It would be an understatement to say that Boracay has weathered through a lot of storms over the past few years. After its months-long rehabilitation, the comeback of the island was short-lived; by March 2020, Boracay had to close its doors yet again — this time, due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
On 16 Jun, Boracay finally lifted its lockdown and reallowed regional tourists to enter the island. But, most probably because of the virus scare, the island hasn’t seen many visitors since. As of 22 Jun, the Malay tourism office reported that only 48 tourists have entered Boracay.
Now, we’re curious: What does Boracay look like amid all this? What is Boracay during COVID-19?
To answer our questions, we got in touch with one of our loyal readers, Randolph Relator, who also happens to be among the handful of tourists Boracay received since its reopening in June.
Experiencing the new Boracay
Randolph lives in Banga, Aklan — a humble town approximately 88 kilometres from Boracay Island. After seeing Boracay photos taken by residents during the lockdown, he and his friends decided to visit the island as soon as the quarantine protocols were lifted for regional tourists.
“On the first day of its opening, we drove two hours from our town just to see Boracay,” he shares. “It was a very momentous event because, for the first time in the history of Boracay, only Aklanons were allowed on the island!”
Feeling privileged to be there, Randolph and his friends decided to stay on the island overnight. After all, getting to relish in a Boracay without tourists is certainly an experience of a lifetime!
“We didn’t regret visiting Boracay,” Randolph says. “It was really pristine. Even as Aklanons, it was the first time we felt that we had the island to ourselves.”
Upon checking into their hotel, Randolph and his friends immediately visited the beachfront. They were at Station 1, near the renowned grotto, when they glimpsed a Boracay that was almost unrecognisable.
“Unsurprisingly, the famous powdery sands and crystal clear waters were just so amazing. What truly awed us was the fact that not a single tourist was there,” Randolph recalls. “It was only the three of us and one local kid who was fishing.”
A Boracay under COVID-19 safety protocols
When Randolph visited Boracay, he noted that the island strictly observed social distancing everywhere.
“The queue for the registration, the ticket booth, and the ferry boat all have markings on the floor and seats for social distancing. Every establishment checked our temperature upon entry. They even sprayed our hands with alcohol! Some establishments also have hand washing areas, as well as a footpad where people can step on to disinfect their footwear.”
Randolph further shares how different the Boracay experience is, now that the island has implemented new normal protocols. “Wearing a mask is mandatory everywhere — even on the front beach! They also have designated swimming areas per station; beachgoers are to register their names before swimming.”
Now, the beach is only open to swimmers from 6am to 6pm. The island also highly discourages the renting of swimming equipment, like goggles.
Only a few restaurants allowed dine-in, and the ones operating all implemented social distancing protocols. “Because most of the restaurants and hotels were still closed, we had a hard time finding places to eat.”
Recalling the Boracay right before the quarantine
On 15 Mar 2020, just before the nationwide quarantine, Randolph celebrated his birthday in Boracay. “That time, everything felt normal. While COVID-19 was already making the headlines, I was still able to visit Boracay then.”
During his visit, Randolph was even able to book a 30-minute photo op with the Philippine Mermaid Academy! “For my every birthday, I always want to try something different,” he laughed as he recalled his mermaid poses. “It was an amazing and memorable experience though. I enjoyed it so much, but I hurried to finish the photo op because I didn’t want to get stranded in Boracay.”
Randolph is nostalgic about the Boracay before the quarantine, but he takes comfort that the protocols now are for the welfare of the people. To him, and many other Aklanons, we have to do what it takes to keep this paradise safe. After all, Boracay is not just a tourist destination for them, but a home as well.
That said, Randolph reminds tourists to be responsible once they get to visit Boracay — or any other tourist destination, for that matter — again.
“We are very proud of Boracay,” Randolph reiterated. “I’m speaking, not just as an Aklanon, but as a Filipino.”
“Boracay Island has given so much pride to our country. It’s been constantly hailed as the best island destination in Asia — even the world! Once Boracay opens, we should remember to help the island, even in the smallest things like proper waste disposal.
At the end of the day, Boracay is not only for Aklanons — it’s for everyone to enjoy! I hope that once the world returns to normal, tourists would help us keep Boracay as safe and beautiful as it is today.”
Quotes were edited for clarity, style, and flow. All images credited to Randolph Relator.