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Boracay: A restored paradise

The Philippines is a country that has been blessed with abundant natural resources. Both local and foreign tourists are drawn to one of its islands which has capture the international spotlight through its crystal blue waters, fine white sand, and marvelous sunset views. Boracay has always been a crown jewel of the country’s tourism industry. However, due to commercialization and various environmental issues, it had to close its doors for extensive rehabilitation.

Now, a year later, has the shutdown really restored the majestic paradise that it was once known for? Here’s what our eyes have witnessed.

The root of it all

During a business forum attended by President Rodrigo Duterte last February 2018, he remarked on the island’s situation. A task force was formed consisting of representatives from the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), Department of Tourism (DOT), and Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) which recommended a thorough cleanup for a year. This meant a total closure of the island from tourists. Recognizing its adverse effects on the livelihood of the local residents, most senators proposed a rehabilitation in phases.

Boracay’s poor environmental conditions pushed the municipal government of Malay, the town which has jurisdiction over the island, to strictly enforce construction, sanitary, and environmental regulations. A set of rules had been enacted by various government agencies to preserve the natural beauty of Boracay. However, laws should be strongly executed to be efficient. This is what the local government officials who had jurisdiction over Boracay failed to do. Putting Environment Secretary Roy Cimatu at the helm to resolve the environmental issues violated by business establishments on the island, President Duterte directly ordered the temporary closure of the popular tourist attraction from April to October 2018 through Proclamation No. 475.

Airlines stopped their flights going to Caticlan, which serves as a gateway to Boracay. Soldiers and police officers were deployed at the piers and airport to turn away any visitors who would violate the proclamation. Three barangays of Boracay, Manoc-Manoc, Balabag and Yapak were declared under state of calamity due to the sewage problems that contributed to water pollution and deterioration of the island’s marine ecosystem.

The island in a nutshell

Visiting Boracay is best during the summer season, from March to May. A roundtrip ticket to Caticlan costs more or less PHP 7,000 including 20 kg of check-in baggage. It is best to book when airline promos are abundant so you can save more. Don’t forget to pack sunscreen, shades, and cotton scarf in your bag to protect your eyes and skin against harmful UV rays.

The island is divided into three main stations, each catering to various types of travellers. For backpackers, Station 3 of White Beach offers affordable rooms and inns as well as local, small restaurants and street sellers. You can even buy fresh coconut juice for as low as PHP 60 while sunbathing on the powdery, white sand. Station 2, however, is the place to be if you want to see of everything. As a melting pot for cultures, it features bars, souvenir shops, and various restaurants that showcase different cuisines. Most of accommodations are located in this station, which explains its popularity for tourists. The area is also famous for its nightlife.

Station 1, where we stayed, gives the best sunset view thanks to its serene vibe. Perfect for adventure seekers, the place is a home for those who want to enjoy water activities such as kayaking, paddle boarding, sailboating, and parasailing. It also houses some of the island’s luxury resorts offering a number of amenities, and is accessible to other beach destinations like Puka, Diniwid, and Ilig Illigan.

Looking forward

It was my first time to set foot in
the world-renowned shoreline of Boracay, and compared to the beaches that I’ve been to, it belongs to the god-tier. Algal bloom, which used to be an indicator of water pollution, is now lesser compared to the previous years according to my fellow tech journalists who frequent the island.

Upon our arrival at Cagban port, we passed along ongoing road and drainage improvements that DEWR Sec. Cimatu had vowed to finish during the tourist attraction’s soft opening after its rehabilitation. Each station has trash bins for biodegradable, non-biodegradable, and recyclable materials to encourage guests to practice responsible waste management. The locals are hospitable and nice, but they are serious when it comes to protecting their environment, which I truly admire. After all, it’s home to thousands of Aklanons as well as marine species.

 

Words and photos by Jewel Sta. Ana | Art by Jezeil Romero

Also published in GADGETS MAGAZINE June 2019 Issue