My Boracay

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Wednesday, July 16, 2014

"I HAD chased fireflies on the shores of Boracay after the summer sky lit up in flames, and the sun gloriously submerged into the endless sea. "

It was a time when the island was just a vacant, three-kilometer stretch of pristine white beach lined with towering coconut trees.

My family spent our summer vacation there for the first time in the late 1980s when I was only six or seven. We were a huge group of about 15 adults and eight children. The grown-ups had to bring a load to make sure we could survive for three days on this quiet island that had neither electricity nor clean drinking water.


The tide was high when we arrived. I had to be carried off the pumpboat by my six-foot-tall Papa. The sand shimmered under the midday sun, and for a moment, my Papa hesitated to put me down when we reached the shore. But he did, and my first beautiful memory of Boracay was feeling the coolness of its fine white sand between my little toes—even at high noon.

We stayed in rented bamboo huts at this gated area called Ban’s. The grown-ups had to start a fire to cook our meals, while us kids helped collect banana leaves that we spread on the table to use as plates.

After hours and hours of soaking in the sea, we would go on a 30-minute hike to get to a deep well of fresh water. The well was in the center of a canopy of banana trees and we would take some leaves and water back to our hut after washing off saltwater from our hair. I am definite it took us 30 minutes, because I would finish a bag of chips while walking from the well to our hut.

Boracay island, to my family, was a grand vacation place. Whenever relatives from abroad came home, we all packed up for Boracay. It is relatively near Iloilo city, our hometown, just about a six to seven hour drive.

On our second trip to Boracay, electric generators had brought a familiar kind of life to the island. This time, we children were sequestered in the huts at night while the grown-ups went dancing in a club called Bazura. My cousins and I crammed under the mosquito net, frightened by the howl of the wind and rustle of the trees. We were expecting that a half-bird-half-human creature would destroy the nipa roof and take us to the mountains.


By the time I became a teenager, Boracay had transformed, from a beautiful virgin beach into a commercialized party place. Gone were the fireflies, the deep well, the banana and coconut trees, even the bamboo huts. Fire dancers replaced the nightly burning show and concrete hotels lined the shore.

On the year I turned 18, I begged my parents to let me spend my coming of age in Boracay instead of throwing a traditional debutante party for me. That was my first trip without any grown-ups. My friends and I were a pack of bikini-clad girls who just graduated from an all-girls convent school. Oh, we had the time of our lives! We soaked under the sun all day, and went dancing and drinking all night. It took us about 30 minutes to walk from our hotel to the dance club called Cocomangas. I am definite because we would finish a bottle of tequila and meet Manila boys on those long blurry walks.

Eleven years after my debutante trip, my big family went back to Boracay, including my husband-to-be Francis and our eight-month-old daughter, Isla. It was in July. The monsoon winds had just arrived here, the clouds were threatening to unleash rain at any minute, and the waves were restless, pushing everything and everyone out of the sea. During our four-day stay, we never witnessed an afternoon sky lighting up in flames or a sun gloriously submerging into the endless sea.

But on our last afternoon while the tide was low, Isla and I sat on the shore with my Papa. He told me to put Isla down on the sand. She crawled towards the sea. She slapped the water and screamed. Then she laughed. She slapped the water, screamed and laughed. Slapped the water, screamed and laughed. Once again, I saw those fireflies. (Karla Quimsing)

Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on July 17, 2014.


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