My first trip to Boracay was exactly 30 years ago. I stayed at the Pearl of the Pacific, Station 1. There was no electricity, no cold water even. But somehow you forgot all that as you viewed the beautiful, powder-fine white sand beach that seemed to stretch endlessly before you.
There were hardly any people then, so you could frolic around to your heart’s content, wear whatever you fancied, and strike a pose!
Five years ago, I went back and stayed in Station 2. It was a complete disaster! Food outlets—representing every cuisine in the world—now crowded the beachfront two layers deep. If you were lucky enough to get a spot to sunbathe in, your “moment” would have instantly vanished as a parade of vendors selling pearls, hats and sunglasses cast a constant shadow over your little piece of sun-splashed heaven, destroying your juju.
So, Boracay not only lost its charm for me, it disappeared from my list of destinations to visit or revisit.
But, then, my 17-year-old daughter Nicole has just graduated from high school and, as soon as the girls were officially congratulated, the entire auditorium began chanting “Bora… Bora…”
Their minds were set; plans had been made months in advance. The Boracay trip had become tradition and they all eagerly looked forward to it. (Attention, parents: Stand down!)
Resigned to the fact that the Boracay trip was inevitable, I planned to follow on the second half of the trip—a form of penance for me!
I was booked at the Pearl and, when I arrived, my first thought was, long time, no see. That I had a beachfront, a 130-sq. m. suite with a balcony and living room, helped remove the edge. The Pearl, owned by the Tirol-Sanson family and one of the first hotels built on Boracay, has the advantage of space and size that most of the other, newer hotels don’t have.
And I had also forgotten the wide beachfront it hugs, compared to that of the relatively new hotels. Somehow the unobstructed view beckons one to take a dip.
My eight-year-old Madison (who takes to water like a fish) dragged me to the beach for what she called mother-daughter bonding. It’s the only beach I know where you seem to walk forever on dazzling white, cool sand, and it takes a good 50 yards before you reach neck-deep water. The energy was good and you feel like doing a strut.
I ran into everyone else before I finally saw Nicole. Yes, I did worry about the (in)famous 15 shots and the endless partying. But somehow the comfort and renewed feeling of enjoying Boracay for myself gave me a feeling of gladness that I had braved the trip.
I was lucky to meet the owners of Pearl of the Pacific, Greg and Marilou, who talked about Boracay as their first playground when they were kids. They are in no rush to modernize the place to keep its charm.
Their menu clearly sticks to the bountiful seafood they feel is not only healthy but always fresh. I was lucky to sample their upcoming dishes, whipped up by a new chef.
I viewed Boracay with new eyes. It is still beautiful. But no matter how beautiful a place is, I feel that one’s accommodations and their location are key. That is what makes the juju. With my experience at the Pearl, my trauma is gone; the magic is back.