Islands and Beaches

Boracay: More Than Meets the Eye

Aklan,

Phillip Kimpo Jr.
Phillip Kimpo Jr. | Apr 22, 2014


Boracay

Boracay


I betray my age when I share that I managed to enjoy Boracay Island as a kid in the early 1990s, before the mobs descended upon its fine white coasts.

We slept in native cottages cooled by the sea breeze—there were few air-conditioned accommodations, and electricity was a luxury as opposed to being de rigueur. We even spent whole evenings on the beach, without fear of some drunken partygoer stomping or puking on our sunburned faces.

Boracay
Early nineties; my first cousins in Paradise before it became Paradise Lost.


At the risk of venturing into braggadocio, Boracay was our playground—not because we owned swathes of its prized powdery white sand (I wish!), but because we were from there. (Our clan is from Kalibo, to be exact, but that’s only a short ride from what we Aklanons fondly call as the “Isla.”) The island has been our traditional retreat after every reunion, wedding, and Ati-atihan Festival.

Boracay
Boracay belongs to Aklan, home to the mother of all Philippine festivals.


It seemed that with every passing year, however, the sea repossessed more and more of the beach, the shores became the property of boats than of frolicking children, and relationships between islander and tourist, visitor and visitor grew less and less intimate. The rest of these waves of nostalgia are, admittedly, best reserved for a memoir.


But don’t mistake this article as the typical I’d-take-the-past-over-this-present-heap-of-trash rant. Even in its current, chock-full state, Boracay is beautiful. I know of occasional visitors who do enjoy the White Beach (and the restaurants, party places, and other tourist traps of Stations 1, 2, and 3) but nonetheless complain loudly about the crowd.


Boracay

Boracay A lot of things going on in one frame: boats, Willy’s Rock a.k.a. the Grotto, a videoshoot, and of course, tourists.

Boracay

Boracay
Some people prefer less congested beaches—without knowing that Boracay is brimming with silent spaces.

Boracay


If you’ll allow me, I’ll tell you something. Search for the gaps, they are there, Boracay of the past ensconced in bubbles of time. They do remain, these great beaches with only a few souls.


Take, for example, the Puka Beach. There’s no other way to put it—Puka is pristine, from the waters to the expanse of sand that’s wider than the White Beach. While already pretty well-known on its own, it’s a surprise that relatively few travelers visit it.


Boracay

Boracay

Boracay

Boracay


If you’re looking to savor Boracay the pacific way as the visitors of old did, Puka is the beach to go to. There are almost nil distractions here. Located at the northern part of the island, it’s only a brief tricycle ride from the main road, or some short sailing from the White Beach.


Aside from Puka, other beaches up for conquest include Diniwid, a hushed stretch of sand behind the rocks at the northern portion of the White Beach, and reached by a short stroll; Ilig Iligan, on the island’s northeast side and even more solitary than Puka; and Bulabog, Boracay’s “other side,” right across the White Beach, and popular for windsurfing and kiteboarding.


Boracay

Boracay The length of Bulabog Beach from Mt. Luho.

Boracay


Travelers looking for some spiritual anchor in the midst of all the carousing can find solace in Boracay Church (Holy Rosary Parish), whose tropical mosaic façade is also an attraction in its own right. Others might find its interiors a bit plain, but maybe that’s the intent—to balance the display of opulence all around.


Boracay

Boracay


On the other side of things, the theme park Happy Dream Land enlarges the island’s well-established menu of fun activities. Think Enchanted Kingdom or Star City, Boracay-style. Located in Barangay Balabag and a few minutes from D’Mall, the theme park offers the usual fare, such as a log/flume ride, swing-around, and go-kart racing.


Boracay

What sets it apart, though, are the Skycycle and Trick Art Museum. The former is a test of nerves, especially for acrophobics, as much as it is suited for thrill-seekers. It’s basically a pedal-powered rollercoaster-without-the-rolling—your pedaling controls how fast you can go around the circuit. Snap on the seatbelt, tour the theme park from your elevated track, survive the heights!


Boracay

The Trick Art Museum, on the other hand, won’t lodge your heart in your throat, but its optical illusions will amaze the mind. Not to mention its galleries make for great photo opportunities.


Speaking of camera candy, nearby Mount Luho presents a sweeping view of the whole island. From Boracay’s highest point, you can take in the sight of the golf course, several secluded beaches, and the various watersports activities off Bulabog Beach. Just before the ascent to the bamboo viewing deck is a mini-zoo that’s home to an eagle, a peacock, several owls, monkeys, pythons, a bear cat, and other animals.


Boracay

Boracay

Boracay Because really, the island might be teeming with souls, but a good stone’s hurl away, you’re but a speck in the sea.


Exploring the island all-day, of course, will get your tummy grumbling. The usual tourist will go for the tourist trap, i.e. D’Mall. We love its density and variety of restaurants, interspersed with souvenir shops and the fact that it’s right in the middle of everything.


But we love more the raw energy—and the fresh seafood on display—in the wet market that is D’Talipapa. It’s home to memories of old Boracay, when as kids we’d have our meals straight from the grill, meals that back then weren’t priced for the dollar-laden tourist, but for travelers treated as family by the locals. What’s a few dozen more steps to take from D’Mall to D’Talipapa, to create your own memories?


Boracay Fish as colorful as the wet market—and the island—they’re beholden to.


But even without all these diversions, even without the pursuit for the out-of-the-way, I contend that Boracay’s epitome can be relished even right there in the White Beach, smack in the middle of the horde of tourists.


Boracay

Boracay

Boracay

Boracay From me to the dog to the selfie-tourist and to my nieces: Boracay’s just about finding your own empire of sand, your right place under the sun.


Think of the Boracay sunset, and how almost everyone stops, gazes, and falls silent, with the sound of surf and camera clicks doing the conversation.


Boracay

Boracay

Boracay

Boracay


Isn’t this how Boracay captured our hearts in the first place? To render us enrapt, and in quiet rapture.


Boracay




VIEW: Make Boracay your jump-off point to the rest of Aklan with this map:

atlas

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(Text adapted from the original version, written by the same author and with contributions from Khiara Kimpo, which appeared in the now-defunct Side Trip travel magazine, January-February 2013 issue. Many thanks to Kagawad Evalyn T. Buenafe, Nikki Rose Solanoy, Jennifer Claud, Roger Taunan, and Livy C. Rustro of the Malay tourism office, as well as Lucy Lita D. Blanco, accounting supervisor of Happy Dream Land.)

Note: Other Boracay side trips, such as cliff-diving at Ariel’s Point in Buruanga, the serene beaches of Carabao Island in Romblon, and the cold springs of Nabas will appear in a related article. Coming soon here at Choose Philippines!

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