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Last Updated Saturday May 27 2017 10:57 AM IST

I left my heart in Boracay

Swathi Mohan
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I left my heart in Boracay A view of Boracay. Photo: Swathi Mohan

My passion for traveling started not long ago. I have managed to travel to 12 countries in the last 2 years, but my decision to go on a trip alone was not that easy to make. I was always scared to travel alone, but one fine day I finally resolved to overcome my fear. I didn’t waste much time thinking about the pros and cons; instead, I immediately booked for the next morning flight to Kalibo, Philippines and decided to go to this small, beautiful island called Boracay, which is known for its white sand beaches. 

It was totally an unplanned, messy and adventurous trip for me. I had not even done a detailed research about the place and whereabouts. However, I really did not regret my decision and I ll tell you why. 

Get set! ready! go!!

I left my heart in Boracay A view of Boracay. Photo: Swathi Mohan

It took about four hours to reach Kalibo Airport from Singapore, and my flight was at 11 in the morning. My flight got delayed to another 1 hour. This gave me enough time to ask people around about the place and to do a quick research on the internet as well. 

After reaching the Kalibo Airport, I took a bus to Caticlan jetty and rode a ferry from Caticlan jetty to Boracay. Tickets were available outside the airport. The journey from Kalibo Airport to Boracay can take another 3 to 4 hours. It was a very long journey to reach this paradise. By the time I reached the island, it was already 7 in the evening. 

Night ride with a stranger

It was already dark when I reached Boracay. My phone got switched off, and I had no way to check the hotel address. All I could remember was the hotel name. I started asking for help from people to locate the hotel and charge my phone, but that didn’t help me much.  I asked a tricycle (tuk-tuk) driver if he had the patience to help me to find this hotel. He smiled at me and said, "Yes ma'am." I was so confused about his smile. I was apprehensive.  A lot of things were running on my mind. From "should I get into the vehicle or not?" to "will he harm me?" Anyway, I didn’t have more options, so I told myself, "you will be safe," and got in.

I tried to start a conversation with him asking about the place, people and culture. He asked me a lot about India too. He also said he had never been to anywhere other than Boracay and that one day he wants to travel too. I made friends with him very quickly, and he helped me locate the place in an hour. He followed me until I reached the hotel lobby to make sure that it was the right place. 

As soon as I was inside my room, I sat on the bed thinking about the struggles I had experienced to reach there and trusting a stranger in an unknown place. By the way, his name is Garry. I would like to call him an angel sent by God.

People who touched my heart

I left my heart in Boracay Children playing on the beach. Photo: Swathi Mohan

That was not a favorable night for me. I got stuck with a lot of things. My phone was not working, and I wanted to tell my mom that I arrived safe and sound. I was hungry and had no idea where to get the food from. The hotel I booked only provided breakfast, and it was located at the lonely end of a silent beach. Well, I didn’t know that it was a remote area when I was making a reservation. 

Since my expectation was a bit higher, I really got upset with the situation. All I wanted at that time was some food, so I left my room searching for food after taking a shower. I walked along the beach and could see a few people drinking at the beachside. As soon as they saw me, they started making noises and started asking me something. Trust me! That was one of the moments in my life where I had no idea how to react or what to say. I stood there for a moment and thought not to ignore the situation but handle it gently. With a wide smile, I told them that it was my first day on the island, so I was exploring the place and would catch up with them the next morning. I walked further and told myself, “You just have to show people that you are not scared and stay cool.”

I walked further for another kilometre and didn’t manage to find anything. Feeling exhausted, I sat on the shore. Mixed emotions were playing on my mind, and I began to understand how traveling can teach one person how to deal with various situations. 

There, I met a guy named Steven. He was walking opposite me. I approached him for help. He extended his help by walking with me until the main street. He told me that the place where I am staying is calm most of the time. There is another beach within a 20-minute walking distance, and that is one of the places in Boracay where the most activity occurs. While walking, I discovered that he is a mix of Filipino and American. He had been staying in the USA until the age of 16 and came back to the Philippines with his mom after that. As soon as we reached the street, he hugged me and told me to stay safe before he went back. That was nice of him! He will always be remembered in my memories from my trip to Boracay. 

After having food, I went to the security guard to enquire about the mobile repair shop nearby. He gave me the directions to get there. It was around 11 at night, and the owner was closing his shop. At first, he asked me to come the next morning as he was about to close his shop and needed to open the shop the next morning. I explained to him about the urgency to call home to tell that I reached the island safely. He didn’t ask much further and started fixing the phone. In the meantime, he gave me a chair to sit, asked me whether I had food and bought drinks for me from the nearest shop. It took him around 30 minutes and only took half the money from what he asked. By the way, it is not nice to end his story without mentioning his name. He is Eldo and owns Eldo’s shop. We are still in touch through Facebook. These people in this small island surprised me with their hospitality. I felt safe to travel alone. I told myself that humanity still exists. 

I left my heart in Boracay Swathi Mohan at Boracay. Photo: Swathi Mohan

Little paradise of Asia

The next morning really surprised me with the calm beach view. It was amazing and beyond words. I didn’t wonder when I heard that Boracay was awarded the best island in the world in 2012 according to the Travel + leisure magazine. There are a lot of options when it comes to diving helmets, scuba diving and other water sports. The next day after breakfast, I moved to a dormitory nearby the beach, where I met 2 beautiful girls: one is from South Korea and the other girl is from Singapore. Both of had decided to go together after meeting up at a  staycation. We made friends with each other very quickly even though this Korean girl couldn’t speak English. We talked for hours without a common language. It may sound funny to others, but we completely understood each other. 

Night life is unimaginable. If you are someone who likes to party, it will be definitely a heaven for you. But I got the chance to see both sides of that place- where foreigners were throwing money at the prostitutes in the street and kids were begging for money to live on the other side. While I was walking, one kid asked me to buy food for him and saw the happiness on his face while eating. It made me feel sad for a moment, but life has to move on. 

Time to leave 

I left my heart in Boracay A view of Boracay. Photo: Swathi Mohan

It was a very short trip for me. I left Boracay after spending 3 good days there. I made a lot of friends, visited Eldo’s shop again and had coffee with him. Most of the people like shopkeepers, securities, and dormitory friends said goodbye while I was leaving. The place, people and each moment I stayed there taught me something new. I felt happy traveling alone, where I got more time to mingle with local people and to make new friends. 

(Swathi Mohan loves to travel and is an avid reader of Onmanorama)

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