BORACAY — For the longest time, Boracay was a paradise.
Its powdery sands, crystal clear water, tree-dotted shoreline and enchanting sunset had captivated tourists around the world.
It used to be a haven for foreigners looking to escape the punishing weather in their countries as well as local yuppies who want to break free from being corporate slaves even for just a while.
Bars, restaurants and hotels were making a killing as booze and babes in scanty bikinis were flying everywhere. There were concerts and merry-making in every imaginable corner while fire dancers, seafood buffets and sand castle artists frolic the shoreline as if it is their own territory.
The nightlife had gotten so wild, so colorful and so ridiculous that revelries cleverly coined the term “Laboracay” just to justify their celebration, especially during Labor Day weekends.
Boracay was rocking — and the cash registers kept ringing.
Everybody was making a lot of money. It was heaven on earth.
But everything eventually came to a crashing halt.
Three years ago, President Rodrigo Duterte ordered the closure of the paradise island to give way for its rehabilitation.
Then, just before it could fully reopen, the coronavirus pandemic happened.
What used to be a giant party place in the middle of nowhere turned into a ghost town as tourists were barred from entering the island.
Hotels, restaurants and bars that made a fortune out of countless revelries had no choice but to shut down while local vendors, tourist guides, entertainers, and boatmen were forced to go fishing just to put something on their table.
“Gutom kami dito, boss,” said Jayson, a local tourist guide, while in the middle of an island hopping tour.
“We had no guests for almost three years. Now, we have to go to the sea to find something to eat. I think the fishes in the sea had already ran out because everybody here chose to become fishermen rather than die of hunger.”
But Jayson is now seeing the light at the end of the tunnel.
With Covid-19 now slowing down, travel restrictions have also started to ease up. From only eight a day, around 20 flights are now allowed starting November with fully-vaccinated travelers no longer required to submit negative RT-PCR tests 72 hours before entering the island.
Although a lot of restrictions are still in place and tourism activities are not yet in full swing, the fact that guests are now starting to book flights to Caticlan and take a short boat ride to the island is already a cause for celebration, especially for the likes of Jayson and countless tourism workers.
Boracay is slowly getting back on its feet.
The paradise, the heaven on earth, is getting reborn.