By Al O. Orolfo, Ph.D.
Before visiting Boracay Island, read first articles or watch clips on what happened there before, and then you will realize why it was closed for six months. By doing this, you will better understand why Boracay Island is shifting its image into a sustainable tourism destination from its former hype as a 24/7 party island.
The parties, although not as big, are still there, but they are now inside the establishments compared to before being on the preferred White Beach beachfront. The overcrowding and building construction spree had to be moderated with the adoption of an island carrying capacity.
Timberland areas are now closed for commercial purposes. Water quality surrounding the island is now regularly monitored and hotels/resorts and other commercial establishments are now required to be connected to sewerage service providers.
With the awakening that the island’s unique resources are finite and cannot go on forever as such, the old and new visitors to the island are beginning to appreciate the new vibe the island has to offer. But of course, these steps are just the beginning and must be sustained to have long-term results.
As a visitor to the island, you may be wondering how can you help and be part of the continued rehabilitation efforts. A big or small effort from you will go a long way if before coming to Boracay, you mapped out how you can contribution to the island’s goals.
Below are some pointers you may consider doing while on the world-famous island:
Check the calendar of events offered by various establishments. You may find that some establishments offer a weekly coastal clean-up activity that you can join. They welcome volunteers and these cleanup activities are usually at sundown so as not to disrupt your extended morning slumber while on the island.
Do you want to plant trees as your legacy to the island? These will be here when you come back again, and could become your shade and source of fresh air. The island now has a Tree Park (Arboretum) in Mt. Luho. It is one of the wetlands rehabilitated and turned into a public park. The place is locally called Wetland #2 in Mt. Luho. You may contact DENR CENRO Boracay through EMS I Ramil Marin (+63 950 122 8984) which has a temporary office in Manocmanoc Barangay Hall if you wish to visit the site.
Boracay is a habitat of wildlife animals. Respect their natural home. While roaming along the island’s coastal areas, you might encounter one of the endangered sea turtles (Olive Ridley, Hawksbill and Green Sea). Please do not step on their nesting sites, and report to authorities if you have seen one coming ashore to lay their eggs. In the terrestrial area, the island is also home to the giant flying foxes, one of the rare megabat endemic species which calls the island their home. If your resort has fruit-bearing trees, they will surely visit it at night. Let them feast on their local food source. Do not hurt nor disturb them. Just watch and enjoy observing them and their wildlife behaviors. If you are into birdwatching, the Wetland #2 has a bird hide watching tower. Bring your own binoculars though, and the best time is during the early morning or late afternoon. If you are a diver or snorkeling enthusiast, practice the Green Fins Protocols. These are the United Nations Environment Programme’s approved guidelines while doing marine tourism. Please appreciate the marine creatures and do not feed or pick them up.
Do not take out any form of nature from the island. Our Island ecosystem is fragile. Thus, by taking its sand as a souvenir, you contribute to the fast disintegration of its unique quality. Please leave it just the way it was when you arrived. We have a saying on Boracay, “take away nothing but pictures.”
Go native. Shop for authentic products made in Boracay. And it doesn’t get more local than by visiting the Ati Village. They have a small store adjacent to their village gate where they sell their handmade products. While there, you also get the chance to appreciate the Ati culture by visiting their Bihasin Ati Living Heritage Center museum. Shopping local means supporting local livelihoods and the vibrant local economy. Always bring and re-use your ecobag while shopping anywhere on the island.
Ditch the plastics. The Local Government of Malay now bans single use plastics so be warned to follow this local ordinance. It is advisable for you to bring your own water tumbler. The practice of bringing your own reusable utensils will help lessen the load of disposable utensils together with other forms of garbage being generated by the island.
Talking about trash, the island practices waste segregation. Be sure to dispose of your trash responsibly by following the waste segregation rules. White Beach has rows of designated trash bin areas. Definitely you will enjoy your beach bumming moments if your selfies there do not show any litter on the ground. Pick up irresponsibly thrown waste or better yet, call the nearest law enforcers who will fine someone you have seen throwing it wantonly. The fine for littering is PhP2,500.
Save water and energy while on the island. These two major resources are the most expensive utility bills on the island. The island’s main source of water is a river named Nabaoy located in the mainland. The ubiquitous power generators among resorts and hotels shows that power needs on the island are not yet fully supplied, hence the exorbitant cost of power. Please help the establishments save by doing your part in water and power conservation.
Walk and be fit as well. Boracay Island is really for walkers; it’s one of the reasons why we don’t have too much public transportation. By walking more, you lessen your carbon footprint and can be part of climate change adaptation. Boracay’s main road now has pedestrian sidewalks all the way to the Cagban Port. From Station 3 up to the port, you can achieve 5,000 steps and going back you will get your daily 10,000 steps goal. Believe me, I did it.
Visit and patronize resorts and restaurants which do “best green practices.” Boracay island already has thriving numbers of these green establishments. Show that you support this movement by posting on your social media apps about their services, taking note of their efforts to support the sustainable tourism road map of the island. As such you become a multiplier of the movement.
Reduce your screen time on social media simply by looking around and enjoying the sights. There are many natural wonders on Boracay Island which deserve your attention more than your smartphone. The island has the most awesome sunrise in the world. White Beach is famous for the magnificent sunsets, but if your stay is at a resort facing Ilig-iligan Beach and Bulabog Beach, you can wake up early to see the golden sun rays rising from the sea. Similar to that is Boracay’s moonrise on the same side of the island. It seems there is always a supermoon rising there. While watching that you could witness some culture as locals go fishing as the sun sets. You will see them picking shells and other edible marine food that nature gives them.
The Boracay Island rehabilitation is still a work in progress and does not end together with the tour of duty by the Boracay Taskforce. It just began and with their presence. We still all have roles and a chance to take part in sustaining the rehabilitation gains.
As a responsible tourist, you can share in that role and responsibility. Well, not only on Boracay Island, but also in the other places you visit too - you can make that positive impact. Responsible tourism is not only about the environment, but also about respecting the local culture, and supporting the local economy.
Enjoy the much awaited summer season and become a multiplier for responsible tourism. Welcome back to Boracay – your tropical paradise, regained!