Thursday, August 23, 2012

Love in a Hopeless Place? (Ramblings about Boracay)

A/N: This isn't going to be coherent, nor detailed. Much has been said and written about Boracay, and I don't think I'd be able to contribute anything new to the wealth of online info about it. Besides, it's probably one of the most hassle-free vacation destination there is, and contrary to what is widely-believed, not really that expensive (or maybe because I was there in the off-season?)I was a first time visitor, and despite my initial misgiving about the place due to its reputation as a party island (I'm not a party person), I'd thoroughly enjoyed myself. Also, I managed to do just what I came to the island for: tone down my travel hyperactivity and just stay put. Yay.

So what about the title?
Every single time I pass by D'mall, I hear that song playing. Up until now it's still a loop inside my head. I don't know why the shops play that song endlessly. But seriously, every single time.  I can tell immediately if I'm nearing D'mall even with my eyes closed: that song would be blaring from speakers.

One of the alleys in D'mall.

I wonder what's the fascination with it.

And now, every time my thoughts touch Boracay, that song automatically plays in my mind. Sigh.

I don't think I'd walked as much in a new place as I'd walked in Boracay. I'd walked the length of the white beach; I'd walked along the cemented streets and into places untouched by the glitters of the party paradise. I would have walked to the helmet-diving jump-off had my hosts allowed me; but they'd insisted it was too far and I had to take a trike. I found out the next day, in one of my aimless walks, that it would have taken me just 20 minutes to walk (leisurely) from the inn to the site via the market. Well, now I know. I also now know how far Tambisaan port is: it is 30-minute brisk walk away from Station 3. I know, because I walked from my inn to that port. Fair warning: the route is pretty straight-forward, but had uphills. The scenery on the way was rural and therefore very interesting, so it was worth walking along, even with a backpack that becomes heavier by the minute.
One of the main thorough-fares in Boracay

Walking is the best way I know to get to know a new place intimately; it allows me to see things that would otherwise be just a blur. It allows me to form memories with sound and smell and touch. When I walk, I can feel the essence of the place seeping through my skin. Every thump of my feet in the pavement or dirt or sand inscribed a memory and lodged it firmly in my brain. When walking, I get to look at people's faces, answer their smiles, or laugh inwardly at their incredulity of seeing a small girl with a giant backpack walking her way to the port that was "just too far away".
The fine, white sand of Boracay is perfect for walking barefoot.

I've always wanted to walk my heart out in a new place, but somehow never managed to do just that. Oh, I'd walked 5k downhill in La Union, and I'd walked a little in that barrio in Hinatuan and in the streets of El Nido and Puerto Princesa, but it was only in Boracay that I've spent majority of my days walking. My legs are suffering a bit of DOMS now, but they kinda miss the action. Perhaps in my future trips I'd make it a point to include walking in the itinerary. Hm.
Happy feet. :)
One of the many things that makes walking in Boracay very interesting is the abundance of food, specially along the beach. There are sausages and fresh fruits and popcorn and ice-cream and  siomais and shawarmas and grilled everything. I was ecstatic to find dried squid sold at every stall, and I couldn't resist buying one from time to time, despite its hefty price.
Grilled dried squid. I could eat this all day.
 Buffet meals abound too, but I didn't avail any, because I was always full. Haha. Famous restaurants would be bursting at meal times, so I always ate at non-crowded ones. Perhaps, it was the sea air that makes every thing so delicious, because I had never walked away from a meal dissatisfied (except for that milk shake. Was it perhaps, because of my high expectations?) The most notable food for me were the calamansi muffins of Real Coffee, and the cheesecakes from Lemoni Cafe.

It's the beach version of Babel
Conversations swirled around me in different tongues. At one side, a Chinese guide spew forth rapid Boracay factoids (I assumed) in Mandarin (again, I assumed) to a group of Chinese tourists. All around, other non-Chinese-speaking tourists look with interest, some of them perhaps, fascinated with the way her voice was laced with so much ardor. It would be interesting to know what was so interesting about the t-shirt shop she was gesturing to. Not too far away, a group of Koreans clustered around one of the map installments, looking for a restaurant. I can recognize some of their words, having seen so many k-dramas.  French and Italian tourists pass by, leaving snippets of their languages floating in the air. Locals converse in their mother tongue, adding to the din. Even more confusing, locals speaking those foreign languages.The language soup gets too thick sometimes, that I find myself unable to distinguish one from the other. It's a nice mental exercise though, to try and untangle the words and speculate where they could be from.

Tourist traffic. 
It's quite something though, that despite the thousand and one different languages, there seems to be no language barriers.

Sunset appreciation
Boracay is proud of its sunset, and rightly so. At four pm, the sun starts to noticeably descend, its ray casting a path onto the cerulean waters. Paraws starts to beeline for the golden sunset, lining up in the horizon like obedient school kids. People starts to flock to the beach to snap and pose for pictures. A few minutes later the beach would be so crowded it would be impossible to snap a sunset picture without humans in it. By that time, the sea would have receded a lot, leaving a wide beach and plenty of room for all picture takers.

A group of picture-takers blocking my view. Hmp. Haha
People and paraws.

  I would usually leave my spot when the sun has completely gone down, and then join the throng of people making their way to the dining spots in the island.

After the sun sets.
Evenings are lovely in Boracay. The air would be fragrant with the smell of barbeque. Stalls of seafood would line the alley, their fluorescent lights illuminating the freshest catch of the day. Amidst shouted invitations to buffets and sea side restaurants, the cool, soothing voice of acoustic singers would float in the air, weaving through the hum and babble of conversations. With the waves crashing in the shore, the resulting sound of the night is almost like music in itself.

..we found love in a hopeless place...
 Sounds. Sight. Senses. This-- this long, rambling, almost a travelogue but not quite-- ramblings, is how I'd remember Boracay, and this how I'd spend my days again when I go back there.
I had so many misconceptions about the place, but boy, was I proven wrong.

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