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  • Writer's pictureJoanna

Yes, Ma'am

Updated: Dec 6, 2023

My first night in Boracay, I met this older gentleman who has been coming here for 13 years. THIRTEEN YEARS. That's pretty remarkable… and sad, all at the same time. I probably would be thoroughly impressed IF... by now, he had an elementary grasp on some basic Filipino words, simple phrases or common expressions.

Not a word.

Not a single word.


He didn’t try at all… nor did I get the impression that he cared.


I’m the one who told him how to say "thank you," and even then, he had to confirm with the bartender that I was saying it correctly.


Anyway... I’m veering off course on this guy. I have a better story about him.


A few years ago, this particular gentleman was walking along the palm lined, sand highway of Boracay. That's what I call it. Boracay’s front facade is sea facing and, directly between the beach and the businesses, is a steady stream of people, wandering back and forth. Everyday, all day long. It’s literally a sand road. A beach boulevard. Well lo and behold if a coconut doesn’t just fall out of the tree and smash directly in his path... not even 1/2 a metre in front of him.


Had he been one second ahead of himself, he would have met his maker. His crown would have been coconut crumbs. I would imagine it’s quite an eerie feeling to know that you were that close to death and somehow, timing saved you.


He told me this story on my very first day in Boracay, so I, consequently, spent the next four days, neck strained, looking up… thoroughly scouring each palm for potential big bullet balls that could impale me. I’m already deathly afraid of sharks and now I have to add coconuts to the list. Life isn’t fair.


I’ve had a fascinating few days in Boracay.


Everyone recommended this island.

Seriously.

Everyone.

They all insisted I come to Boracay... so… I did. I came here.


But… something just wasn’t sitting right.

The moment I pressed 'book,' I thought to myself, “This might not be the smartest move.


Yes, Boracay is stunning. It’s famous for its white powder beaches, its palm trees, its resorts, its crystal clear, turquoise waters, its thrills & activities... but it's also known for its nightlife… and the copious amounts of tourists that flock here on a daily basis. Just when you think you couldn’t possibly fit anymore people on this small 10.32 square kilometres island, another boat pulls up.


It's VERY touristy.


Actually, merely insinuating it’s 'touristy' is a dreadful understatement.

It’s bustling and buzzing.

It’s energetic. It’s invasive.

It’s hectic.


... and it’s overload.


My regret does not lie in the fact that I booked to come here, but that I'd decided to stay so long. I was planning on 8 days.


Whaaaa????


Hard no. That had to change.


I really try to pay attention when it comes to booking accommodation. I’m not a fan of booking in for an extended period of time. I’ve been burned before… especially when you’re booking through a third party. I’m a sucker for booking.com. Regardless of the reason, it has become exceedingly difficult to change dates, leave early, file a legitimate complaint or request a refund. So… I like to play the field. If I like where I'm staying, I’ll extend. If not, which is often the case in my accommodation price bracket, I can leave and seek out greener pastures.


Anyway - back to Boracay…


I was desperate. I knew I wouldn’t be able to do a full week+ here. I needed to balance it out. I needed the busy to equal the unbusy, and vice versa. I needed to balance out with equal shares of chaos & calm.


Speaking of financial hardship, I really wasn't in the position to be flying all over the country either. I did look into a few flight options, but most of the locations I was interested in visiting were not direct flights, which meant prices and flight time went up. Not too appealing when you’re working within a specific timeframe.

Still… I was set to be in Boracay for 5 nights.


I like that. A tsunami of hype.

Perfect.


But before I get into discussing this controversial island, I have to quickly touch on something interesting because Boracay has a few interesting years. In 2018, the Philippine government officially closed Boracay to tourists, both local and foreign.


Why?


Well... the truth is that the island had been labelled a cesspool and something desperately needed to be done. The government had a vision to tackle serious environmental issues and return it to its once-idyllic paradise.


Pretty cool thing for a government to do, if you ask me.


The locals were not impressed. They had built their livelihood on exploiting the tourist trade and for years, had disregarded many (if not all) environmental laws.


The plan worked.


When the rejuenvianation was complete, Covid hit… so Boracay has only just got back on their feet. From what I can tell, if tourists are any indicator at all, it's not having too many problems anymore. There are no more casinos. Beach chairs, sun beds, umbrellas and fire dancing are gone for good and there is no public drinking, smoking or partying allowed on the beaches at all.

This was all done for Boracay to maintain its idyllic charm.

I love this story. I think more places could rip a page out of Boracay's book and do the same.


The island is stunning though. Without such obtrusive activity on the beach anymore, it makes for the most picturesque view and you can absolutely understand how this island has won award after award over the years. The spectacular sunsets alone make the journey to Borocay completely worth it.


The main activity is on the west coast of the island and the entire island is divided into stations. The main three tourist hubs are the most popular points. Stations 1, 2 and 3. There is no shortage of places to eat, nightclubs, massage spas, tattoo parlours, ice cream & smoothie stalls, jewelry stands, souvenirs, clothing shops, island tour agents, dive centres… and everything else in between.


It’s buzzing. All the time.

As you walk along, you hear “masssssssssage?” I knew it sounded familiar,. It’s all you hear when you’re walking the streets of any major city in Vietnam.


“Massssssssage?”


The guys on the streets trying to sell you their goods can be quite aggressive with their sunglasses and stone carvings. Beach locals are always offering to take a photo for you. For a small fee, of course. Staff from restaurants invade your personal space as you’re walking, to shove various menus into your face. The shop owners have become so desperate to make a sale, I think they’ve acquired a masters in pointing out the obvious. If you stop to have a quick look at the keychains, they are quick to jump in and say, “Yes. Ma'am ~ keychain.” If you're looking at earrings? "Yes, Ma'am ~ earring." The same applies to shorts, bracelets, necklaces, hats.

