We’ve come back to Boracay.
As I expected – and eagerly anticipated – Ellie and I have returned to the world-famous Philippine beach island for some more ‘couples time’.
We’re only a few miles from ‘home’; our long-term rental apartment in Malay, Aklan on the island of Panay. From Boracay’s White Beach, we can easily make out our mainland neighborhood across the water.
We are able to visit here because technically we are ‘residents’ of the same municipality. We completed coronavirus quarantine here and have the medical documents proving it.
Further, due to the COVID crisis, we are able to rent a near-beach studio unit on Boracay for $9 per night. THAT is a steal! So we decided to leave my mom (stranded here since the 2019 holidays by coronavirus flight cancellations) at our mainland place and steal away – again.
Yes, we did come to this same area nearly a month ago. We couldn’t get over how quiet, deserted and beautiful Boracay was. The usually crowded, powdery-sand beaches were almost exclusively ours.
Sadly for the local economy, most businesses were closed; hotels, restaurants, boat tour, souvenir, and dive shops abandoned. But as budget global wanderers who often seek out the less popular ‘fringes’ of touristy locations, we loved it.
We came back for more. But things have changed.
Limited tourism on Boracay Island
I certainly can’t say the place is busy or booming. But we immediately noticed there are more people, more activity, more business going on.
Where a month ago, we would be the only bodies on a kilometer-long section of beach – now there are 10 or 12. Some beachfront hotels have reopened – restaurants and stores too. Even the roads seem busier, more electric tricycle taxis (like big golf carts). More pedestrians.
During our first long stay, at least 90 percent of all businesses were closed. Now it feels like maybe 75 percent.
Who are these people?
So who is here? It seems to be regional tourists – Filipinos from the provinces of Panay island. Certainly, no international guests have returned. The Philippines remains closed in that regard.
Even domestic travelers from Manila and Cebu, who are a huge portion of the ‘normal’ Boracay crowd, are not yet permitted to visit due to virus cases in those big cities.
Still, it was oddly nice to see somebody – anybody – behaving like old times. And it really is the first time since the pandemic began that we’ve seen that.
Families swam and lounged and played on the beach in front of their ritzy hotels. We were at several restaurants where numerous tables were filled – and distanced. I even went to the first bar I’ve been to since March!
COVID-19 prevention precautions
I don’t know what bars are like anywhere else in the world — but on Boracay, the well-known Nigi Nigi Nu Noos is now draped and divided with heavy plastic sheeting. Beer and payment is passed and collected through slits cut in the plastic. Small talk with a bartender – impossible.
There’s a sign-in book, hand sanitizer, and an employee scanning each customer for fever at the entrance – a wariness in the air. Patrons inside sit well-separated, masked; friends space about four feet apart and talk loudly to be heard. I stayed only briefly.
Of course, we are also easily able to avoid all human contact if we choose to. And over the next week or more we will again find those places where it’s just us and nature. We are intent on exploring parts of this small island we haven’t seen yet. There are lots of little beach coves and picnic places.
Still, there is something reassuring and positive about seeing people behaving ‘normally’ – in familiar ‘tourist’ ways, even if we often avoid tourists. It’s been so long since we’ve witnessed that, it’s notable.
As always, be thankful and generous, happy trails & more beer.
Life is NOW!
Thanks for reading, “Limited tourism on Boracay Island nice to see!”
Earth Vagabonds (Ellen, Tedly, Mom Diane) have lived in Malay Municipality on the mainland since March 16, 2020, when everything was locked down in this area. They were headed to a rental unit on Boracay Island when they were ‘stuck’ on the mainland, which they now call ‘home’ – or at least it’s their temporary pandemic bunker. Read the unusual backstory here.
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