Boracay Island beach holidays
We stepped off the ferry and set foot on the shores of Boracay, a beach borrowed from a fairytale, illuminated by multi-coloured angel lights and softly glowing Asian lanterns. This stunning paradox of tranquility and nightlife had been awarded the 2012 crown of Best Island in the World and regularly features in lists of the top ten beaches in the world.
My friend Stevie and I had arrived with an aim of our own, to use our guitar and bongo drum to hustle as much free stuff as possible.
In the local tongue of Tagalog, Borac means white cotton, a cursory nod to the diamond bright sand that sits on the imaginatively named White Beach. This four kilometre stretch of sand is split into three main sections; Station One is the most upmarket and luxurious, the second is busier and more tailored to tourism whilst Station Three caters for backpackers and those on a tamer budget. We began on the bottom rung of the ladder in Station Three and swiftly stumbled upon The Red Pirates.
They were a group of ragamuffin sailors who live by a beach shack and laze in hammocks offering unofficial island hopping tours to the brave and adventurous. For a small fee, you can accompany them as they navigate the translucent tropical seas, catching fish and frying them up for lunch, but today, nobody was biting. Their leader was the ocean-weathered, wind-scarred man who introduced himself as Captain Joey Red. He wore messy dreadlocks, a cheeky grin and a sharktooth necklace.
We suggested advertising themselves as pirates may have been the reason why business was particularly slow, as customers are unsure whether or not they will return safely from the high seas. I also doubted the benefits of negotiating business whilst brandishing a machete. An elderly couple stopped to look at their hand-painted sign then asked if they were licenced. Captain Joey laughed and poured himself a generous shot of rum. He could probably work on his customer service skills too. We played some soft rock songs to attract business and received payment from the same bottle of rum. We helped them to secure a maybe for a tour the following day and a restaurant owner asked if we could play at his place that evening. We invited Captain Red to come and watch our gig.
“You guys are sellouts,” he said.
“Like your boat trips?”
“Doesn’t matter, see you tonight,” we said, hoping he hadn’t heard.
“Okay, you better play rock music!”
Station 2 is bustling proof that Boracay’s made the leap from tropical backwater to Southeast Asia’s newest hot spot. Hotels, hostels, restaurants, shops and stalls jostle for space along the beachfront like tents in the campsite at Glastonbury. In the shallows of the sea swirls of feeding fish, as colourful and abundant as the human carnival on the sands of Boracay, fizz around sharking for food. A few metres inland we are playing our first gig. Maybe the word gig is a touch glamorous. We are tucked behind a palm tree playing background music as diners feast on the fresh fish and stir-fried veg. We’re playing easy listening, everything’s tranquil and the eaters had hardly noticed we were there. This is the art of good background music; making nice noise without being seen. Maybe Ed Miliband should try it.
Suddenly, sand started spluttering over our makeshift stage. Captain Joey had stormed in and was crouching beside us. Unfortunately, he had hadn’t grasped the art of good background music. “Psst! Play Highway to Hell.”
The following night we promoted ourselves to Station 1. We serenaded expensively dressed holidaymakers in return for a large lobster each. High on the fumes of our success, we sauntered into a five star hotel and propositioned the manager.
“If we play some music and entertain your guests, can we have a room for the night?” We spoke in our best English accents.
“Sorry, we’re sold out.” The manager laughed like Captain Joey did when asked whether he had a permit, as he motioned at the half full terrace of diners behind him. I had a feeling only one of us had sold out recently.
As we trudged back towards Station Two in search of a bed for the night, I saw a figure roll off a rock and stumble in our direction. A hearty slap on the back and a strong smell of stale rum confirmed it was Captain Joey. After explaining our predicament, he insisted we stay on the beach with him and his crew.
He might not know business, but Captain Joey Red was well educated in hospitality. He pointed along the beach. “Come, let’s take the Highway to Hell and we arrive at our house,” he cackled.
We laughed at the notion of a road that leads to the devil being paved with shining sand, sitting underneath a ceiling of sparkling stars. Later, as we settled into our hammocks for the night with the sea slowly lapping around us, we realised when you’re on one of the best beaches in the world, some things come for free as standard.
Article written by Chris Watts.