By Jen Freeman
Boracay is one of the most welcoming, friendly and cosmopolitan beach destinations many visitors are likely to encounter, with a local community made up of both Filipino and foreign residents and with travelers from all demographics and walks of life. With such an eclectic melting pot of cultures, however, it is somewhat inevitable that confusion may sometimes arise as to what constitutes acceptable – or even legal – behavior.
Since the island reopened to the general public in October of 2018, a number of regulations have been put in place to protect the cleanliness of our beaches, ocean and general environment, with hefty fines for those caught violating, so take a moment to familiarize yourself with the basic Dos and Don’ts of beach etiquette, and ensure that your vacation remains fun, easy and hassle-free.
Perhaps the most obvious and important point of all, yet sadly, many visitors still deem it acceptable to casually throw their garbage onto the island’s beaches or sidewalks. This is not just unsightly (and on occasion, dangerous) but poses a threat to marine wildlife, while infiltrating and polluting our ecosystem on a much larger scale.
Trash cans have now been placed at strategic intervals along the length of the White Beach pathway, with options to segregate your waste as biodegradable or non-bio, so please be mindful of how you dispose of your litter. If you can’t locate one of the beach-side trash cans, most restaurants or resorts will be happy to let you use theirs – or simply take your waste back to your hotel. Hefty fines are now meted out to those who disrespect this rule.
Cigarette smoking is now a no-no on Boracay’s beaches, streets and other public areas, and is also prohibited in restaurants, bars and hotels. Many establishments do provide designated smoking areas, so be sure to locate one before lighting up. Resort and bar staff will point you in the right direction.
Aside from the obvious health hazards and the nuisance caused to non-smokers, much of the litter collected from our shoreline is comprised of cigarette filters, which may take as long as ten years to biodegrade, so please dispose of these responsibly.
This should go without saying, but apparently some people still need a reminder. Aside from being extremely anti-social, spitting poses a real health risk, particularly due to the transmission of diseases such as colds and flu, which are carried in the airborne droplets. Instead of firing off bacterial bombs in your general vicinity, please dispose of your excess saliva in the nearest rest room or appropriate receptacle. This unsavory habit is now against the law in public places.
Party goers beware! Taking a leak (or worse!) in a public area is now likely to result in you being apprehended and fined, according to a local ordinance. Often the unfortunate side effect of imbibing too much alcohol, the need to “go” at an inopportune moment or in an inconvenient place is familiar to us all, but al fresco peeing is both unpleasant and unhygienic.
While public conveniences are sadly still in short supply, restrooms are plentiful at bars, restaurants and malls, so don’t be shy to ask. Getting caught in the act will be far more of an embarrassment.
Picnicking and Drinking
These activities are no longer permitted on the island’s beaches, with a view to keeping Boracay clean and pristine. All too often, snack food wrappers and broken glass shards were found discarded on the sand, and as a result, dining and drinking must now take place within the confines of a restaurant or bar area. Glass bottles may not be carried in public areas, including the beach pathway or from one bar or club to another.
It was once said that “What happens in Boracay, stays in Boracay,” but with the advent of phone cameras and social media, that is definitely no longer the case. Who could forget the widely-publicized and much-photographed incident of a female tourist receiving a stern lecture and a fine for wearing a bikini comprised entirely of string?
Boracay has a very relaxed attitude to clothing, and many people even forego sandals or slippers in favor of walking barefoot on the soft, white sand. However, while there are no hard-and-fast rules regarding skimpy attire, keep in mind that Filipinos are, for the most part, of a fairly modest persuasion, and while you may consider your bare behind as a sight to behold, families and locals are unlikely to share your enthusiasm, finding such cheeky displays more cringe-worthy than Insta-worthy.
“When in Rome, do as the Romans do,” is a good adage to follow, in this case.
Reuse and Recycle
Going green is now easier than ever, and with so many environmentally sustainable products available here on the island, it is no longer an expense or an inconvenience.
Visitors are encouraged to use refillable water containers at the beach due to the ban on single-use plastics, and these are sold at many local retail outlets. Some resorts already provide canteens to their guests, along with filling stations for topping up drinking water free of charge.
Most stores and groceries now use paper bags or reusable fabric eco-bags for your produce, while bars and restaurants commonly serve drinks with metal or bamboo alternatives to plastic straws.
Whenever possible, please skip the throwaway plastic and choose the eco-friendly option, thus helping to preserve Boracay for future generations.