An Edible Guide to Boracay, Philippines
Just like the Calgon commercial I really had to get up outta here and go somewhere! And that I did. I’d never had a tropical island type holiday prior to Boracay, but was sure glad that I did.
Whilst burning under fluorescent lights* in my work cubicle, I daydreamed of taking one and became more and more anxious after watching TV shows like Getaway for the 100th time. After spending a few days in central Manila and a few weeks in Tokyo, it was time to debark on this dream – to the island of Boracay. Dreams can come true after all… *sigh*
There is one thing to note about flying to Boracay. Beware of the baggage limits. The propeller plane that we took (Air Phil Express) has very strict guidelines. Why do I raise this? Shopping in Philippines is terribly hard to resist which means extra baggage that may be rejected. Everything from branded clothing to cologne is cheap and even cheaper when spending it with the Australian dollar which around the 94 US cents at the time of our travels.
Getting there, transport and accommodation
We flew Air Phil Express to Caticlan Airport which was much more convenient that going with the other carriers. Most carriers fly to Kalibo Airport where you would need to catch a two hour bus ride and then a boat ride. However, from Caticlan, it’s a 5 minute taxi to the jetty, a short boat ride to the island then a 15 minute taxi ride to your hotel. Our hotel, Regency Boracy, organised everything for us and as such, we were transported in the hotel van and boat.
One thing you need to experience is what we refer to as the ‘tricycle.’ This mode of transport is actually heaps fun and incredibly cheap which can get you from A to B in no time.
Regency was recommended by a friend of ours, and we saw why. Recently built, it screams luxury resort- from lagoon rooms with balconies opening to the main pool, a bar within the pool, spa center, buffet breakfasts by the beach, air-conditioned rooms with built in safes and cable to their own beachfront with waiters, guards and a towel service. The pool at night was the best part. Just imagine sipping away fresh chilled juice from a whole coconut whilst lazing away in the warm water. Bliss.
The lowdown on Boracay
Approximately, a one hour flight from Manila and with a population of no more than 5300, I believe Boracay was made for lazing about. Unlike say Thailand, it isn’t as commercialised and frequently visited. In fact, when chatting to people about my holiday, most hadn’t even heard of the island. This is a great thing as it means it retains it’s pristine condition. I hope it stays this way as there seemed to be many developments going on. Boracay began its visitor counts in the ’70s, and since then more than 302 resorts/ hotels have cropped up.
We arrived in the the middle of off peak/monsoon season, so it was quite peaceful. However, despite it being monsoon season, it only rained once during the night. Apart from that, it was clear blue skies the whole time.
The main beach stretches only 7km’s long, but is surrounded by other islands that you can explore. The main villages or barangays are Yapak, Balabag and Manoc-Manoc. The stretch of sand is separated into numerical ‘stations.’
Must do activities besides eating…
We chose to do a few activities which included an ATV buggy tour around the island and para sailing which was awesome despite my friends and I being terrified of heights. Other notable things to do are Helmet Diving (where you go up to 20 meters deep amongst the fishes), jet skiing, volleyball and island hopping. Most activities are very affordable. You may be approached by the many ‘sales agents’ that tend to wander the area. If in doubt, just say no and walk away. Don’t show one inkling of interest as they are as persistent as a dog is to a bone. I’d suggest organising activities with your hotel.
Another FREE must do activity is to snorkel along the shallow waters. We brought our own gear. Sounds silly, but we say schools of tropical fish and a stingray right beneath us. Oh, and how could I forget the massages. Look for the stand where there are mainly old ladies. These ladies, despite their age, come with strength and hands that could smooth out any knots you may have. Only 350 pesos for an hour body massage! That’s pretty much a few AUS dollars.
OK, let’s start eating
During the plane ride, all I wanted to eat was BBQ pork on skewers. Ask any Filipino what their favourite hawker food is, and this will likely make the top 3 on their list. If you’re visiting for the first time and unsure of where to eat, I’d suggest hitting up Andok’s. The menu items are affordable, simple and straight to the point. It also helps that they have images of all items on the menu. There two Andok’s outlets throughout the island- one towards station 3 and the other located in D Mall, which is the main shopping strip.
Tender fatty pieces of crispy pig. Juices flow out as you crunch
Coconut Bibingka (pudding) made up of butter, flour eggs, sugar, evaporated milk or coconut milk. I’ve never had Bibinka in Australia that has come close to this absolute delight. It was moist but still maintained that tear away texture that allows you to rip away using your hands. My only regret was only having this once.
