Monday, December 01, 2008

I love Boracay!

Last summer proves to be the best summer of my life. And just like my statement last year that 2008 will be the year that I will travel, travel, travel… it is coming into reality. My year of travel starts a kick-off last March with a travel to Puerto Galera, Oriental Mindoro. And then suddenly coming in th e early weeks of April, I had a chance to visit the best summer place in the Philippines and one of the be st beach in the world – Boracay! It has been a dream vacation to be in this paradise. I never thought that after my Puerto Galera experience there will be next summer travel so I dubbed this as "Part 2" of my summer escapade. My trip happened last April 10, 11, and 12, 2008. This is also my most traveled trip in the country as aside from Boracay I had side trips to Iloilo, Kalibo, Roxas City and Capiz in all sorts of mode of transportation from plane, bus, jeepney to trycycle. Enjoy reading!

Live from the paradise island of Boracay!

The road to paradise...
Actually I was a bit hesitant to go Bora at that time because I recently have been to Puerto Galera. And to be honest i don't have money to spend as I already splurge my savings in "PG". Take note I "slurge" in Puerto Galera. But my mom told me that it was may dad's threat so I won't spend any money plus its a chance to have an outing together with my family. So I went... with excitement as this has been a dream place for me to visit. I have been already wondering what is it really in Boracay because it has always been the buzz of all people when it comes to summer and travel. So much stories I've heard about this fascinating place so it would be an experience of a lifetime to explore and travel this world famous tourist destination.

First destination - Iloilo! We leave on an the first morning flight to Iloilo at 5am. Why Iloilo? My father was already there. He will just wait for us to come and together we'll go to Boracay. By the way, he is an Ilonggo native and our grandmother and cousins is living there. Seeing from the window of the plane as we descend, Iloilo was really rural. You can see the native provincial houses, wide rice paddies and even a "siga" in their backyards. There were a lot of green fields (rice paddies, trees and harvest plants). I said to myself - at last Iloilo after 10 years, I'm visiting it again. My last visit there was in 1998 - exactly 10 years, now its 2008. The new Iloilo airport was impressive. Truly world-class and I can say it is in international standards. A lot of improvement has been done and all the facilities is complete - ready to cater to influx of passengers. The last time I've been there, where the airport is still located in Mandurriao, baggages where being tug as there are no baggage conveyor plus the building was so busy in structure and small. Now, the new Iloilo airport in Santa Barbara can accommodate 5 planes at a time, no more stairs as there are jetways already and the airport ambiance is spacious and clean (design and concept were quite similar to NAIA Terminal 2 with all the glass concept). Its quite far from the city centre of Iloilo, I think 40 minutes to Iloilo City. It was built in a spacious place and remote area like Incheon of Korea and Narita of Japan. But there were constant shuttle from airport to Iloilo City and vice-versa, so no worries in commuting for transportation. My dad fetch us at the airport and rode a shuttle to Iloilo City.

Flight to Iloilo.
At the the city center we rode a jeepney to Pototan - my father's hometown. We had transfers and after 30 minutes we reach the place of Pototan. It was still the same provincial place and it reminds me a lot of my childhood (as a child I already visited it many times). Few things change but the ambiance and the scent of a clean air still there. It's quite humid but the shades of huge trees give a cool atmosphere. My grandmother welcome us and some of my Ilonggo cousins. We just stayed for like 1 hour as we need to hop on a bus towards Caticlan - the gateway to Boracay. On the main road we wait and rode on the bus that goes directly to Caticlan. It was the start of our roadtrip in the province of Panay.

The "voila" mountain on the way to Caticlan.

Okay... you might be thinking why we chose to go to Iloilo by plane instead of landing directly to Caticlan or Kalibo which is near. Because my dad is going to fetch us in Iloilo, plus I wanna see Iloilo and our relatives. Kalibo is also fully-booked as it is summer - that explains it. And PAL has 2 daily flights only to Kalibo compare to 4 daily flights in ILO.

