There was a time in my life when the tiny, unexpected twists and dips during travel were considered fun. Wrong turns meant new sights to behold; lost wallets meant new strategies; and seedy, dilapidated hotels were “charming haunts full of character.”
These days, as joints have begun to get creaky,and once confounding adages like “time is gold,” have become replete with sense, I’ve come to see these quaint little scenarios for what they really are: monster migraine triggers.
The last time I was in Boracay was a month ago, at the height of summer. Our plane was forcibly rerouted to Kalibo, the pier was a tangle of body parts, and the beach was filled with oily muscles, pop music, teenagers, etc.
I vowed never to set foot on White Beach ever again. At least not on the last weekend of April.
At the same time I realized that budget carriers in the Philippines are truly the stuff of nightmares. To get back home, B and I went for the Caticlan-Iloilo-Manila route, which was several thousands of pesos cheaper than Caticlan-Manila.
For six hours we lurched about in a cramped bus, determined to get to the Iloilo airport early. We arrived a good three hours before our flight. A few minutes before boarding time, just as we began to clutch at our backpacks with excitement, the PA system cackled to life: Our plane would be delayed for three hours. That announcement sealed the fate of my faith in budget airlines.
A few weeks ago, however, I took off on a low-cost Seair flight to Kalibo from Clark. This happened because of two things: One, I was confident in the moody month of May’s ability to scare
Boracay crowds away, and two, I was confident in Seair’s expansion as a low-cost carrier.
I’ve always liked Seair. I think the airline exudes a subtle elegance and a quality on par with some international airlines. It is, after all, the Philippines’ second oldest airline and the first to open up routes to some of this country’s best destinations, like Coron and Caticlan.
But the most appealing thing about Seair, for me at least, is their on-time performance. Actual statistics: For February 2012, 94% of the time, Seair arrivals and departures never went more than 15 minutes past the published time.
More exciting news: The airline is now operating low-cost flights on newly acquired Airbus crafts to local and international destinations like Hong Kong and Kota Kinabalu, with different promos on their site week after week. I’m ecstatic about the cheap fares, but really, I’m just happy to have a choice.
The total cost of our round trip flight from Clark airport to Kalibo? P749. Clark-bound Philtranco buses leave nearly every hour from Megamall and Pasay for about P400.
Once you land in Kalibo, it’s another two-hour bus ride costing around P200 to get to Caticlan, where you will board the ferry to Boracay. For travelers on a budget, take heed: this route costs less money and takes much less time than the Ro-Ro option.
In fact, Seair’s Clark-Kalibo flights are so cheap that you deserve to use the money you didn’t spend on a nice hotel in Boracay instead. Boracay Garden is offering a good lean season deal until Nov. 11, 2012. For about P6,000/ pax, you get two nights and three days at this Triple A resort, which is managed and owned by the same group that owns Boracay Regency and Boracay Lagoons, inclusive of breakfast and dinner buffet every day.
For an additional fee, you can also arrange to get picked up at Kalibo airport and brought to the hotel’s lobby, which is brilliant because you get to skip the mad, multiple lines at the ferry terminal. (Why do we need different lines for each ticket again?)
Boracay Garden’s rooms are huge, and their junior suites face the pool. I was placed in one of them, and so for the next few days, was treated to a solid view of all the festivities: mostly happy Koreans flailing in and about the water.
From there it’s a short walk to the resort’s café, where you can pounce on Filipino, American, Japanese, Italian, and Chinese fare without remorse. It’s ok to surrender: the hotel has a gym. Which I promise to try the next time I’m there.
Lean season in Boracay is bliss: The weather is cool and the crazy summer sun is gone. The crowds have thinned, the sky is overcast, the sea is flat, and you can lie outstretched and unperturbed on the sand for hours, lost in a book or in the absolute beauty of the island without all the people.
By the time my four-day trip had ended, I had made amends with Boracay. It’s really not its fault it’s so beautiful that people feel compelled to get drunk on its shores all the time. I was content, and oblivious to all such niggling, trifling disturbances.
Boracay Gardens arranged for transfers to send us back to Caticlan, where we boarded the big cozy bus back to the Kalibo airport. The ride takes two hours, but if there is one seemingly unpleasant travel twist that I had long ago learned to love, it’s staring out from huge, slightly fuzzy windows during long, rather bumpy rides, watching strange roads and lives rumble by.
Visit flyseair.com or www.tigerairways.com/ph for more low-cost destinations, and www.boracaygarden.com.ph for more details.
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