I first visited the famous island getaway about seven years ago, when my brother and his entire family came home from the States after decades of having built a life there. Armed with mental postcard images of what the idyllic island paradise is like, I went with high expectations despite stories from those who had been there before the island even had electricity of how commercial it had gotten, like a beachfront version of Manila's Malate district. Despite this, it had retained much of its charm to have had me smitten by the third day and made me promise to return when I could.
Fast-forward to 2010, and outsiders who'd been to the island way before it was fashionable would probably not recognize the island from what it was 20-30 years ago. Sure, it still had the soft, white sand but now and then you'd find the obligatory cigarette butt or candy wrapper just lying on the sand within a few meters of disposal bins provided by the local authorities. I've been told that summer would be the worst time to go because of the algal blooms but even that I didn't mind as much as the La-La wrapper floating near the shore when I took a dip in the ocean. "The Rape of Boracay," as a cousin of mine once aptly put it, was well underway. I was particularly appalled by how one resort had cemented the rock formations at the northern end of the island presumably to expand their facilities. Of course, what would development be without the obligatory Starbucks nestled among the bars and restaurants on Station 2?
And yet despite all these, Boracay still draws in the crowds. I was expecting no less than a Galera-esque atmosphere (what with school just around the corner) but was pleasantly surprised to see many foreign visitors. Yes, there were indeed the ubiquitous Chinese and Korean tour groups but also a good number of European and American tourists, way more than when I went there the first time.
So there's the trade-off. While an apparent increase in tourist traffic has obviously been economically beneficial for the native population and the country's tourism industry one can't help but see the toll it takes on the island's natural beauty. During this trip I wish I could've done some snorkeling to assess whether or not all this development has taken its toll on the reefs as well. My bet is that on some level I would've been glad I didn't.
Still, there are stories of foreign visitors coming to the island and setting up shop there after having fallen in love with it. I'm not one to lecture on how I do my part to lessen my carbon footprint (and subsequently how you should lessen yours), yet I wish that more can be done to preserve what people come to visit in the first place.