LOVE AT FIRST SIGHT. When I first went to Boracay Island, Philippines (voted as one of the best beaches in the world) in the late 80’s, we had a most fantastic experience in paradise, in spite of the fact that first, we travelled in the typhoon season; the trip was from Kalibo on a Fokker 50 aircraft, a one-hour flight from Manila and another 70 kilometer road trip from Kalibo to Caticlan, jump off point to Boracay. There were no air-conditioned buses for the long, dusty and grueling overland ride with the locals and chickens alike; no jetty port. Due to monsoon season we had to land on the other side of the island (Bulabog) and hike all the way to our resort located on White Beach, our luggage, transported by a water buffalo-pulled cart. There was no electricity, no air-conditioning and no hot water showers in those days, but the whole stay was pure and simple pleasure. We had the time of our life.
WORK AT WHITE BEACH. Little did I imagine that just after two years, I would return to the island and work for one of the pioneer resorts, and stayed further on for 10 years to manage two small properties, tour operations and transport company. Within this period, I also handled three small airline companies that serviced Caticlan, two were defunct and the ultimate one was Seair, which I had to persuade convincingly to fly there. The rest is history.
Photo Above: Rustic Boracay Beach Club Hotel circa 1990, Left: now concrete & glass Astoria Boracay.
PARADISE LOST- WELL, ALMOST. When I left in 2001 after 10 years of working for Boracay, I felt that it was excessively crowded, over-developed in a destructive sense and regrettably deteriorating due to lack of eco balance. I ain’t seen nothin’ yet! Now, returning exactly 21 years since I first came, with over 300 hundred resorts of all shapes, sizes and prices, there is hardly a trace of the pristine, peaceful and perfect paradise that I first saw. It is just chaotic congestion of lodgings, restaurants, bars, stores crowding with vans and tricycles, with no regard for proper zoning, value for natural environment, nor conservation and ecological protection not to mention the global climate change deterioration, most especially on White Beach’s spectacular shoreline.
Photo: Stakeholders must be aware of their responsibility to the environment and community to protect an conserve.
FULL CIRCLE. It is perhaps the hands of fate that made me return to Boracay last April as a Guest Speaker in Events Asia 2010 and as luck would have it, talk about Sustainable Events Management. With my experience at Inkaterra, Peru’s Eco pioneer and Conservation leader, I shared my knowledge and experience in Sustainable Tourism and Environmental Protection. In 1975, Inkaterra opened a lodge for scientists to study Peru’s rainforest long before eco tourism was trendy. With 33 years of experience in sustainable tourism initiatives, it is the first to be carbon neutral in the country, doing reforestation projects in a total of 17,000 hectares in the Amazon. It focuses on preserving and rescuing Peru’s geography, nature, customs and cultures while sharing them with the rest of the world.
PLEDGE. At a Social Media workshop at the same Events Asia, I met Roselle Tenefrancia, Environmental lawyer, activist, travel writer and consultant of Boracay Sun, the island’s monthly paper and Maria Tajanlangit, Editor in Chief of 7107 Islands Magazine, whose family were pioneers in Boracay. With these two lead advocates, I committed myself to help in formulating the blueprint for a new Boracay Conservation, Social Responsibility and Sustainable Development.
THE BORACAY INITIATIVE®. Another stroke of luck was reuniting with a good old friend, Leonard Tirol, Boracay Coast Guard Commodore, White House Boracay resort owner and founder of Integrated Composite Enforcer (ICE), whom I convinced to undertake the Boracay Initiative under ICE with fellow member Mike Labatiao. PJ Aranador with his flagship green lifestyle boutique on the island, Nautilus and Ms. Jane Chua, founder of www.gogreenphilippines and “A Piece of Green” Boracay boutique owner also pledged their support to the Initiative.
A CALL FOR UNITY AND SUPPORT. Together with this core group, a challenging task of planning, organizing, implementing and monitoring of the The Boracay Initiative© will take shape, with helpful hints from all concerned sectors and support of the newly elected government officials.
LESS CONVERSATION, IT’S TIME FOR ACTION. Indeed, fate brought me back to the island, which we had come to love and cherish, but it is high time for us, to take action, less conversation! We must put all our efforts and resources to restore, conserve and protect Boracay Island, its beauty and natural resources for the future generations to come. We are calling on marine biology experts, biologists, green urban planners, conservationists and environmental advocates to share their expertise, time and effort to help out in this cause.