Opinion

A Boracay Business Owner Reflects on the First Day of the 'New' Boracay

Is the ordeal over, or has it just begun?
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After six long months, this morning we put out the chairs, set the tables, and got ready to welcome visitors again on the first day of this “new” Boracay.

First of all, let me get these out of the way, the questions that everyone seems to ask me: How’s the beach? Has anything changed? And I answer them with a "yes, but":

Yes, the beach is clean, but that was the easy part—the roads and sewage system was the bigger problem and they’re not yet finished.

Yes, there’s a lot of infrastructure improvements, but they missed the deadline—so much so that they just moved the deadline instead.

Yes, the problem establishments have been closed, removed, or destroyed, but it shouldn’t have come to that point in the first place.

These “buts” are probably not so relevant to the usual tourist who just visits for three or four days every two years but they mean the world to people who live, work, or do business here. At the end of six months, I still wonder if it’s worth it.

To be clear, we’ve always been supportive of cleaning up the island. As residents who live in Boracay, we have more at stake than someone who visits for a few days and even more so that an internet troll typing “KAYO KASI MAY KASALANAN” in all caps. Was shutting down the whole island and disrupting the lives of more than 30,000 workers really the wisest course of action? Couldn’t we have done the rehabilitation in phases? Or will it be just like a drug war with a body count in the thousands with no material results to show for it?

To be clear, we’ve always been supportive of cleaning up the island. [But] was shutting down the whole island and disrupting the lives of more than 30,000 workers really the wisest course of action? 

I’m actually surprised with how some people on the island are reacting. Many say now that this was a good thing after all. I chalk it up to a form of Stockholm Syndrome. Maybe it’s the overwhelming sense of relief or maybe it’s also just the sheer lack of any other option but to hope for the best. We were pretty much held hostage with this sudden closure after all, having no choice or say in the matter. For them, perhaps a glimmer of light at the end of the tunnel is enough. But I refuse to forget how shoddy and haphazardly the government has made these decisions for us. We’ve run the gamut of depression, uncertainty, and anger because of their mismanagement. It’s a gulf between thinking positively and turning the other cheek, after all.

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There’s a sense of relief and incredulity at being open for business again. Especially going through a roller coaster of mixed news over the past six months. From the island being turned to farmland, being able to open earlier than expected, to casinos being built and not built, and so on. There was a point when we would rather not hear what was going on, whether good or bad because instead of clarity, each bit of news was like a mini-heart attack of uncertainty.

Today, I still feel a lot of trepidation. There’s still uncertainty about the future. Will tourists be back? If they do, when? Day by day, our expenses continue to mount and we don’t know how long we can hold on after what was already a long time of being without income. Imagine losing your job through no fault of your own, not making money for months, and when you do finally get back to work again, you’re still not sure you’re going to get paid. Today really isn’t the end of a six-month ordeal. It’s day one.

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