Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Boracay Memories (Part 2)

In part 1, I just relayed how I and my friends went there, where we stayed-at and a description of Pearl of the Pacific 1. Short maybe my memory, but that was definitely not all I have to tell. I still have to regale you with what we did there and the things like those, right? So here I go…

Day 1 Activities
First order of the day upon arrival was to choose a welcome drink that we liked – was it buko juice straight from the coconut? or pineapple juice with a thin slice of real pineapple by the rim of the glass? All of us went for the buko juice sans the usual plastic straw to sip on. You had to lug the heavy fruit with your two hands, and then smack your lips on a little hole carved on it, then start sipping the juice/water out of the fruit. Crude as it might have been, it was a very refreshing experience! [This was/is definitely far from your welcome drink at Pearl Farm or Subic’s Legenda – which is ALWAYS little glassfuls of iced tea that tastes more like brown sugar melted in water! Di ba?!] Anyway…

We were asked if we’d like to have lunch at the resort. And most of us – including the foreigners who arrived with us said yes. When we asked for their menu, the waitress readily handed us little laminated cardboards that had a list of their food and drinks. But together with that, she apologized that being low-season, some of the meat dishes on the menu may not be available. At that place and time though, who amongst us craved for meat anyway?! So we feasted on Escabeche Lapu-lapu where its lips and part of the tail protruded beyond the large oblong tray that it was served in!

With a 4D3N stay on the island, we never wanted to rush and splash on the very inviting seawater just as soon. So, that afternoon we instead roamed around dry land. I was happily surprised that there were only three means of transport on land namely, 1) via the few motorbikes that were either for hire (w/ driver) or for rent (you driving); 2) via horseback – usually with a horseman steering the animal or you riding/steering the animal with another horseman tailing and guiding you lest the horse run astray; and 3) walk by foot – the most common means for tourists and locals alike. Period, period, period!

If you want to know the modes of “public mobility” during those times again, just go back to items 1, 2 and 3. Those WERE the only transport modes on land! Period, period, period!

Bicycles? Well, there were a few but mainly used by their owners.

On our first afternoon in Boracay, we opted for option 3. And it was real fun! Boracay then was fairly just the white beach area. Strolling south to the craggy rocks and hilly portions were not very nice walks while strolling north to beyond the edge of white beach was not very much advisable without guides as there were still “natives” living there who could accidentally harm you with their spears and other crude implements – so the locals told us – and golly we believed them! Thus, our afternoon stroll was just along the exhilarating stretch of white beach dotted with a fair number of resorts and a few restaurants. Hey, this “white beach” was already the about 4 or 5 kilometer stretch where most parts were yet uninhabited! So don’t think it was a boring walk, plus we also never dreamed of walking the whole place in one afternoon anyway.

There were two choices to doing this leisurely stroll: either you walk on the sandy beach (soft sand) or you climb up to the grassy edge (just in front of all the resorts) where there was a path or dirt road (hard earth) enough for bicycles, motorcycles and horses to trod on. How wide were these pathways? Probably about two or three feet since you had to step aside when those motorbikes or horses were passing! Notice the arrangement? Beach >>> Pathway or dirt road >>> Resort. And we all know it’s not like that today.

The stroll got us hungry a bit early and we saw there were three or four little shacks near Pearl Of the Pacific that sold ready to eat food “turo-turo” style. So we visited the place for some “snacks”. But since it was actually already sundown, it instead became dinner. And what a classy dinner it was! You had to sit beside each other on benches running the front of the “store” where inches from your plate were also lined the “kalderos and kaserolas” containing each of the food items on the menu! Get the picture? Its like the little turo-turo stores where drivers all over the country eat. And mind you, foreigners also patronized those little shacks!

While having our “grand” dinner with nothing but lamparas to light the place, we saw another nearby nipa hut starting to close its shop for the night. This place was selling some cheap beach wears of the flowery prints, some sarongs and shirts and a few sunglasses. We were all giggling and laughing as we thought the idea of having such a “store” on the beach front was not a very fine one. I remember even saying, “Who would buy those?! Do these people really think visitors here come without the proper beach wears”? Well, I was such a young idealistic adventurer that time and did not know about “enterprise” because as we all know; Boracay now even has the “D Mall”!

