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Boracay Is Home

Editor’s note: 

An international public health expert in humanitarian emergencies for 22 years, Seema has worked in 18 countries, having been deployed to emergencies from wars in Syria, Iraq, and Ukraine, to the Philippines for Typhoon Haiyan and to Liberia during the Ebola outbreak. 


As of this writing, Seema, who had just planted roots on Boracay Island, filed this essay (a sequel to her first piece published in our February edition, on her plans to move to Boracay permanently), while addressing humanitarian emergencies in Libya, Morocco, Nagorno-Karabakh, and most recently the earthquake in Afghanistan and the escalation of violence and declaration of war between Israel and Palestine. For now, Seema is remotely working on these emergencies from Boracay by providing technical support to the local teams while securing funding and medical supplies for the continuation of life-saving health services.  


“Oh, so you moved back permanently?” Permanence. If there’s one lesson life has taught me, it is that nothing is permanent. I lived in Boracay between 2003 and 2008 for various periods of time; first beginning with a few months and then a few years at a stretch. I left with much sadness every time, thinking it would be the last time. Yet, here I am, 15 years later, unpacking again and settling into my lovely casa in Bulabog. So, another lesson life’s taught me: You never know if the last time you do something is really the last time but no two times will ever be the same. 


Boracay has grown up like I have over the years. Our parallel journeys have involved transitions, expansions, closures, cleansing, merging worlds, nostalgic living, modern living, letting go, and letting in. I’m always drawn to places that exist in dualities; because I am dual. In a world that needs definitions, categories, requisites, and logical explanations, this island does not require us to fit into any boxes. 

The silent pact we enter into with Boracay when we live here is: “Just be yourself, stay curious, stay open, and in turn, Boracay will offer your spirit to experience freedom and an unmatched sense of peace.”


When asked what is it like to live here, the best analogy in this social-media world is to compare it to the kind of #slowliving #islandlife that IG influencers romanticize about. Except it has always been the island way of life; not for the followers or the reels or the number of likes. The slow mornings, intentional living, tasting our food and feeding our happiness, checking tides to decide which side of the island we swim and which side we kiteboard, and impromptu lunches merging into sunset shenanigans. 


Cooking for each other, planting each other’s gardens, caring for each other’s children, sharing tips on carpenters or where to find arugula and avocados, whiskey sour happy hours and late-night ramen cravings, parties at home and yoga on the terrace …. oh, and the constant hunt for the least frequented tourist spot! But let us not deceive you that we are all purely altruistic and removed from the rest of the world! 


Boracay living today offers Wi-Fi and hot showers at home, oat milk from Robinsons, Lazada and Shopee deliveries, Netflix weekends, and sharing Spotify playlists. In many ways, the world comes to us and we are spoiled for choices on meeting new people, exploring opportunities, and learning so much about the world without ever really having to leave our cozy island. Choosing more or choosing if less is more, the beauty lies in the choices we have here and pursuing lifestyles that best suit who we are. 

For me, Boracay will always mean three things: beach, community, tranquility. 


I still go to White Beach to swim three or four times a week; I distinctly remember how awe-struck I was by the beauty of the beach when I saw it for the first time and its magnetic powers continue to draw me in. I never want to take this beach for granted and recognize what a privilege it is to wake up to this stunning view every day. Swimming in Boracay waters–in Angol, in Diniwid, in Puka, in Bulablog–remains my favorite thing to do on the island, so I go for my afternoon swims, carving out my spots where I know I can swim uninterrupted, just me, white sand, turquoise waters, and a heart full of gratitude. 


My community here holds friendships spanning 20 years and they remain the anchor of my Boracay stories. The community continues to expand as we frequently meet an interesting diversity of people who have similarly chosen island living. Also special is being reacquainted with kindred spirits from previous lives because obviously, this is the kind of place where you run into people you met from other lifetimes. So, this is my circle, old friends, new friends, and kindred spirits and they enrich my daily life in subtle, unexpected ways. It’s hard to describe how hours can be spent in such company, sometimes no words exchanged, all of us are just filled with an immense sense of self-awareness and appreciation for the gift of our shared lives on this island. 

 

The tranquility I experience here comes from my own restless spirit being able to find peace with who I am and who I am not. Boracay has always held me when I needed to heal, helped me find my way when I’ve been lost; and most of all has inspired me to unapologetically be exactly who I am.

 

For all its magic, Boracay made me discover my magic, teaching me my most important life lesson: The magic cannot leave you when it IS you. And so, it’s home, and why I always come back and why presence over permanence will continue to be a more fulfilling way to live. 




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