Five in the afternoon on White Beach, Boracay. Throngs of people spill out of the establishments along the beachfront as the sun begins its descent from the sky, their phones and cameras out as the great yellow ball falls over the horizon. Somewhere a band plays. Jazz and acoustic renditions of hit OPM songs flow freely among sounds of chatter and laughter, loud but never a cacophony, excited but never upsetting to the ears. Sailboats glide across the sea, their silhouettes sharp against the sky. One slips right in front of the sun, bathed deep in its glow. By now the sky has turned the loudest of oranges, and the noise of Boracay’s White Beach has hushed, replaced with a gentle sense of awe.
I still can’t bring myself to consider Boracay as a success of tourism and development. Hardly any of the establishments are run by the island’s true locals, and even after the closure and rehabilitation earlier this year, the sheer amount of buildings and tourists suggest that Boracay is far past its carrying capacity. Tour guides offer island hopping activities and diving trips, but I can’t even imagine how the reefs must be doing with millions of people passing by them each year.
Be that as it may, though, there is still something about this little stretch of island in the shallow Visayan sea that captivates the hearts and minds of travelers from all across the world. Boracay is thousands of different things to thousands of different holiday-seekers. To the young and adventurous, it’s good times and sunshine beneath the Pacific sun. To the tired and world-weary, it’s a chance to get away from everything, in a place where time seems to freeze and all responsibility melts away. To families, it’s a chance to be together; to couples, endless shores from which to watch the most beautiful sunsets together; and to me, an opportunity to turn off and rest, just for a little bit, before throwing myself headlong into the world once more.
The sun has slipped away behind the sea. Up above the sky is a rich, chromatic gradient of light orange and deep purple, with faint hints of green at the peripherals of my vision.
As the sky darkens, a couple makes their way to the water. The girl holds up hands and, with her fingers, forms a heart to frame the colours of the sky. Her partner holds up his phone and captures one photo, and then another, and then adjusts her fingers to look a little bit more like a heart before taking one last shot. She falls back towards them and they laugh, before making their way back up to the beach, disappearing into the establishments that run along the shore.
The acoustic music has turned to jazz. In the background noise, someone cheers, while a group further down the beach sings happy birthday. My dad, stood next to me, lets out a loud sigh, and I do the same. “Beautiful,” he says. I nod.
Despite my own opinions on the island, I couldn’t help but smile to myself. The good fight will continue, I think to myself, but for now, there’s no harm in kicking back to good vibes and good music beneath the cloudless colours of a Boracay sunset.