Boracay – The first week in a paradise not yet lost

Last modified 22.10.2023 | Published 10.04.19851980's, Philippines, South and Southeast Asia, Travelogue

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After a long voyage I had reached the island of Boracay. This is about the first week in a paradise not yet lost.

This article is part of a diary based travelogue from a six month journey in 1985 to several countries in East and South East Asia: Japan, Taiwan, China, Philippines, Singapore, Malaysia and Thailand

Wednesday 3.4.1985, Kalibo – Caticlan – Boracay

Getting there on various means of transportation

We (Bryan, Douglas and myself) arrived in the early morning after a voyage from Manila of about 20 hours. Long before the ship berthed we could see long sandy beaches lined with palms and hills in the background. The fishermen were out in their outrigger-canoes. When the ship moved slowly into a lagoon we finally saw the primitive landing and all the people waiting ashore. It was possibly the highlight of the week for them.

We fought our way across the landing among all the other passengers. The place the ship had moored was in the middle of nowhere and the route to Boracay Island first went into the biggest town in the district – Kalibo – then to a place called Caticlan where smaller boats connected with Boracay.

There were many jeepneys waiting but we jumped on a tricycle. That is a motorcycle with a sidecar. The sidecar had two seats and one of us jumped on the back of the motorcycle. But then the driver wanted to earn more than the 15P (<1 USD) we paid each, so he picked up four others and a couple of crates of small fish. It went incredibly well and we arrived in Kalibo three quarters of an hour later.

There we jumped onto a jeepney. They take according to my guidebook 14 passengers but we became 34 small and big. Some were up on the roof, others were hanging on the back and we sat inside quite squeezed. It was not a particularly pleasant two hour trip (25P = 1.4 USD), but the scenery was so exotic with palms, bamboo huts, paddy fields, sandy beaches and blue blue sea, that it helped a little.

Arriving safe and well in Caticlan we took an outrigger canoe, motorised of course, to Boracay.

An American I had met in a bar in Manila (I’d actually met him in Lhasa, Tibet before that), had said that the island at first sight makes you want to stay at least a month.

The island

What we saw was truly beautiful. An intensely white long sandy beach with coconut palms behind it, crystal clear warm sea and small bungalows of bamboo scattered around. There was hardly a human being on the beach, only a few canoes of the same type that had brought us here.

A number of Filipinos met us and took us with them to the cabins they had for rent. We picked one with a separate shower and toilet, and with a large porch in front. The place cost us 20P each, only a dollar US, rock bottom cheap.

The lady renting the cabin turned out to be very hospitable and helpful.

The location of our cabin was in the middle of a large courtyard encircled by other huts, and with dogs, pigs and poultry walking freely around. High palm trees made the place into a shaded oasis. There was no electricity, only paraffin: Very nice. The bungalow stands on half metre high pillars and everything apart from the timber framing is made of bamboo.

We ran at once down to the beach, only thirty metres away. It was truly a magnificent feeling to relax there, and on the porch later. I’m in the tropics, I thought and felt old dreams were coming true.

Later, in the evening, we went over to the (only) local nightclub/bar/disco, and sat down on the straw mats and cushions placed on the bamboo floor. There we had a good time drinking and listening to good Western rock music. The sunset we could see behind the palms was beautiful.

Thursday 4.4.1985, Friday 5.4.1985, Boracay

The days that followed felt as one and we relaxed on the beach or in the bungalow, eating very good food. At nights we usually went to that same bar to drink, listen to good music and meet other tourists and travellers. Sand Bar is the name of the place.

Douglas usually woke up first, either sleeping indoors or out the porch where he soon preferred to sleep due to the heat. Then I woke up around 10 and at last Bryan who never fell asleep before well into the night, also because of the heat. I slept well inside our mosquito net.

“The farm” and the locals did however wake up around five in the morning, giving us a few minutes of irritation. After breakfast, which for my part consisted of buns and coffee (unhealthy, but cheap), we went down to the beach.

And so passed time, day after day with some changes in the routine (see below). It was lovely living this way. I had over the last three months been doing something special and active almost every day. Now it was fine to just calm down, enjoy life and let the absorption of new experiences rest for a few days. But really, I did have experiences here as well; everything was so new to me.

Saturday 6.4.1985, Boracay

My habit when coming to a new place is to get acquainted, so I wanted to have a look around the island. Together with Douglas I went on a round tour of the southern half of Boracay.

We visited small villages, bamboo huts scattered out in the wilderness housing entire families, sandy beaches, caves and a “negrito” family. We later heard that these people, who were not actually “negro” but much darker than the average Filipino, were the indigenous people of the Philippines and only lived in the bush making a living of doing the dirty jobs.

Sunday 7.4.1985, Boracay

I borrowed a mask and snorkel from Douglas and saw gold fish in their natural habitat. Furthermore I noticed sea stars in many colours.

I was however quite shocked when I inadvertently came across a sea snake. They are supposed to be very poisonous and given the length of this particular snake (3 metres) I rushed away. Not pleasant but definitely exciting and interesting.

There are sharks further out, but so near that we could see them, or vice versa.

Monday 8.4.1985, Boracay

I left alone along the long sandy beach (3.5 km), and crossed some heights. I walked on broad paths and some small, almost imperceptible paths. There are only paths here, because the only means of transportation are bicycles, with or without motor.

I came down from the hills to a small beach which became my “private” beach, or at least I was the only one there.

Tuesday 9.4.1985, Boracay

Douglas and Bryan were both going back to Manila tomorrow. This was their last night here and that called for a party. Or to correct myself: It is only Bryan and I who are of the partying kind. Douglas is a lone cynic who never was interested in joining anything.

We two sat in the bar and had a good time with Eva and Göran from Sweden. They were also going to take the boat back to Manila the next day.

We remained on the Sand Bar after it had closed, and when it was almost five in the morning Eva and I found out that we could take a straw mat and cushions from the bar. Cushions are what we sit on here in the bar with its low tables. We went down to the beach and lay down there. The only problem was all the ants. If it hadn’t been for them I would have slept all through to the noises of people and animals getting up for a new day. It was however really nice to be there, if only for a few hours, on the beach.

Wednesday 10.4.1985, Boracay

When I woke up with Eva on the White Beach of this island paradise it was time to leave, for her and several others.

For breakfast all of us tried to find a place selling Magic Mushroom omelettes, but with no success. They are the kind of mushrooms giving a sensation of being “high” without the side effects. We sat down with an excellent fruit-shake instead.

Later in the afternoon the whole party left. It seemed as if quite a few others had the same plans for the boats went back to Caticlan quite full. The days after we came there was gradually getting more people on the beach, we had noticed. It was still empty by Spanish standards but it was obvious that the Easter traffic was as big here as in Norway. Over the weekend fewer people were left.

I had planned to stay another couple of days, just to relax even longer in this beautiful place, and to write down these words. In addition, I had hoped to work more on my diary here on Boracay but there had not been time for it, incredibly. I still have not started to write my notes from China into my diary, and that is after all a period of 43 days.

More days like this will come later this spring, I thought. In addition I found that I had only less than 900 USD. That means a farewell to my plans of going to Indonesia. I cannot afford it, I do not have time and I will have to mind my spending even more. What is certain is that I on Friday will travel over the islands to the east, then north on Luzon Island and down to Manila.

Read more

The introduction to this journey to East and South East Asia.

Previous chapter: The Philippines, Manila: Lesson learned, follow the rumours

Next chapter: My last days on Boracay Island, a letter home and an epitaph