Now the roadtrip... It was a unique experience of good and bad. On bus trip you'll see places... although it is a long trip (6 hours from Iloilo to Caticlan) you won't be bored. There is an onboard TV for entertainment and seeing the beautiful places around from trees, hills, forests, shores, bridges, rural houses, seas, mountains to old towns was a delight in the eyes. I admit it was tiring (believe me when we arrive in Bora... the first thing we did was rest!) but traveling on different places and seeing beautiful sceneries compensates it all.

Our first brief stop was in Capiz. It was a simple town. Very rural but the places were clean. They have a large plaza. From there at the center is an Old Church. Kids were playing along the facades of plaza but some of them are engage in selling snacks for the bus travellers. Next is Roxas City, the road was quite bumpy are some were not paved yet. Its more "green" in that place as there are more trees and plants. Like Iloilo, Roxas is a simple place. People are living a simple life. Kalibo presents an Old town with mordern amenities despite being a province. There are many establishments in the town. Though there no high rising buildings, some houses are large. But seeing from the window of the bus of how their life is going there - it is really simple compared to living in the metropolis of Manila. A contrast of everything. Kalibo is quite - not much busy like crowds and cars including loud horns and screetches. We leave Kalibo and run for 2 hours to reach Caticlan. It was far! From Kalibo to Caticlan you'll pass 2 brigdes, and I think 3 more towns in Aklan plus forests and a road on the side of a large hill or mountain (its quite small to be a mountain and too large to be a hill) covered with tress and on the other side are cliffs towards the sea.

Road scenes on the way to Caticlan.
A scenic drive to Caticlan.
There are two road scenes that I won't forget in this road trip to Caticlan. One, remember the big hill that we have to pass. It was like stratigically place there because once you got pass over on the other side a few kilometers was already the town of Caticlan. It was like a big obstacle that after that voila! - Caticlan!!! Second was the road sign in the road going to Caticlan. The road sign reads --kilometer to Kalibo and pointing on the opposite direction was --kilometer to Caticlan - The gateway to Boracay. The road sign makes me wonder... is it the road to Caticlan or the road to paradise? ^_^

The road to Caticlan or the road to paradise?
The town of Caticlan was small and just like the rest a rural place. The scenery were provincial. And roads were in crowds of vehicles. Our bus directly stop at the Caticlan Jetty Port. There are flocks of tourist busy heading to the long queues of paying a small fee to ride a motor boat to the island. But the long lines runs smoothly thanks to the fast working staffs who are trained to accomodate influx of tourists in the port. We rode to a motorboat for like 7 minutes to the island. While in the boat we met a local who recommends to us a cheap place to stay in Boracay. When we arrive I thought it is already in the shore but to complete the road trip experience we need to ride a trycycle for like 15 minutes to the shores of paradise. Compare to Puerto Galera when the ferry boat docks it is already the shores of the beach. This just builds up the excitement of going there because while in the trycycle we had to pass town, forests place, hilly roads where in one turn I got a glimpse of the shores from above the cliff - what flashes to my eye suddenly were the bright white sands and blue waters from the distance! It was just getting exciting! We pass the roads of establishments where there are already many business service providers in the island like banks, restos, stores, etc... the place was really develop for the purpose of tourist influx. It was contrary to Puerto Galera where there are no single bank in the town. We even went to a bumpy and dusty iskinita road just to get there. It happened that we were dropped in Station 2 (Bora has 3 stations dotted with numerous accommodations) in *D Talipapa - take note the talipapa which means cheap deals market was literally a place with many stores for souvenirs that can be bargain for a cheaper price. Beside it was a wet market for fishes, meat and veggies for "paluto" - which can be bought on cheap prices.

