Christine Amour Levar shares why Boracay in the Philippines is such a special place to visit, and why it’s wonderful with kids
The first memory I have of catching a firefly was in the exquisite island of Boracay, many years ago. I remember holding it in my cupped hands, while staring mesmerized at its glowing abdomen. As I looked up, I realized that hundreds more of these beautiful, incandescent insects were surrounding me, zigzagging happily through the lush tropical foliage just a few metres from the island’s powdery shores. On this particularly warm and starry night, the fireflies created a magical, festive atmosphere around me. And as the moon shone brightly, I felt I was fortunate to experience nature in this safe and carefree way.
At that time, I was just a child, growing up in the bustling megapolis of Manila. This special holiday spent away from the city, on the island of Boracay in the Visayas region of the Philippines, was the closest thing I ever got to a genuine Robinson Crusoe-like experience. This was in the early 80s, when there was no electricity on the island and the only tourists who ventured to this part of the country were intrepid European backpackers. As a result, a sprinkling of huts had started to pop up on the beach to cater to the needs of these new foreign travellers.
In those days, my mother had a close friend called Claudia who was living in Manila with her family. Having heard about the exquisiteness of Boracay, Claudia, with her infectious adventurous spirit, convinced a few friends and their families to travel with her on an overnight boat from Manila to this remote region of the country. The rickety and crowded public cruise liner was the start of this exciting new adventure. We spent ten hours at sea, travelling through the night, with hundreds of other people heading to their home province for the summer months. The next morning, after docking at Caticlan port, we transferred to a small Banca boat, which finally took us to the pristine shores of this island.
At the time, Boracay was still relatively unknown, and clearly, very underdeveloped. You’d pay just a few pesos a night for rudimentary accommodation and the toilets were quite basic, to say the least! If you were lucky, they were located not too far from your hut. Just having the courage to wind your way to the lavatory at night, while shooing off the giant toads and other beady-eyed creatures lurking in the dark was an unforgettable, and often hair-raising experience – for us city kids especially!
Today, as I reminisce, it all seems like a lifetime ago…yet I find myself returning to Boracay with my family almost every year, to bathe in its soothing turquoise waters. Without a doubt, the island has changed in innumerable ways, and it has become, to some extent, a commercialised tourist resort. It’s true that it has lost its peacefulness and deserted charm. Nevertheless, I continue to derive so much enjoyment from spending holidays there with my family and friends.
The sunsets are still as stunning as before, and the beach is as beautiful as any Maldivian atoll… but at one-fifth of the price! And best of all, swimming in the island’s crystal-clear waters, and feeling my feet sink into its fine white sand, takes me right back to the very first day I discovered this gem of a place.
My children love the numerous fun activities here and adore the lively atmosphere of the island. Furthermore, my husband, who grew up on the beautiful west coast of Australia, swears there are no beaches quite as exotic or child-friendly in his home country, that could rival Boracay’s unique combination of sea, sun and fun.
It’s no wonder I keep returning to the island as the years go by, and this despite the fact my beautiful fireflies are not as easily found as they once were.
Christine Amour-Levar is a Freelance Writer, Editor and Marketing Consultant currently based in Singapore, where she lives with her husband and four children. She is the Author of The Smart Girl’s Handbook to Being MUMMYLICIOUS – a motivational and practical guide to getting your body (and your GROOVE) back post pregnancy. In 2012, she co-founded Women on a Mission, a non-profit entity, which combines physically challenging expeditionary travel, with dynamic marketing campaigns, as a means to raise awareness and funds for humanitarian causes.