LoveBoracay:One Year On From Closure
26th April 2019 and it is one year since Boracay Island was closed to tourists. The island had been damned by the Philippine President, Rodrigo Duterte, as a “Cesspool”. And a rehabilitation program was put in place with almost immediate effect.
26th April 2019
Today Boracay Island started its first day of LoveBoracay; a week long festival of events to replace LaBoracay. LaBoracay was not wholly loved by Boracay. Thousands of party-goers would descend on the island for 4-5 days of partying that saw its famous White Beach full of beautiful bodies and an awful lot of trash and noise!
Day 1 of LoveBoracay 7-9am
Day 1 of LoveBoracay saw the wondrous splendor of over 30 Paraw Boats all lined up along White Beach at Station 2.
The first event of the opening day, running from 7am-9am, was the 1st Boracay Pinta Layag; Paraw Sails Painting competition. The theme for the competition was Sustainable Tourism. Each boat was provided with a sail to paint. Images included Whale Sharks and Turtles, the Philippines Eagle,islanders working together for their environment and the Flying Fox.
The Golden-Crowned Flying Fox is the largest species of endemic Bat in the Philippines. Sadly the advocacy group Friends of the Flying Foxes has been reporting on a devastating drop in the numbers of all species of bats roosting in their preferred location in Yapak. At the last count, attended by Bat expert Pol Cariño, only 10 Golden-crowned Flying Foxes were seen. The group advises:
“As the bats original roosts were partly destroyed by Mabuhay Maritime Express Inc in 2017, they now hang higher up, hidden in the trees to protect themselves from disturbances and the summer heat. This has impacted the numbers of bats in general, but also the number that can be seen during roost counts. A few years back when we did roost counts, we could always see a few hundreds in the roosts, now we only see less than 60 of the Large Flying Fox and the Golden Crowned Flying Fox at the Puka Shell roost site.” 
Talks are currently still taking place regarding designating certain areas of Boracay for Marine and Conservation Protection Zones. A decision can not come quick enough for these beautiful creatures who help islanders by sowing seeds across the island and devouring mosquito’s; reducing cases of Malaria and Dengue.
The sight of so many colorful Paraw Sails was truly stunning. Years ago a decision was taken to have only plain white or blue Paraw sails. So it was lovely to see so much creativity and colour again. Competition results will be announced on the Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry Boracay’s Facebook Page 
Day 1 of Love Boracay: 9am-12noon
The 2nd event of the day was a Paraw Race. 2019 saw the 3rd year of the Paraw Race and, due to so much publicity for LoveBoracay, the beach was full of islanders and tourists excited to witness the start of the race.
The race was done in two heats, with the largest Paraw’s starting ahead of the smaller vessels. Lining up on the beach waiting to go, viewers could hear the building excitement from the crews as they whooped and yelled. Witnessing so many crews pushing off their Paraw and racing out towards the mainland was thrilling, and the crowds yelled their approval.
Island Photographer Ernesto Bandiola Cruz captured the race beautifully
The boat Boralee and her crew took 1st place. Further race results will be announced on the Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry Boracay’s Facebook Page 
Day 1 of Love Boracay: Evening Activities
The Boracay Foundation Inc. and Boracay Interagency Rehabilitation Management Group, in partnership with SMART has organised the evening activities. The Boracay Food Festival 2019 will run from 26 April until May 1, with food stalls and music starting from 5pm until 12 midnight.
A number of Boracay Restaurants will be offering some of their most popular dishes on their stalls.
The Boracay Food Festival stalls are located at the Laketown Boardwalk; one of the Wetlands which is being rehabilitated. Proceeds from the event will benefit Boracay’s Rehabilitation efforts.
LoveBoracay is already turning out to be a wonderful experience. Boracay is being celebrated and the community is coming back together after being fragmented after the closure in 2018. Much is still to be done on the island. The rehabilitation won’t complete until December 2020.
The issue of homes and businesses up on Mount Luho is still to be addressed. Many properties were built before the proclamation turning the land to Forest Land. These are still left in limbo one year later, with residents and owners unable to move forward, or operate, until a decision is made. There has been talk of reversing the proclamation and returning the land to Alienable and Disposable. Certainly, many Tax Declarations retrieved from archives by owners, show that the land was Coco Land back in the 1940’s. Another solution put forward is to issue Flag T’s to the properties, for a term of 25 years.
The main road from Station 1 to Yapak is still to be completed, and sewage pipes put in place. Electricity is still an issue with regular blackouts, although these have reduced in the last month.
Many residents were initially unhappy about the ban on sunloungers, tables and chairs on the beach. But this has only enhanced the beauty of White Beach and few complain about it any more.
Trikes are still an issue for residents, with daily complaints that the tourist dollar is more desirable than serving locals trying to get home from work, or the shops. With unmade roads still around, the decision has been to extend the lifetime of the old motorized trikes, as the E-Trikes experience cracks to their fibreglass bodies.
So much still to do but in the meantime, if you visit the island please practice LoveBoracay; don’t drop trash, please bring wet or reusable bags, a metal or bamboo straw, bring your own water bottle and no smoking or drinking on the beaches.
- Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry Boracay
- Quote taken from Friends of the Flying Foxes – post dated to 25th April 2019