The Other Side of Boracay

I’ve never been too crazy about Boracay to begin with; while the white sand beach is admittedly beautiful, I find the place too congested. As it turns out, there’s another possible reason for not being too crazy about the place. This story, posted by Dondon Marquez of Hands On Manila, is a real eye-opener about what goes on on the other side of the island, about what the real cost has been of the fast-track tourism development that is Boracay.

I urge you to read the article. Think about it the next you go to Boracay, tell the story to your friends who are going to Boracay. Responsible tourism does not necessarily have to be confined to the maxim “Take nothing but pictures, leave nothing but footprints, kill nothing but time.”

Boracay, An Island Paradise?

by Dondon Marquez

Just got back from Boracay! My second time in 3 months. The first one was a pleasure trip but because I need to get familiarized with the so called “island paradise” for a future project called Hands On Volunteer Vacations of Hands On manila, I managed to touch base with the locals and the chamber of commerce. I spent most of the time interviewing people in the area, from bangkero to a policeman, from a waiter to resort manager…I did some bonding with the bookers ( eto yung mga naka ID na nag o-offer o namimilit ng bangka ride at iba pang raket), firedancers, entertainers…I needed to do all these things to know the reality of life among the workers in the island and to establish contacts for future deployment of volunteers. This time, I was there for four days to explore possibilities of partnership with some of the non-government orgs and community-based organizations...

Bago ako pumunta sa island, I only have one thing in mind…to close and finalize a partnership with organizations where volunteers can help and do community service while vacationing… Nagawa ko yun! Dapat masaya ako, mission accomplished, BUT I was so depressed after I visited the tiny ATI community in the island.

Ati tribe, were the original settlers in Boracay, they were nomads. Boracay was a real paradise for these black people because living there was so easy for them with its natural wonders and resources such as the white sand beach, vast varieties of fruits, veggies, fishes and a lot of animals… they were living harmoniously with mother nature. Until people started to develop it…and everything went on very quickly, DOT and the province of Aklan made the place so famous that all investors, tourists and businesses were erected in the area…and..they were successful… very successful that all of them were overwhelmed of the money that the “island paradise” is generating.

Sa likod ng pagunlad na ito ng Boracay, may naiwan, may nakalimutan at yun ay ang mga Ati na na ngayon nakakubli sa isang maliit na pamayanan sa likod ng isla, sa Bolabog, Mayroong 36 households (220 individuals) na nakatira dito. Sinadya ng mga tao, na ngayon ang nag mamayari ng mga lupa doon, na sila ay ilagay sa isang tagong lugar, naka-pader, sa gitna ng bahayan, dahil makakasira daw sa Turismo ang pamamalagi (existence) nila doon.

Tumutulong ang Daughters of Charity (DC) para mapaunlad ang buhay nila but the sisters can only do so much. The provincial government wanted them to be relocated in Malay mainland, isang lugar na hindi sila sanay. Inihihingi ng DC na bigyan na lamang nag kaunting space ang mga ito sa kinasanayan nilang lugar, pero malabo. I saw the Development plan of the island and there is actually a 20-has. space alloted for the tribe but it wasn’t implemented…Because that space, has been developed by investors and made it as a resort with a golf course. Now they are becoming poorer every second of their lives…Kung dati pangingisda ang ikinabubuhay nila, ngayon ay bawal na. At lalong wala nang natural resources dahil wala nang puno at mga hayop. Pinutl dahil sa industrial development. Di rin naman sila makapag trabaho sa Turismo dahil hindi sapat ang kanilang kaalaman at may discrimination, dahil sa kanilang kutis…Tulad din ng di makapagpatuloy sa pagaaral ang mg bata, dahil sa pangungutsa ng mga “puti.” Sa isang libong nakatala na Ati sa Boracay, isa pa lang ang nakapagtrabaho sa isang kainan sa beachfront as janitor. Inunahan na rin sila ng oportunidad ng mga ibang taga karatig-pook sa pagtatrabaho. Pinakamalaking laban nila ngayon, sa tulong ng DC sisters ay ang pagkuha nila ng kanilang titulo sa kanilang ancestral domain. Nasimulan na pero kulang sa political will…at sino naman ang magbibigay ng lupa sa kanila na alam ng mayayaman na ang lupang ito ay gagawa ng pera.

Ang mga Ati ngayon ay mga dayuhan sa sarili nilang lupa. 80% ng mga batang Ati ay malnourished; Sa kanilang pamayanan na 42 houses, iisa lamang ang toilet; At lahat ng bahay na ito ay walang kuryente. IIsa ang jetmatic pump ng community kung saan lahat sila ay dun kumukuha ng tubig-inumin. Literacy rate is 30%, there are schools in the island but Ati children were not or never studied in those schools.

If you happen to visit Boracay and you are interested to visit them or probably give Pasalubong to the community especially to the kids (they have nursery school and feeding program regularly) Do not hesitate to call me.

Huwag nating kalilimutan na sa bawat bisita natin sa Boracay ay may naaapi tayo! For me, Boracay is not a paradise. A place couldn’t be called a paradise if there is a group or people in that paradise who are discriminated and maltreated. Sa paraiso ang lahat ay pantay-pantay, parehas ang kinakain at parehas ang biyayang natatanggap.

I wanted to post my pics taken at the beachfront pero nahiya ako sa sarili ko…Nag eenjoy ako dun habang may ilan na natatapakan at biktima ng kahirapan habang ang lugar ay ibinebenta na parang langit sa lupa. At sa kasamaang -palad…sila ang mga ATI…ang mga totoong may-ari ng Isla Boracay.

Originally posted at Dondon’s Multiply site. Contact him (or send me a message) if you’re interested to know more or if you want to be involved with Hands On Volunteer Vacations.

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3 thoughts on “The Other Side of Boracay

  1. jen April 29, 2008 at 1:51 pm Reply

    sad to hear about the Atis. I hope nga that those who are cashing on boracay would help this group.


    • gmae February 10, 2011 at 9:17 am Reply

      governments must take a look at this side!
      they are also important in our society!
      we will preserve those tribes!


  2. […] by the tourism-induced developments. Boracay is a magical island and all that, but it is NOT a best practice on how a tourist destination should be developed in this […]


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