Back in the Day…

By Jen Freeman



We were young, and we'd just found paradise! Wide-eyed kids who thought we were the first to find it - as each new generation does, about anything.


We kicked off our shoes and threw away our watches on Boracay's gleaming white sandy shores, and with them, we kicked off all our cares in the world.

The sun kissed our bodies, and bleached our hair, and made us forget everything.


We lived in nipa huts; didn't have fridges, TV, WiFi or phones.

We had sand between our toes, between our sheets, and just about everywhere else itchy and uncomfortable in between!


We were bitten and scratched, speckled with mozzie and sand fly bites, and sported the ubiquitous motorbike burn "tattoos".


The nearest ATM was a four hour road trip away, and often it wasn't working. There were no cars, or malls, neon lights or fast food chains.


We sent postcards, and forgot to call our parents.


In the days before social media and phone cameras, we made every moment count. Making memories to last. Just for us.

Brownouts were an everyday occurrence, but we mostly didn't care.


We had candles, and camp fires, and circles of friends sitting on the sand at sunset - new friends from all around the world, sometimes communicating only with smiles and songs, and with nothing but our music and love of the island in common.


We had boom boxes, cassette tapes and never enough Ever Ready batteries.


On those balmy, and humid nights, our social life was a bonfire on the beach with a group of warm souls surrounding it, eating pork BBQ sticks, chugging warm San Miguel beer, and sharing our stories.

And with someone strumming a guitar? There was no language barrier. Guitars and djembe drums know no boundaries, and our rum infused voices would soar up into the clear night sky, singing "Don't Worry About a Thing!" and knowing that Every Little Thing, was Gonna be Alright!

And for that moment in time? It was. It really was Alright!


We made friends for life.

We swang in hammocks and read books, made beaded jewellery and painted. We swam, rode bikes, kayaked and scuba dived, and played volleyball on the sand.

We got tattoos.


Every romantic tryst was infused with rum, fireflies and shooting stars.


We got sunburn, and food poisoning. We were bitten and stung, and compared our scars.


But we were young, and every little thing was gonna be alright

The drums beat to our time.

The colorful paraws were our taxis, skimming the waves at high speed, or for to just jump aboard on a perfect morning and cruise around, beach-hopping, with no particular place to go.

Sunshiny days were spent riding the turquoise waves all the way to Puka Beach or Punta Bunga, to eat freshly caught seafood - grilled on charcoal over the rocks, and eaten with sea-salty fingers after a swim or a snorkel session.


There were hidden caves to explore, monkeys and parrots in the treetops, and reefs teeming with fish.


And as the sun began sinking below the horizon and the fruit bats roused themselves from their forest canopy above, swooping over our heads? We'd smile at each other and quietly contemplate:

"I wonder what the rich people are doing now?"

Sailing home at sunset, as darkness was closing in? We would lay back on the paraw, faces upturned to the open sky, and really, truly, look at the stars , without any light pollution to cloud the view.

"There's the Milky Way!"


And then we'd leap off the boat and have a moonlight swim, with sparkling phosphorescence swirling all around.... A million tiny little stars caressing our bodies.


We wore bells on our ankles and hibiscus in our hair. Just because.

We walked home through the meandering pathways in the moonlight, hand in hand with our love, stealing kisses as the sound of cicadas filled the air.

There were mangrove forests and ancient trees alight with fireflies, and the heady scent of night-blooming flowers.

And there were sudden, wild storms when the heavens would open and we'd make a mad dash for home , laughing like crazy, with faces upturned to the pouring rain. Not even caring if lightning might strike any more.

We danced barefoot at Beachcomber and Bazzura Disco, and walked (or sometimes crawled!) all the way home in the early hours, as there was a midnight trike curfew!

We had full moon parties at Spider House, and New Years parties at Hey Jude. We watched the fireworks on the beach, we jammed at Bom Bom Bar, we went skinny dipping, and we woke up on the beanbags outside Red Pirates at 5am. We saw the sun rise on Bulabog Beach, and ate our breakfast at Real Coffee.


We danced in the rain.

We lost our slippers. And we felt alive.

Those wanderers who came years before us had no electricity, and we in a way, we envied them, for having found the island first - with their kerosene lamps, generators and car battery stereos - although perhaps not so much, for their warm beer!


Each generation of travelers has discovered Boracay anew. As if for the first time. And have found a magic all of their own.


But the beach was ours then. The moon was ours.

That was our time. Barefoot, drunk and delighted. In our playground. And long may the memories still slide into our dreams at night, leaving the sweet taste of a Caipirina kiss on our sleeping lips. And sand in our underwear.

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