Table of Contents
- 0.1 Destination: Boracay
- 0.2 Mode of Transport: Street Food
- 0.3 These are a few of my favorite things:
- 1 #1: Friends:
- 2 #2: Local Flavor
- 3 #3: Seascape:
- 4 #4: The Working Class
- 5 #5: Always be a Pirate
- 6 Always be a Pirate
- 7 Brenda’s Short Travel Guide to Boracay
- 8 Getting to Boracay
- 9 How to get to Boracay from Caticlan:
- 10 Where to Stay:
- 11 How to get around the island:
- 12 What to Eat:
Mode of Transport: Street Food
One day, during our stay in Boracay, I found myself whistling, “My Favorite Things” from the Rodgers and Hammerstein musical, “The Sound of Music”. Here I was on a tropical beach, 31 degrees celsius, thinking of a tune that usually conjure up visions of a quintessential winter Holiday.
I was happy, and while whistling, which turned into a hum, I was measuring all the things I loved about the Island of Boracay. I usually don’t write lists, but I think in this case it would make sense as I would hate for anyone to miss what I have experienced if they ever wish to visit.
These are a few of my favorite things:
Hailing from Cebu, Dian has that grace and grit that can easily be appreciated. She never looks like she’s sweating and always has a somewhat demure approach in her speech. This same woman, however, has an affinity for certain choice words I often like to use in my own speech, an occasional “shit” here, a “fuck” there. It is this dichotomy that is endearing. She knows how to teeter between the formal and informal, and her end goal is always to make one feel comfortable around her.
Hans is a German and came to the island 8 years ago and never left. He’s seen the changes – some good, some bad. He appreciates some of these changes, and because he’s always thinking of the community, pleased that businesses are starting to thrive. As a whole, however, he does his best to preserve the Boracay of the past and is always willing to share stories and inside information on little crevasses of the island that time hasn’t yet spoiled. Hans is a tech guy, a kiteboarder, the local weather man, and a good drinking partner.
These two are the owners of the Blue Bayou Bungalows, a property we called home for our one month stay in Boracay.The property is an oasis away from the large crowds that gather near the Beautiful and Famous White Beach. The Bungalows are beautiful and the staff an extension of its owners, always ready to offer a smile and assistance.
Not to mention, an amazing breakfast that is made to order anytime you wish. We were fortunate to have found such a place. Moreover, fortunate to have been able to make friends in these two people, who extended themselves every day to make sure we get the most out of our stay in the beautiful island they are proud to inhabit. I can’t think of two people that can serve as better ambassadors for the island than they.
Typical Filipino Breakfast: Bacon and eggs with rice, not bread. Throw in some fresh fruits. #ItsMoreFunInThePhilippines #foodtravel #Breakfast
A photo posted by Brenda, Andrew & B Tolentino (@dishourtown) on
There were two moments that stay with me most about the two of them. The first, was watching Dian standing on the hull of the sailboat we were on, laughing as she was getting pounded by the waves of the Sulu Sea; the other was on an evening in which the stars were shining bright and Hans took the time to walk over to Bailey and explained the Milky Way to her. They were just great to be around, and their insider advice never failed. This is priceless when being the foreigner. In short, it was good to have friends.
#2: Local Flavor
On the same strip where Blue Bayou Bungalows is located, is one of the best streets to experience the local side of Boracay that many don’t find the time to appreciate. As a family, when we travel, we pride ourselves in establishing a feeling of residency. Walking down this street every day on our way to the beach, gave us that sense.
There is an eatery, no name to it, that is placed in between a Pizza Shop and a Japanese Restaurant, that is run by a gentleman named, Will. It’s here that you can get a typical Filipino Breakfast for about $1 USD. On a hot afternoon, you can sneak in there and get an ice cold San Miguel for 35 PHP (less than a buck).
I didn’t go there for the prices. I went there because it gave me the best vantage point for watching local life unfold. I would see school children pile into trikes to get home, an old man looking over his prize roosters in a coop, an ex-pat smoking a cigarette, rubbing his rotund stomach, wondering how it got there.
