Boracay is like an all-day, 2.5-mile-long, beach party, something I don’t remember from my last trip there, either because it was so long ago (give and take a decade, perhaps) that my younger eyes failed to see what my current eyes — old, it seems, in every sense of the word — saw, or because that many years ago the party hadn’t started yet. With hundreds of stores, bars and restaurants all lined up along the beachfront, with as many small stalls peddling massages, sunglasses, watersports, henna tattoos and cornrows (which I would have gotten if I didn’t have an office to come back to), Boracay is like a seaside version of New York City. And yet, for all the activity and crowds there, the busyness was more pleasant and laidback than, say, Phuket, which is a seaside version of Kuala Lumpur.
Some of the key things I’ve deduced from this trip:
1. Diving has spoilt me rotten. I tried swimming further down from the surface, remembered that if I inhaled it would be seawater, and not air from a tank, zooming into my lungs, and panicked. Suffice to say, I came away from snorkeling feeling a little cheated.
2. Unfortunately, Filipinos are just like Malaysians in one way: they will accept bribes and tips for any and every damn thing — from swatting flies away from your food (50 pesos), to carrying your luggage 70 feet (20 pesos per bag), to getting you into the airport ahead of everyone else because you’re about to miss your flight (RM10 if you’re out of pesos). And if they sense your reluctance or ignorance of this custom, they won’t hesitate to remind you either: “Don’t porget, Ma’am! Don’t porget!” Those who budget and record their expenses may want to widen the Miscellaneous Expenses column.
3. The best form of exercise in Boracay is not swimming, but running. With so many street peddlers trawling the beachfront, it is impossible to walk 15 paces before being ambushed by racks of sunglasses and flyers for massages. In the end I concluded that the only way to avoid them must be to run so that they won’t get the chance to stop you.
4. Filipinos are also like Malaysians in that they don’t tell you everything you need to know all at once. They will tell you that your flight may be diverted to another airport because the plane can’t land in the assigned airport due to bad weather. And unless you ask, they won’t tell you that your flight has been delayed, but they don’t know for how long. Then when you wait to ask again, they will tell you that your flight has been canceled instead and they will give you a new boarding pass. And just as you are about to board the van for the hour-odd journey to the other airport, they will tell you to pay 175 pesos (per person!) for the transfer.
5. I need to stop deluding myself into thinking that SPF 130 sunscreen would be all I need to prevent getting tanned. There can be no denying that it was really the long-sleeved rash guard and knee-length board shorts that preserved my lily-white skin every time I went diving, and this time around, with naught but the required life-vest that I wore for parasailing and jetskiing, I’ve come back to Malaysia at least three shades darker.
Nevertheless, it was still a wonderful trip, and as I sit here thinking about the past week, knowing that it will be a very long time before I am able to go on another vacation like this, I realize that this trip has achieved what I had hoped it would. It has renewed my faith and my gratitude for everything I have now, and reinforced the beliefs I’ve been harboring for the past few months. And now that I’m back, I’m more aware than ever of what I have to do in order to set my life right and to start doing something for myself.