Monday, May 28, 2012

Boracay: Hunger games and food for thought

Boracay - Desolate Beach at Sunset
Uncrowded stretch of White Beach over at Station 1
Accuweather forecast rains and thunderstorms during a recent writing assignment in Boracay.  Mercifully, the heavens bucked the predictions and gave us a week of generally fair weather save for occasional drizzles in the middle of a sunny afternoon.  I was last here almost three years ago, amazingly, also on an assignment so I guess you can say work has really taken me places.  Boy, so much has changed along the stretch of White Beach.  The new rule prohibiting set-ups before 5pm has reclaimed the wonderful postcard-pretty white sands-turquoise waters-blue sky scenery.  Looking inland, the row of establishments seem, well, even busier and more crowded than ever.

5 days in Eden, 2 1/2 hours at the beach.  I get envious retorts when I told friends and clients I was going here for work.  Specifically, the assignment calls for tasting the food offerings of various cafes and restaurants and writing about them.  Sounds like a dream job, right?  But understand this, this is still work.  Food is really best savored, not wolfed down in a jiffy, but I digress.  Our team was in and out of different eating places every day (both a joy and a pain to do since while I am a happy foodie, I suffer from occasional bouts of acid reflux).  The the only time I was able to swim was on our last day when a client canceled an appointment.  I'm wearing my writer's hat for this assignment so I wasn't able to shoot much either.  Still, I am grateful for the opportunity especially since everything was paid for and Boracay can be an expensive place to go to.

Cause for bother.  I am also thankful for the opportunity to meet some very interesting people especially the long-time residents who shared their perspectives and concerns for the island.  One aired a very valid cause for bother: the news of a giant real estate company planning to bring hundreds of vehicles to the island.  Imagine what that will do to an island only 10.3 square kilometers in size.  It's hard not to notice the new establishments along the stretch of White Beach and elsewhere on the island and while that's good to hear, I think we have to remind ourselves that the Boracay's real attraction is its natural beauty.  Floating away from most of the near-afternoon crowd and looking outward to the sea, I was thinking the concept of bringing the city and its acoutrements to this island totally escapes me, much in the same way that a Manila-based real estate company's blurb that promises resort living in the city confounded me.  When places like these start to resemble the cities we live in, where would we go to escape?

It's hard (impossible?) to stop development but I guess it really comes with a hefty price.  For instance, the fee for the use of the jetty in Caticlan now cost P100 (almost $4).  Flying off from the compact but sleek-looking Godofredo Ramos Airport in Caticlan will set you back P200 (roughly $8) in terminal fees, the same rate as with Terminal 3 in Metro Manila.  I was wondering if it would be possible to implement a discount scheme for Filipinos/locals like what they practice in other countries.  Food for thought for our tourism officials.


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