A spring breaker in Boracay.
I'm at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport-Terminal 4, my destination: Boracay. The assignment: be a springbreaker or, since there are only two seasons in the Philippines, a "sem-breaker." As an Australian, this means be yourself when given any amount of free time on a beach, be it desolate or sky-rise bordered. For an American it's a right of way when you're young, and for a Filipino it's mostly an epic trip to Boracay Island.
In a moment, I'm there on Caticlan's open runway. It's the fastest flight with SkyJet Airlines, 35 minutes; one hardly has time for the complimentary madeira cake and sparkling juice until descent was being PA'ed by the captain. Waiting for me at Caticlan airport's arrival gate is my shuttle from Discovery Shores Boracay to drive me to the jetty port. Discovery Shores' modern longboat, which can cruise the street canals of Venice, sails me to Boracay.
Discovery Shores could very well be a party temple of all party temples, but only to a youth able to cash out P14,000 a night minimum. Would this mecca ever be booked out by a springbreakers/sem-breaker contingent? To prepare, take the film Spring Breakers, by Harmony Korine. The ex-Disney cast are in bikinis throughout all of the parties, all of James Franco's monologues about the spring break changing the world, nearly all of the robberies they're involved in as well, just to add to the illusion of what these destinations are for those putting up their hands and saying, "Here's me; I want to escape."
John Eduard Anzures, Discovery Shores front office manager, hasn't seen the film, but he has seen the changes in guests arriving at the much appraised resort property. "The overall market is about 46 percent Filipino, a lot of Korean honeymooners who are returning for the second time, mostly out of nostalgia," he says. "There are some spring breakers and rich yuppies, but it's more of a parent's base camp. We get a lot of Filipino families."
John says the influx of Filipino students coming to Boracay normally happens during summer on two very high profile island occasions: Laboracay (Boracay Labor Day Weekend) and the post-graduation summer affair of senior high school students going on freshman college from legacy and legendary frenemie schools.
These natural processions of people have never really included the affluent rebellious youth, these Dash Snow types who inherited industrial fortunes from the hard work of a long line of family members, just at the same time as he/she genetically exemplified a rebellious streak and absolute need for bohemianism. It may be the reason for John's apparent sense of ease with the idea, all sem-breakers from Manila so far seem to fit in at Discovery Shores.
I did see some young guys drinking copious amount of vodka around a sun lounge about 10 meters away from me. They didn't appear to be having a completely hedonistic affair and their music, which was dance floor bangaz, was at odds with the chill out grooves coming over the Discovery Shores speakers.
I could have easily made my way to the Stations 2 and 3, to go where the bustle is, but as I've found out with traveling alone or in small company, sometimes the hordes are isolating and it's better to make one's way toward a focal point, a threshold of people there for the same reasons, but also geographically in a more prone position to mingle.
I head west then, along the walkways of the ocean, a gorged rock pathway around cliffs with the waves splashing you. The walk west is pure enjoyment. It has everything a walk requires along a foreign island coast.
I ended at Spider House, a part island residence and bar. If you follow the labyrinth of rock alleyways and bamboo Monaco-like passages pinned against the coasts cliffs, Spider House is the end of a passageway this far west, unless one uses the Boracay Highway Central or swims.
These places are for a reined bohemianism, not the materialistic depletive of all things springbreaker, but the quality one, the pacesetter for a hard day's night.
Coming from Discovery Shores, I feel I've been afforded that little bit of insight of what it was to be a springbreaker in Boracay with extreme luxury and blessedness. It afforded me the desire to simply get to know people rather than take the 15-shot challenge at Cocomangas Shooter Bar and prove to people I would love to impress them further, but wouldn't be good for conversation now for the next 12 hours.
So as I sat there, with the night closed in, out on the sand, table-candle burned toward the network of palm leaves covering as a shrove of dry feathers, eating lobster soup by myself, with a Surf and Turf on the way and even an impromptu delicious taster of a cheese ball to go with my San Miguel. I felt it was time for an acknowledgement of my luck, my solitaire position.
I felt, looking up to the top tier boulevard of wild palms, a network of ruffling dry leaves, working their own messages and brushing past one another down the Boracay stations, a system likened to people down below who perused bars, passing eyes, the implicit possibilities, brushing shoulders, rustling sand underfoot.
Everyone at every station is a part of the idea that Boracay insists upon: "To keep them things that are coming good, coming." You witness relationships with bartenders pouring cocktails, which are specific to the tastes and sensibilities of the drinker. Then the people from places as far reaching as Spain, America, and Britain all can be found wearing the legendary yellow t-shirts of Pub Crawl, a guided bar hopping tour with 10 free drinks from a list of local bars, organized by local bar scene professors.
My night twinkles off into conversations with Germans at Pat's Creek Bar, feeling sympathetic in a reciprocal "been there, done that" way to an American who is flirting with a lady boy in a way that makes you think he thinks he's a lady. I'm drinking whisky at the time, the pouring-marks for the bar staff varies from generous to toxic, so my thoughts are with this American. I wonder about the polystyrene cup in his hand and how it's turning his most American jock behaviors completely on its head.
