Published at P3 (Click here to access)
After two succeeding destructive October typhoons that hit both Luzon and Visayas, it was a sweltering Saturday morning –as if the heavens desired Boracay and I to finally get acquainted. I can taste anxiety inside my mouth during the longest 45-minutes of my life as the small commercial plane flew its way from Ninoy Aquino International Airport Terminal 3 to Godofredo P. Ramos Airport in Caticlan, Aklan. For someone who’s used to huge planes flying the Manila-Bacolod route, flying on board a small plane was quite a challenge, it made my stomach turn.
Heaving a sigh of relief, excitement and uncertainty, I looked out the plane’s window when the captain announced our final descent. I was mesmerized by the stark yet complimentary contrast of verdant mountainous islands and invitingly blue waters. “I now believe in love at first sight,” was something I exclaimed loudly the guy seated next to me stared at me quizzically.
My mom was taking the next flight from Manila to Caticlan, so our arrangement was, I’d wait for her at the airport. Because her flight was delayed, which seems to be a norm for this certain airline that believes ‘it’s time every Juan flies,’ I had to wait forever for her to arrive.
I was a Boracay-virgin, only having seen the pristine white beach from friends’ photos, magazines and the almost-omniscient World Wide Web. Trying to explore our adventurous selves, and not to mention being on a rather tight budget, we didn’t arrange land transfers from the airport to Caticlan Jetty Port. When we touched down, we were directed to an information desk where we’d have to give them a few details about us and our trip. Because I read on the internet that being a local, or being able to at least speak the local’s language would help you get discounts, I decided to speak my native tongue, Hiligaynon –a language which is similar to some languages spoken in Aklan.
Because Caticlan airport was rather small, they didn’t have a waiting area at the arrival section but once you step out, there are stores where you can actually buy snacks and sit while waiting. My mom’s flight touched down a little past nine in the morning, and so our Caticlan adventure begun.
After leaving the arrival area, we asked where to hire a tricycle to the port. Just outside the airport, a few meters walk from the arrival area, was a well-organized tricycle station where you can hire a special trip for P100 (for a maximum of two passengers.) I instructed the driver to bring us to the jetty port and so he did. The ride was around 10 minutes, and he dropped us off at the entrance of the port where we paid for the bangka (a wooden motorized boat) fare, environmental fee and boarding fee all amounting to P250 per person. After securing our tickets, the port authorities directed us to the departure area.
Trying to muster all my courage to do a balancing act for me board the bangka, I took a few moments to breathe in the captivating morning view —the scorching Saturday sun kissing the crystal clear Caticlan waters and Boracay island waiving in the background, as keen tourists like myself try to contain our excitement.
After the calm 15-minute sail to the island, we disembarked at the port which looked identical to the one we boarded from. Inside the port were all kinds of transportation which could bring you to your hotel. Instead of taking a special trip which would cost us another hundred bucks, we took the normal trip. There were six of us on a tricycle, seven including the driver and we paid P25 each. That ride was a bit longer than I expected, maybe because we had to drop off other passengers along the way before we finally reached the hotel.
We crossed the busy street to get to our hotel, and a friendly face welcomed us at Boracay Tropics’ reception. It was a little past ten in the morning, so we tried our luck if they’d allow us to check-in before the prescribed 2:00 PM check-in time. Because there were unoccupied rooms and we had prior reservation, they gladly gave us welcome drinks and escorted us to our rooms. Excited as I was, I threw my things inside the cabinet, changed to my beach wear, stuffed my tote bag with my camera, beach towel, hotel key, wallet and phone, grabbed the bottled water from the refrigerator and marched out of my room to pick up my mom from the next room, then headed for the shore.
The hotel we booked unfortunately wasn’t on the beach front so we had to walk a short five minutes to get to Station 2. The white sand heaven is divided into three stations: Station 1 is home to high-end resorts while Stations 2 and 3 host midrange resorts, restaurants and malls, with the former being busier than the latter.
When we finally caught sight of the shore, I was so thrilled I had to stop myself from running towards the water. My better judgment made me scour for an affordable beach hat before I bathe under the sun. Vendors in identical shirts roam around the beach selling all kinds of hats, souvenir items and pearls. A beach hat costs P300 but because I speak their language and maybe because of a bit of charm, I got it for P200.
Every five steps we took, or even less, someone would offer water activities such as banana boat ride, helmet diving, island hopping, kite boarding, sailing, glass bottom boat. These water sports are best done in groups since packages are offered for small and large groups. Since it was just me and mom, and she was not allowed to do extreme activities because of her health, this trip was not for water adventures –unless we can count swimming as an ‘adventure.’ If I decided to try any of the water sports, I would have been included to larger groups which had an extra slot but because I don’t usually trust strangers (which I think is a good thing given how dangerous the world can be today), I decided to just enjoy the mother-daughter bonding time. But, I promised myself I’ll come back with friends to conquer Boracay’s water sports.
We ended up strolling to D’mall, the largest shopping center in the area located on Station 2. Restaurants and souvenir shops are clustered next to each other giving tourists a plethora of options on where and what to eat, as well as where to do their island shopping. We checked one store after another and hauled very affordable souvenir items.
All the walking and shopping made our stomachs grumble so we decided to grab dinner. There were buffets everywhere and the fresh seafood choices were so tempting but most beach front restaurants along Station 2 were packed and we were really starving so we ended up eating at Deco’s Batchoy, also along Station 2. I had a splitting headache which I knew would be cured by caffeine so we passed by Café del Sol so I can get an iced cappuccino to-go. They have a very impressive menu of coffee-based drinks which intrigued the coffee addict in me.
Checking the time, we were surprised it was already a quarter past 10 in the evening, so we decided to walk back to our hotel. Before heading to our rooms, we took a refreshing swim at the hotel pool. We then decided to call it a night.
It was raining cats and dogs the next morning so a stroll along the beach and finally catching the sunrise wasn’t possible. Our flight to Manila leaves Kalibo by 3:15pm so we had to leave Boracay by eleven.
Before leaving my room, I made sure to note down everything I wasn’t able to accomplish in Boracay on my first visit –which included water activities, island hopping, trying out the Coco Mangas Shooter’s still-standing-after-15 challenge, pigging out at buffets, and seeing the fire dancers among others –and made a promise to myself I’m coming back to conquer all the adventures Boracay has to offer. –HFD
*If you have questions about traveling to Boracay that you think I can help you with, you can email me at [email protected], tweet me @hannahdormido, or access the original article published at P3 and leave your questions at the comments section.