The Great Divide in Boracay
Trip Start Dec 03, 2012
38Trip End Jan 09, 2013
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Where I stayed
There were only two daily bangka trips from Looc to Caticlan, Panay. One at 830 am and the other at 930 am. Having done with my breakfast early, I headed out to pier and boarded the 830 am bangka for 300 php. In case you are wondering, there are no direct boat access to Boracay except from Caticlan port.
It was a much smaller boat than the one from Roxas to Odiongan. Then I spotted the 930 am bangka down the pier - much bigger. As usual, I was the passenger on board and all seats were taken. I took up a space in the aisle sitting on the bamboo floor beam but the crew didn't want me there as I would hinder access to the floor panel to engine below and they were manually kickstarting it with ropes. Luckily for me, I was moved into the captain's cabin! Yay! Well, a mother and her 12 yr old daughter took up their seats on the cabin floor and her other two younger daughters cuddled up on the captain's bench. I left my main backpack at the aisle and ninja-ed my way in. I could only smile to the two girls beside me who looked rather nervous about the trip. Well, same could be said about myself.
Besides the boxes of cargo on the roof, a motorcycle at the bow and the passengers, the manifest also included half a dozen of squealing piglets at the stern. The captain squeezed into the cabin and took us out by 9 am. He spoke no English but he pointed out Carabao Island to me when I asked why we were not following the shorter (usual) route. In fact our bangka rode along the western coast of Carabao and Boracay to Caticlan - a longer route. On the plus side, we were viewing beach activities along the western beach (White Beach) of Boracay as we cruised amid luxurious yachts towards Caticlan.
It was a choppy ride although not as terrible as the hell ride from two days ago. The crew had earlier cleared the aisle by moving all luggage including my backpack to the roof. A fortunate move because a kid who threw up on her mother's shoulders was directly where my backpack was originally sitting. This then started a vomiting chain reaction. One of the two sisters sitting beside me looked rather ill. She was cupping her mouth in distress, trying to suppress herself from dry retching. I quickly took out my spare sick bag, just in time for her to throw up into. Within 10 minutes, the eldest sister on the floor (also beside me) started throwing up violently. We were just one hour into our three hours journey. Thankfully I was feeling alright. I think sitting facing the direction the boat is travelling and looking out and having adequate ventilation are keys to not falling seasick. Valuable lesson. A light breakfast certainly helps too.
When our bangka arrived at Caticlan at 1 pm, I was still deciding whether to stay in Boracay or spend the night in Caticlan instead. I knew that Boracay will be a huge dent in my budget but nevertheless decided o see what the fuss is all about. Apparently Boracay was named best island of the world this year. It better live up to its name.
After the ticketing booth, I had to register my details before boarding when a customer service officer asked if I had any accommodation reservations in Boracay. Nope, I am backpacking. She was taken surprised by my reply and asked about my budget. No more than 1000 php (AUD$25) a night. My initial figure in my mind was 600 php but I didn't want to sound too cheap. She looked at me sincerely and said " No sir, please understand. This is not just peak season. It is now weekend to Christmas. Super peak season." With the tonal emphasis on super. "The best you can find is 2000 php a night. If you can find it." I just nodded my head in silence. She then offered to help me find that 2000 php a night room on the island and proceeded out of her booth to escort me onto the bangka before I stopped her and said I will be alright.
Peroxide Hair and Fake Accent
When I eventually stepped foot on Boracay, another customer service officer repeated the same routine and information. I was concerned that there will be hidden fee involved when he offered to take me around "shopping" for cheap rooms. But he wore an official Boracay Tourism Board neck pass and assured me that it was all part of a free service. So we rode a private 100 php tricycle to the southern part of White Beach/Anglao Beach and started scouting for rooms. The first two were fully booked.
At the second place, a receptionist with peroxide bleached hair and equally fake british accent even sarcastically retorted, almost with a snort " You didn't make a reservation?? Sorry even I can't help you with that! Good luck!". I will not name names but maybe, just maybe, its feature on Lonely Planet book might have gotten into her coconut head. She was plain rude. In fact, the only rude person I had encountered in the Philippines besides the pimps in Manila. As you can tell, I won't stand for snobbery. So what did I do? Nothing. I just rolled my eyes in disgust and marched out.
Found My Room
The third place had a 2200 php room when they revealed that they also had a 250 php dormitory bed, I snapped it up immediately. It is a three bed fan dorm room shared with 2 filipino visitors. The toilet facilities around the block maybe tatty but it is a stone throw away from the beach. Free wifi included. For this price, Tree house Resort/De Marion was a no brainer. Finally settled down at the beach for a very expensive 400 php pasta lunch at De Marion. It may be huge in its serving but admittedly rather pitiful and sloppy in its cooking. I even shared the table with my two filipino dorm mates, also drinking(and swimming) and soaking up the sun. This spot is just a little past station 3 on White Beach, so I walked up to station 1 and swam (well..floated) my way back to station 3. Waves rolling up the beaches were infested with greenish seaweed but the water was alot clearer out beyond 10 metres. However I learnt that it was the seaweed season and apparently that is how White Beach on Boracay gets its sand white.
In the evening I walked up to D-Mall in search of cheap eats but struggled to find something that suit my budget. I had a burger at Army Navy which wasn't too bad. Besides your usual McDonalds, you can find almost every major cuisine represented here in Boracay. Also countless seafood buffets, almost always patronized by Korean tourists.
While people were indulging in gluttony feasts, everyone seemed oblivious to the homeless squatting under coconut trees and besides rubbish bins. They weren't begging but waiting for any thrown away food. Massa(ge) and henna tattoo kisoks competed for attention. Countless bands jamming to pop songs and gangnam style blasting away. Then the rain came and dampened their festive atmosphere. I ran to a henna tattoo stall for shelter. The homeless only had cupboard and plastic sheets found in the bins. Best Island of the world, I wondered?