Boracay Beach - one of the world's best beach.
From *D Talipapa is still quite far from the shore. I thought its already there. I think 2 street blocks to the shore. Meanwhile we stay at Cez Manor Beach Resort and Hotel. It was a decent place, not on high splurge hotel, affortable rates and enough for a 3 day stay in the island. Plus the service is good, rooms are clean and well-maintained. After we arranged our things and unpacked our clothes, together with my siblings, we hurried towards the shore with excitement to see the beauty of this paradise. My first impression of the beach? Breathtaking... bright white sands and perfect blue waters... but malumot! There are many seaweeds on the shore! But towards the shore it is already crystal clear water. And the beach people... holy cow! so many foreigners (ah I forget this is a tourist place, but bec. of many foreigners it makes the place quite like in a foreign land) and yummy people!!! As in bikini everywhere... beautiful faces... beautiful people... well, that includes us. Hehehe... The white sand beach is a long kilometer stretch, I think 3 or 4 compare to Puerto Galera which I think 1 km only. I think 4 White Beach of Puerto Galera is equal to the White Beach of Boracay. Because of this wide stretch of the beach, it doesn't get crowdy to the shore and on the beach. One may also find a place of your own either under the shades of palms trees or in the numerous bench around where you can read a book or just relax while enjoying the view of the island. You can also be in the shrubs alone with the hilly rocks where you can sit, meditate, watch the sea or contemplate on the things that is happening to your life... where it seems you can hold your time and free from worries, pressure and rush. And the white sand is amazingly powder. All of the travel magazine to gossips are true that the white sand is so white and powdery fine. It is like walking in the white sand wonderland!

Willy's Rock at Station 1.
It was around 3pm, I, together with my two siblings we tour the beach stations. Our parents stay at the room to rest because of the long trip. It happened that we are located in Station 2 of Boracay. But we are almost in the border of Station 3. Station 2 is the center of life in Boracay. It is where most of the tourists stays, where famous Boracay hotels located like Boracay Regency, Le Soleil de Boracay, Fridays.. where most restos and bars for nightlife located. Plus if there are events on the island it is where it is mostly held. Flocks of souvenir shops are also there. The famous place to go is *D Mall - it is the central market place. There so many souvenir shops located there. There's a mini plaza with ferris wheel and countless restos around. Beware: *D Mall is the opposite of *D Talipapa as it is cheaper while the latter is expensive. Mostly tourist price especially souvenir items but good quality products.

We tour Station 2 towards the center were most tourist crowds gather. We had a glimpse of high-end resorts there. I'm especially impress with Boracay Regency... they have a nice building and beautiful facades. We went to Station 1 and saw this beautiful and most magazine photographed Willy's Rock - a small rocky island near the shore where one can go up to see the place. Though the sun was high and summer heat is bursting we did not hesitate to take pictures around. What I also love about Boracay is the coconut trees... there are so many line up along the beach, along the way... all around that gives a perfect ambiance and scene of a tropical paradise. We would like to explore further in Station 1 as it is where the high-end resort located like the Discovery Shores that considers to be the 5 star hotel in Boracay but it is a long stretch to walk plus the heat of the sun is burning so we decided to head back to Station 2 then visit Station 3 which is nearer in our hotel. Station 3 is the most quite part of this long stretch of white sand beach. The are many secluded spots to choose from where you can be alone or be alone with your "loveey-doveey". It is more laid-back compare to Station 1 and Station 2 especially. There are bars but its quite unlike in Station 2. There are also many fine accommodations, restos, souvenir shops too in this station but the unique place here is this where the sail boats are stationed so it is a perfect place to take pictures with the colorfuls sails of sailboats.

Okay there is Yellow Cab and Andoks Lechon Manok in Boracay. Even Allied Bank ATMs. An economic symbol that the island is booming to modernity. A lot of under construction resort accomodations are still working underway in Station 3. After we tour, we lost. Can you imagine that! Naligaw kmi in Boracay! Kakahiya! We can't find the inner road to out hotel. The places are almost alike. Nonetheless, the situation did not hesitate us to still takes pictures... hehehe. ^_^ It is one experience I won't forget there. I think we lost for 30 minutes. But in the end find the street back to our hotel and we rest immediately as we are so exhausted from walking for 30 minutes. What I mean we rest is that we really rest literally like sleep and nap.

