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A paradise reborn

We had no guests for almost three years.

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UNLIKE in the pre-pandemic days, tourists come in trickles at the Godofredo P. Ramos Airport in Caticlan, the gateway to the island of Boracay. Commercial flights used to be limited to eight per day, but have already increased to more than 20 starting November. / PHOTOGRAPHs by julius manicad for the daily tribune

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.

BEACH bums enjoy the extra wide shoreline following the completion of the rehabilitation of Boracay last year.

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.

Local boys shout and wave at guests on an island-hopping tour. With tourism activities in Boracay no longer like it used to be, residents cheer whenever they see guests who are willing to spend and help them make ends meet.

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.

BOATMEN assist a guest who is on her way to an island-hopping tour. With the closure of Boracay, tourism activities were greatly limited, dealing a major blow to the livelihood of the residents.

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.

IT’S been a long, boring day for this paddleboard instructor as guests would rather spend their money on food and accommodation rather than engage in water activities.

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.

TOURISTS enjoy the beauty of Crystal Cove Island, a private resort that is around 30 minutes away from Boracay. With travel restrictions starting to ease up, Crystal Cove Island and other attractions can now expect a lot of guests.

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.

KEYCHAINS and other souvenirs no longer sell like hotcakes as tourism activities in Boracay remain sluggish.

“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.

BUSINESS is definitely not good for this vendor, who claims that his earning of P500 to P700 a day before the island’s back-to-back closures had already been cut to more than half.

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.

WITH sales hard to come, this vendor gets extra creative by paddling way deep into the sea just to sell his fresh coconuts to island-hopping tourists.

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.

TAKING a late-day stroll along the seashore still remains a hobby for the very few tourists in Boracay. Most of these guests are long-term tenants who checked in prior to the Covid-19 lockdown in the island.

The paradise, the heaven on earth, is getting reborn.

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