The Island That Almost Died

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The resort island of Boracay in the Philippines

Voted as one of the world's best resort destinations, Boracay Island is a Philippine tourism hotspot for local and international visitors.

Approximately 300 kilometers (186 miles) south of the capital city of Manila is a tropical island with a dog bone-shaped profile, situated at the northwest corner of Panay Island, and belonging to the Visayas group of islands in the Philippine archipelago. With a vertical length of roughly 7 kilometers (4.35 miles) having the smallest horizontal width of 1 kilometer (0.62 miles), it has an overall land area of 1,032 hectares (2,550 acres).

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Map of the Philippines and Geographic Location of Boracay Island

The island of Boracay is popularly recognized for its incredible features of sugary white sand beaches. In its entirety, this specific landmass encompasses white sands with a total area of 10.3 square kilometers (6.40 square miles) including some forested areas, hilly terrains, and mountain vicinities.

Humble Beginnings

Boracaynons, as the locals are called, used to nickname their island the “Land of the Atis” since their original settlers were called Negritos or Atis. These primitive people or aborigines thrived through farming and fishing in the area for centuries. Copra (dried meat of the coconut) was a traded commodity for Aklan merchants in exchange for staple products like rice, livestock, root crops, and other commercial goods.

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The white sand beaches of Boracay Island

During the 1960s and 1970s, Boracay was the favorite hangout for local residents, especially for families from Panay and neighboring municipalities. In the 1980s, this island became a budget-friendly locality for backpackers and for other adventurers hunting for low-cost getaways.

But most importantly, it was in 1978 that Jens Peter, a German author introduced this exotic island to the world by publishing a travel book describing in detail its beautiful charm, people, culture, cuisine, and natural splendor.

This unexpected occurrence sparked a tourism boom that eventually transformed the island from a quiet, modest, and unknown place into a globally renowned destination. As a result, Boracay became the proud recipient of the " Best Island Beaches in the World" as officially proclaimed by Travel + Leisure and Condé Nast Traveler, two prestigious international travel magazines.

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Our airplane ride to Boracay Island

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Boracay Airport also known as Godofredo P. Ramos Airport or Caticlan Airport

Back in June of 2017, no one was as extremely ecstatic as my cousin, her family, and I while waiting at Cebu airport's boarding gates. Cebu is a separate island in the Visayas archipelagic region located around 208 kilometers (129.2 miles) to the east of Panay. Our direct flight was bound to Godofredo P. Ramos Airport (Caticlan) Airport and would take around 1 hour, our fastest gateway to Boracay. After many years of planning, we would finally grab the chance to personally experience for ourselves this "Paradise on Earth"!

Part of the Fun

"You're wearing the biggest smile I've ever seen!" my cousin said.

While staring at her, I simply couldn't hide the apparent joy on my face. There were several reasons why those moments were unforgettable for me. It has been more than 20 long years since my cousin and I haven't seen each other. During the decades of being apart, we were busy moving on with our lives. She migrated to Europe, married a foreigner, and started a family there. On the other hand, I was heavily occupied with my own professional stints in other international locations. We, however, continued our online communication despite the vast distances. Imagine the tremendous outbursts of emotions after being reunited with a loved one!

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Different modes of Marine Transportations at Boracay Jetty

We had a safe landing at Caticlan Airport. Because Boracay was not connected to the mainland of Panay Island, we had to commute on a separate boat from the Caticlan jetty (small pier) to our final stop. There were various types of marine vehicles at the seaport that served as the main entry/exit points to our destination.

The arrival at the domestic airport, and then transitioning to sea travel until reaching the island of Boracay, was a spectacular adventure in itself. It was definitely a mouthwatering appetizer before the main course up ahead.

While cruising rapidly on the boat, we were visually treated to tantalizing glimpses of lush landscapes, snowy white shorelines, plus the super clarity of aquamarine blue waters glittering against the rays of the morning sun. The pungent smell of saltwater fumes danced with the prevailing breeze, as the watercraft relentlessly battled the huge waves. Dolphins, flying fish, jellyfish, sea urchins, and aquatic birds were also present to entertain us with their fabulous antics. What a thrill!

