A Country of Contradictions...

Trip Start Aug 24, 2010
Trip End Sep 01, 2011

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Where I stayed
La Carmela de Boracay
Read my review - 3/5 stars

Flag of Philippines  , Visayas,
Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Rich or Poor....no in between. Bathing in luxury, eating ice cream, enjoying my beach vacation, and watching children being exploited and abused, living in poverty, and begging for money. Staying in a high class, secured hotel....when across the street and behind some bushes, houses are being bailed out from the night rains, children run around shoeless, and water is being lifted by buckets out of wells to do laundry and bathe. Boracay is Beautiful!...if you don't leave the resorts. Behind the resorts, life goes on, 6 year olds carry around and take care of the babies instead of attending school, money is made from tourists through private boat tours (of which our story will follow below) and sightseeing activities.

From the eyes of a tourist, the white beaches of Boracay are paradise! Dining on the beach in candlelight, watching the sunset from a sailboat, swimming in the aqua waters, snorkelling with schools of fish, getting a massage on the beach....and the list goes on. Right now, we are sitting near the beach, listening to upbeat music, and waiting for the fire dancer show to begin. Everyone addresses us by Mam and Sir, puts on a smile, and says Good morning, afternoon, or evening. Our days here have been plentiful and enjoyable.

Now for the boat story....everytime you walk along the beach someone is trying to sell you something...actually, I should say....EVERYONE is trying to sell you something. It gets overwhelming. Today, I actually was annoyed. The gentlemen says, "Mam, plans for tomorrow? Jet Skiing?" I simply reply with, "No, thank you"...he continues..."sailing? boating?...". Now, annoyed, I say to him, "jet skiing, sailing, parasailing, boating....I've heard it so many times...NO Thank you!"....thinking he'd leave us alone and get the point that the continuous sales tactic is annoying....instead, he simply looks at me and asks..."ATV then?"....lol. We couldn't help but laugh. They are just trying to earn a living. They are such a happy culture (well...everyone except the grumpy laundry lady..lol). So, we decide to take one of the offers and sign up for a personal sunset sailboat ride. Three hours around the island, snorkelling, and a sunset cruise...all for $50. So...the boat picks us up...the first 15 minutes were spent waiting for it...then we get on the boat...having bought a couple drinks for our romantic, honeymoon, sunset cruise, we pass our drinks and towels to the Captain (a 17 year old boy) and hop on the plastic mesh part of the sailboat....Okay...no...it's not the sailboat you are picturing!! Get the luxury out of your head...picture a bamboo, two person sailboat paited orange, with a blue and white sail....got it? Good. So, this "sailboat" is small, not built very sturdy, but whatever...we're just going around the island. The waters are "a little rough today"...quoted by the salesman...so we could only snorkel once we get back to our side of the island....glass smooth water! Okay...we're ready!! The first 10 minutes were wonderful!...Our 17 year old captain with his 15 year old brother helping him with the sails....Then we got to the end of the island...just about to round to the other side, when a speed boat meets us...they are yelling something to our captain and pointing in the direction we are going...next thing we know, there's another 17 year old jumping off that boat and swimming to ours...in huge waves (which we thought was the "rough" water). I thought the kid was going to drown. He finally climbed aboard our boat...turns out that he was coming to help us...since he was more experienced than the 15 year old trainee. And thank God that he did come to help! We rounded the island....the waves were SO big that we had to hold on with two hands. When the waves hit us, they hit so hard that we would be lifted off the boat!...nevermind the wedgie it would give you! This went on for about an hour straight...we were so far from land that you couldn't see the beach and we were sailing through whitecaps in the ocean with a couple of teenage boys!!! Safe?? I don't know...I couldn't stop laughing...it was kind of fun...crazy, but fun! Jay was a little nervous at times...like when the captain started bailing out the boat while steering us through the waves! Then it hit....right over top of us....I thought I was drowning in the ocean!! seriously. I finally popped out of the water...panicked, looked around for Jay....saw him, realized that I was still holding onto the mesh with a death grip...Jay, also thinking we were drowning, says, "Are you still with us??"....Coughing from drowning in saltwater, I manage to fix my sunglasses, and grab back on with two hands just as another wave hits!! At this point, we were 3/4 of the way around the island. With no other option, we continued to hold on tight until we reached the other side....dripping with salt water, drowned, and needing a rest, we were surprised when the captain pulls the boat up to an area, anchors us, and says....now you can go snorkelling!! Snorkelling???? We just spent the last hour drowning on your sailboat!! So we hopped in the water, snorkelled for a bit...not too great...most of the coral was dark and dying (seems to be the norm for this area now). Finally, having enough of the water, we were ready to continue on for our sunset cruise! Instead, we arrived back at the dock before the sunset...lol...but at this point, we just wanted off the boat! We paid, tipped 100 pesos for not killing us, and went to our safe hotel room for a shower and some fresh water!! haha....so....moral of the story....they will do anything to make a few bucks!! I wouldn't recommend taking the around the island sailboat trip...maybe just try the 1 hour sunset cruise...lol.

We took a walk today to Bulabog beach, on the other side of the island. The beach is really dirty at this time of year, and super windy! Perfect for Kite Surfing. There were tons of kite surfers there! What an intersting sport...hopefully we'll be able to try it sometime on our travels. On the way to the beach, we had to walk through the "real" Boracay...the village. I'm not sure what to think or what to say about it. Living amongst garbage, with dirt floors and tin walls....of course, this isn't what all of the Philippines is like! However, it is what we have seen.

There are some poor families who come to the beach to beg in the evenings. We don't know whether to give them money or not too....if you give money, does it just support the exploitation of the children??...who they have naked in the sand, starving, and crying for money....if you give money, will it go towards feeding the children? Or will the parents use it for alcohol or food for themselves?? If you don't give money, will they be able to eat? It could go either way...chances are, that supporting the begging, it will just encourage the family to do it more often...using their children to make tourists feel guilty and sorry for them...we don't give money...but it kills me not too! It's hard to enjoy my ice cream, when I know there are starving children and babies sitting two stores down! It's tough...and that's Boracay...an island of contradiction! We leave tomorrow for Cebu!
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