The first-night life!
Our 4D3N stay always had very good night activities! First night, after the sunset stroll and the “turo-turo” dinner, we saw ourselves walking the lengthy pathway from our resort to Bazura Bar. The path was pitch dark on a cloudy evening, but people other than us were also headed to that place so it was never a lonely walk. Flashlights were the IN thing in those days. Virtually everyone walking had every kind of flashlight already conceived by technology, at that time! Campers and hikers that we are, we agreed beforehand that two amongst the four of us should bring their flashlights (buddy-up). And as we walked to the bar, we got to socialize with some of the other tourists also walking the same route! Two of those were a jolly healthy pair (brod and sis) of balikbayans who were born in the country but already residing somewhere in the states.

Still far from Bazura bar we could hear the “sounds” and of course we could see the whole place glowing with all the lights and some flickering/shimmering of the disco lights. Yes, discos were the in thing in those days! Have not seen the place lately, but then, the bar was “away” from the water courtesy only of the sand. Tipsy dudes would run to the water and dive to freshen up then come back up to dance or lounge around with friends and new acquaintances. Let’s describe that Bazura bar of yesteryears…

It was fenced-off! The fence was not necessarily to keep people away but really just to “establish” that THIS was Bazura Bar. The fence was no more than a row of twigs (ok, little tree branches) the way you would see provincial home fences. Upon entry into the “compound” you walk past a sandy area planted to little flowering plants with stones and pebbles laid in decorative manner. Middle portion of the facility was the dance floor half of it covered by the roof, half of it open air. As you face that dance floor (your back to the sea), on your left would be the bar, the DJ and the sound system racks. Of course the cashier too, was stationed there. After them were the tables and chairs the dart boards, then the pool tables and more tables and chairs, lining the circular area of the dance floor. Reaching the other side were more tables and chairs. To your right would be a narrow part of the wall with lighted glass-encased displays of T-Shirts and some mementos. Above this display was a prominent signage that said “Hard Rock CafĂ©”. And yes, I remember in those days, Bazura Bar was touted as “Hard Rock Boracay”.

Lest you drift to imagine a spanky and flashy watering hole, let me remind you though that the tables, walls counters were made of bamboo. “Chairs” were actually just bamboo benches and bamboo stools. Some of the elevated bleacher-like areas near the pool tables were also made of Bamboo. It was a rather rural setting with ultra-modern disco lights and sound system. And the dance floor was almost always full of gyrating and writhing party people. Beer was always the order of the day! Oh, anyone can go dancing even if they were dripping wet! Yes, yes, I remember that! And the crowd at that time was majority European backpackers than Filipinos.

This was one of my first hits on socializing with foreigners. And some of the acquaintances made during that night remain to be still my friends to date! Folks, you all know who you are so no need to name you here, ok?

About past midnight, we walked back to Pearl Of The Pacific to hit the mosquito-netted beds!

Day 2 Activities
We woke up around 7AM to be greeted by a warm breezy morning with the sun already up. I walked to a nearby hammock and continued with a light doze as the crews prepared our breakfast – eggs, fried rice, corned beef and sausages. The latter two were canned goods we brought with us from Manila hehe! While others had coffee – which I never was used to drinking then – I had hot chocolate (Ovaltine). For some reason, we all liked opening the thermos bottle and examine its shiny mirror-like insides! Now I don’t remember what the topic was and why we kept peering into the thermos bottle that contained our hot-water!

No sooner after we finished breakfast, the hired boatman came to fetch us for our “around the island” tour with some snorkeling and exploring of two little islands, lunch and swimming at the Puka Beach and onwards circling the island in a counter-clockwise route before heading back to the resort by 3PM. There was the lone German tourist and the Japanese couple with us on the boat with a capacity of “for 20 persons”. If I recall right, that whole tour (excluding the food from our resort) was P400 equally divided amongst all 7 of us tourists! I realize this kind of tour is still the same and can still be had these days, but at a more expensive rate of course!

