By: Victor Jeffery The tiny Island of Boracay was one of the most affected local tourist destinations during the enforced Covid lockdowns. Being the number one tourist island in the country meant that we had more workers who lost their jobs, and more businesses that were forced into closure than any other tourist destination in the country.
The hardships endured quickly became apparent by the long queues regularly forming at the community food pantries that were quickly set up.
Local business people and residents, both foreign and local, sprung into action to help feed the out of work families who had little resources of their own and little assistance from other quarters. There was simply no other way to help people from starving other than food parcel handouts on as regular basis as possible. Members of the Boracay community stepped up to the mark to help wherever and whenever possible.
Worldwide travel restrictions cut off all foreign tourism, and local travel being banned effectively strangled the whole of the tourism industry. Vaccination certificates were pretty much made compulsory, despite the fact that less than half of the population were vaccinated, and all forms of entertainment, proper education and physical exercise were strictly prohibited. Alcohol bans and daily curfews were imposed upon an already greatly suffering population - regardless of age, gender and circumstances. “Stay Home” was the enforced order of the day.
After two long years the country is slowly following the example of most European countries and some other Asian ones and lifting, or somewhat lightening, many of the restrictive policies. Many of those restrictions were deemed as ludicrous by much of the population - those such as; face shields and masks on empty beaches, signing in and temperature checks before being allowed to swim in the sea, plastic dividers on motorcycles, alcohol bans, children and senior citizens not allowed outside their own homes, one quarantine pass per household, and the list went on and on…
For a short while late last year there was a little respite - local tourists from some parts of the country could go through a long series of complicated requirements that allowed them to travel to Boracay. That was good for a short while. A few positive cases saw knee jerk panic reactions forcing us back into lockdowns. No doubt the few positive cases all recovered a few days later…
Whilst this short period of respite was in place, one of the restrictions on Boracay resident families that I couldn’t understand was that the tourists children were allowed to go out and play on the beach and swim - yet the locals kids were forbidden to do so. One can only but stab in the dark and guess what justified reason was behind that.
Reflecting back, I wonder how all of this was allowed to happen - and why was it forced upon us. The government was unfortunately put into a position by institutions like the WHO and CDC whereby they probably had about as much idea as to what was going on as the ordinary man in the street. I reckon the so-called experts got a lot wrong. But that’s just me. If lives were saved, all to the good.
However, having said all that. After two years, some sense of normality is slowly returning. Vaccines are not mandatory, if you decided against them, you can just provide a negative RT/PCR swab or antigen test and you're allowed onto Boracay. There are a few other requirements like a confirmed hotel booking, travel tickets and a One Health Declaration Card (OHDC) which is easy to fill in online.
I have to ask - Why-oh-Why couldn't we have done that or something very similar from day number one…
Still, Boracay is now open and once again flourishing. Almost 96,000 tourists visited our shores during the first two weeks of April. That’s a massive step in the right direction. The LGU and DOT appear to be making every effort possible to inform the country and the world that Boracay is still the gem of a paradise that it always was..
Most establishments that had “Closed” signs up for many months on end have now re-employed their long suffering staff, and those that had to close for good, are quickly being taken over by new owners and reopening their doors.
Live music once again adds to the throb and vibe of Boracay’s nightlife, and the restaurants are once again buzzing with life.
Mother Nature always takes care of herself, and the months of isolated beaches have helped to restore the seas natural beauty and marine life, along with the pollution and drainage issues now being properly addressed.
Boracay is Once Again open - Don’t miss out.
See you soon.