Boracay Beach 02: The People

Couple in Boracay
Couple in Boracay

Filipino people to our mind are some of the most friendly, gentle and heartwarming people on earth. We have had the great privilege of befriending many Filipino people here in Taiwan and some of them have become our best friends, so we were expecting the local people, at least, to be warm and friendly. We were not disappointed. Even the touts and the vendors selling trinkets and fruit were not pushy. They would simply ask us once if we wanted to buy something. If we said no, they would leave us alone and not chase us or beg us to buy from them. Waitresses in the restaurants and all the service people and generally people everywhere greeted us with smiles.


Nemo @ the Top of Mt. Luho

The most memorable person we met was a 32 y/o dwarf, Nemo. We met Nemo on the first afternoon on the beach. We were just settling in on the beach, getting ready to swim, when Nemo came along and very politely introduced himself and offered us a wide variety of activities that we could do. We said we were just relaxing but that we would consider doing something with him on the second day. He agreed to come back and meet us then. Well, on the second morning he had some other guests so introduced us to his friend Sammy, who would take us snorkeling and jet skiing.

Nemo explained to us that although he was a dwarf, both his parents and his four siblings were of normal height. He told us he came from Manila and had been working in Boracay for three years. He started out in a restaurant but then moved to being a commission-based tour guide after a short while. He studied catering and hotel management and graduated with a two year diploma. He had previously managed a bar in Manila and worked in the restaurant industry there before deciding to move to Boracay. Nemo’s dream is to travel the world. The country he most wants to visit is America because they are rich and he believes dreams can come true there. He loves basketball and his favorite team is the LA Lakers. On one of the days he told us it was his lucky day as his team, the Lakers, had won. Nemo was interested in starting his own business but as he said, “I am waiting for my luck to change.”

Nemo Gets Ready to Ride
Nemo Gets Ready to Ride

Nemo is an awesome guy. He usually hangs out outside the Le Soleil hotel. He is obviously fairly famous in the area. Just walking through the mall (D’Mall) with him was an experience as he seemed to know everyone. He was a good guy. Has a great sense of humor and is very polite. If you are looking for a good tour guide, I suggest you find Nemo.

Paul and Nemo in Boracay
Paul and Nemo in D'Mall


Paul and Sammy in Boracay
Paul and Sammy

Sammy was introduced to us by Nemo on our first morning in Boracay. Nemo was going to take us out to go snorkeling and jet skiing but he had other guests so he introduced us to his friend Sammy, another commission-based tour guide who hangs out around the Le Soleil hotel. Sammy was a very relaxed, easy going character. He was only 22 y/o but already has two kids, a six year old son and a one year old daughter. He had his first child when he was only 16 years old himself. Although unmarried he and his girlfriend do live together. He told us his neighbor had 15 kids, the same as a basketball team. We asked him way he had kids so young and he said in the Philippines, their excuse is that they were “cold” and there was nothing else to do.

As I said Sammy was a pretty relaxed kind of dude. He did try and get us good prices for the different activities and he always had a smile. He was just a genuinely nice guy and we really enjoyed his sincerity and his light heartedness. Once again, if you want a great tour guide we recommend you go find Sammy, he will hook you up with whatever you want to do and will give you a good price.


Sarah at Boracay Beach Bar
Sarah in the Bar

Sarah was a British girl we met in a beach side bar. She was there with her friends but currently works in Thailand. We didn’t really speak much to her but she was a memorable character. She seemed to really fancy the singer in the bar and kept on telling us how great he was. After a little bit of egging on from me she decided to become his backup singer. Well, a drunk English girl and an average Filipino rock n roll cover singer certainly made for a hysterical combination. After she got tired of singing she handed out a hat to collect money for the singer insisting he had a hard life. Ah well, we threw in a hundred pesos, drank a few more San Miguel’s and decided to call it quits for the night. Sarah was still dancing around like a mad girl, but we are old!

The Italian

Another interesting guy we met (no pictures or videos, sorry) was the Italian owner of a restaurant who had lived in Boracay for 30 years. He was married to a Filipino lady and had a daughter. I was later told by some other friends who went to Boracay that the food in this guys restaurant was amazing. He also owns the Tree House bar (which we never went to). We went for a walk and met this guy. He was lamenting the loss of the beauty of Boracay and the over commercialization of the island. He was saying how the beach front had been destroyed by the hotels and how the big hotel chains such as Holiday Inn were moving in and taking over from the traditional hotels that had been there for a long time. He was looking to sell his restaurant and property and retire somewhere else. He was thinking about retiring in New Zealand (he thought it was more natural and beautiful). We recommended the East Coast of the South Island. We asked him why he didn’t want to retire in Italy. He said because everyone there had become crazy. We had a good laugh at that.

So that’s it really. The trip was too short to meet tons of people and we were mostly trying to have a relaxing vacation as opposed to a wild travelling experience. The people we did meet and speak to were wonderful and friendly and our only regret is that we didn’t have more meaningful conversations with more people. That is the true fun and adventure of travel, not the places but the people.