What were the highlights of that boating tour? We filled our insatiable craving to see the “underworld” by snorkeling around the beautiful corals just off the island. This was the time I learnt that I can actually dive to a deeper area with my snorkels still on! Fish of so many colors were the event of the day (sorry underwater cameras were not yet common in those days) and we would often surface to excitedly shout and tell our companions that there was this and that fish in this and that area. And there was a time we scampered to the boat when we saw a very long black and white creature that looked like a snake as indeed it was a sea-snake! The boatman who was snorkeling with us told us it was safe as that creature was just as frightened at our presence as we were scared at seeing it. Whoa! That was some education.

There was also a time that our boatman carefully lifted some sea urchins to the boat, opened them up and demonstrated to us by eating the insides of that creature. He said it was delicious but we did not dare taste it!

The most fantastic part of this little “expedition” was when the boatman told us to jump into the water at a nearby coral bed and watch a very rare occurrence. Some plants (or were those animals) were puffing out millions of little white balls. He told us those were like pollens that those things were trying to spread out into the sea so that they can be the new generation of that specie. Interesting! And I saw some little fishes would sometimes eat those little white balls. The quantity of those little sperm-like things made the sea around us look cloudy or bubbly!

The most tiring part of our adventure was when we requested our boatman to anchor at a craggy side of the “laurel island”. Then we took turns trying to climb the rocky part straight from the sea. When anyone was able to reach a certain height, we would jump unto the water. Quite a simple but entertaining activity! And there was no need for any kind of gadget!

The second-night life!
Most memorable of my first Boracay visit was the second night – which was not even on the island of Boracay. We went to attend a “baile” [pronounced buy-le] at a little barrio on an island to the north of Boracay. I cannot recall now but it sounded like San Jose.

It started during the boat tour when we kept asking the boatman on what lies beyond the island of Boracay and what could we see or encounter. He told us his brother lived on that island and it was a fiesta that very day and that there was a baile that night. So off we went with this boatman. The baile is nothing but like an open air public dance in the barrio’s central plaza! The plaza’s dance floor was of hard earth – no concrete. The party area was cordoned-off (or fenced-off) by make-shift coconut leaves with fronds woven into like basketry. Party people sat in make-shift long benches made of bamboo and wood. At some areas, esp where many of the ladies were seated, there were make shift tables also made of either bamboo or wood. The “main entrance” was manned by three matrons who would pin you a colored ribbon after paying the entrance fee of two pesos!

Oh there was electricity courtesy of a generator set! But only so that the mobile sound system and a few dancing lights could work. At most parts of the party area were gas lanterns called “petromax” – those are what they use when they go fishing! Many of the “party-goers” brought their own food to the plaza. Many too just bought food and drinks from outside of the cordoned-off area where some of their barrio-mates sold many things from cooked banana to Chippy and Cheese Curls to beers and softdrinks. But the most prominent and in-demand product was of course, Tanduay and Ginebra Gin!

Watching the people enjoy the dancing (we even also danced) was quite fun. How was it done? What were the mechanics? Simple! When the sound system or the local band would start to play, you stand up and walk to whoever you want to dance with then you bring her to the center of the dance floor and you wiggle it! That’s it. And I was so surprised there were other tourists visiting during the affair! All of those I got to ask, foreigners and locals alike also came from Boracay! And we were happily received in that affair even if we were not from the place. They even actually gave the visitors (that was us) extra attention by offering us good seats or buying for us whatever it was that we needed. I saw a European lady drinking gin with some of the locals. Really fun!

Our return trip was about 1AM on pitch dark seas. Adventure, really!

Day 3 Activities
These were dedicated to the beachfront of Boracay – our main purpose and destination in the first place hehe!

