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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.