You name it.


My new favourite, “Yes, Ma'am."


“Yes, Ma’am.”

It’s even replaced a simple hello.

“Yes, Ma’am.”


Often, even if you are looking at the earrings, they will try to move your attention over to have a look at the extensive variety of bottle openers they carry. "Yes Ma'am ~ bottle opener for you."

“Yes, Ma’am.”


It gets a little annoying, but I endure the pain with a creative little game called, "Can I make it?"

“Can I make it 10 feet without someone asking me if I want a massage?”

“Can I make it past 4 restaurants without someone telling me they have all day breakfast, seafood on special or happy hour pricing?”

“Can I make it through one shop without someone saying, Yes, Ma’am?”

Of course, I haven’t won a game yet. I lose each and every time, but that only drives me to persevere.


Getting off the main beach highway, you can lose yourself in d*mall, an outdoor shopping plaza. D’mall is a labyrinth of even more souvenir shops, clothing boutiques, restaurants, pubs, stalls and more. It's the heart and soul of Boracay, and rightfully so. Even if you’re not interested in shopping, it’s fun to take it all in. Everywhere boasts happy hour specials and each have their own individual designated hours. Instead of providing a deal on a specific drink, they give you two for the price of one. You are not permitted to switch it up either, so you have to choose your potion wisely. Even if you don't particularly like it, there will be another one on its way as soon as you’ve finished the first. I met a lovely couple from Latvia on my first evening and happy hour got the better of all of us. After a few too many fruity concoctions, I had to remove myself from the debauchery and get back to my hotel. Pronto.


There are stray dogs and cats everywhere. I think I’ve said ”Hello, little puppy/kitty” as many times as I’ve heard, “Yes, Ma’am.”


A large percentage of the animals are disturbingly thin, malnourisd, suffering from skin problems or broken limbs… and hobbling along, desperate for food. It breaks my heart. And when my heart breaks for an animal, my thoughts immediately go to Potzy… and then suddenly I’m standing on a sand highway, in floods of tears.


I am NOT in love with my hotel in Boracay.

I mentioned this would happen.

It is conveniently located. It is beach front. It does have all the amenities one might desire… except laundry.


BUT… of course… my room was the ONLY room in the entire hotel that couldn’t manage to connect to WIFi. Finally, after the IT guy was in my room for over an hour, they moved me. This was a room with wonderful WIFI! Actually, it wasn’t. It was shit too. Whatever. I’ll deal with it.


No biggie.


Things get better though…

On my second evening, in my new room, I had just stepped out of the shower and was sitting down grooming myself… when a curious, dirty little rodent poked his head out from under the bed to have a good look at me.


A RAT.


A F**KING RAT.


I’ve never moved so fast in my life. I threw something on quickly and bolted down to the front desk. They hardly seemed alarmed.


“Does this happen frequently?”


Their response?


Yes, Ma’am.”


I couldn’t decide whether they were replying to me that rats frequent their guest’s rooms on the regular… or if that was just the standard phrase for everything. I settled on a bit of both. They sent for housekeeping and two staff members eventually got the rat out.


No one seemed the least bit phased.

Except me.


Ok… it was time for my BIG question…

“How did A RAT get into my room?”


I couldn’t see any obvious holes in the walls or the cupboards. They told me that I must have left the door open.


Excuse me?


Ummm… no. I don’t just come in my room and leave the hotel door open. I don’t have an open door policy. I’m not a pub… or a brothel.


Then they changed the narrative to tell me the rat must have walked in the door with me when I'd come home that afternoon.

Ok… Let’s just leave it at that. It was apparent the blame was being placed fully on myself. Guess I’ll try to be more vigilant about who I enter the room with. As if I wouldn’t notice a RAT the size of my foot walking in the door alongside of me.


All of these things are happening to me that you easily attribute the abuse of alcohol to, but seriously… nada.


I might add that the stupid rat ran into all my things when housekeeping was trying to chase him out. Fresh laundry… rat infested.


I can’t win.

FML.


There was no rest after that incident. Every squeak or creak or rustle was attributed to another rat in my room. That night was sleepless… and the following day, I moved out.


Sometimes I wish that everything could just be dreamy when I travel.

My credit cards would always work.

My knee would be that of a champion runner.

Gates wouldn’t change at the last minute.

My pack wouldn’t be too heavy.

Shoes wouldn’t give me blisters.

Visas were entered into my passport perfectly.

Gorillas would’t grab me.

Devices would remain charged.

Rats wouldn’t run rampant in my room.


I just want easy sometimes.

I want easy and dreamy.

Everything would be dreamy and so, so easy.

Singing birds would swoop in to bring me my clothes… just like in Sleeping Beauty. Skies would always be blue and there might even be a few rainbows & falling stars wherever I would roam.


I would be known as the girl with the eternal good luck.


I know... I know. If everything were easy and unblemished and unproblematic, there would be nothing fascinating to write about. Although I'm quite certain, the general public would be interested in the singing birds & the falling stars.


Good thing I didn't venture to Boracay to catch me a rich, elderly gentleman… because they’re ALL taken by young girls & lady boys.


HOLD ON...

Maybe that’s something I should look into. This tourist trap is devouring all my money.

Hmmmm…..

Something to think about.


Yes, Ma'am!

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