|White Beach on the Philippine resort island of Boracay provides a spectacular sunset. Korea Times photo by Shim Jae-yun|
By Shim Jae-yun
BORACAY, the Philippines ― Fatigued by stressful daily routines, we may feel tempted to take a cozy rest in a quiet and clean place. It would be better if such leaves with potentially tedious itineraries are occasionally sparked by dynamic outdoor activities. Boracay is renowned for its scenic beaches that attract tourists from around the globe. Enthralling sunsets, emerald-colored seawater, fine sand and hopping tours make Boracay a heaven for tourists.
Boracay is the most frequented travel destination among more than 7,600 islands of the Philippines. It ranked ninth out of the top 20 islands in the world in the 29th in the World Travel Awards in 2022. Diverse convenience facilities, such as luxurious resorts and well-serviced hotels offering various cuisines, add to the pleasure of travelers.
The island's residents who we encountered appeared happy with broad smiles. In the downtown area, many roads were under repair and maintenance with signs that read, "slow down." Yet despite traffic congestions, they hardly vented anger or honked a horn in contrast to Seoul where people grow easily agitated as they rush to their destinations. Local children are often spotted in coastal areas, proving the island is replete with peaceful and natural environments.
|Photographers take pictures of a newlywed couple kissing at White Beach on the Philippine resort island of Boracay. Korea Times photo by Shim Jae-yun|
Fine, white sands softly caress your bare feet. Surfers enjoy the romance and adventure of the blue ocean with the setting sun in the background. Newlywed couples hug and kiss for pictures. A woman passionately embraces her boyfriend as they dance. Others leisurely drink mango juice while enjoying the fresh sea breeze. All these scenes make us believe the island is a paradise.
The sand of White Beach is very fine, like flour. And it doesn't feel so hot even at noon. The result of clams, seaweeds and stones weathering over millennia, it is illegal to remove the sand from the beach.
About a 15-minute ride to the east from White Beach is Ilig-Iligan Beach where visitors can view Cujo's Keyhole. And a 20-minute walk from White Beach's Station 2 will lead to Bulabog Beach where they can enjoy the stunning sunrise and the refreshing sea breeze.
Boracay has a circumference of 12 kilometers and a beach that stretches for 7km. White Beach is recognized as one of the world's three most famous beaches, while "Puka Shell Beach" is known for its sand made from clams. People can enjoy the peaceful atmosphere at Ilig Iligan Beach known for its natural scenery and spaciousness. Travelers can enjoy water sports at Blabog Beach and Tambisan Beach.
Station 1 at the White Beach is home to Willy's Rock, which is the very place representing Boracay. It is a volcanic islet floating on the emerald-colored sea with a stairway to the beach allowing easy access. A small statue of the Virgin Mary that stands on the islet reminds us that the Philippines is a Catholic nation.
|Tourists can go snorkeling on a 'hopping tour' and 'paraw' sailing around the Philippine resort island of Boracay. Korea Times photo by Shim Jae-yun|
Heaven of hopping tour
In Boracay, tourists can enjoy diverse water sports, such as snorkeling and scuba diving, hopping between islets. Tours are available on the island in traditional "banka boats." As the most populous shopping district in Boracay, D-Mall is located near Station 2, reminiscent of the bustling Myeongdong neighborhood in downtown Seoul. It has numerous eateries and shopping outlets. There are also restaurants selling Korean food like "tteokbokki" and "kimmari."
According to the Philippine Department of Tourism, some 56,000 Koreans visited Boracay as of May 9, topping the list of foreign tourists. Given this, Korean travelers can shop at nearby Kalibo International Airport in Korean won. They can also enjoy Korean food there such as "ramyeon," "gimbap," and "tteokbokki."
|Local children and their mother enjoy swimming at a beach on the Philippine resort island of Boracay. Korea Times photo by Shim Jae-yun|
Efforts to protect environment
Early in the morning, it is common to see employees of restaurants along the beaches clean and sweep. State-hired workers also diligently clean the streets and beaches.
In 2017, more than 2 million people visited the island, turning it into a garbage heap. To cope with the environmental destruction, the Philippine government came with the bold step of closing down the island for six months from April 2018 to buy time to install sewage treatment facilities. Establishments that met strict environmental requirements could reopen. With the goal of enhancing air quality, Jeeps turned into taxis disappeared, because they discharge huge amounts of carbon. Boracay's tour agency installed warning boards and employed beach guards in many places who are entitled to impose penalties on violators.
|Willy's Rock, an iconic spot on the Philippine resort island of Boracay. Korea Times photo by Shim Jae-yun|
Boracay's aborigines are the Ati people. They were once discriminated. But now they are protected and their human rights are respected. Many of them work in the region's tourist facilities such as hotels and factories manufacturing daily necessities like soap. An Ati resident, Juanito Flore, guided us. He is 52, single and cares for his old mother. Always smiling, he expressed a deep affection for his people.
In line with the tour's theme of "wellness," itineraries were well prepared and progressed smoothly, providing precious opportunities for healing and refreshing. After a virtual shutdown during the COVID-19 pandemic, Boracay was recovering vitality, which could be seen in the broad smiles of the tour guides and the employees at restaurants and hotels. As the island managed to retain its beauty, the current efforts toward environmental protection should continue without interruption to make the island remain as a sanctuary of wellness.