We get up by 6pm. It was sundown. I realize it too late for a first beach swim in Boracay. But I and my siblings, Ria and Gerwin did not mind it. We go for night swimming. My first swim in the waters of Boracay. The place around was dark but the water is cool. We play in the water. Play with the lumot, where we scrumpled it and throw it to each other. There are other night swimmers too. It is also my first glimpse on what is nightlife in Boracay. The whole island is lit up with colorful lights. Nightlife people crowd the bars and restos. Before sundown, restaurant staffs are already preparing their beachfront place for tables and chairs because restos evening dining style trend there is beachfront dinner. I went back to the hotel with my siblings to eat. I wish we''ll have a buffet dinner in one of the restos their before we leave the island. We rest after a tiring day becuase we know that the next day would be a blast for us.

Supreme experience

I wake up early so we can enjoy a good morning swim. The white beach was still resplendent as ever. The bright sunlight reflects the sand more brightly white. Swimming in the morning was a supreme experience! The water is so clear... and it was seagreen!!! Now its my favorite color. The color complements my sleeveless shirt which is also seagreen but far in the distance the color of the sea turns blue. The water is so clear you can see clearly see your feet in the water and even the fish! Yup, the are fishes, I think 2 to 3 that keeps on swimming around our feet as if they are not afraid of human contact. I am delighted by these fishes because it is a rare experience to see fishes in the wild not afraid of humans. Actually I am the one who's quite nervous because when you shoo them away they came back! Quite nervous because it might be a pirahna or while we frolick in the water a shark might be the next one who is swimming around our feet. But they were harmless. You can also clearly see the extension of white sand in the water. While the sun was up is wasn't quite hot to be burn. We take photos while in the water and then swim... swim... swim... The water is cool and its so good to swim. Morning is the best time to swim. Aside from few people, the heat of sunlight is not burning. Boracay has also a good view from the water. The beach is so wide! We rest in the bench and later we play like kids in the white sand. Mind you, your Boracay experience won't be complete if you don't play in the sands like a kid you used to be. 

We went again to the center of Station 2. We saw again the high-end resorts and visited the *D Mall and other souvernir shops that is like mushrooms who sprouts everywhere. T-shirt souvenirs are nice in Boracay because the textile is qood quality. As I have mentioned, price here are double than in *D Talipapa and other shops but overall items prices are still double compare to Puerto Galera. You can also shop for bags, bracelets and other accesories around. Henna tattoo is also a trend in the island but the price is ultimately double. Even the water activities like island hopping, banana boat riding and snorkeling are double in price. What unique water activity in Boracay is the sail boat ride. You can rent a sail boat for a bargain of 500php. You can ride it at your disposal... be it in the morning, in the afternoon but the best time to take it is during the sunset. Under the shades of palm there are masseuse offering massage services. You can have massage while laying in the sand.

At noon, I don't feel sleepy at all even though the sun is high up and the warm breeze of the sea passes by. There is no siesta... just warm afternoon in Boracay. I want to tour more around the island as tommorow we'll be leaving in the morning. I think it was around 3:30pm, I together with my mom and siblings, we went to around to Station 3. We relax on the benches. And observe the place. The sea was serene. No active waves in the sea. It was so calm and quite. And so is Station 3. A few beach bums were swimming. Some relaxing and chat under the umbrella shades in the benches. A foreigner nearby was reading a book while sunbathing in the bench. We visited souvenir shops around the station. It was quite a long walk going back to Station 2. I think it was around 5pm, people started to crowd the beach. Masseuse service were also crowding near the shore to get a day's income. I wonder why. We bought shakes in the nearby alley. When I turn around I was amazed by the scene that I saw at my opposite - facing the beach. It was sunset! Suddenly I asked to myself - is this the famous Boracay sunset? And yes it is! That's why a lot of people were crowding around the shore. They were all waiting to witness this beautiful event of nature in Boracay. I became excited. It was a great time to take photos. And I did... it was shot after shot everywhere. Boracay sunset was a unique experience. The whole place were reflected by a yellow-orange light. Everything is like painted in the color of sunset... the coconut trees... the sands... the benches... The reflection of light gives a unique atmosphere of enchantment that can be only experience in Boracay. People around started to take pictures of the sunset. I also did. Of course, I did not allow to be left behind. In addition, I have a photo of myself behind the sunset. I even had a photo that I was covered by the shadow because it was against the light. It was unique in a way that there is something stunning about Boracay sunset. Sunset has always been my favorite nature scene. I've seen a of lot sunset scene before but here it is different. It was perfect, stunning and breathtaking. I love it! Your Boracay experience would not be complete if you miss this so it is a must-experience here in the island. As I watch sunset, boat sailers constantly roam around on the sea. It happened to be a "paraw" ride that gives a more perfect view of the sunset while sailing in the sea. A paraw is a small boat with a huge triangular mast and sails through the winds which propels it to move in the sea without a motor. Normally a ride would be offer in 700 pesos but if you bargain you can ride it for 500 pesos. Good deal right? This is what I think an endemic water activity in Boracay. And it is a good ride in sunset. Unfortunately, I was not able to ride it on that day. But definitely I will the next time I visit this place. But for now, I enjoy the beautiful view of watching the sunset while seating on the white sand by the shore. It was quite crowdy but everyone is in unison to see this beautiful sunset of Boracay. As the sun sets down, all I can sigh is... the beauty of the Phillipines.