How did we do this? We pitched a tent right on the beach. Yes, it was still allowed at that time. Trying doing the same today and you’d readily be apprehended by either the resort owners or the police hehehe! We just dumped our things like wallets and towels unto the tent and off we were swimming. At times we would borrow the little bancas on the shore. Yes, you can still borrow those at that time – and without paying money. So we were able to paddle around with the bance bobbing up and down amongst the little waves rght in front of Boracay’s white beach. For lunch, we just ran to the Pearl Of The Pacific’s restaurant leaving behind our tent at where we pegged it. Nothing was lost and we knew nothing would have been lost. Even our slippers and some beach things were just all strewn on the sand.

By mid afternoon we walked to a nearby little store that sold fruit juices and halo-halo served in big big glasses. Those glasses were well-known countrywide in those days as they were actually the containers of good brand of instant coffee when you buy them from stores. This little shack without a name is later to become named and now well-known store and restaurant that sells delectable fruit-shakes! [If you have been to Boracay, you must have tried those fruit-shakes; otherwise you have not been there yet hehe!]

There was beach volleyball courtesy of a little dive-shop and we played with people on the beach, most of them foreigners. There were already dogs on the beach that we can play with or romp along with. Those friendly creatures would even lie beside us by the shades of some trees when we were resting! There were already sand castles, but these were mainly made by us the visitors. They were not as grand as what you see on the Boracay shores nowadays. And those sandcastles were definitely not made to earn a profit where you see enterprising fellows with tin cans on hand to solicit your “donation” if you happen to have stood by the sandcastle for a souvenir picture! Gosh! There were already sightings of “flesh trade girls” roaming around the beach but these were mainly visitors to the island from Ermita or Angeles courtesy of their moneyed customers who dared bring them along. In short, there were no pick-up girls on the island during those times. There were just a lot of girls who fell for the visitors 

When the golden sunset started its spectacular show, I was already as dark as can be!

The third-night life!
Final night on Boracay and indeed a finale to cap and seal my dearest memories of this island. Supper was boisterously at the resort, this time there already a lot of us friends and acquaintances. The lone German was constantly with us for company. The Japanese couple did not want to be left behind on wherever we wanted to be. Even the resort’s restaurant and kitchen crews joined in the banter! Many of us had a beer or two but after that, almost all (except the resort’s crews of course) trooped to Bazura Bar again! We did not stay long at that hip place though. By about 9PM, we were back at our tent (yes we left it where it was since sunrise) and opted for what I can recall as a better kind of nightlife!

We wanted to drink more but spend less! So, one of us (not me) bought a “long-neck” Tanduay and a “family size” Coke, then asked for some ice and calamansi from the resort. Then we started our “”social-drinking” with Rum-Cola right on the pitch dark beach with occasional flash-light wielding people passing by us from the Bazura Bar area. From time to time, anyone or all of us would dash into the water then back to our rum-coke! One of us (not me too) even managed to borrow a guitar from somewhere! So we “killed” the damn “stereo-casette” player in favor of live singing! The order of the night was singing, drinking, dancing, swimming right on the darkness of the beach. Illumination was just the wash of the torches that lighted our resort’s paths. By about midnight, we counted there were already 3 empty long-necks as one of us (not me again) was headed to knock on the already closed sari-sari store for another two bottles. At that time too, we counted there was already seven of us drinking, singing, swimming, dancing right beside our tent. Oh yes, the lone German could didn’t like being alone at Bazura and the Japanese couple was more at ease with us around than socializing with the other foreigners at Bazura!

You guessed it, because it was really dark on white beach, we even went skinny dipping! What was there to see anyway and who was there to see anyway. We were sure not even the dogs would see our bare bodies dashing from the beach to the waters and back! It was ridiculously fun! This grand nightlife ended at about 3AM where the four of us all slept inside the tent while our German and Japanese friends went back to their rooms. We did not even zip the tent to close it all the way.

