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Philippines Travel

What to see in the new Boracay

When news came out about the closure of Boracay, I said, “Well, it’s about time.” I have been visiting the island since 2014, you can say I witnessed its gradual ruin. Tourism has taken its toll on the island, it was overcrowded, unkempt, and neglected. The traffic along highway central was terrible. There were potholes, broken pipes and sewage, and flooding. The beach, which is the main point of interest of the island wasn’t doing any better. Trash was strewn about, people party and get drunk on the beach, establishments extend their tables and chairs just a few meters away from the sea. In my 2017 visit, I muttered something that I never thought I’d ever say, “I’ve had enough of Boracay.”

Boracay closure

Boracay was no longer the paradise that it was and the president seems to agree. On April 26, 2018, President Rodrigo Duterte ordered the 6-month closure and redevelopment of the island.

There’s been a divide on the public’s opinion regarding the closure. Many people, especially the Boracay residents whose living depend on tourism were against it. While I cannot blame them for feeling that way, I truly believed it’s a necessary measure to save the island. The island is plagued with environmental issues and they needed to be resolved.

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Within the shutdown, no tourists were allowed to visit and passes were given to Boracay residents.
They also closed down over 400 hotels and restaurants for violations of environmental laws. Roads have been constructed and massive cleanups were done on both the white beach and Bulabog beach. There is a wikipedia page with extensive information about the closure, check it out if you want to know more.

Boracay re-opening

The government opened the island to tourists on October 26, 2018, but with conditions, one of which is that they must have a confirmed reservation from a hotel or resort.

Everybody seems excited to see the new Boracay. Months leading to my trip, I saw my friends’ posts on Instagram, all were clearly having a good time. My curiosity is piqued, and so, just one year after I made that remark, I went back to Boracay.

I booked my trip, and April 5, I met my friend, Cai on the island. Here are the things that we saw in the new Boracay.

Better road condition

The first thing that you will notice is the repair that they’ve made on Boracay highway central. The road is wider, the potholes and sewerage have been repaired, and there are now brick-covered sidewalks for pedestrians. Some sections are still under repair, but a great part of the road is now passable.

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Having passed this road in its worse state, I couldn’t help but be marvel at its transformation.

E-tricycles for transportation

Since August 2018, the local government-mandated operators to shift to electric tricycles. This is to help curb climate change according to the executive assistant for Boracay affairs, Rowen Aguirre. Personally, I prefer them over regular tricycles because they are spacious, less noisy, and environmentally friendly.

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Controlled number of tourists

To ensure that the island will not receive people beyond its capacity, the local government only allows a total of 6,405 tourists per day. As I mentioned, they must present confirmed booking from any of the Department of Tourism’s (DOT) accredited hotels and resorts. As of February 2019, there are 320 establishments on this list.

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Clean beach area

To maintain the pristine condition of the beach, they now impose the easement rule, disallowing any establishment to put up infrastructure 30 meters away from the shoreline. Other changes include the installation of thrash bins, regulation of sand-castle making, and the smoking and drinking ban on the side of the beach. The fire dancers can only perform within the premises of some establishments. The result is a cleaner, wider, and much beautiful Boracay coastline.

Recommended restaurants and cafes to try

Since I’ve been there 6 times, there is nothing new for me to do but try restaurants and cafes. Here are some of my recommendations.

Chili Jamba Beach Lounge

Chili Jamba can be found on the rooftop of a hostel. It’s a little bit off the beach, no elevator so we had to climb all the way to the top. What we found is a charming restaurant decorated with potted plants, books, and fruits.

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Their bestseller here and one that the waitress was too excited to make is the blue lemonade. As with the food, try their silog dishes, like the ones with tuyo and daing na bangus.

By the way, this is where I met Cai’s British friends, they do have a Youtube channel called, Coshan Unchartered, do check it out if you have some time.

Little Wave

I was on keto diet one month before this trip and had plans to continue as it gave me great results. But in Boracay, I made a few exceptions. I did eat some carbs and sweets, but not all the way, and by that I mean, I shared everything with Cai. Like this chocolate bar that we had at Little Wave, a cafe at Station X. It was delicious, Cai and I approve. The coffee was also just as good.

