Friday, October 21, 2011

Philippine Sweet and Tangy (Carolann's Story)

Carolann's Thoughts on Boracay

It's early morning on the island of Boracay. The  paraw cuts across the ocean breeze. Snorkel and fins beside me, I like the mood I'm in. Schools of  translucent dilis are breaking the surface ahead like handfuls of diamonds shooting out from the sea. We've been feasting on these anchovies in adobo sauce, something sweet and tangy at once. Such as been my experience in the Philippines.

First the tangy.

Manila looks to me like most any over-populated, southeast Asian metropolis from the air. As we enter Philippine air space, our plane flies over countless islands, carpeted in green. The first clue we are approaching our destination is the scarred landscape, a mountain has been clawed open for its marble heart. Half a mountain is left, wounded. Then we fly into a yellow haze. There's no more green and blue, only cement, the evidence of industry, and then an endless mat of shantytown roofs. Orange, blue, yellow, red, brown roofs. Poverty is colour. Affluence is white.

Now the sweet.

We've hopped off the big island of Luzon to Boracay, a popular beach destination just an hour's flight from Manila. As we check into Willy's Beach Resort, an institution here since the 1970s, I'm beside myself with joy.

Catching Dan testing the iced mango juice I've been handed at the desk, an attendant rushes up to him.

"Sir you need your own juice, please take this. You don't have to share the juice with your mum."

I look behind me. No one is there. Tangy.

"Mum, I'll take your glass if you're finished. Let me show you to your room."

Willy's Beach Club Resort is highly recommended on Trip Advisor and we've not been disappointed. The staff are invariably attentive. Dan mentioned to Rick, our server, that he was surprised lechon was not on the menu. This is a slow-cooked piglet on a spit and something Dan had been eager to try. In an instant Rick offered to go to the market for us, and if it were available, he would have the cook prepare it for us at dinner that night. It was delightful. Sweet.

Boracay's four-mile long beach is divided into what's called stations. Willy's is on station 1, directly in front of a large coral rock. This geographic formation draws in the photographers. Years ago, Willy had a shrine to the Virgin built into the rock, a curious mix of inspired marketing and religious zeal.

The beach has drawn our attention from the start. The sand is powder white but so firmly packed that a wheelchair could zip along without getting stuck.  Lots of small fishing and touring boats hover offshore, but with inboard motors they are quiet. It's unfortunate that by comparison many, Andaman Sea beaches of Thailand suffer from the incessant blasts of dozens of long-tail boat single stroke engines. In my mind, success is ruining Koh Phi Phi more enduringly than the tsunami of 2006.

Here in the Philippines, it's different. In the late afternoon, all the quiet blue-sailed boats anchor off the sandbar of Station 2. I call these bangkas my butterfly boats. They cluster on the water's edge like Morpho butterflies on nectar. Tomorrow I will ride in one of these.  You are seated in a hammock-like netting suspended between the bamboo float and the main haul while you slip over the waves.


The Philippines was a change of plan for us, a quick decision to fill a week before entering the Himalaya. I'm feeling as loose and easy as a bangka. Boracay is our first entry to Asia but our last tropical beach experience until Christmas. Oh, that's sour!

(This and other travel stories by Carolann can be found at Mature Traveler).

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