The tourism industry in Boracay is so commercialized that it has already been prohibited to bring home sand as a souvenir, when it is the sand that became its main attraction in the first place. But in all the years that Boracay has been raking in dollars, euros and other currencies, including Philippine pesos, quality of living and transportation efficiency have remained very rustic and backward. Young and old, rich and poor, local and foreign – all ride the same motorized bancas that have been plying the Caticlan-Boracay route for over 10 years.
There is only one dock at Caticlan. It is made of wood and bamboo interwoven with rope, styrofoam, plastic drums and twine. Some parts are not protected by railings so people must have a good sense of balance to be able to cross it. At the same time, bancas must fall in line to pick up and disembark passengers to avoid over crowding the landing area.
Overheard by a fellow passenger on the banca back to Caticlan: Almost everone who comes to Boracay has a story about their transfers. Well, not to be left out, we have one too.
We left our hotel fairly early, not even stopping to have breakfast, thinking we’d have it in Caticlan port. The ride to station 3 was fast and we had just caught the departing banca as it was about to take off. All was well until it was time to line up for clearance when suddenly we weren’t budging. Just a few hundred feet from the port and something had gone wrong with the banca. The young boys handling the ropes were shouting at each other and pointing until finally the engine was cut. We heard a splash so I assumed someone dove in to see what was the matter. A few minutes later, a crewman opened a trapdoor near where we were sitting, jumped in, made some adjustments and the engine roared back into life. But we were still stuck. Good thing there was a man of authority on board, apparently a policeman or coast guard, who was going home for the weekend and he took charge, instructing the boys to call for rescue canoes, to ferry the passengers to shore, giving priority to those having planes to catch.
From the banca port to the airport is a 10-minute drive through narrow streets crowded with shops on both sides. Mode of transportation is generally by tricycle and multicab, with the occasional van, and even more scarce, a small garbage truck.
Where does all the money go? I’m talking about the tax payments of these resorts and businesses obviously flourishing with tourist sales on a DAILY basis. Though all modes of transportation need improvement, I believe the most important is the sea shuttle. Why hasn’t the dock been improved yet? With the influx of so many visitors especially during weekends, authorities should at least make an effort to be accommodating and welcoming. But what greets us at the port is anything but. For a backpacker, who has much higher tolerance for inconveniences, this may still be acceptable. Unfortunately, some of us are not so acquiescent.