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Arrival at Boracay Island

It was a quick boat trip, estimated to be 37 minutes, however the valuable experience, as mundane as it was, was truly worth every peso we invested. For the first time, we would soon be standing on this globally acclaimed resort island.

Impressions of the Island

"A mall on the island? Why are they building one here? Is this isolated place supposed to be a beach haven?!" I continuously scratched my head as I spoke to my companions upon our arrival on Boracay Island.

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One of the Commercial Signages on Boracay Island

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Entrance to Crown Regency Resort & Convention Center Boracay

Without wasting time on the arrival area, we proceeded straight to our hotel: Crown Regency Resort & Convention Center. Without a doubt, it was definitely a luxurious accommodation and had a 4-star rating.

Its stunning architecture and premier facilities were state-of-the-art, including a motorized water sports area (wave pool, snorkeling, diving, surfing, etc.), swimming pool, poolside bar, casino, event halls, casino, convenience store, public lounges, with impeccable hotel guestrooms.

This hospitality enterprise was one of the largest on the island and was often booked by local and international travelers. Unlike other establishments, this hotel was situated much further from the shoreline, taking roughly 15 minutes of walking distance.

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Architectural Exteriors of Crown Regency Resort & Convention Center Boracay

I was literally blown away by the overwhelming assortment of enjoyable activities the hotel offered to their guests, trying my best to fully experience each one of them aside from the main feature of the island: white sand beaches. But we did it! It was simply a matter of managing our priorities well.

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Water sports Facilities of Crown Regency Resort & Convention Center Boracay

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Hotel Check-in and Main Lobby of Crown Regency Resort & Convention Center Boracay

Wandering around Boracay Island was surely easy, convenient, and affordable. Aside from private vehicles, E-Trikes (electric tricycles) were the most practical plus economical means of public transportation for hire.

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E-Trikes on Boracay Island

During the day, we consumed most of the available hours by swimming at the beach. With suntan lotion protecting our sensitive bodies from the scorching rays of the daylight sun, we couldn't resist bathing in the transparent sea waters, riding the splashing waves in up and down motions, seldom floating on the surface, watching colorful boats sailing nearby - simply basking in the sensual splendors of the aquatic environment that surrounded us. I was jumping like a playful child again!

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White Sand Beaches of Boracay Island

When not in our swimming attires, we checked out the numerous varieties of hotels, restaurants, and shops that were closely scattered along the beachfront. Strolling barefooted on the fine grains of white sand, breathing the refreshing ambiance, and feeling the sweet caress brought by the gentle winds had therapeutic effects. One of the most memorable landmarks along the coast was the Grotto of the Blessed Virgin Mary.

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Small Jetty for arriving Sea Vessels

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Grotto of the Blessed Virgin Mary

After paying our respects on that holy site, we continued combing the vast expanse of white sandy beaches as far as the eyes could reach the horizon. They were obviously people everywhere, from foreigners, local tourists who filled the resort, similar to industrious ant colonies that wouldn't stop moving out and about.

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Night Activities at Boracay Island

However, it didn't end there. There was definitely more to experience! Like daytime events, night life on Boracay Island was absolutely thriving! - revealing its fair share of evening pleasures.

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Vibrant Life during Evenings at Boracay Island

To our astonishment, there were lots of entertaining activities everywhere: people dancing across live bands and hotel performances, customers dining in outdoor restaurants, children and adults alike watching fire dancers and cultural shows, tourists hanging out in clubs, bars, joints, a few individuals swimming at the beach, and others merely shopping at the commercial establishments that were surprisingly still open for business during the late hours.

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Thriving Night Experiences at Boracay Island

Time obviously didn't cease! We lingered at one of the popular outdoor cafes, ordered some beverages, listened to live music, and chilled out for the rest of the evening. The atmosphere was magical!

Other interesting experiences that had an enormous impact on our Boracay holiday were the extremely challenging sports of scuba diving and parasailing.

These adrenalin-inducing, teeth-crunching, and hair-raising adventures were certainly not meant for the faint of heart!

They tested my endurance, strength, and courage to step out of my comfort zone, ultimately conquering my fear of the unknown. In the end, I eventually dared the accompanying risks and lived to tell the tale. Whew, I made it!

