Visa and tickets? Check.
Suitcases and a 24-hour pink lipstick? Check.
Protective sunglasses and a one million dollar smile? Double check!
All packed and set, I looked around me and I convinced myself that I was ready.
I’m off on a jaunt. Welcomed constantly with smiles and was called “Ma’am” frequently, I knew that I was back in my own beloved country. But after spending three days in the frantic capital of the Philippines, I started to notice that much had changed since the last time I left.
Growth has been rampant over the past few years. The pace of life has quickened its steps and I no longer have the competence to catch up and dance to its tempo. Each step is steep and to put one foot forward over the other was a struggle. My old fashioned ways of living have finally reached their conclusion. Left out and bruised, it became clear that I was ill equipped in the arena of modernization and change.
Not only were my actions idiotic, I also felt that I spoke and sounded differently. The feeling of being different had nibbled a core to the wholeness of my being and sadly, I had forgotten about how to naturally be me. I became conscious that a part of me had been lost and was waiting to be found.
While I was seeking semblance of my reality, I spent my solitary times reflecting on the incalculable things in my small slightly cracked head. I decided to visit Boracay with a bag half full of doubt and promise, hoping to break away from the strict rules of my superficial reality.
During the long and occasionally short nights that I was on the island, it slowly came into my senses that I was like the island itself. Ironic it is to say that like her, over a period of time she was robbed of her innocence. Her primitive beauty had been washed by her own waves and cast into the distant and deepest part of the ocean. Her revered likeness had changed dramatically and was deprived of countless solitary peaceful nights.
Looking back to history, it was a long time ago, what is now famously known as the finest beach in Asia and one of the best in the world, Boracay Island was a clandestine destination at first. Only few knew of its existence. But like every secret, its mesmerizing beauty and rapture swiftly spread from one privileged ear to another that sometime around the 70s, the hidden paradise was accidentally exposed to the world by a foreign movie crew. Although others believed that the one thing that really let the secret out was the German traveler Jens Peter whose writings revealed astonishing reviews of the island.
After a decade, Boracay had captivated the appetite of many hungry travelers and eventually became a favorite tourist destination in the Philippines. Its powdery soft white sand beaches and crystal clear waters that stretch across a 3.5 kilometer along the west coast provided the main attraction among swarms of tourists and guests alike.
From the sleepy, sparsely populated island, Boracay had evolved into a destination in its own right. Her unique old world charm and true form began to ebb. The era of peace and quiet had been taken out of the picture. Like the island, I was caught in the same play.
In my quest for solace, I was relieved to be away from the cruelties of the harsh world. It had given me time to breath and strangely, a time to create my own world and reality where nature seems to be the only friend. On the first moon, I met Shangri-la Resort and Spa. She lived on the island for four years. I remembered vividly that I used to call her the remote paradise that spells bliss and delight. She invited me to her home that has 219 rooms ranging from simple chic to grandeur deluxe, suites, villas and a shelter to 36 species of birds and fruit bats. I spent my whole day looking out to the spacious haven in my sea view suite while listening to the music of the soulful waves.
Later that evening, Shangri-la introduced me to Rima, who hides amongst the treetops but was always generous to offer a sumptuous dinner of a connoisseur Italian taste. On the next day, I met Solana who likes to serve me with glasses of wine and her twin sister Serena who agreed to delight my appetite with seafood while resting on the deck looking at the scenic sunset where Shangri-la herself started the evening with displays of fireworks.
Before I went back to my room, Chi who was always shy and only comes out from the rocky sanctuary invited me to enjoy the signature spa treatments that exploit Chinese, Himalayan and Filipino healing concepts. His juvenile spirit had reminded me to be healthy and fit.
I decided to leave and bid goodbye to Shangri-la on the third day. It was almost noon and the sun was happily sending its rays when I stopped by at the rocky hills of Hagdan Barangay Yapak on the northwest end of Boracay and there I met Argonuata. She was a mystery and by the time we exchanged candid thoughts, I felt close to her. She prides herself being committed to the economic and environmental sustainability of Boracay Island through preservation, waste management and fun environment to the locals.
Her home is situated on the cliff and provides a different vibe of the island for travelers. A real home away from home, with 14 rooms and a fine selection of villas, apartments and suites built out from love. Love for her husband and love for their children and it is for the same reason why she always opens her door to everyone who seeks peace and quiet.
Every journey leads to a destination. As I left the island that offered solace, while flying over the Sibuyan Sea of 24K feet, it dawned on me that Boracay had never actually lost it true from and glory. Restaurants, shops, discos and bars have been erected on the island and continuously grow in numbers, but her surprising beauty still shines every waking morning and offers majestic sunsets. She emerges out from the total darkness after the night has ended and charms everyone before she bids farewell to the day.
Like the island of Boracay, I was wrong to say that I have forgotten my true self. My ways may have changed but never my character. It was there the whole time; I just have to look deep inside me.
I was glad that after many years of backpacking and miles away from home, coming back to my native roots had given me another chance of knowing myself for the second time. I was thankful that I and Boracay had mysteriously understood each other in our unique way. How lonely it can be that I sometimes ignored scores of things and traveled to a far off place, to find meaning, only to know that the answers are just around the corner.
Before the plane took its final approach to Ninoy International Airport, I remembered Mr. Snuggles saying “nothing beats the first time”. But I also believe that the second is always sweeter than the first.
As for me, this will be again a new beginning.
Jan Sevilla is a quixotic nomadic chick from the Philippines with some difficulty of having her subject agree to her verb. She is forever 25. Convinced herself that she is alive but half-asleep or half-noticing as the years fly, no matter how oxygenated the blood that flows in her brain. Catch more of her travel murmurs at : http://najsevilla.blogspot.com/