History of Boracay
Boracay. Situated in the heart of the Philippines, it is the embodiment of the paradisiacal sun, sea and sand. Here, it’s a never-ending season of summer. One of the top tourism draws of this archipelagic nation in the Pacific, Boracay is a small island in the western Visayas, in the province of Aklan.
It is unclear how the this island came to be known by its present name. Some say that Boracay was derived from the word “borac” which means cotton—a reference to the fine, cotton-like texture of the island’s sand. Others say that the name is an amalgamation of the words “bora,” or bubble, and “bocay,” or white—a reference to the impression that the island’s white sand resembles the white foam of the sea from afar. Still some others believe that the name is the result of the meeting between the island natives and a group of Spaniards, who were so taken with the shells or “sigay” that can be found by the beach and who were curious about the plant “boray” that grows in the island.
The island was originally the home of indigenous Ati or Negrito tribes of Panay, who lived off what the land had to offer. The Ati lived for centuries in the island, mostly as farmers and fishermen. In the 1940s and 1950s, they also the people of Boracay—Atis and non-Atis alike—known as Boracaynons also added a lucrative coconut industry to their source of revenue. They traded their coconut products to Aklan businessmen in exchange for rice, goods, and a bit of cash. The following two decades saw Boracay becoming a favorite getaway destination for many of the wealthy families of Panay. Though already popular with these native families for its powder-fine white sand, stunning views and rich biodiversity, it remained mostly a secret known to only its inhabitants and a very few outsiders. Less than fifty years ago, it was a close-knit, sleepy barrio—a rural fishing village. And in some ways, it still is.
It was only in the 1970s that a few travelers leaked the secret beauty that is Boracay to their friends and family. A point of contention in the history of Boracay is exactly who or what group of people discovered the island for tourism. The most widely believed version is that the crew and staff of a foreign movie accidentally found Boracay. Others believe that it is the “Jens Peter” book, a German travel guide, which first featured Boracay in its pages and introduced it to an international market as one of the most beautiful beaches in the world. The popularity of the island as a tourist destination picked up further when more television and movie productions featured it for national and even international consumption. While it was “discovered” by sea-loving tourists who, most often than not, became regular visitors to the island, it did not change much except for the cropping up of a few restaurants and accommodation areas that were more like homes than hotels.
This changed though in the 1990s, when better infrastructure and stronger tourism drive as well as friends and family lured more and more people into the island. Boracay’s three communities, namely Yap, Balabag and Monac-monac, were given a major facelift. While Boracay retained the traditional bamboo and plywood dwellings and rough campsites, this period also saw the entry of large investments to boost tourism. Those included modern hostels, luxury hotels, beachfront resorts, inland entertainment properties, restaurants serving international cuisine, and water sporting facilities.