Saturday, May 5, 2007

Photos Led to Boracay's Discovery

We are surprised by its awesome beauty. We enjoyed the powder-like white sands and breathtaking sunset. But do you have any idea how this beautiful island called Boracay was discovered?

It was my second time in Boracay and I was not here for any ordinary outing experience. I was here in search of Boracay's history, art and culture. But the truth of the matter is, this island does not have much of a history and it's quite challenging to find out its past.

I began my work early morning strolling down the 4- kilometer stretch of the beach shore, even if I was a bit tired from the party the night before with my officemates. I went to the southern part and found myself in the unexplored haven of Brgy. Manoc-manoc. Though the place has a few sprouts of establishments already, it is not overcrowded. The sand is also refined but not as first-class white that you can found in Stations I and II. The harbor is quite a scenery and
fresh air can be felt for it has a bountiful of forest reserves which are still unspoiled.

I had the privilege to talk with a certain Manong Ruben while he was busy unrooting wild grasses around his mango tree. He told me that there's a lot of stories about Boracay but he only gave me a few. He said that there were early settlers who inhabited the island and fishing was their primary source of income.


According to him, based on the old folk stories, the discovery of Boracay was brought by a simple photo taken as a souvenir that was given to a local fisherman and it was shown to a German backpackers who are on their quest for the elusive puka shells. From there, they have discovered this wide and endless stretch of beach that is now popularly known as the white beach. After that, its first visitors were mostly Europeans, particularly Swiss and Germans and they usually campfire on the beach.

I asked him why frequent brownouts happened in "Bora". He smiled and said " You must be thankful that at least you have the electricity to enjoy while on your stay." The early forms of accommodation here were rudimentary. A mattress on the bamboo floor of a native-style hut was considered a "luxury," he continues. "There were no such niceties as hot and cold showers, televisions, telephones or even restaurants." Two decades ago, this place is nothing more than just a scattering of fishing villages.

Electricity did not come to this island until the early 1990s. During those years, candles and kerosene lamps provided the only manmade light under the glittering stars or the brilliant tropical moon. But this did not stop from the curiosity of foreigners, they flocked in numbers and decided to settle here. Early settlers were mostly Europeans then after few years, came the Americans.

Manong Ruben vigorously added that even Hollywood filmmakers were driven by curiosity to visit the place. They were amazed with its beauty and decided to shoot on this island the film "Too Late the Hero”, in 1969 that starred the popular British actor Michael Caine. From this movie alone and the still photos that was brough back to the studio, Boracay became a byword.

Then words spread like fire and pretty soon, Lonely Planet's Jens Peters found his way here along with his photographer. And when the Island got listed in the backpacking bible, Boracay was transformed into a major destination in the international travel circuit.

His niece became one of the pioneers to be employed in Cocomangas' Shooter Bar, a very popular drinking and party place that was established ten years ago. This place is owned by an American. After that, other foreign-owned establishments started to flourish on the island and even luxury hotels started to grow.


I continue documenting the place, shoot its landscape, people and the hotels and start to wonder this God's made haven that attracted more than 100,000 tourists a year. What is its secret? What compel them to go to this place?

To give you some facts, Boracay island is seven kilometers long and three kilometers wide. It is divided into three barangays. Yapak lies in the north, Balabag in the center and Manoc-Manoc in the south. Now, I'm going north and see what stories I can find there.

I started at Station I and went straight to the famous landmark of Boracay - The Willy's Rock which is a floating grotto isle during high tides. I took some pictures to get a wider view of the beach.

As I look around, I recall what Manong Ruben had said, "I remember that one of the earliest to rise on this area was the Red Coconut Resort. Then later on, hotels in concrete construction, such as Willy's Beach Resort and Pearl of the Pacific. Now, these hotels have become a tourist destination and bookings now became expensive.

The northern end of the white beach, you can find the famous Fridays Hotel and Resort. The accommodation here is really high than in any part of the island. Mostly, personalities and members of the elite class are booked here. This area has the powdery sand on which Boracay
has become famous for. Aside from that, the sceneries of the long stretch island plus those glorious view of both local and foreign tourists in scantily clad bikinis could not escaped my paparazzi shot.

The scourging heat of the sun never stopped me from having conversation with some local tourists and got some more info about the place. Most of the tourists who come here like parties and ultimate enjoyment or "gimmick" such as rave party and tecquilla body shots and more. I even tried asking some girls to pose for me for a pictorial that they were all agreed.

Then I went to the northern tip and crossed the island path and saw the overlooking paradise of Nami resort, the Spider and Monkey houses that are truly unique in the island. Couples love this place because the cliffs hide villas, nipa huts and cottages from prying
eyes. The sea is just a few steps away and a panoramic view of Bora is such a grandeur thing to look at. This part of the island can't be seen when you are at the central area. You have to walk through meandering footpath in order to reach this place.

Now that I have conquered the north to south of Boracay, the pictures on my camera were the only evidence and witness of how I discover the island's miraculous beauty. These pictures if publish and be seen by many, would be another rediscovery of this famous island. Hidden paradise like this is just here for you to discover. By just sitting around in one beach resort can't be a worthwhile stay. Party, sports, spa and other amenities can be found in any place but these places that I have been through are such a beauty worth coming back.

Behind its pristine beauty and abundance in natural resources, today, the island of Boracay can become a photographers' haven for practicing their craft and at the same time to capture its internal beauty which could lead to become a cover in one or two travel magazines and might also enjoy by tourists in the wonder of Philippine postcards. Even with the advent of technology and modernization, Boracay still remains a place of surpassing beauty of nature...a Paradise. It can certainly continue to claim the title of "The world's most beautiful tropical island" and can be found in my native land.... The Philippines.

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• Only in Boracay

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