The world-renowned island of Boracay welcomes millions of local and foreign tourists each year. It’s regarded as one of the most beautiful beach destinations in the world for its white sands, diving spots, and rock formations. The island was historically inhabited by the Ati tribe, who are experts in fauna and flora. Today, there are members of the Ati, Aklanon, Hiligaynon, and Karay-a tribes living in Boracay together with people who migrated from other parts of the country. There’s also a growing expat population in the island.
Boracay is more than a tourist destination. It’s home to thousands of residents, and countless species of plants and animals. As visitor, you’re obliged to follow local rules, and respect customs and traditions. Here are 9 sentiments Boracay natives would like you to know.
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When a friend suggests that you spend a weekend in Bora, you can expect lots of sun, sand and seas. However, your destination would not be in Aklan province, but somewhere in the Pacific Ocean. Boracay natives don’t really mind if you call their home “Bora,” “Bora-Bora” or “Bora-kay,” but it wouldn’t hurt to make it right. It’s also a display of respect to local residents. Bora Bora is an island in the French Polynesia in the Pacific Ocean. Boracay is an island in the Western Visayas region of the Philippines. Both are enchanting destinations, but they are not one and the same.
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Boracay, similar with other beach destinations, has earned quite the reputation for its “wild” nightlife. The raunchy testimonials in magazines and social media are not helping. Whether true or not, these should not encourage any illegal and/or immoral activity. One should also know that prostitution, possession and use of prohibited drugs, and acts that offend public morals are punishable by law. Let’s not give such a beautiful place a bad name.
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Whether in Boracay or any other tourist destination in the country, visitors should be reminded that they are merely visitors. The locals appreciate your contributions to the their economy via tourism, but this doesn’t give you the license to do whatever you want. “When in Rome, do as the Romans do,” as the saying goes. This includes observing local laws, customs, and traditions, and respecting its residents. Your prima donna attitude has no place in Boracay, or anywhere for that matter.
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Boracay visitors have a little compassion to your environment. A study funded by the Japanese International Cooperation Agency (JICA) warned that tourism has resulted to a 70.5% decline in coral cover from 1988 to 2011. Coral reefs are essential in maintaining marine life. What causes the destruction of corals in Boracay? According to JICA, unmonitored snorkeling and diving activities are to be blamed. “By protecting marine resources, we are also helping sustain the tourism industry, and jobs creation in the country,” JICA senior representative Takahiro Morita said.
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University of the Philippines (UP) scientist Miguel Fortes raised alarms that the water quality in the eastern Boracay is so polluted that it’s “unsafe for swimming and other human activities.” Pollution is a problem not only in Boracay but also in other tourist destinations across the country. When going to the beach, ALWAYS bring a trash bag with you, or discard food wrappers, bottles and other garbage in designated bins. Avoid smoking on the beach as cigarette filters are washed to the ocean, endangering marine life.
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If you’re one of the Boracay backpackers who camp in the island, please clean before you leave. It’s never advisable to create bonfires as this may result to a devastating forest fire. Boracay has wide variations of fauna, which balance the ecosystem and provide livelihood to locals. Use public restrooms as human waste pollutes the environment. Seek guidance from natives about the safe areas to install your tent and prepare your food.
Photo courtesy of Alta Vista de Boracay
During the peak season, which is typically between September and May, hotels, inns and other accommodations are fully booked. You have to plan your trip ahead if you’re visiting anytime within this period. If you’re traveling to Boracay for your honeymoon, you may want to check out Alta Vista de Boracay, which offers the privacy you need in a popular tourist destination. Boracay locals are not particularly fond of overcrowding as this contributes to the degradation of the environment. Exploring other accommodations, away from the center of tourism, is not only good for you but also for the locals. This will spread livelihood opportunities such as in the case of residents leasing their homes or rooms to visitors for additional income. This can also help you learn more about the local customs and traditions.
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Boracay is more than its white sand beaches, cozy accommodations, and vibrant nightlife. It’s an island with rich culture and tradition. Its identity is harnessed by the natives—with their stories and aspirations. Locals would love visitors to know about their ways of life such as the Ati tribe’s expertise in flora and fauna. Take time to get away from the crowded bars and restaurants and visit the rustic Boracay countryside.
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We understand your need to take photos of yourself as often as you can. But how can you truly enjoy the wonders of Boracay if you’re 100% engaged in your electronic devices. Boracay natives want you to explore their beautiful island, get to know their customs and traditions, and be informed of the socio-economic and environmental issues they are facing. Take selfies, but use technology for something more productive such as educating others about ways to preserve Boracay’s natural resources.
Debunk Boracay misconceptions. You’d do yourself a favor by educating yourself about the locals’ aspirations for the island, their home. Ultimately, this matters more than tourism. The next time you visit, be curious. Talk to the locals, visit unknown places, and explore the real gems of Boracay.