I have never gone to Boracay until last year, in November 2012. I’d often scorn at Facebook posts of friends excitedly hopping on a plane to the “best beach in Asia.” Most seasoned travelers have opined that Boracay is now too crowded with tourists, and the nightlife is just like Manila, only with white sand.
I never really intended to go. With so many beaches in the country’s 7,107 islands, surely it’s not a loss. However, a close friend moved to Boracay for work, and another was about to leave for Norway for good. It was going to be a bittersweet vacation, but I love my friends so much and wanted to spend time with them that I decided to join them in this out-of-town going-away party.
I like to travel cheap, so I took the 2Go Ferry. From Ortigas where I work and live, I took a taxi (don’t ask why, and I won’t tell) to Batangas Port, and arrived a little after 7pm(a). The trip would take 9 hours, from 9pm to 6am—very much like a night shift. Before getting on the boat I had to queue for inspection. I had a brief moment of feeling nervous that the dogs might sniff something from my backpack and I wouldn’t get to go after all.
Thankfully, I was in the clear. And just to be clear, I’ve never done drugs. But there are occasions when you fear that you might have been used as a drug mule and all your dreams crumble. Anyway, I walked on the plank that led me to imagine a scene from Titanic, when Jack looks inside the ship for the first time. It was my first time on a ferry, after all. But I wasn’t that fazed then. I felt excitement.
The interior was lit with yellow light that gave it a warm ambiance. It had a lively pink motif that was pleasing to the eyes; everything looked modern and inviting. The staff were friendly, and they led me to my accommodation. I booked for a bed under the Mega Value accommodations, and I was pleasantly surprised by what I saw. The room didn’t look dingy at all; there were clean bunker beds in numerous rows, and the room didn’t smell. I would have taken the much cheaper bed, but given that it was my first time, I was a bit wary. I dropped my bag and chatted with a friendly old lady who was going South to meet her family. After our chit-chat I decided to look around. I ended up at the bar. It felt romantic, with the winds blowing; it was perfect for cuddling, so I cuddled myself (I was traveling alone, remember?). The ferry had a nice bar and I was tempted to get myself a glass of rum and coke, but at the time it was mostly men who were hanging by the bar, so I only hung around long enough to not make it seem awkward.
Back on my bed, I was reading some messages from other friends who lived on the island. The Full Moon Party at Area 51 was in full swing. “Too bad you’re just on the way,” a friend texted. Yeah, too bad. I just closed my eyes and tried to sleep.
It was difficult to sleep like a baby, not because it felt like I was on a boat, but because it was freezing. I brought a sarong with me to the trip for cold moments like this, but again I felt like Jack when he was dangling by the wood that buoyed Rose to safety. He was freezing his butt off, and so was I. Admitting defeat, but not yet ready to die (sorry, Jack), I got up and rented a blanket at the Passenger Counter. It somehow made the cold bearable, but it still didn’t feel warm.
I set my alarm at 5am because I wanted to watch the sunrise and take photos. I woke up with a smile and rushed to the bathroom, which took my grin away. In contrast to the cleanliness of the room, the bathroom looked old and unsanitary. I’ve seen worse, much worse toilets while taking the bus back to my hometown, but after my positive impression of the beds, I kind of expected the bathroom to be cleaner (note to self: less expectations, less disappointments). I got ready anyway, because I didn’t want to miss the sunrise.
Lo and behold, it was raining. The sky was dark, raindrops were hitting the windows with an audible thud, and the wind was blowing violently. Oh, well. I shrugged myself back to my room, but not without stopping by the restaurant. I don’t drink coffee, so I asked the waitress if they had chocolate. Sadly, they did not. And the food was expensive, as is to be expected. I decided to go back to bed and try to get some sleep until we reach the port.
The boat came to a stop, and my heart raced. This is it. In a few minutes I will be stepping on the famous shores of Boracay. I shouldn’t have judged the place before experiencing it. Here I was, traveling to the Visayas for the first time, alone, and anticipating good memories from this trip. The staff opened the entrance and I felt the Boracay sun kissing my my face welcome.
(a) This is an instance when being fabulously late is not acceptable, especially if you are taking the boat for the first time. I left after work and did not anticipate the Manila traffic getting that heavy (silly me). Passengers have to be at the Port 4 hours before the ferry leaves. I was lucky to get there at 7:30pm, but I had to spend so much that it kind of ruined the trip for me, but just a wee bit. Since the ferry had fixed rates, I only paid Php644, everything included.