Boracay Beach 01: Getting There

Looking forward to the trip

The Sun Goes Down in Boracay
Sunset in Boracay

Its June, it’s hot, we have been working hard and Queenie decided we needed a break. Great! What to do? Queenie thought about going to Bali with her Mom, but Mom decided “no” so Queenie decided to “drag” her husband along to Boracay. And he followed willingly. Before leaving of course we had a ton of stuff to take care of (not packing) but work wise. I ended up working till 1:00am the night before to clear my desk for the grand trip. Queenie also got wrapped up pretty much in her world. Work aside, we were both excited. Queenie had been to Boracay years before and I have never been. Queenie was looking forward to seeing how Boracay had changed over the years and I was looking forward to my first trip to the Philippines. But of course, Boracay is its own special tourist world and does not really reflect Filipino life. Despite knowing that we were still thrilled to be going and knew it would be a blast.

Getting There!

Getting to Boracay is not easy! Everyone tells me we the Philippines is only two hours from Taipei but it take eight hours to get to Boracay. We first flew from Taipei to Kalibo, an airport on another island, then we had a 90-minute to 2-hour bus from Kalibo airport to the Ferry terminal and then 10 minutes in the boat from the ferry terminal to Boracay. Once on Boracay island, we need to take additional transport for another 10 minutes to get to the hotel. Of course you have to add in all the waiting time and the time it takes from home to the local airport. So door-to-door is about eight hours in all. Still, as you will see, it was worth it.

Arriving in Kalibo

Kalibo Airport
Kalibo Airport

When we landed in Kalibo we had to sit on the plane and wait for our temperatures to be taken. In this day-and-age of H1N1 swine flu people are extra cautious about who they let into the country. Strangely, going back from the Philippines to Taipei, there were no on plane checks. I say strangely since a few of the H1N1 cases reported in Taiwan have come from the Philippines.

The airport in Kalibo is small. The immigration line for both entry and exit is in the same place. There are only portable air conditioners inside and a few strong fans. When we landed it was sunny and hot (we were not surprised by this) and were allowed to mingle on the tarmac outside the plane to take pictures. Once inside the immigration line went pretty fast and the bags arrived quickly. We had to do a mandatory customs check where everybody had to open their bags but the whole process was pretty quick. From the time we landed to the time we got through the airport and onto the bus was about 20-minutes. That is a pretty fast turn-around for any airport, and that would be the last time anything happened at speed!

We found the tour bus that would take us to the Boracay ferry terminal. Although there were four buses and we were the first bus to be loaded, we were also the last bus to leave. The tour guides kept counting how many people were on the bus and after the tenth count realized there were some people missing. It was pretty funny. Outside the airport itself, was not very interesting. A few tuc tuc (tricycle) drivers milled about. A few vendors selling refreshments and a couple of restaurants and minibuses were all we saw.

The Bus Trip

The Island Star bus that took us to the ferry was comfortable. Of course it was filled with Filipino-Chinese tour guides who had to describe everything we would see in Boracay in Chinese and the one guy waxed lyrical for about 35- 40 minutes. I was surprised that he could speak so much (says the one who writes ling blog posts) but it did give us some direction about what to expect and how much to spend on certain things.

The bus ride itself was pleasant enough. The town of Kalibo was messy and vibrant and filled with tuc tucs. But outside the town was absolutely stunning. The green rice paddies, the rivers, the mountains and the deep blue sky was compelling scenery. Some parts were very reminiscent of the South of Taiwan. Of course the nicest building we saw was the Mormon Church building in the middle of nowhere. It was a bit of an odd structure to be honest.

We also saw some particularly odd looking buses. We saw one bus with a guy standing on a small platform at the back (much like you see on garbage trucks). Turns out these buses are old garbage trucks from Manila that have been converted into buses.

Finally in Boracay

After 90-minutes we made it to the ferry, loaded our bags onto the ferry and 10-minutes later were in Boracay. Of course we had to stand around and wait for our transport to arrive but there seemed to be a delay on that so I harassed the tour guide and he arranged a tuc tuc for us. Our first tuc tuc ride was a lot of fun (and quite possibly a reason to return to the Philippines). The first views of Boracay itself was a small island populated with poor people, but once we arrived at the tourist part the beauty of Boracay presented itself to us. That actually was the paradox of this beautiful island: the hotels separated the beach from the town populated with locals that was very run down and poor. If a person just spent time on the beach (as we did) you would never see the way the local Filipinos live (we didn’t).

Anyway, eight hours after leaving home we arrived at the very comfortable Le Soleil hotel. Our double-story room came fully equipped with a kitchen, downstairs living room, massive bathroom and bedroom and a Jacuzzi on the balcony. What more could we want? Oh yes, the BEACH!

Boracay Beach - View from the Sea
White Sands Beach in Boracay

We were all set to have fun and were really looking forward to the next few days of relaxation and fun in the sun.


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