I've been to the island of Boracay a total of four times in my life.
The first was almost two decades ago when it was still immaculate, unspoiled. It was the time when you could get off a boat that docks at the beach front of your hotel (these days, you pass the not so pristine back). I remember it vaguely as I was still a little girl. It was the epitome of childhood summers: sandcastles, pink buckets, frilly swimsuits, happy family.
The second time I remember more, mostly due to silly embarrassment. Tradition has it that after you graduate from high school, and before you go on different routes of life, you and your friends have to create the most epic summer... WITH! BOYS! The daily routine was sleep though the morning, get a tan (and a henna tattoo) in the afternoon, which you must duly show off at that night's party. Oh, the parties! There were love stories, drunken friends, and so, so, so many Tequila shots. Which equated to so, so, so much fun. But also, never again.
Third time wasn't exactly the charm. I went with my family during the month of November when the spirit wasn't exactly jovial. And the island started to feel much tighter. And I saw the same things I could see in the city. The allure of the place was starting to wean off and that made me feel quite sad.
Two weeks ago, I made my fourth trip to the island. Ever since we got married, my husband and I craved for a beach trip because all our travels have been to developed cities and Western culture. It's summer, we thought, let's do it? And we did it: nothing, absolutely, beautifully nothing. My favorite part was lying under the parasols, reading a book, putting it down, and then just staring off into the blue. Time has truly gone by. There I was enjoying the beach like a full-grown adult.
I can't help but think of how I've gone to Boracay once in each stage of my life - from building sandcastles, to partying till the early morning hours, to trying to salvage the bleak days of my college life, to enjoying cocktails with my husband. Every single time, I've gone back with an added layer of myself. Even Boracay changes as it has, in some way, become an island more palatable to touristy tourists (A Starbucks branch? Really?). But if there's one thing that stays unchanging, it's the beach itself.
Every time I come back, no matter who I am, the grand body of water lures me in with its hallucinatory blue urging me to just stop and look. So I look and then see: at the sky blue, the turquoise, the navy, the black, till I can't see no more. Then I scrunch up my toes that feel the powdery, silky sand beneath it and revel in such a sensation. Then finally, after putting my book down, I splash into the pristine, cool water and just float on by. I've stayed on the beach long enough to see the light dance on the waves and change from blue to orange to purple, looking beautiful in every hue. It makes me think that God spends more time here than in the disheartening urban world.
All this imagery is always the frame of my trips to this island. I change. But the beauty, the spectacle, the tranquility, the peace, they stay exactly the same. That's why we always return, don't we?
Classy Musings' Mini-Guide to Boracay:
1. For sisig that feels a tad healthier: oyster sisig at Two Seasons.
2. For the widest beach front and true Filipino hospitality: Discovery Shores.
3. For the taste of the new kid in town: Spice Bird, D'Mall.
4. You can skip Jonah's Fruit Shakes. Someone has to tell them that service is bad and the place is downright dirty (sorry).
5. Bring a book. Leave your phone. Order a mojito. That's it, I promise.