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Nonie’s

Nonie’s is an organic restaurant, also found at Station X. Nonie is the nickname of Cenona Florencia, the mother of one of the owners, Patrick. Note that this is not necessarily a vegetarian or vegan restaurant, but they do offer healthy and organic food. Their ingredients are sourced from Visayas region. Food here is on the pricey side but the serving is big just like the bistek tagalog that Cai and I shared.

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Final thoughts

Boracay is consistently listed as one of the best tourist destinations in the world. With great tourists come great problems; improper waste disposal, pollution, overcrowding. I hoped that these will be resolved but unsure if something can actually be done. I thought it’s the price we have to pay for booming tourism. Then the closure happened, to the surprise of everyone including myself. What I deemed as a hopeless issue has been dealt with.

The rehabilitation efforts are still ongoing, but this early, you could already see the improvements. My only hope is that the new rules will be continuously imposed to ensure that we can all preserve the beauty that is Boracay.

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Philippines Travel

Hinugtan Beach – the beautiful secret of Buruanga, Aklan

Last March is a past I would rather skip if given an option. To say it was stressful would be an understatement. Without disclosing specifics, the best word to describe the events of last month is “pruning.” Don’t ask me here what it is, maybe I’ll tell you over coffee. The gist is it zapped the spark out of me over feeling all sorts of emotions for things beyond my control. I needed a respite, I needed to go somewhere, or I would go bat shiz. Thus, I started envisioning a secluded beach with white golden sand, the sun setting on the horizon. And do you know where I’d been just last Monday? On the exact beach that fit the descriptions down to the tint of the sands. It’s a pristine small beach in Buruanga, Aklan called Hinugtan beach.

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Five times I’d been to Aklan but never have I shown interest beyond Boracay. In my most recent trip, I shoot for a change. Aklan is a big province, there are other places to see.

After checking out from Henann Regency, my friend, Cai and I went to Hang Out Beach Resort for an overnight stay. The sun was high, the weather was sweltering, I would have wanted to deepen my tan, but the heat was oppressing. Cai went to the common area to do some online work; I went to our room to catch some zzs.

At around 4:00 p.m. Cai came into the room and called out my name. I opened my eyes and saw him putting away his laptop, he said it’s time that we go to Buruanga, one of the staff would be taking us there through a motorbike.

The staff is named Angel, a short girl with short hair, donning a shirt too big for her frame. Cai who fears riding motorcycles was sandwiched between Angel and me. I told him to relax if there is anyone who is more at risk it was I, not him.

The road is in good condition with some gentle slopes and steep inclines, especially toward the bend going to Hinugtan beach. There were some parts where the slope was too high, I thought Angel wouldn’t to get us through, after all, she was carrying two passengers. But she deftly maneuvered the bike, revved up the motor, built up speed, and slowly engaged the clutch. She was just as good at conquering the downhill curves. 

A few meters away from our destination, Angel parked the motorbike on the side of the trail. One last hurdle to get to paradise, we went down the newly built concrete steps beside the dirt road. Pass that is a path through the forest in which we walked for about 5 minutes until we saw the beach.

This is a lot better than I imagined, the sea glistened under the descending sun, the golden sand felt warm underneath my feet. I spotted some locals enjoying a late-afternoon swim, on the side of the beach are some cottages and lodges that tourists can rent.

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I walked down the shore where the small boats are moored. I have just left the beautiful chaos that is Boracay where I sought some peace but came to nothing. I never thought I’d find the serenity I was looking for on another beach, just a few kilometers away from Boracay.

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It was the day before my flight back to Manila, where I exist virtually on autopilot. I tried not to feel dispirited over the fact and told myself all is good. I had the rest that I longed for; fleeting but enough to help me breathe again.

Finally, Angel said it was time to go. I took one last look at Hinugtan beach and thought that it was a beautiful ending to this short sojourn.