The unforgetable stunning sunset of Boracay.

It was night again and nightlife is starting again in the island. It is also the start of our last night in Boracay. So I have to savor this last night... Colorful lights adorn the coconut trees were brighly lit around. Some were lamshade lights in tropical theme dangling in the palm tress and some were contineous neon lights that wraps around the metal post. Restos are set-up again for another night of dinner by the beach. We went to *D Mall and it was crowdy. It was Friday night. And you know when its Friday, its not just an ordinary Friday.. its Friday party! It was quite crowdy mainly because it is the start of the usual quick 3-day vacation -the perfect Fri-Sat-Sun schedule. Almost all restos around are jam packed. Beautiful people are roaming around. I believe celebrities were there too. At the plaza there was a center of attention in front of the Ferris Wheel ride, a mime artist was ertertaining the crowd by way of making robotic moves and depicting various acts when a money is drop in his collector's box in front of him. We also visit this souvenir shop were they sell hand-painted Boracay scene t-shirts. You can see an artist nearby painting a t-shirt with his wonderful creation for selling. The shirts were expensive for 700 pesos each but it is a good quality souvenir.

The sunset starts to fade away...
Nighttime in Boracay.
That night there was an event in Boracay Regency which I think a corporarate event. In the other areas there was a "poi" show in which a performer tosses and swings around a small pot with flaming fire hanging on a chain and moves in motions and in rhythms to the amazement of the watchers. It was entertaining considering its quite dangerous when the fire caught the performer's hair. We then return to Station 3 to see more shops. At the Filipino Tourist Center, I have been fascinated with this one souvenir t-shirt with print design of dolphins wearing shades while enjoying the waves of the beach in a cartoonist drawing with a word "fun under the sun of Boracay" . It was quite pricey so I have hesitancy to buy it... remember I am bankcrupt because of my previous musings in Puerto Galera just last week! We tour around to observe nightlife in Station 3. True to its claim, it was calm in Station 3 but it will not let itself be left behind to the nightlife of Station 2 as music and sounds on bars are cool too. It was also crowdy there but not as much as that of Station 2. Here, the place is more serene and quite. What I saw unique here the was the huge sand castles build in the sand adorned with candle lights. People watching around started to take pictures. There were 3 castles built around. We took picures around and after that we return to the hotel to eat. I thought we were going to eat the last dinner there by the beach but we end feasting on the roast chicken we bought at Andoks.

Like kids again, we played sand castles.
A little time later there was a blast of fireworks in the sky. As we watch from the terrace... "What a beautiful scene to end my last night in Boracay" - I sighed.