Ahh, we were all roused by about 6AM when the little waves started lapping at our tent. Not that we got wet, water was kept out of the waterproof tent but just the same, we had to jump out and started running for our slippers, the empty Tanduay and Coke bottles that have started to drift with the waves. We just literally tossed them to a higher ground not reachable by the high tide and we all got back into the tent to gather more sleep! It was a nice feeling being dry side the tent but the waves gently caressing us with the coolness of sea water! Am sure not too many of you have experienced that, right?! We stayed that way until about 8AM when the waitress called us to breakfast.

Day 4 Activities
After breakfast we walked to a nearby little nipa house that was their chapel. We heard mass, yes there was already a priest on the island! After that you would actually expect me to say “we went shopping”, right? But no, we did not, because nowhere to shop on the island during those times. We instead went to fold the tent, return the empty bottles, pack our things, settled the bill, changed into our travel wears and waited for our boat transfer to Caticlan.

But hey, one of the resort’s crews was atop a coconut tree picking buko, gathering “tuba” and cleaning it of dried leaves. So we asked him for an instant crash-course on how to climb a lanky coconut tree! Oh my badness! To date this is one such activity that will remain in my mind!

Instructions on how to “easily” climb a coconut tree:
  1. Use a very sharp bolo [called itak in Tagalog]
  2. As strong as you can, hack the tree trunk crosswise (parallel to the ground) about waist high
  3. Hack the tree again in a diagonal direction from the top so that the end of your cut meets the inner end of the crosswise cut
  4. Repeat if you don’t prosper on the first attempt
  5. Persevere if still unsuccessful
  6. Now you have made a triangular cut from the tree! That will serve as your very first flight of steps towards the top
  7. Make the cut bigger if you have big feet!
  8. Raise one foot to step on the cut that you just made, cling to the tree as mightily as you can with bolo in one hand
  9. Make that step very firm and raise your body so that you’ll be standing on that cut you just made
  10. On opposite side from your first cut and about the height of your waist at where you are now, do instructions 1 to 8 above. Now you have just raised yourself another notch higher
  11. Repeat instructions 1 to 10 until you reach your goal – the top of the coconut tree
  • A. Climb instead a coconut tree that already has those steps carved in them. If you find one that doesn’t have that yet, then it is probably not worth climbing, yet!
  • B. Ask someone else to climb for you. You just can’t do it. Accept it!
  • C. Drop the idea. Why do you need to climb a coconut tree anyway?!
Believe me, it is very easy. And, options B & C have been proven ultimately effective. I can assure you that!

Back to my story!

By midmorning, after saying our final goodbyes, we saw ourselves reluctantly and silently being herded unto the boat that would take us back to Caticlan. There were only five of us – the lone German had the same tinerary as the four of us while the Japanese couple was staying a few more days. For the experience, when all was aboard, one of my companions helped pull the wooden plank to retract it from the beach and unto the boat. He said it was not easy. I grabbed the long bamboo pole that is used to push the boat away from the shore. I did it – but it was not easy! So, the engine roared and it was… goodbye Boracay!

The adventure did not end there yet though! On arrival at the Caticlan shores (as I said, there was no jetty port yet) the ride waiting for us was a Sarao Jeep. By just glancing at each other, the four of us already knew and agreed we will take this ride by doing a “top-load” – that means we ride the jeep on top of it, not inside! So we clambered up and our German friend followed suit! Nice and breezy! The jeep stayed on for quite a while more waiting for it to be full since there were five more available slots inside – thanks to us who were on the roof! While waiting so, one companion spotted Tanduay at a sari-sari store nearby. He smiled and asked everyone if we cared to. Everyone agreed so he jumped to buy two flasks called “lapad” and two small bottles of coke and some chicharon. You guessed it right, we drank our way to Kalibo on top of a jeep. We were not bored as the sights were great and were did not bathe in dust for we were high up in the air far from the ground! The jeepney conductor was constantly checking on us if perchance one or all of us may have fallen off from where we were. Never happened! We were responsible and we knew our limits… we still are to date!

Oh well… that was my very first Bora trip, how about yours?

1 comment :

  1. Wow lovely photos. There a good atmosphere there, mostly at nightlife. Where did you stay in boracay, is it good facilities there???

    Tanya Gemarin