It’s on this street, that I was offered a cigarette by the barber while waiting for my turn to get my haircut. Afterward, I got myself a soda, that was transferred from a bottle into a plastic bag, in which a straw was inserted. Pursuant to that, found a young man grilling barbecue sticks (pork, beef, and chicken intestine) and ordered one of each for myself. All this, for under $2.
We ended up frequenting this specific Barbecue Man during our stay. Now pay attention, as there are many of them, this specific stand is located on the intersection of Bulabog Road and the road that has the beige church. They are 10 PHP a stick, and they are the best in town.
On this same road, you will often find a young man that sets up his pushcart and sells fried bola-bola (fish balls) for 1 peso each. Bailey had a standard order of twenty whenever we saw him. It always made for a good snack after a day of swimming.
Lastly, there is the dirty ice cream cart, better known as the sorbetes guy. He often doles out local flavors such as Ube (taro), Mango and Queso (cheese). The latter is our favorite. Brenda grew up on this flavor and finds it amusing that Michelin Star Chefs are now conjuring up cheese flavored ice creams and couching it as something interesting and new. Meanwhile, it’s been a staple flavor offering in the Philippines for decades, and at 10 pesos a cone, I’ll forego the Michelin Star prices and opt for these any day.
Make the time to step off the sand and find this fantastic and authentic thoroughfare.
The White Beach of Boracay and the Sulu Sea that sweeps over it is a dream landscape. My family and I have never experienced a beach so naturally pristine, even with it’s relentless crowds. You’ll miss too much if you stop to think, just enjoy its clear waters and the horizon which seems to have no line.
[Tweet “If I were to draw up an image of a perfect beach, it would be this. It was my fortune to have realized that image in reality.”]
My favorite part of the day, is at around 4 p.m., when the soccer goals and volleyball nets start getting set up, and it’s at this time that you’ll often find locals and visitors exchange in the currency of sport. No language barrier, just a round ball, and nets.
There are beautiful people that comb the beach at this time, most of them having gotten their share of sun. This is also Bailey and Brenda’s favorite time to swim about, as the crowd starts coming into land and they have more of the sea to themselves. I would often watch them from afar, having their very special Mother/Daughter moments.
If I were to draw up an image of a perfect beach, it would be this. It was my fortune to have realized that image in reality.
#4: The Working Class
Her name is Gina and she spent the better part of an hour braiding Bailey’s hair. She, like many locals on the island line the beachfront promenade hoping to make a living from their skills or by hawking goods. Many find this a distraction, but all it takes is an adjustment in disposition. Appreciate that they are the “working-class”. Every great community has a working-class and Boracay is no different.
Gina is part of this class. She is an amazing woman, who braid head after head to provide for her son and daughter. Bailey sat and asked for corn-rows as to avoid constant hair tangling from swimming in the salt water. I read on a travel blog to never accept the first price given me, so I put my negotiating skills into play and talked Gina down 100 pesos. At first, I was proud of myself, but after realizing that I saved myself a whopping two dollars, I ended up giving it back to her in the form of a tip.
[Tweet “We love the working class, and whenever we can, we promote it and support it.”]
It’s at this point that brings me to remember, that as a traveler we are to also support the local community, and not here to simply save money at the cost of the working class. To make amends, I gave Bailey a dissertation about the “haves and have nots” as I was not proud of my actions.
My haggling ended there. Brenda and I pride ourselves on having been part of an industry that put our selling skills to good use. Our working hours were long, and our feet years older than most our age, having been standing on them 12 hours a day for the better part of the past twenty years. It provided us a good life. We love the working class, and whenever we can, we promote it and support it.
Speaking in English to Korean to Chinese and lastly, to Arabic in seconds of each other.
Boracay’s working class is a good one at that. I once saw a young man go from English to Korean to Chinese and lastly, Arabic within seconds of each other. Many of them have a great sense of humor to boot. And most of them, honest.
#5: Always be a Pirate
On a day that Brenda was taking a break from the sun, Bailey and I decided to scout the beach. Just as we thought the road was about to end, Bailey happened upon a small inviting alcove, where on trees hung small wooden welcome signs with funny sayings. She followed a little sandy path that brought her into a charming little oasis, which was covered by foliage. In it were three small tree stumps used for tables and some wooden benches set beside them.
