Often lost in the conversation about Boracay's closure is the plight of the 26,000 permanent or permanent or long-time inhabitants, as well as many more who commute there by ferry every day to work. In order to respect and honor them, as well as the island's native heritage, I wanted to share a brief history of Boracay:
Today, we know Boracay as the most popular tourist destination in the Philippines, with frequent mention in international media as one of the best islands in the world.
Westerners first stepped foot on Boracay in the 16th century when Spanish explorers came to the Philippines, but it was not home to any Spanish settlements.
Around 1900, Filipinos Lamberto Hontiveros Tirol, a judge from neighboring Panay Island, and his wife, Sofia Gonzales Tirol, gained ownership of a significant portion of the island.
Aklan (encompassing Boracay) officially became a province in 1956, but it took a chance encounter all the way across the globe for the island to really gain prominence.
In 1964, Filipino First Lady Imelda Marcos attended the World Fair in New York City, where she met the famous movie star Elizabeth Taylor and gave her a bracelet of puka shells as a gift.
But mainstream tourism didn’t hit the island until the 1970s, especially after the movie Too Late the Hero starring Michael Cain and Henry Fonda was filmed there.
By the 1980s, Boracay had become a best-kept-secret for intrepid backpackers from Europe and Australia. The island was soon promoted by German backpacker Peter Jens, who turned his wanderlust into the famous Lonely Planet travel guide series.
Through the 2000s, Station 2 with its hotels, bars, clubs, and the outdoor D-Mall sprung forth, and the resort-rich Station 1 was developed next.
In 2005, President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo declared Boracay a Special Tourism Zone, and the influx of visitors nearly doubled after that.
On November 8, 2013, Typhoon Yolanda (international name: Haiyan) slammed into the Philippines, with wind gusts up to 278 km/h (235 mph) and 10-meter (30 foot) sea swells, the strongest typhoon in recorded history ever to make landfall. I happened to be living on Boracay at that time, and the typhoon was heading right for us. Fortunately, the eye of the storm blew south, so Boracay was spared the devastation that afflicted Tacloban and Leyte.
What will the future hold for Boracay? No one can be certain, but I only wish that they find the precarious balance between bringing in tourism income and preserving its unique natural beauty.