Thursday, March 29, 2007

The white, white sands of Boracay

My wife and I got married on December 2006, but we decided to defer our honeymoon to Valentine's Day. Valentine's is a bit significant for us because that's also when I proposed to her (okay, not exactly on Valentine's Day, but it was our Valentine's dinner so it's practically the same). We decided to to have our honeymoon in Boracay, primarily because we hadn't been there yet.

At first it sounded so cliche to go to Boracay. After all, EVERYONE was going or has gone to Boracay. It's one of the most advertised beaches in the Philippines (in Pinoy terms, gasgas na siya). Not to mention which, I've also heard the stories about how Boracay was becoming overdeveloped and overcrowded. However, we had to try it at least once, so the decision was set.

Boy, I'm sure glad we went to Boracay, because we really enjoyed our stay there. Although our guide mentioned that it wasn't as rustic and peaceful as it used to be, being new to the area, Boracay was still charming enough that we want to go back.

It all started with a search in the Internet for honeymoon packages for Boracay. I wasn't familiar with the place and I was a bit pressed for time because I was in the middle of wedding preparations then. This wasn't the most cost efficient way to go about it, but it was the best I could do at the time. Luckily, I was able to find one such package and Cebu Pacific had this great promo ticket price. So I made the reservations, paid the bills and all we had to do was wait for the day itself.

Boracay Island is located at the northwestern tip of Panay Island, in the province of Aklan. According to our guide, a Japanese survey team discovered that Boracay island itself is just perched on top of the ocean shelf. Well, we better hope there's no strong sideways earthquake that will dislodge the island.

There are actually two ways to get to Boracay, either by sea or by air. I would have preferred the sea route because it's more relaxed and scenic, but we only had a few days, so we had to fly in. One can either fly to Kalibo or arrive at Caticlan which is closer to Boracay Island. However, Caticlan Airport is small, so only propeller planes can service the area. I've heard how riding in a propeller plane can be like riding a roller coaster. Not feeling like a bronco on rodeo day, we chose to fly to the much farther Kalibo Airport. For me, an Airbus beats a prop plane any time of the day.

Upon arriving at Kalibo, we took a 1-1/2 hour bus ride to the port of Caticlan. There wasn't much traffic and the route was scenic enough, so the travel time was worthwhile. After a short boat ride, we were finally there, in Boracay!

After checking in at Club Manila East, we basically went around the shops to explore the place. We ate a late lunch at a nice seafood place called Paradiso Grill. We bought a few trinkets and after that basically rested until it was time for dinner.

Come night time, the beach front changes face. All the nice lights come out and the music starts playing. One thing I liked was that the restaurants would set up tables and chairs, so that one can have dinner just a few feet from the surf. Others even had matting and pillows so that one can really lounge on the ground while having a few beers with friends. All in all, it was a very comfy setting.

We finally decided to eat at this Mexican-themed restaurant (the name of which I unfortunately forgot), primarily because there weren't many people plus there was some nice music playing. I liked the ambience and it would be a perfect place for a Valentine's dinner. We ordered some burritos (big servings, these) and whiled the night away.

Admittedly, the beachfront places were a bit pricey, though not exhorbitant. There are cheaper eating places further into the interior, but we had to experience the beachfront food places at least once.

One thing I have to say is that although it was technically the peak season, the beaches weren't that crowded. There were enough people for the beach not to feel isolated or empty, but not so much that one would feel crowded. I preferred it this way, because a few years ago I had experienced going to Puerto Galera during Holy Week and navigating the beach there felt like going through Divisoria.

On our second day at Boracay, we went on an island-hopping tour. It was an additional cost, but we might as well see as much of the area as we could. We first went to this fish feeding area. It reminded me of feeding fish in our aquarium back home, but the sea spray and rocking boat really made the home experience rather drab by comparison. Next we went to Crystal Cove island to visit some nice caves. After that we had to cut the trip short because the waves were a bit strong and my wife was getting nervous, but it was still a nice experience.

After the island-hopping experience, we had lunch at this place called La Isla Bonita. They had rooms and cottages but they also had a small restaurant that served affordable but sumptuous food. I practically gorged myself there (to the horror of my wife). Most of the time we were pretty much just soaking in the sights.

The place really holds a lot of potential. One can just spend all day soaking it up on the beach, or if that's no one's fancy, visiting the various shops or restaurants in the area. I really believe that Boracay has a little something for everyone.

At least I now know about how to make the trip more affordable. There's nothing like actually being there to find out. This way, we can spend more days there and do a lot more activities. For first timers, I also recommend getting a simple guide book like Boracay: The Island Guide (available at any National Bookstore). It contains a lot of information from hotels (arranged according to room rates), to eating places and trivia about the island.

Here's looking forward to our next trip to Boracay!

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