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Scuba Diving Adventures

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Approaching Platform for Parasailing Sports

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Preparation of Equipment for Parasailing Sports

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View of Speedboat below from Parachute

So far, everything you've witnessed previously exhibited the more favorable side of Boracay Island. The colorful plethora of attractions, activities, and events is strong proof of this destination's magnetic characteristics for leisure, entertainment, and tourism. However, as they say, some of life's scenarios aren't always what they seem. And as much as I had lots of fun on the island during the past days, the instinctive feeling that something wasn't right was imminent. Something was off!

Dire Consequences of Overtourism

I might be mistaken, yet it was truly apparent! Based on my personal observations, Boracay Island was obviously jam-packed with sidewalk vendors, street hawkers, retail spaces, outdoor stalls, restaurants, convenience stores, express diners, cafes, dive shops, plus hotels, and other accommodations of all shapes and sizes. Not to mention the staggering influx of local residents plus visitors from all over the world that traverse through its tiny thoroughfares on a daily basis, the resulting consequence of which was absolutely suffocating!

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Massive Proliferation of Business Activities in Boracay Island during Daytime

Would Mother Nature still be able to breathe properly in spite of the overwhelming circumstances that tend to choke her to death? How much longer could she survive?

"How on Earth could a naturally gorgeous island like Boracay continue to sustain itself with overcrowding, overpopulation, including the unprecedented accumulation of commerce as a result of excessive tourism? Why did the governing authorities tolerate these harmful practices? Haven't they noticed the telltale revelations that the island has been suffering all these years?" These were the dominating dilemmas that kept bothering my thoughts during those crucial moments.

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Massive Proliferation of Business Activities in Boracay Island during Daytime

Sacrificing and ignoring a location's abundance of natural resources on purpose would backfire someday. Like a clogged toilet bowl that hasn't been repaired right away, the same holds true when our planet's geographical treasures are tortured, abused, causing catastrophic pressures to build up, transforming into a ticking time bomb, desperately waiting to explode!

Environmental degradation. Garbage proliferation. Toxic pollution. Mismanagement of waste. Overwhelming commercialization of business establishments. Abuse of natural resources. Lack of green initiatives and sustainability programs.

These are simply some of the major perils that damage and continue to wreak havoc on Boracay's global reputation as a leading tourist hub. Until we collectively do something drastic to solve these underlying issues, this poor island will further plunge to its ultimate demise!

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Tremendous Commercialization in Boracay Island during Nighttime

Fortunately, in April of 2018, Boracay Island was finally rescued from impending disaster. As reported by media sources on a nationwide coverage, this splendid paradise became off-limits to tourism, the destination's front doors were temporarily shut down by the national government for an entire duration of 6 months. A rehabilitation program was officially organized to fully resuscitate the island back to its former glory.

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Tremendous Commercialization in Boracay Island during Nighttime

Such welcoming news indeed! But, could they achieve this humongous feat? It's surely not as easy as it sounds because it takes not just government leaders and employees, national organizations, businessmen, and environmental professionals to fulfill this valuable objective, but encompasses the collective efforts of every single citizen concerned about the welfare of their habitable world. What if this endeavor would be the most effective solution to eliminating issues on the sustainability of Boracay Island? Fingers crossed.

The Future of Boracay Island

It has been more than 4 years already since the Philippine national government imposed its recovery campaign on the island. And then, all of a sudden, the devastating pandemic of 2020 arrived, basically halting human life to a complete standstill as we know it. Did this abrupt change assist in the healing process of Boracay? Who knows? Perhaps it did.

We can't predict what will happen tomorrow. But, one thing is certain, whether we're still alive on this planet or not, that moment will come. And by then, nothing else matters but the truth that will set us free. Only time will tell.

I'm fully indebted with immense gratitude, kindness, and appreciation for the tremendous generosity that my beloved cousin and her family endowed to my unforgettable getaway to Boracay Island. As priceless as the beautiful memories are, I'm planning to travel there again in the near future. I'm simply eager to discover for myself the positive changes that produced significant fruits as a result of careful environmental nurture coupled with an authentic love for nature.

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Iconic Sandcastles of Boracay Island

What are your thoughts about Boracay Island? Do you think the Philippine government made the right decision to close the island for 6 months? Other interesting ideas for the effective restoration of an island suffering from environmental problems? Let's talk in the comments.

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