As if to mark another beginning’s end, the pre-June rain started pouring sporadically the past few weeks.Thunder growls from time to time, taunting us with the thought that life can’t be all about sun and fun. We are in a more stable and pragmatic state now — students are sharpening their pencils and admiring their new Cattleya notebooks for school, while yuppies are bracing themselves for the usual mid-year budget reports. This is the calm before the storm, and summer seems so far away.
But then again, it’s just been a few weeks since Boracay.
The other day, as I was rummaging through my travel stuff to prepare for my upcoming weekend trip in Hong Kong, I found myself dusting off white, powdery sand from my bag — remnants of my five days of opposing serenity and debauchery in that famous island in Aklan.
I’ve planned it since last year, over a series of Facebook messages with my Filipina-Danish cousin Natacha. After her three months of doing volunteer work in the dump site in Tondo, Manila, we’re set to fly off to Boracay end of April. We’ve had our plane tickets and hotel reserved a year prior, oblivious to the fact that my father would be diagnosed with cancer in January 2013. No one could ever really be prepared for anything like that.
It just so happens that the hotel we were staying at had a nearby church. Hearing Sunday mass in Bisaya-Taglish with my good friend Gil as we nursed a hangover was both a comforting and surreal experience. Soon after, we jogged from Station 1 to D’Mall and back to stay in shape and keep partying in our two-piece. Running around the sand, I cannot help but notice tourists lining up for Starbucks, Yellow Cab, and Army Navy, amidst an array of paraw by the water, screaming with brand names in big bold letters. Why go to Boracay for stuff you could get in the city?! Absolutely ridiculous, I tell you.
Our diet consisted of unlimited trips to Jonah’s milkshake, just one hotel away from where we were staying. It kept us cool throughout the sweltering summer heat. Good that they serve good food too, and that they’re open 24 hours for nocturnal partyphiles.
By sunset, anyone walking by the shore would most likely catch a whiff of the makeshift barbecue stalls that sell the best isaw and choriburger in the island. This kept us alive for several days.
My previous Boracay trips were with family, so I ventured more in the neighboring islands and the wet market, or D’Talipapa, for a fresh seafood lunch at daytime. Come evening time, I’d pull the sheets over my head and sleep peacefully, ready to wake up early for the next day’s island hopping and snorkeling.
My first Boracay trip with friends was nothing like that. The island’s intoxicating underbelly was marked with a risqué allure enough to make you a little bit deranged at night.
It was all a game and an illusion, that patch of paradise we were in: beautiful people here and there, free-flowing alcohol, music blasting as if from the heavens, dancing under the stars, crawling back to the hotel room at 4am, waking up to waves kissing our feet, and having the sun greet us good morning. You couldn’t help but wonder if you were in some really long dream that didn’t want to end.
Looking back, my senses go on overdrive from the reeking of alcohol in everyone’s breath, mixed with the scorching summer heat, the glistening, sweaty bodies, the sand-laden beach hair, the moving lyrics and dance beat to Zedd’s “Clarity”, and maybe even the thrilling, albeit empty promises.
You’ll hate it and you’ll love it.
Perhaps the best thing about partying in Boracay is that a much-needed respite is always just a few steps away. When all the wild partying gets too much for you to take, you could simply walk far away into the shore and revel at the glittering stars (if you’re lucky, you can even catch Daniel Matsunaga running around with the locals as he flashes to you his megawatt grin. I speak from experience). The distant music seems to come from another planet, and no matter what your religion, you’d feel closer than ever to a higher being that makes all those superficial things meaningless — yes, Matsunaga’s abs included.
In that precious moment, just me against the world, I thought about what I’ve made out of this short life so far, and I thought about my father back home, who, on our last trip there as a family, said that his dream was to retire in Boracay. It doesn’t seem fair that I am just out there, leaving my head and my heart on the sandy dance floor. Also, no matter how tempting, I try my best to not get “borne back ceaselessly into the past”, as Fitzgerald’s last words in his great novel goes. It seems to be the perfect setting to reminisce, as if the salty breeze could bring back the bittersweet morsels of yesterday.
At the end of it all, the cliché rings true that what happens in Boracay, stays in Boracay.
You’ll lose the game when you wish otherwise.
You simply have to move on, buy your promo tickets for next year, and do it all over again.
(…And hopefully bump into a Brazilian-Japanese model while you’re at it).