Sago At Gulaman. When bought in hawker stalls, it comes served in a plastic cup or even plastic bags with a straw. It is made up of aagr-agar, sago, crushed ice, water and sugar. You don’t need dessert after this drink. Although, I might as well have attached this drink to me during my travels. Everywhere I went, I asked for this drink and would be dissapointed if a restaurant didn’t serve it. Yes, my inner brat was coming right out.
More icy cold Sago At Gulaman and pandan Gulaman can be found at stall (pictured below) at station 3, for less than 40 pesos! A perfect accompaniment to take as you watch the sunset go down.
Ah, someone call for Balut?! Dun Dun Dun…
Whether you’re either laying on the beach sun baking or sipping a cocktail, you’re bound to hear the words of children calling out “Balut, balut!” And this is where our eyes woke up from their slumber. Most people fear Balut (a fertilized egg with a partially developed embryo). However, like a reflex, we reached into our pockets for some change! The adorable children carry the balut around in temperature sealed containers to keep their heat.
Probably the best balut I had in Philippines, the egg when cracked opened from the top, revealed so much juice and a brightly yellow centre. For most people this would make them squirm, but fortunately for my friends and I, this was absolute BLISS as we gleefully ate away at this national delicacy. We felt like true pinoys, back in our home country doing what we do best, eating.
Where to grab a drink then eat
Buko (coconut) juice stalls
Look out for Buko (coconut) juice stalls around the beach. Freshly picked, they will cut off the top and stick in a straw. Simple at the same time fun whilst you walk around with massive coconut!
Creek Bar (nightlife)
Creek Bar is a haven for the island’s best musical talent– from acoustic pop to some funky reggae. Every night, there are acoustic style gigs with some artists sounding similar to Rob Thomas to Bob Marley. Amazing talent- we even bought a few CD’s.
The bar is set outdoors on cushioned bamboo lounges where you can either put your feet up or lay it on the sandy floor as you feel the night’s warm breeze and guzzle down a San Miguel beer. Now this is the life people!
Next door, the restaurant with the bright lights has an abundance of fresh seafood to order on display. You get to pick out what lobster, giant crab, massive prawn or scallop you like. I have to admit that we did go overboard on the ordering, but what the hell.
I choose you…
In awe at the size, we thought they had mistakenly cooked us a lobster instead of prawns. It was the biggest prawn I’ve ever seen. The meat was doused with butter and lemon whilst grilled to perfection.
The best thing about eating here, other than the seafood of course, is that you’re right next to the water. It takes the dining experience to another level as you smell the ocean whilst dunking into yet another scallop.
What goes well with the meal is a refreshing Calamansi Juice (kumquat). Basically ice, water, kumquats and sugar. I have friends who have no idea what to do with their kumquats, so they call me and I arrive with a huge bag. Not only is it great as a condiment to seafood (soy sauce + a dashing of kumquat) but also a perfect summers drink.
A Breakfast Buffet
Regency Boracay serves up a mean buffet each morning. I’m not talking about a boring buffet made up of simple breads, eggs, lame soggy fruit and cereal. Here you’ll find a change of menu each day ranging from traditional selections like beef tapa (stuff I grew up eating), longanisa (sweet sausages) corned beef with potato and tomato, aroz caldo (congee) to french toast made to order, pancakes, eggs anyway you like them and lucious papaya and mango on ice.
Traditional Filipino breakfast…
The large room with a centralised kitchen, although by the beach, is undercover and encased by air conditioners. Below is a traditional Filipino breakfast made up of corned beef, longanisa, beef tapa and pork tocino. YUURRRMMMM!
The BBQ gazebo grill located at the front of Regency Boracay, also houses a selection of seafood and meat to order and is grilled right in front of the beach.
You can sit in the housed gazebo or on the chairs by the sandy shores. This time we ordered some baby back ribs in addition to the prawns and lobster.
Nothing spells filipino dessert than Halo Halo. Our version of the Ais Kacang. It has a combination of sweetened beans, red kaong, green nata de coco, sweetened macapuno, ube (purple yam), Cornflakes, leche flan and condensed milk. Oh so freakin good.
Ending it with the sunset
The best part of the trip was swimming in the warm waters watching the sunset. It was truly an incredible feeling swimming amongst the tropical fish as you watch the sailboats drift by.
The Cap Off
This would have to be the best holiday I have ever taken. Boracay can be a place of relaxation and pampering by the beach. It could also be a place of endless activities from snorkeling, helmet diving and island hopping to endless bars and beach parties minus the heavy commercialism of say, Thailand. I mean, everyone goes to Thailand these days. Boracay can be anything you want it to be. Just make sure you pack the sunscreen…
What place would you recommend for a lazy holiday?