On the other side of the alcove entrance was an opening that led to the beach. It’s a scene taken right out of novels such as, “The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe” that Bailey enjoys reading, where one enters a door that leads out into a dreamlike land. This part of the White Beach was named Angol, a part not heavily beaten, and even more pristine than that seen on the storied Stations 1,2 and 3. Following Bailey, and upon exiting the alcove, I looked behind me and saw a sign that was set between two palm trees that read, “Sail Fast, Live Slow”.
Bailey pointed to two catamaran sailboats that were anchored near the shore. The boats were weathered white with red trim, and on the side of the boat was written, Red Pirates. In a sea of homogeneous, perfectly painted white sailboats with blue sails, the Red Pirates Boat looked badass.
Backtracking, Bailey and I found a brown, wooden, thatched roof hut that sat just a few feet from the alcove we entered. Outside stood a lanky, shirtless, “brown leather” skinned, young man, with a bandana wrapped around his head.
“Good Morning”, he greeted us.
Bailey snickers, as she knew that it was well into the middle of the afternoon. He told us if we ever wanted to go sailing, that we should come back.
“Where are we?”, I asked.
“You’re at the Red Pirates, sir”.
Behind him was another wooden sign that read, “No Money, No Problem. No Food, Problem”. And yet another that read, “Always be a Pirate”.
Always be a Pirate
I asked if I could peek in, and realized that this unassuming place was a small bar. And that it’s a legitimate operation. There were some young tumescent women hanging around a bunch of young men, that looked very much like the lanky one up front. They were paying the girls no attention and more concerned about getting the lyrics of the John Denver song they were singing to an acoustic guitar and bongo drum, correct.
“I’ll be back.”
He just smiles and nods.
We did come back, in fact, we came back many times, almost daily for that matter during our month in Boracay. The Pirates sold ice cold beers that were particularly fun to drink in the alcove away from the torturous mid-day sun. The Pirates took us on a sunset sail one day, and on another, took us and our friends to the mainland where we hiked through some beautiful hills that led to a beautiful fresh water river, where we swam all day and jumped off rocks in areas where the river water was deep enough. They grilled fish, pork and chicken for us in banana leaves, and Joey (the captain of all pirates) made us an amazing salad made with the vegetables and herbs he grew in his garden near the river.
The sun set beautifully every night in front of the Red Pirates Bar, and no matter what time it was, the salutation remained, “Good Morning”. Befitting, as the pirates took every moment in the day/evening as if it were the first moment of a new day. It was refreshing to be part of that lovely, island time, mentality. Watching the pirates and how they lived their lives made the three of us appreciate the adage, “live better with less stuff”.
On our last full day on the island, I met a few blokes from London who have just landed on the island. I was having a San Miguel Light in the alcove while watching Bailey and Brenda snorkeling in the distance. They asked me for some recommendations, and I told them that they should start and end every day at the Red Pirates. Having gotten my share of sun to this point, I too had a dark leather finish to my skin. They asked me if I worked there, and I replied, “no”. In the corner was one of the pirates that muttered, “He doesn’t work here, but he’s a Pirate”. He raised his bottle to mine and said, “Always be a Pirate”.
On the morning we were departing, I sat at the foot of the stairs that led to our bungalow and noticed a bit of dew on the blades of grass in the garden. There were two cats on the premises, named Tom Jones and Casper, who befriended us, and came over as if to say goodbye.
“Raindrops on roses (in this case, grass), and whiskers on kittens (full grown cats)… These are a few of my favorite things”.
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Brenda’s Short Travel Guide to Boracay
Make sure to read another story on Boracay written by Andrew: The Arrival: Boracay, a treat for the eyes and stomach.
Getting to Boracay
The only way to get into Boracay is to stop in Manila first. We took Philippine Airlines from Hong Kong to Manila and stayed overnight at Nichols Hotel, which was cheap and close by. It’s the best way to do it because Manila is notorious for its traffic jams.
Philippine Airlines is cheap but you have to pay for luggage. We ended up paying $150 more for our overweight luggages and if you are a violinist like Bailey, they require for you to check in the violin, just be sure to tell them how fragile and expensive it is so they will take care of it and require more paperwork for protection.