Moods of last summer...
To wake up early is a hard thing to do. Wow it was the last day! I have to get up early as we are going to leave early too. I think it was 7 am that we get up and we had an hour left to buy souvenirs. Advice to travelers: Buy souvenirs on the first day of your stay in the place not on the last day! This is the lesson I learned. And from now on I will live to that rule when traveling. I was so picky in buying souvenirs especially on t-shirts that my time was just eaten by hopping from one shop to another. I cannot find something that will satisfy my taste. I spend more time in the shops that there was no time left for me to take more photos of the island but my siblings and my mom had. They were taking photos while I am busy in the shops. But in the end I am still unsatisfied. These has already happened to me twice. When I was in Puerto Galera, I also did last minute shopping on souvenirs that I was nearly left by the ferry to Batangas.


We return to the hotel room and packed our clothes. I think its around 8:30am when we left to the port. While the ferry is driving us away from the island, I said, "I'm going to miss Boracay and I will surely go back!" Borrowing Mc Arthur's word - "I shall return!" While on a ferry we took some souvenir photos of ourselves and when we arrive at the Caticlan Jetty Port. The Ceres Bus Line was waiting for us in the port. As the bus leaves Caticlan, it made me sighed, "The road trip to Iloilo has begun"

It was again 5 hours on the road. I saw again the rural places of the Panay Province espacially of Aklan in the towns of Caticlan and Kalibo. I even see rural houses near the shores. As we get near the highway from Caticlan to Kalibo, there were numerous cliffs with coves near the seas that I saw around. I took some pictures of it. We had a stopover in Kalibo. I got a glimpse of the town again. Everything was picturesque. There's a different feeling looking on the rural towns of Kalibo. There were vendors of roasted corns in the area - trying to earn an income from the tourist visits.

We ate at a local cafeteria in Roxas City. It was one of the stops of the trip. It was 2pm when we arrive in Pototan, Iloilo. This is where my grandmother live. Much has changed in Iloilo but the feeling of quiteness that everyone longs for remains the same. The breeze of air was cool though the sun is high up that gives the summer heat around. We went to the "kubo" in the backyard. But that kubo was just small and made just for a resting place not a real house to live. We were joined by my cousins who are Ilonggos. Of course, we took shots for memories. I took a rest and feel the cool air of the province. My parents, uncle and grandmother had exchanged conversations in the house terrace. While Pototan is literally province, my grandmother's house is a modern one. But the backyard of native plants, orchids and fruit-bearing trees plus a vast view of rice fields around leaves an imprint of the rural life.


Iloilo revisited after 10 years

It was decided to take the last flight to Manila by 8pm. By 5pm we bid goodbye to my cousins and grandmother to go airport as it was quite a long trip to go there. We rode a jeepney out of Pototan to Iloilo City where there is a shuttle that would take us to the new airport. I realized that Pototan was quite far from the city. I think the jeepney ride was 30 minutes to the city, then 40 minutes to the Sta. Barbara area where the airport is located. We had a stop at Biscocho's House in the city before going to the airport to buy native food goodies like biscocho, piyaya and my favorite, their specialty - butterscotch. I think is was 6pm when we arrive at the airport. At the departure area, I was amazed again by the new Iloilo airport that despite it is not a mega-structure it is living to its functionality and modernity that it should be. Staffs are friendly and the departure procedure was smooth and easy. The plane was not yet there when we proceed to the boarding gate area. The PAL plane arrive some 30 minutes after so still got a chance to rest in the waiting area and look around the airport. I freshen up myself in the restroom as I'm kinda messy from the roadtrip from bus to the jeepney. We boarded the plane at 7:40pm. From the plane it was like I just seated for 20 minutes and we were suddenly notified of our descending in Manila. How time fly so fast... but that flight was really a 40 minute flight. We deplane in Manila by 9pm. We rode a bus going to Cavite City and arrive by 10:30pm.

New Iloilo Airport and going back home.

I was so tired from a whole day trip. I sighed, it was just this morning I'm still in Boracay now I'm in Cavite already. Boracay has satisfied my summer escapade. It was a great travel experience so give it a try... you won't surely regret it and you will surely enjoy it that you would not want to come home after the experience. Although tired, I think I still have an extra energy to go through especially if that activity will be travel again.

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