My memories of LaBoracay: Whisky for breakfast and 20-hour parties 2
Things have changed since the early 2010s, when Boracay was the Party Capital of the Philippines. Today, the island implements strict rules. Photo from ABS-CBN News

My memories of LaBoracay: Whisky for breakfast and 20-hour parties

It was not just a weekend. It was better than Spring Break. An ex party animal takes us back. By CHINO HERNANDEZ
ANCX | May 01 2020

What’s for breakfast? “Whiskey,” I would say, while nursing a hangover from a crazy night out. This was LaBoracay many sunrises ago—when partygoers would sleep on the beach and all-night raves were the end all and be all of social gatherings. It was a time when I, a college freshman, along with my band of millennial merrymakers, didn’t know that a limit actually existed. Binge-drinking for an entire evening only meant boozy breakfasts the following day. No matter how bad the headache or acid reflux, we knew there would be a simple cure: drinking the hair of the dog that bit us. That was the code we lived by. 

So there we were, 18-year-olds sitting in the courtyard of our sketchy hotel, spending money on a new bottle of scotch rather than finding a decent place to have bacon and eggs. And why not? This was LaBoracay, our rite of passage into adulthood. We waited for this trip our entire adolescent lives! Why would we waste it?

My memories of LaBoracay: Whisky for breakfast and 20-hour parties 3
The writer at 18 in one of the best weekends of his life.

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Things have certainly changed since the early 2010s, when Boracay was the Party Capital of the Philippines—perhaps even, the entirety of Asia. Today, the island implements strict rules. Drinking on public property is no longer allowed. Littering is punishable by law. Sadly, many tourists and Filipinos never observed proper conduct during those anticipated LaBoracay weekends. 

Each year, the island would open to thousands of college students, Manila yuppies, and foreigners in search of debauchery. Disaster was packed into their suitcases. Bar fights, trash floating in the once-clear waters, and teenagers vomiting on the sand was not an unusual sight during Labor Day weekend. By 2018, things have gotten so out of hand the government put its foot down. Boracay was ordered close for six months to help the island recuperate. 

People were furious. Angry Tweets and Facebook statuses flooded the internet the way blood thrashed the elevator hallway in The Shining. “What do I do about my airline tickets and hotel bookings?” “Our batch won’t have their LaBoracay! *crying emoji*” “How will small business survive this?” The government paid no mind to the rants. The goal was to save Boracay from becoming an even bigger environmental disaster. 

My memories of LaBoracay: Whisky for breakfast and 20-hour parties 4
Residents of Boracay island party at a beachfront resort in their own version of "Laboracay", the annual party around Labor Day weekend. Fernando G. Sepe Jr., ABS-CBN News

Months later, the island finally re-opened. The shore was clean again, and new rules were implemented to reduce pollution. Many who returned to the island shortly after the lockdown said there were vast improvements, while the more observant didn’t hesitate to express their complaints. A few of my friends said some parts of the island were as polluted as ever, with only the commercial areas picture-perfect clean. But if there was one thing everybody agreed on, it was that LaBoracay as we know it was officially over. You can’t have a wild party when authorities are just hovering behind the coconut trees. 

Back in the day, Labor Day in Boracay was the center of a young person’s social calendar. Private school kids and young professionals saved up for it. Their big splurge of the year. For many, it was like their rite of passage into adulthood. Their older siblings got wasted on the beach a year ago, why shouldn’t they? Their kuya and ate scarfed down chori burgers drunk  at 3AM. Why shouldn’t they? Everybody lived in their happy little bubble, unaware of the toll hardcore partying took on themselves and the environment. This was also a time before Instagram really exploded. Nobody was posting “stories” in real time. Taking pictures wasn’t the norm it had become, making the saying “What Happens in Boracay, Stays in Boracay” absolutely true.

I had a great time during at my first LaBoracay. It was one of the greatest weeks of my life. I was with my best friends. All we did was party 20 hours a day. We stayed at a cheap hotel and drank horrible liquor but it was heaven on Earth. We were away from the eyes of the real world for the first time in our lives. We were all single, living in paradise, and had few responsibilities—among them making sure we return to school in one piece. America’s Spring Break had nothing on us. The legal drinking age at the time was 18, making it ideal for us to try Cocomangas’ legendary 15 Shots and Standing challenge. Unfortunately, that famous bar is now closed. But I’ll forever keep that memory filed in my heart, under the folder Adolescent Mistakes That I Think I Regret (But Not Really).

My memories of LaBoracay: Whisky for breakfast and 20-hour parties 5
With friends doing Laboracay.

LaBoracay was more than a party weekend, it was a cultural phenomenon. You just had to be there. A trip to early-2010s Boracay included a list of things to do and try. The holiday was not complete without queuing for your milkshake from Jonah’s. You had to get your oyster sisig and four-cheese pizza fix at Two Seasons. You had to be seen at the hotspots: White House and Epic had the ideal crowd at the night time, while Sur was the place to be for afternoon drinks. These establishments remain in business and deserve your patronage. They basically invented LaBoracay culture.

After college, I would return to LaBoracay two more times. I was old enough to realize the island had more to offer then just drinking and partying. I was working and I could finally afford a nicer hotel (and not secretly charge it on my parents’ extension). I was an editor at a luxury magazine so the parties I was invited to were more formal, elegant. The Boracay I knew as an 18-year-old was still there, but the younger people were enjoying it for me—and I respected that. I had my time and now it was their turn.

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LaBoracay was more than a party weekend, it was a cultural phenomenon. Photo from ABS-CBN News

I still binged and indulged in Boracay’s finest offerings, but my definition of “finest” had drastically changed. I enjoyed the breakfast buffet at the hotel, instead of gargling a glass of cheap scotch in the morning. I appreciated the fact that there was a bathtub in the room, and looked forward to sleeping on my bed after a long day in the ocean. Boracay food tasted even better without alcohol drowning out my senses. I was able to appreciate the clear blue shoreline, and the sunset from the comforts of my lounge chair—the poison in my cup a brand with pedigree. I even skipped out on a rave I paid for to instead eat chori burgers before going to sleep—which was around 9PM, by which time I had bathed and was in bed. Tastes change when you’re older, but that doesn’t mean the LaBoracay of my early 20s weren’t epic. Looking back, I realized it was an experience I truly treasure.

If only the future generation could experience LaBoracay the way I did. But that won’t be happening any time soon. Not only because of the current pandemic but also because the rules in the island has changed. Next time you’re in the island, make sure to follow them. Do your part in keeping Boracay clean. Show authorities we can follow regulations. Call people out when they’re littering on the beach. Support small businesses to help the local economy. Collectively, we can make things happen. Maybe one day we can even bring LaBoracay back. I know I would love to return. But I will no longer have whiskey for breakfast. The kids can have that. I’ll have a strong cup of coffee, keep my energy up, and enjoy the beauty of paradise with a clear mind.