Boracay Island in the Philippines

A sailboat is seen through trees on Boracay Island in the Philippines.

Boracay Island in the Philippines is so beautiful it’s ridiculous. Several times today I looked up at the trees, out at the sea, down the never-ending powdery white sand beach and said aloud, “Oh my God.”

See what I mean?

Of course, there are problems. No-see-ums, seaweed, pandemic unemployment, child beggars, for starters. (The latter is getting worse.)

If you cover your skin when there’s no wind, or stay in the water, the no-see-ums won’t feast on you. (A popular post about Boracay includes the time I was eaten alive.)

The seaweed is green and light. Nothing like the sargassum on Mexico’s Caribbean coast. It’s not that bad. It doesn’t smell, though the no-see-ums hang around it, and it can make for a murky swim.

A friend who’s lived on Boracay Island for more than a decade said before the pandemic, big teams of beach cleaners took away the seaweed, which kept the bug problem down. But now people are struggling to eat. They’re wasting energy raking up seaweed when there’s practically no one around. (Also, he confirms the seaweed is extremely early this year.)

Pandemic unemployment is something we’ve seen on the mainland, where we ‘live’.

On Boracay, it’s worse.

One of the most heartbreaking pictures I took today was of men pushing their sailboats off the beach to head home to the mainland. There were no tourists to take for sunset rides.

Unemployment means children beg much more often. I’ve been coming to Boracay Island throughout the pandemic, and while there was always a child here and there asking me for money, today there were many.

At one point, four children in a group went from tourist to tourist to beg. (These are domestic tourists. Foreigners aren’t allowed into the Philippines yet.)

I watched the group as I slowly meandered down the beach. Every tourists they approached said no, gave them nothing. A local guy helped them, however.

Two men who try to sell paddle board rentals or island hopping tours called them over to where they watched for potential buyers. Even though these guys have their own struggles without booming tourism, one man handed over 20 pesos to the group.

Police are patrolling more. Even more than over the holidays – where Boracay Island had about 60 percent of visitors compared to pre-2020.

The bottom line is people are desperate, and they’ve been desperate for a long time.

Over development is another problem. Before the pandemic, the Philippine president shut down the island for half a year for rehabilitation. So instead of two years without income, it’s more like 2.5 years.

I know there are a lot of people traveling now in places all over the world, so I know this scene is common countries that rely on tourism. It just sucks to see. Honestly, I’d rather NOT have the beautiful beach (practically) all to myself.

We help who we can, when we can. Today, again, I wished I had a million dollars – or more – to give away.

Since I don’t, all I could do was my usual. Help where I can, when I can… and then enjoy White Beach on Boracay Island in the Philippines.

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