The beach is back


SO I finally made it to Boracay.

One cannot underestimate the profound joy of escaping the Covid-confines of Metro Manila, and plunking one’s self on the creamy sand of Boracay, basking under the sun’s vitamin D radiance, while looking out to the endless blue on blue of the ocean.

Of course, there was some mild trepidation accompanying this trip. The RT-PCR test, for one, was not just cringe-worthy in terms of execution—I had to spit into a tube continuously until the saliva reached half of it, or about 1.5 inches—but mildly anxiety-inducing as I waited for the results. In less than 24 hours, I was cleared to leave for Boracay. (Kudos to the Philippine Red Cross for making Covid-testing more accessible—I took mine in a mall—and affordable for us, and for the quick turnaround.)

On the morning of my flight, I double-masked and put on my face shield to make sure I was well protected from the airborne virus. I didn’t wear any plastic gloves this time, which was how I traveled to and from the island in March 2020, the last time I was there for a work-related trip, just as Covid was making its presence felt in our shores.

Fortunately, there was only one person in my row, and the middle seat was empty. I managed to exchange a few pleasantries with the other passenger, a young IT professional who was traveling with a group of friends. This was the third time he had rescheduled their trip, he said, due to the ever-changing lockdown measures in Metro Manila.

I must admit, I felt a lump in my throat and teared up a little, as I caught a glimpse of the Boracay coastline as the plane started descending. I had to steel myself firmly, lest my fellow passenger might think I was having a nervous breakdown. Upon touchdown, I unwittingly disregarded the flight attendant’s instruction and stood up immediately to get my tote bag in the overhead bin as soon as the plane came to a full stop.

After a quick trip via Coast Boracay’s fastcraft, I was finally on solid ground, the white sand crunching beneath my slippers. I yelped in joy. It felt like a huge accomplishment to make it to the beach after a few cancellations. It was a gorgeous sun-kissed day, with a brisk breeze cooling the temperature, then I  started peeling everything from my face one by one…the blasted face shield, then my two masks. As I breathed in the salty sweet air of the beach, I was almost overwhelmed at the feeling of…what was it? Freedom.

Randy, Coast’s always pleasant and amiable resort manager, told me, “I’ve had guests who literally jump up and down on the beach upon arrival I thought it was strange at first, a little cuckoo maybe, but then they told me they’ve been cooped up in their condo for so long. I then understood; it was their real first break since the pandemic. They really couldn’t go anywhere [in Metro Manila].”

I told him the same was true for me. There were some moments of sheer anxiety and terror as the Delta variant silently, cruelly, made its way into the population.  But for the next two days, I just soaked in the scenery. I laid on the beach, got a bit of a tan from what little UV rays my SPF 30 and 50 sunblocks would allow to touch my skin, and swam. There were a few times I just stood in the middle of the ocean, the super-clear water up to my chest, and just gazed at the horizon, then up at the blue sky with the puffs of white clouds drifting above. I didn’t know how long I stood there, but I just let the waves of pleasure and contentment just wash over me.

A few days later, my ahijada Francesca met up with me. The daughter of Big Sis—I hadn’t seen their family in close to two years as the pandemic unraveled.  So I cried silently as I tightly hugged her, holding more than a beat too long. I just didn’t want to let go. I had missed her and the entire family so much. From then on, riot ensued…we ate, drank, partied a little, and swam some more.  I felt myself slowly healing.


IF there was some award for the most number of apps  developed during the pandemic, the clear winner would be the Philippines. In signing up to get tested, Red Cross gives each person a QR code. At the testing site in TriNoma, no one bothered looking at it nor scanning it.

Prior to my departure, I registered with S-pass. Again, it gave me a QR code, which no one checked at the departure or arrival airports, nor at any resort, restaurant or store I visited on Boracay. At Naia, travelers are also supposed to register on Traze, another app from the brilliant folks at the Departmentment of Tourism. Again, absolutely no one checked if I had it, and I didn’t see any particular benefit from it. All it did was spew out my QR code, which expired even before I boarded the plane.

I also had to upload a copy of my ID and RT-PCR test result to the Boracay government portal. Apart from that, I e-mailed more documents such as proof of my residence, hotel voucher, plane ticket, etc., to the Boracay tourist e-mail address. Thereafter I received a QR code on my health declaration card, which is what guests present at the airport of departure upon check-in, and at the Caticlan airport upon arrival.

It’s a tedious process, and even those vaccinated such as myself have to go through with it. Either these QR code initiatives are made mandatory for businesses to operate, or government removes the red tape.

Next week, health and wellness activities on my Boracay trip.

Image courtesy of Stella Arnaldo

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