One disadvantage of being a white person here is becoming really clear. You are put into a white person box. White person has money and is source of tips from different kinds of weird services. Tricycle ride costs you triple because you have money. And you want to buy all sorts of things-from light-sticks to coral shells and Boracay magnets. Being put into this box is really sad since we wanted to make friends with local people and experience “real”, local life. We don’t mind contributing to the economy and helping people out but it would be nice if interaction would go beyond the point of selling us something. Also, I am afraid while English is an official language and many people possess a basic ability to communicate in it, the level is not good enough to have an actual conversation.
At the same time this all made me realise how vain some of our “Western” lifestyle is. People just lie on the beach, buy some useless crap, spend days having massage and drinking beer. Is it surprising that we are treated a bit like money bags since we clearly have all this money to “waste”? You cannot blame local people for making their ends meet the best way they can. I did some google research and discovered that average Philippine salary is about PHP11700 per month. While you can probably make your ends meet here things like travelling are not in question not to mention just hanging around, buying useless crap.
This brings me to the next thing I learned here. Food shopping is a nightmare. There are two “supermarkets”. Quotation marks because the size and choice available are really limited. BudgetMart claims to be the only Western style supermarket in Boracay. It has maybe 4 rows in total and is filled with people, mostly tourists. The choice is very limited like I mentioned. Before our first shopping I thought I buy some soup (even canned would do) for lunch. No soups whatsoever. No fruits either. We found some canned tuna, pasta and tomato sauce. No sweetener so we are forced to either use sugar or drink coffee without any sweetening agent. And loads of people make it hard to see and move. So we tried to stock as much as possible and eat out mainly. Luckily restaurants have a good choice of food (they must have some private supply) and it is not expensive. It is just that it takes time and is quite unhealthy, sometimes you just want to stay home and relax.
Service in the restaurants is very slow. Maybe it is because of high season or maybe people just have different mentality. So drinks arrive about 15 min after order and food typically takes about 1 hour (not nice feeling if you are very hungry). Also a thought crossed my mind that maybe that is done deliberately so you order more drinks as we certainly had time to finish a cocktail if not two before the food comes. And yes, cocktails are very good and cheap so we had some little light-headedness on the way home more than once.
Frequent power cuts are also everyday life here. They usually last only 15-20 min at the time but the worst one we experienced so far was about 2 hours. Yesterday when we arrived to Puka Beach, we wanted to have a mango shake (mango and banana shakes are to die for) but straight after we ordered power went off so “sorry no shake”. Luckily almost immediately we were picked up by another beach coffee owner who said: “No problem-my brother has a back-up generator”. Shakes still took 20 min to arrive so his brother must have lived somewhere further out. We did enjoy this adventure though as it at least gave us a good laughter.
Tricycles are a main mode of transport. They are essentially motorbikes with little carriage attached to them and fit about 4-6 people. Diniwid where we stay is about 1.2 km off the main road which gives a great ground for “tricycle mafia” to flourish. Basically they rent the whole tricycle for you and take you to station 1 or 2 (where all the action happens) for PHP100-150 for 2 people. Doesn’t sound too bad but compare it to taking one from the main road which according to locals we met costs PHP10. So what locals here do – they walk all the way to the main road. So far we have been a little lazy with that so have fed the mafia, as good western money bags should I suppose. At least we always have bargained the price down to PHP100 which to us seems fair for 15 min ride.