The nightclubs can and will kick on till 4 a.m. at least. My nightclub experience at Club Paraw for my first night was a haze of whisky deluge. I was with a French guy and we seemed to think we owned the night and were a centerpiece of attention, but I seem to only remember unimpressed looks and waking up covered in sand in my hotel room.
And here I was, with the ultimate dilemma of a springbreaker, to wake up with a hangover, but not just any hangover, a whisky hangover, a psychotic indictment just as much as a nauseous frenzy. It can be said, regardless of my whereabouts, the sea and remote island views were not enough to distract me from the pain of this springbreak burden.
I found myself pacing from lounge chairs to hotel room back and forth for a great part of the day, wondering what it was one could do, when in the illusion of reality, one got the urge to get respite and slow things down.
Puka Beach is about 15 minutes west down Boracay Highway Central to where it ends in the Yapak Barangay. When I get there, it's quiet, I'm not dressed for the beach, my only pair of shorts has been ripped mysteriously and so here I walk on pebbles in cream slacks still trying to get rid of my hangover.
I end up sleeping further up the beach with the sunset exploding before me and the bamboo drink stalls empty in the background. A curious guy walks by, I find out eventually he's worried for me, being by myself here and seemingly unconscious. I strike a conversation with him and he takes me to meet his friend, who I learn has taught himself how to speak sign-language so that he can communicate with her and allowing me to communicate through him.
We go out for dinner, and also for drinks afterward. I start to really have fun with these guys and I'm surprised at how universally understandable sign language is. One of her friends arrives and between them, the pace and amount of detail which they use for sign language to communicate with one another is immense and conveys many deep meanings.
I communicate to him with an improvised sign language and we arrange for him to buy the crispy pata and for me to buy buckets of San Miguel Beer. It's a tasty arrangement.
Before long my new friends and I are on the dance floor as that night carried into different sounds and rhythms, at different nightclubs and bars along Station 2 and 3. Places which they would dance to by feeling alone, how it resonates with their chest, I knew there was more to people's use of Boracay during vacations than just the networking of selves among a bustling esplanade as the palm leaves canopy above our heads.
For a break is only defined by what underlies it: What are you escaping from? What did you come to find? Was it love, exotics, the immobility of lounges? Was it the sound of a mind thinking "Only Mojitos on the cards?"
It never ceases to comfort one in the chill dawns and boozy affairs of such a party mecca, to know that it's all very interconnected and, to the same level, appreciable. At Discovery Shores, I found a luxury I couldn't afford or praise higher. In the people and the moments, I saw a sense of selves I couldn't afford to say goodbye to or praise high enough for their reasons of partaking in such an illusion.
As I jumped on board my SkyJet plane destined for Manila, it was predominantly empty. I was bound for other places, but I was happy in knowing, with the empty seats around me, that the good people in Boracay were bound for another night in paradise.
DISCOVERY SHORES BORACAY
Best in service and everything else
Located on one of the most beautiful beaches in the world, with 86 luxurious suites, perfect view of the sunset, posh amenities, fine white sand that flows like silk, a preferred getaway of the most discerning Filipino and foreign guests, countless awards and honors, including a nomination in the prestigious World Luxury Hotel Awards, Discovery Shores Boracay has everything going for it. But more than being a top-tier beach property on the sprawling, sparkling shores of Boracay, the luxury resort prides itself for its "software," its core: personalized, innovative service dispensed round-the-clock.
At Discovery Shores, a guest hardly hears the word "No." "We go the extra mile," says John Eduard Anzures, front office manager of Discovery Shores Boracay (DSB). "'No' is not an option in terms of service excellence. If a demand is too excessive, we don't say no outright. We find solutions and make adjustments. It's a very Filipino trait, actually. Service that's all heart."
This highly personalized and genuinely thoughtful service allow for a truly seamless and stress-free trip to a top, insanely popular destination that's swarming with tourists from the airport to the White Beach. Upon arrival, as in literally the minute you enter the airports arrival terminal, a DSB staff awaits you and leads you to your transfer from airport to jetty, then off you go on a yacht to paradise.
Situated in Station 1, the property fronts a pristine and uncrowded beachfront perfect for glorious days of doing absolutely nothing. At lunch or dinner, guests are invited to enjoy the majestic view of the sea while dining at DSB's The Miele Guide-listed restaurants Indigo and Sands. No R&R vacay is complete without a massage, yes? Indulge in the best of traditional Filipino therapies and pampering at the Terra Wellness Spa. If you're not up for the infamous Boracay-nightlife, you can sip on mojitos or piAaAaAeA~a coladas at the Sandbar beach bar a start your own little party by the beach. Better yet, just spend the whole day enjoying the company of friends and family.
"We're a family resort so the entire property as well as its facilities is child-friendly," says Anzures. Almost half of the DSB market is Filipinos. "That's how we know our thrust of promoting, advocating, and exemplifying Filipino hospitality works. We've won the confidence of our kababayans. That's one of our greatest honors," he adds. Other top markets of DSB are Koreans and Chinese/Taiwanese. Emerging markets, on the other hand, are Singapore, Malaysia, Australia, Middle East, and Russia.