We flew into Caticlan from Manila.
How to get to Boracay from Caticlan:
At the airport (a teeny tiny airport) there are expediters who will ask you to register and pay 600 pesos (about $13 each) each to enter the island and to “shuttle” us around first in a van, then a ferry and then another van. The whole trip took about 20 minutes with porters helping you with the luggage, whom Andrew tipped. The whole process was a bit chaotic with many people involved, but it works.
Where to Stay:
Blue Bayou Bungalows in Boracay was our home for a month. we stayed in an air-conditioned bungalow with a kitchen. We were all very comfortable. Dian and Hans, the owners, are just fantastic. They are very hands-on with their property and completely welcoming.
How to get around the island:
The island is tiny, we mostly walked everywhere. When it was too hot though, we used the trike to the further beaches like Diniwid, Puka and Ilig Iligan (check below for more details). Most trike rides around the island was about 75 to 100 pesos for the 3 of us.
What to Eat:
Island Chicken Inasal
Where we had our first meal. Loved their chicken and the atsara. It’s very convenient, right at D’Mall.
(+63 36) 288-6687, (+63 36) 288-5946
D*Talipapa is a wet market.
The fishermen haul their catch under this tin-roofed area behind Station 2 and sell off the fruits of their labor. The scene is like taking part of dozens of micro auctions going on at the same time. The buying frenzy was infectious and resulted into us buying too much seafood for three people. The idea is to bring your purchase to one of the many restaurants that surround the market, and for a nominal price, they will cook and prepare what you bought. In our case, we had our fish and squid fried, our crabs steamed, and the shrimp grilled. It is highly recommended to this with a big crowd. The more the better.
On Bulabog Road, there’s that intersection I spoke of earlier where the church was located. Walk past the Church and right before you reach the main road, you’ll find to your right-hand side, The Secret Garden. Hans introduced us to this eatery and it was by far the best Turo-Turo type restaurant on the Island. Turo – Turo, literally translates into “Point – Point”. Just go toward the counter, where there is food laid out on display, point at what you want to eat and they will dole it out to you with a portion of rice. It’s a fun way to get your feet wet if you’ve never had Filipino Food before. It’s akin to having tapas, where you can get a few small portions to try. Order their Lechon Kawali (Fried Pork Belly) and you’ll find out why Pork is King in the Philippines.
Mario’s on Angol Beach
This was our favorite restaurant to have a good salad and very good pasta. They were right next to the Red Pirates. It was always a great way to end the day there with a good meal.
Go there for your snacks! It’s right at the entrance to D’Mall.
Other beaches we tried and liked in Boracay (written by Andrew):
If The White Beach is the refined one in the family, then Puka Beach, Ilig Iligan, and Diniwid are the wilder sisters. As in most cases, when you get to know them, they are in some way sexier and more attractive than their perfect sister. These gals have personality.
On Puka Beach, Brenda, Bailey and I walked far enough down the beach where we couldn’t see the entrance to the beach anymore. We were waved over by a couple of men, that offered their makeshift lounge area to us, along with their services. I spoke to the two men and got to know more about the land they lived on. Puka Beach is where you’ll see the last vestiges of the once very tropical Boracay. Behind the beach, the landscape becomes extremely wild and green. Apparently there are still monkeys swinging on vines up there. Furthermore, I was told that the San Miguel Corporation stopped a company from developing in the area. In their honor, I drink a San Miguel Beer with the guys. After a few beers, and a few laughs, the guys offered to catch a fish and prepare lunch for my family. I took the offer and we all had the best, grilled fish we have ever had in all our lives.
The pretty sister was throwing a bit of a tantrum one day, so we headed over to the quiet, not so pretty sister, Ilig Iligan. She’s the sister you really have to get to know from the inside. She’s a bit cloistered, and it takes a bit to warm up to her and she to you, but when you do, it makes for a wonderful experience. It’s with this gal that you’ll find the best snorkeling on the island.
The sexiest and most fun sister is Diniwid Beach. Diniwid Beach is where the famous Spider House Resort and Restaurant exists. From the porch of the bar, is arguably the best vantage point in all of the island to experience a perfect sunset. What a beauty.