Wednesday, August 08, 2007

A vision of white sand

Images from Boracay Island, July 29 - August 1, 2007.

Check out my newly uploaded flickr album: Boracay sa gitna ng habagat.

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Don't bite the foot that feeds you

Some distance away from Crocodile Island, we stopped at a designated snorkeling area. Kapitan demonstrated how fast the fishies come to feed with his foot. The 3-hour boatride (they call it an “island hopping” trip but in our case, we didn’t actually land on any other island apart from the one we came from) costed us Php 1,500 (which is alright since the regular rate for a 4-hour ride comes to about 2,500 during peak season). Immediately as we arrived at the snorkeling area, they asked us to pay Php 20 each as snorkeling fee. Marvel of marvels, who's the genius who decided to set a toll fee for parking in the open sea? We discussed and wondered later where the snorkeling revenues go. I figured it out: the money goes to the sweldo of the person collecting the snorkeling fee. *snort*

Anyhow, never mind about that. Get this: you snorkel snorkel, watch all kinds of beautiful, colorful sea life. It isn't actually as beautiful as it used to be because of the typhoon Sendang some time ago, Kapitan told us. Anyhow, you snorkel snorkel, you’re just under the surface of the water, yet you feel you’ve entered a different world. After some time you pull your head back for some air, and then you hear a voice say “Ice cream ma'am, pampaalis ng alat.” (trans. "Ice cream ma'am, to take away the salty taste [of the sea water].") Ngek. You’re told that the magtataho should come any minute now. If you prefer buko juice, there's also that other guy over there. So much for quiet island paradise. It felt like being in a parody of an island paradise. No no, don't get me wrong, this is not to say that one cannot enjoy oneself in Boracay. All I’m saying is that if you’re looking for a pristine, virgin island that is largely untouched by commercialism and development, then Boracay is no longer it.

Yeah I hear it hasn't been for some time now, but experiencing it for myself drove the point home. Several years ago when I first came, at Caticlan there was no port, no terminal fees or environmental fees, and hardly any porters. When we got to the island, we jumped out of the boat, into the water and felt the Boracay sand underneath our feet as we walked to the shore, backpacks in tow. The only place to buy souvenirs was the small talipapa which was razed by fire a few years later. We hadn't even been able to get a henna tattoo then because there were very few places one could get them and we didn't see any designs that we liked. Buying accessories meant asking a woman to string some beads right before you, something you actually design and agree on together. There was no d'talipapa, no d'market, certainly no d'mall or Budget (not!) Mart. Going out to the beach meant being able to get from your cottage to your chosen spot without being followed by locals inviting you to go island hopping, or by men and women offering to sell you pearls that you can buy at the Greenhills tiangge for roughly the same price. Ah, those were the days. So no, Boracay isn't what it used to be.

(But psst, I did hear about another white beach called Jumabo Island. It sounds promising.)

Thursday, August 02, 2007