WSJ article laments over-development of Boracay


Posted at Apr 11 2013 12:59 PM | Updated as of Apr 12 2013 04:16 AM

MANILA, Philippines – Several travel magazines and websites may have praised Boracay for being one of the best beach destinations in the world today, but an article recently published in the Wall Street Journal lamented how the island has suffered from over-development.

WSJ article laments over-development of Boracay 1
Boracay. File photo

In an article titled “Stranger than Paradise,” writer Wells Tower noted how Boracay has become the Philippines’ “worst-kept secret,” adding that it has “those elements of tourist culture that have already dimmed the appeal of places like Phuket.”

Tower was referring to a beach destination in neighboring Thailand which is said to be also suffering from over-development.

“Seen from above, such a profusion of windsurfers and parasails mob the limeade-tone shallows that the island looks besieged by moths. The flourlike beaches of Boracay, a narrow oddment of land a brief boat ride from the mainland town of Caticlan, have drawn throngs of foreigners since the ‘80s. Its years of hard use aren’t difficult to detect. Not many acres of this 10-square mile island remain unclaimed by hotels or houses and golf course. The few remaining postage-stamp size wildernesses are staked with ‘for sale’ signs,” he wrote.

“Boracay’s main attraction is the White Beach, a 2.5-mile stretch of bright sand along the island’s west coast. When I first arrive, I have some difficulty finding it. The beach, as it turns out, is hiding behind a long bulwark of commercial establishments, including but not limited to: the Obama Grill (slogan: ‘You want good food? Yes we can!’); a shooters bar inviting patrons to accept its ‘still standing after 15 [shots]’ challenge; the Facebook Resort; a shopping mall; and an uncountable number of t-shirt vendors, massage touts and diving tour agencies.”

He added: “Shouldering through the White Beach’s Times Square – density throngs, it’s hard to greet happily those elements of tourist culture that have already dimmed the appeal of places like Phuket: pedicurists plucking at your sleeves; Russian tourists dancing Gangnam-style at a beachfront club; restaurants lit with so much neon they look like rides at the state fair; Wilford Brimley lookalikes dining wordlessly with young Filipinas whom one can only optimistically suppose are mail-order brides.”

Despite this, Tower stressed that Boracay’s White Beach “is not devoid of appeal.” He then cited the “talipapa,” or beach market, where guests can have freshly caught seafood cooked to order.

Still, he had a hard time looking for some “less tourist-friendly fare.”

“My last full day on the island, I am still hung up on the idea of finding a spot less traveled by my fellow tourists,” he wrote before going to a bat cave near Boracay’s less populous Ilig-Iligan beach.

The government is planning to demolish at least 80 structures in Boracay to save the island from erosion.

But the governor of Aklan, the province where Boracay is located, is not very happy with the idea, saying that this may take a toll on local businesses.

On Palawan

While he is not pleased with what he saw in Boracay, Tower was all praises for Palawan, particularly Lagen Island Resort in El Nido and nearby Pangulasian Island.

He said that unlike Boracay, Palawan is a “diminishing rarity,” describing it as “a self-proclaimed tropical paradise that contains no go-kart tracks or daiquiri stands or much of anything but wild animals, water and sand.”

“I’m pleased that Palawan’s enviro-protected status has prevented people from erecting shooter bars on the hawksbill turtles’ nesting beds,” he wrote.