Boracay is considered one of the top beach destinations in the world. I’ve never seen a place where the ocean actually seems to sparkle as you wade through it or where the sand is so white and soft, you’d swear you were walking through freshly milled flour. I think fate was on my side when I was not only able to book my last minute trip, but get it for a very inexpensive price as well.

The white sand beach of Boracay Island in Philippines

There are two ways to get to Boracay via the province Aklan: from Caticlan or Kalibo. I took the Kalibo route since it’s cheaper, but it does take more time to get to Boracay from there as it’s farther away. Here’s the breakdown:

  1. 1 hour flight from Manila to Kalibo
  2. Take a 1 hour van ride from Kalibo to the Jetty port (approximately 200 pesos or $5 and should include the boat ride)
  3. Take a traditional Filipino boat to Boracay (about 10-15 minutes)
  4. Take a tricycle to your destination

In my case, I took the tricycle to an area known as Station 2. Boracay is divided into 5 areas, locally known as “Stations”. Station 2 is considered the downtown of Boracay, where most of the clubs, restaurants, and stores are located. In other words, it’s party central, so the sand and beach isn’t as clean or nice here. If you want to experience the pristine white sands of Boracay, head over to Station 1, which is only a short walk from Station 2.

Traditional boat to Boracay Island, Philippines

It’s hard to not to feel like you’re in paradise while you’re in Boracay. On my second day there, the sky was a beautiful blue, sharing space only with wipsy clouds and the warm, bright sun. The heat was more welcome than oppressive and I relished its touch as I laid amid the white sand, running my hands and toes through it every chance I got. And the water. God, the water was a cool oasis, as clear as the water you’d have in your bath, but a thousand times more amazing.

I seriously think my heaven would be Boracay.

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Just booked my flight to Boracay. I haven’t been to this slice of tropical paradise in about 5 years. Oh, and did I mention my flight leaves in 2 hours? So much for a nice and easy recovery from my bout of food poisoning yesterday. Frantic packing begins now!

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I guess living in Manila is a lot like living in L.A. You just never know when you’re going to run into someone famous. After a Christmas visit to see my lola (grandma) and relatives, I went out with my brother and his wife to their friend’s bar. The place was filled with people, which is further proof that even on Christmas day, there is always a party going on in Manila.

My brother wandered off and when he came back, he smiled and said, “I have a surprise for you guys. [Insert celebrity’s name] is here. Come on.”

I won’t name names, but I’ve heard of this celebrity before and have even watched a few of his movies. I wasn’t super excited to meet him, but I figured it would be a pretty interesting experience, so I followed my brother to the KTV room.

This celebrity has a reputation for being a “boy next door, good guy” type, so I was a bit surprised to find that he was a kind of a snob and carried himself like he was God’s gift to women. When we joined his table, he barely acknowledged us. He was too busy flirting to even make conversation. I felt like I was watching a lion in the wild, showing off his big mane and ability to mate with whomever he wanted when he wanted.

One of his childhood friends was also there and he swore that fame hadn’t changed his buddy, but I really doubted that. I wanted to know what this celebrity was about so I abandoned politeness in favor of questions that would get his mind out of his pants long enough to talk to me. I was really curious about him.

“What’s it like being a celebrity in the Philippines?” I asked, brazenly.

He looked at me strangely, fighting through a drunken haze to understand me. “It’s nothing special,” he replied. Then, with venom, he added, “I just hate how everyone is always in my business. Like they think I’m gay just because I’m taking out my buddy who’s visiting. I hate it.” He frowned deeply.

For a minute, I really felt bad for him. It did sound awful to lose your privacy and have your every move scrutinized by strangers. He looked really choked up about it. But then a girl came up to him and he was in flirt mode once again, all the bad things about celebrity forgotten.

I quickly lost interest in getting to know him further. At least now whenever someone mentions him, I can say that I met him, sang karaoke with him and that he’s nothing more than another rich, d-bag.

Only in the Philippines…

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I usually love going to the airport, but after travelling to 9 countries in the span of 4 months, I really wasn’t looking forward to having to get on another plane. It’s my fault that I felt this way though. They say that it’s better to book a trip months in advance so that you slowly build up the anticipation of going away. Since I’ve been so trigger-happy with booking my trips, I’ve always left myself very little time to even register that I’m leaving, let alone muster up the energy to actually be excited about it.

After hastily packing my suitcase and unplugging a zillion electronic devices in my house (because I’m paranoid like that), I finally rolled my gigantic suitcase, which was filled with more pasalubongs (souvenirs) for my relatives than clothes for myself, into the airport. Unlike everyone else there, you couldn’t spot excitement on me even with a magnifying glass. I was tired and moody and just wanted to get there already.

I walked towards my gate, thinking only about the press release I needed to send off before I left, when, like a Christmas miracle, it hit me:

I was going home.

It wasn’t until I saw the other Filipino’s on my flight that I remembered this. All around me were people who had to save for years and deny themselves a lot of luxuries to not only provide for their families in the Philippines, but to even see them at all during Christmas. I watched as people fidgeted nervously in anticipation or talked animatedly about the loved ones that they were going to see for the first time in God knows how many years.

As I took all this in, I remembered Hugh Grant’s opening monologue to the movie Love Actually:

Whenever I get gloomy with the state of the world, I think about the arrivals gate at Heathrow Airport. General opinion’s starting to make out that we live in a world of hatred and greed, but I don’t see that. It seems to me that love is everywhere. Often, it’s not particularly dignified or newsworthy, but it’s always there – fathers and sons, mothers and daughters, husbands and wives, boyfriends, girlfriends, old friends. When the planes hit the Twin Towers, as far as I know, none of the phone calls from the people on board were messages of hate or revenge – they were all messages of love. If you look for it, I’ve got a sneaking suspicion… love actually is all around. 

I wondered when I had stop feeling the love of going home. Going to the Philippines is such a routine thing to me now that sometimes I forget how lucky I am to actually get to go back and see my family and friends practically every year. I felt ashamed that it took so long for me to realize this.

I started to feel excited the more I sat with my fellow balikbayans (returning Filipinos). I quietly started to fidget as well, my leg shaking as I waited to board. I slept through most of my flight (another Christmas miracle because I’m never comfortable enough to sleep for 8 hours straight) in order to stop thinking about when I would get there.

And when our plane finally landed on Manila soil, amidst the loud applause that the passengers gave to the pilots and cabin crew, I started to tear up. I looked outside my window at the brightening sky and smiled.  After the crazy six months that I just had, I at last felt like everything was alright. That I was going to be alright.

All I needed to do was come home.

Image: via Jessa on Pinterest

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