18 April 2006

The week that was ... in full color

First, a word of caution.

I do not want to taint the reputation of Boracay in this succeeding paragraphs. Heck, we love the place! But this needs to be said so others can be informed.

Going to a popular tourist destination during peak season is like a double-edged sword. One one hand, it's great to see the place spruced up, ready to entertain guests with a myriad of activities. On the other, the cost can be quite prohibitive.

This is the third time my wife and I have visited Boracay. As is customary, we rented a boat on the second day for snorkeling and a sumptous lunch prepared in one of our destinations.

We were able to get a boat and a guide for 1,500 pesos. Pretty much the same as the past year. When we were boarding the boat, a man approached us and charged 100 pesos for the boating association fee. I'm not exactly sure how we have anything to do with with their organization; after all, we already have negotiated the service fee of the boatman. But we have to be off; it will be high noon in a couple of hours. So we paid and left.

We promptly left for a snorkeling area. Imagine our surprise again when our guide informed us that the snorkeling gear will cost us 100 pesos each. Eh? That came with the package, didn't it? But of course we are expected to snorkel! But it would have been a waste not to see Nemo and Dory so we got the snorkel gear.

Shortly after this little adventure, another boat drove by and the driver alighted on our boat. He was charging us 20 pesos each for snorkeling fee! What the. We did not pay for such a fee the last time we were there. We were told it was for the development and upkeep of the snorkeling area. Strange how all these fees cropped up at peak season eh? We paid and get it over with. I do hope it is indeed used for the upkeep of the area.

We visited Boracay to relax. But people coming over every time we did something to charge us was not something we had in mind. One of our companions whose first time it was to be in Boracay promptly commented, "Lahat pala ng galaw mo dito, may bayad" (you have to pay for every move you make here). That certainly hit the spot.

Which made us wonder: if we do the banana boat, are we going to be charged with a banana boat association fee, and then a banana fee after the ride? What about paragliding? Will somebody paraglide with us in mid-air to charge us fees? And when we leave Bora, will be pay for an exit fee?

Even the tricycles we used to ride to and from the beach and Fairways and Bluewaters charged us differently each time. At times 10 pesos each, in other instances 35 pesos each.

I sincerely call on the local government of Boracay to hand information pamplets or prominently display fixed charges for everything so guests like us will not be caught unawares. Or the people peddling these services factor everything in so guests do not have to pay for these rather disgruntling extra charges. This experience rather dampened our high expectations of Boracay.

That said, here are photos of our more enjoyable moments in Boracay, which is thankfully more than these money-ridden boo-boos.

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Kudos to the chefs at Fairways and Bluewater for the excellent meals cooked for us during our stay there!
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