a special municipality within the Philippines with a tourism industry that brings in billions of pesos every year.
Tourism on the island is only a product of the last thirty to forty years and the island has only started to really develop over the past ten. When you base your economy entirely off of tourism you can expect some positives and negatives - one of those negatives has been the marginalization of the Ati people and constant encroachment on their Ancestral lands. This marginalization has led to issues of poverty and discrimination against the native peoples as well as the destruction of their culture. I would argue that Boracay should do a better job of cultivating and promoting the Aboriginal culture on the island which would help to form a cultural identity like what you see on the island of Bali in Indonesia. (For more information on the plight of the Ati people check out this article)
Tourism on the island has steadily grown over the past few years. In 2011 for example the island attracted 908,174 visitors which grew to 1.2 million in 2012. The Department of Tourism has steadily increased the amount of visitors it forecasts to visit the island each year and now that it has become popular with tourists from China, those numbers are sure to rise. Due to the increase in the amount of tourists, the island is in a constant state of development and new resorts are popping up all the time drastically reducing the amount of empty land left on the small island.
The people who live on the island work primarily in the many different sectors of the tourism industry or in the many restaurants and bars that are found throughout the island. If there is ever any shortage of able bodies, it is rarely an issue considering that Caticlan, the nearest city (on the island of Panay) is only a two kilometre boat ride away. The main problem for most of these people who serve tourists (with respect and smiles) is that they are usually only paid a minimum wage and this helps to create an extremely uneven distribution of wealth on the island.
This wasn't my first visit to Boracay (and most certainly won't be my last) and from what I observed on my most recent visit is that business is most certainly booming. The majority of the travellers are from neighbouring Asian countries like South Korea, Taiwan and China. The people working on the island thus learn to speak Korean or Mandarin as well as English to serve their guests. I was most in awe of this when I visited Starbucks (the most beautiful Starbucks location I have ever been to) and the kind lady at the counter spoke Mandarin, Korea, Arabic, Tagalog and English to the people ahead of me. With language ability like that, you have to wonder why this genius of a woman would be working at a Starbucks!
I arrived on Boracay at 7am (leaving Taiwan at 12:25pm) and because it was too early to check in to the hotel, I just stashed my luggage in storage at the hotel, changed into some swim shorts and decided to go for a walk with my camera so that I could relax on the rest of my vacation and not carry it around!
The plan was to walk down the four kilometre beach from end to the other to get some shots and waste a bit of time before going back to the hotel for a shower and a nap. There was a section of the island that I hadn't gotten to on my first visit, so I was eager to see what was around the corner of a mountain-like cliff.
When I got close enough to the cliff, the white-sand part of the beach more or less ended and there was a stone boardwalk that rounded a corner to a place where some really nice houses were built on the side of a mountain.
The Filipino elite likely had their vacation homes up there and it looked like a pretty cool place to stay - with a great view for the islands famous sunsets. I decided to hang out for a little while watching boats pass by and enjoying the weather. The area had a bit of wind and was a bit cooler than the beach.
While hanging out, I noticed that there was some coral in the water below and that the water was relatively deep, so I took off my camera bag, sat it on the side of the mountain and decided to just jump in.
After jumping a few times, a Filipino man came over and gestured to a small cliff above the boardwalk. He told me to follow him and we climbed up and he looked at me and said “jump!”
The cliff was only about 10 or so meters above the water, but cliff jumping with the guy was fun enough to spend an hour or so hanging out with swimming. Eventually he had to go and then I walked back to the hotel to check in, have a shower and take a quick nap.
The next few days were spent on the beach swimming, tanning, drinking copious amounts of San Miguel, taking photos of the beautiful sunsets and relaxing. While relaxing on the island, there are quite a few recreational activities that you can take part including sailing, scuba diving, snorkelling, parasailing, jet skiing, riding around in a helicopter, etc.
The selection of restaurants on the island is vast and no matter where you decide to dine, the food is amazing no matter where you go. You'll find western cuisines varying from authentic Spanish and Portuguese restaurants to Greek and Italian, American and English. There is also Chinese, Taiwanese, Japanese, Korean, Thai and several other Asian restaurants. With all of that selection it might be easy to miss some of the restaurants serving native Pinoy cuisine which I would say is actually really unfortunate, because Filipino food is great - especially their take on BBQ chicken and pork which are amazing!
Boracay really is a travellers paradise – You can relax all day, eat great food and party all night. Of all the places I've been throughout my tour of Asia, it is my favourite spot to just go and relax, get some sun and have some great food and drink.
I've been to the island more than once and its likely that I'll go back again sometime in the future. If I ever get married, I'd probably even consider having my wedding there like some of my co-workers and friends have done in the past!
If you haven't been to Boracay and you have any questions, don't hesitate to ask. As always, comment or complain below!