By John Cruces I'm writing this piece right now after just submitting my paperwork to Aklan for my third trip to the Island since it's reopening to tourists from Manila on October first.
Having just received the all-clear on the PCR test, which always brings a sigh of relief, it's a simple case of sending that certificate along with a confirmed hotel booking, flight details and ID. You then wait for the all-important QR Code to be sent back and you’re good to go.
"Is that all what's needed?" is what I've been asked by many who don't know the Island is open after they've seen me post pictures of a sunset, clips from a band or images of copious amounts of alcohol.
It really is that simple. But as I await my QR Code right now, I know the Island will still be very quiet and that is why I'm writing on what I think is relevant. As a little background - I'm from Liverpool UK originally, so “Scouse not English” and I've lived in the Philippines (Makati) since Jan 2012, and been a visitor to Boracay since then.
I'm not a typical tourist as such, well that depends on the definition I guess as I'm very happy just finding a bar that has good drinks and music. Probably why I hang out predominantly in Nigis, my trips to the Island are usually to simply get away from the city and have some clean air, swim in the sea and people watch.
Pre-lockdown a typical day, well night out, would be starting at Red Coconut or similar for some cheap two for one drink, onto live music at Nigis, end up in Exit Bar.
Next day recover by swimming a bit, well as much as my skin can handle the sun as the Irish in me means I burn - a lot!
Over the years I've tried to avoid the burning part, but a nickname of “Scouse Lobster” gets brought up often. Post-lockdown and why I'm on my third visit in as many months has been simple. Again to get away from the city and more importantly for me, not be locked in my apartment day after day as working from home.
Working from “home” has its benefits for sure, but isolation most certainly does not.
So, my view is if I can't go to the office and have to work from home, I'd much rather make my home the beach, where the air is clean, I can swim in the sea and watch a live band in the night while chatting with friends at what literally is a home from home. We all have our views of COVID-19and while I have no doubt it's a serious issue. I've got to the point of thinking what will kill more people? Especially in the Philippines and in particular Boracay?
Will it beCOVID-19 or the economic depression, mental illness or even starvation.
Those are serious facts and let's think about it, I've been to the island twice since reopening and as much as it's nice how quiet it is, it's too quiet and for locals and businesses who rely on the tourist trade, things need to pick up quickly.
I've heard of the number of suicides since lockdown, truly devastating. Positively, we've seen the great coming together for fund raising and food collections in recent months.
Those facts compared to the deaths due to the virus, fine protect the vulnerable and the elderly but at some point the world needs to start moving or risk the far worse long-term effects. So back to getting to the Island, well the procedure first time round was a pain, more so at the airport in Manila. We counted that we showed the QR code eleven times in total, of which nine times was in the airport at Manila. The organization wasn't what it should have been. It was however far better the second time, when it was only four times that it was shown. I hope that remains the same tomorrow!
At Caticlan they're far better organized, but again the second time was better. It's a little sad the local trikes couldn't get in on each occasion so far, as that no doubt was a big thing for the local drivers and as of my last trip you had no choice but to take the “official” options from the airport. Through the southwest or resort transport only. The big thing is still the price for the swab, I've been paying PhP 5,500 each test, but I know a pal who had to pay PhP 9,000. Now this particular scenario saw him, his wife and their son having to pay a total of PhP 27,000 for the tests.
While their flights and accommodation for 10 days didn't total that. He thinks even with food it only just went over, obviously drinks did top it over, but that's a choice of course. My belief is it's the swab tests that put the majority of people off, not just for the sheer price, which is double each flight I've paid.
While it has to be done within three days of travel, if it comes back positive you're screwed. That's without thinking of the apparent lack of accuracy you read about. Yourtrip is gone and there's nothing you can do about it, so many are driving to Subic, Batangas, Tagaytay etc. no test needed, guaranteed break or vacation. Until the test changes or vanishes it may not change for some time. I've heard talk of the rapid test being introduced at airports, I'm not sure if that's the answer as that may be worse, imagine turning up to the airport with a kid or kids and being turned away. Couldn't explain that to a child.
I have fun, a lot, but I have respect and don't trash the place especially the beach. I often had a few “words” with people leaving rubbish or worse on the beach, there's no need for it at all.
Hopefully people will realize what they've missed and the minority who perhaps weren't so respectful grow some basic manners. On a more positive note, my QR code has just landed. So I can now look forward to flying over, seeing some more fantastic sunsets, enjoy the sea and the clean air. Quite likely have fair few drinks while listening to live music with friends - That does work for me. Enjoy.