Pages: Boracay: Sand and Sports

Last week Jasmin, Jana and I flew to Caticlan. I am a long time visitor. Since I grew up in Bacolod and have family in Iloilo, we often visited the neighboring island of Panay.

My first sighting of “pristine paradise” was in 1984 and this is how I described that trip in a 2007 article:

“It was 23 years ago when my feet first touched the powder that sprinkled this island. Then there was no electricity. Rock bands only rocked your sleep at 3:17 a.m. No Greek, Indian, or Portuguese cuisine tempted your tongue No 18-hole golf course chased the white ball into a six-inch hole like Fairways and Bluewater No Flying Fish or Banana Boat or Yamaha jet-skis floated in. Boracay, in the 1980s and taken over by Madonna, was “Like A Virgin”.

Since that trip 38 years ago, we have visited Boracay almost every year. But for many reasons (Jana is moving to Manila for college; the island’s rehabilitation in 2018; Covid-19) we hadn’t been back there for eight years.

How did we remember Boracay before last week? I listed a few complaints in 2005:

“First of all, the beach line was littered with rubbish. Second, the stray dogs ran amok and chased you everywhere. Third, “fireboats” dock at will, often right at you as you swim on the beach.

How is Boracay in 2022?

It’s much cleaner. We barely noticed any trash on the beach. It is forbidden to eat and drink on the beach. Nobody smoked. Even the cots that lined the waterfront have disappeared.

Traffic is absent. On our previous visits, the small interior road was not cemented and was overcrowded. Now the road is wide with sidewalks on both sides. Electric tricycles take you from the port to station 2. The few authorized vehicles are white in color. People are disciplined.

Boracay is more family friendly. The island was infamous for its excessive parties. Loud music echoed everywhere; people were getting drunk, vomiting on the beach. Now it’s gone. Of course, there are still bars (Summer Place was nice, OM Bar and the Wave in Henann too), but they are more controlled. The party and the drink don’t extend or spill over onto the beach. And despite the deluge of visitors – perhaps 200,000 in April – the island is huge and there’s room for everyone.

SPORTS. The sport my daughter Jana enjoyed the most was beach tennis. Right next to the resort where we stayed (station 1) there was a beach tennis court. Like beach volleyball, it’s 2 against 2. You use a wooden or carbon racket (same size as the ball) with a soft tennis ball. It’s just volleys (no rebound) and the score (love-15-30-40) is like tennis.

Frisbee throwing was another daily practice for Jana. There are many other sports… football, beach volleyball, hiking, mountain biking. The Stand Up paddle board has found its way everywhere. You can go kite-surfing, jet-skiing, kayaking, windsurfing, etc.

But the best sport is still swimming. It’s free and your pool is a godsend of nature – the powdery white sand beach that stretches for 4km. long.

Calvin W. Soper