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Accommodation Travel

Henann Regency Resort & Spa Review

My friend, Cai and I were walking toward our room, having a talk about the origin of the name of the resort in which we are staying, Henann Regency Resort & Spa. He suggested it might have been coined from two names, those of the owners, probably Filipino-Chinese and married. I nodded and said that the man’s name is probably Henry, Cai said that the woman might be an Ann, thus Henann. What we thought of as a joke, was actually right. The resort is named after Dr. Henry Chusuey, chairman of the Henann Group of Resorts and his wife, Anna.

Resort amenities

Currently, there are 6 resorts by the Henann Group on the island, the first of which was Henann Regency Resort & Spa. It was previously named Boracay Regency Beach Resort & Spa, built 21 years ago with Mediterranean-inspired architecture. Today, the luxurious beach-front hotel has over 302 rooms and impressive amenities, such as 3 swimming pools, garden and koi ponds, fitness center, VIP lounge, in-house and partner restaurants (Christina’s, Sea Breeze Cafe, Hap Chan, Mesa), bar (Wave Bar & Lounge), mini shop, convention center, and a spa (Kai Spa).

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In 2017, I had a chance to stay at one of their newest resorts, Henann Crystal Sands. It was one of the best hotels I have ever stayed in my life that I still remember it up to this day. I thought back then that I would love to try the other Henann resorts. Hence, I was very excited that my wish came true on my recent return to Boracay.

Airport transfer

One of the best things about staying at Henann is the hassle-free airport transfer. At the airport, you will be picked up by their private van service and take you to their visitor’s center. From there, you will be riding their speed boat, which could take you to Boracay in as little as 3 minutes. From the docking point, another van will take you to the exact Henann resort where you will be staying. Going back to the mainland, one of their staff will take care of the whole business of paying for the terminal fee, no need for you to wait in the queue yourself.

Accommodation

We enjoyed a 2-night stay in a deluxe room. It has a queen-size bed, a single bed, a flat-screen TV with cable, in-room safe, hot and cold shower, hairdryer, coffee and tea making facilities, and a refrigerator. It has a balcony area that looks out to their garden and swimming pool area.

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A stay is inclusive of complimentary buffet breakfast for two at Sea Breeze Café. If you book their suites, you will have access to their VIP Lounge where you can have small snacks and drinks until 7:00 p.m.

Room rates

Here are their room rates as of April 1, 2019:

Room typePHPUSD
Superior room₱9,296$179.20
Deluxe room₱10,976$211.59
Premier room₱11,984$231.02
Premier room with direct pool access₱14,448$278.52
Family room₱16,128$310.91
Junior suite₱15,456$297.95
Junior suite with direct pool access₱17,920$345.45
Executive suite₱18,032$347.24
Honeymoon suite₱21,728$418.86
Royal suite₱31,360$604.54
Presidential suite₱42,336$816.13

Note: Room rates are subject to change. Currency is based on Apr 11, 2019 conversion rates.

My most favorite part of our stay would have to the VIP Lounge. Cai and I would go there in the afternoon to enjoy their hors d’oeuvre and drinks. We were very fond of the lady who mans the lounge named Rose. She is polite and friendly and made sure that we were comfortable at all times.

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We also appreciate the generosity and kindness of the lovely operations manager, Ms. Rozel. She happened to be passing when we were in the lounge and she came in for a little chat.

The majority of Henann Regency’s guests are Chinese and South Koreans. According to Ms. Rozel, it could be attributed to the fact that there are now more direct flights to Boracay from the countries mentioned.

All in all, we had a comfortable stay at Henann Regency. I love that it is beach-front, that there are 3 swimming pools to choose from, and that the staff are attentive and courteous. It’s one of the luxury accommodation that I’d recommended to anyone in need of the ultimate relaxation in Boracay.

Contact information

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Henann Regency Resort and Spa
Station 2, Balabag Boracay Island
Boracay, 5608 Aklan
Telephone no: (63) (36) 288-6111 to 17
Email: manila.hrb@henann.com

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