Twenty years ago today, I went to Boracay for the first time and fell in love…with the island. I experienced that indefinable, magical feeling of coming home even though I wasn’t born there, had never been there until March of 1997. It wasn’t as if I had not seen the beach before then. I grew up with the sea only a few steps away from our house. No, Boracay was different. Special. More.
It was a combination of things – the white, fine sand; clear blue waters; fragrant sea air; sweet, delicious mango shake; and best of all, the company of my best friends. I can only recall the beauty and deep contentment of being there, my friend had to remind me about the masses of people who, like us, were spending their Holy Week in the island and the turbulent waters during our boat tour. I didn’t mind those things. I was happy. I was home.
We only stayed three days that first time. They weren’t nearly enough. I had to go back three months later with a different set of friends. From then on until I left the Philippines to migrate to the US, I kept going back to Boracay. It became an annual pilgrimage for me. Even when I was working in Indonesia and Singapore and had gone to the famous beaches in Bali, Phuket, Sydney, and Brisbane, I still wouldn’t miss a trip to Boracay. That’s how much I love that island. I don’t need any travel magazine to tell me it’s the Best Island in the World. I already know. I have known for 20 years now.
So when I decided to write my first novel, there was never any doubt where I was going to set it–yep, you guessed it–Boracay. In my book One Week in Boracay, I created a fictional exclusive resort named Perlas, which is supposed to be located on the Northeast part of the island where Yapak, Punta-Ina, and Ilig-Iligan beaches are. Perlas has its own airstrip (instead of the golf course that’s there now), a dream scenario that may or may not be possible given the topography. The Boracay in my book is my ideal, the one I first fell in love with in 1997 – a clean, quiet, less commercialized place that’s a balm to a person’s soul. It’s the one I’d like to go back to again and again even if only in my books.
Happy 20th Anniversary to us, Boracay! I will be with you again, soon.