On the small Philippine island of Boracay, a security guard watches over a popular tourist hotel. He’s dressed in a gray uniform and stands at attention along the sand boardwalk running in front of the hotel. His eyes dart back and forth, always alert for suspicious people and aware of danger lurking inside the dark Boracay nightlife.
His name is Raymond
Raymond grew up on a smaller island not far from Boracay, so close you can see it on a clear day. He dropped out after elementary school when his father died and his mother was left alone to raise him and his nine older siblings. So, at nine years old, Raymond went to work.
He now lives on the island of Boracay in a small boarding house shared with two others. It’s a very basic house with dirt floors and simple furnishings. He doesn’t own a car, a motorcycle, or even a cell phone. His life and his needs are simple.
One evening Raymond is standing guard when he notices two foreign women at a nearby table. They’re drinking Red Horse beer and have had just enough to make everything seem funny. Tonight’s sunset is stunning and the curly-haired one starts snapping sunset shots, almost like she’s never seen such a beautiful sunset before.
They make some small talk and Raymond makes the bold decision to invite these two on an island-hopping tour the following day. They’ve just arrived on the island and he looks forward to showing them the beauty of his homeland. Happily, they agree to meet him the next morning.
This was our introduction to Filipino people – the beauty of their warmth
The Beauty of Boracay nightlife
The following day, we join Raymond for an island-hopping tour. Throughout the day, we learn so much about his life growing up in the Philippines with big dreams but few opportunities. Raymond introduces us to the kindness and generosity of the Filipino people.
He also shows us the amazing beauty of Boracay, an island which draws hordes of tourists every year. The island is a water-sports mecca with an endless supply of adrenaline-inducing thrills. Small pontoons dot the crystal blue water. These pontoons offer parasailing, banana boat rides, and helmet diving. Jet skis bounce off wakes of passing boats, disturbing the peace with their blasting engines. If that’s your kind of thing, this is your kind of place.
There is also stunning beauty found in the sunsets offered right on schedule every evening. On the second evening, just before the show starts, I discover my “happy place” on a red beanbag chair in front of a nearby restaurant. I grab a cold Red Horse beer and plop down on a chair, my little table precariously perched in the sand. I try my best to focus on the setting sun, turning the clouds different shades of red, pink and purple, and the outline of sailboats gliding by on the horizon – while tuning out the salesmen selling a variety of miscellaneous crap I don’t want or need. Absorbed in the sunset, I tune out the chaos that surrounds me.
Meditating on the beauty and ignoring the chaos. Listening to the soothing sounds of Adele and Norah Jones tunes wafting from a nearby cafe, soothing music not yet competing with the pounding bass from other bands. It was too early in the evening – before beautiful Boracay transforms into the Beast. As the sun sets and darkness arrives and the dark side of Boracay slowly emerges.
The Beast of Boracay Nightlife
Darkness takes over and music blasts from competing stages. Fire twirlers entertain the crowds. The crowds get younger, the clothes get tighter, the heels get higher. I feel old and underdressed in my Bermuda length shorts, cute summery top, and basic but practical flip-flops. My version of nighttime beachwear fashion.
I wander along the sand boardwalk one evening after sunset, looking for a spot to just observe. My needs are simple – a comfortable chair, an ice-cold beer, and a view of the parade of people walking by. When Boracay transforms into the Beast of the Night, that kind of spot is hard to find.
The Gentle American
I stop at one place to consider the menu. Not really hungry, I take a moment to get a feel for the vibe of the place when a man approaches. He’s an older man (probably MY age but seems older) and he invites me to join him at the bar. He is friendly and I sense he is harmless, so I pull up a stool and he orders me a drink. An American with a thick accent originating in Israel, he is staying at the adjoining hotel and raves about the bar.
I glance around at the “older” foreigners who mingle with local Filipinos, hanging out, talking. Seemed like a place where I might fit. No loud, pounding, annoying electronic dance music, no scantily clad 20-somethings looking for some action. And, other than his support of Trump, the American Guy is interesting and entertaining. My hopes for fitting into the dark side of Boracay nightlife are raised…for just a moment.
The Australian Beast
A short time his Australian buddy joins us and the conversation turns deeper and darker – to prostitution. Like most western men in Asia, Aussie Guy is drawn to the Philippines by the lure of beautiful women willing to do almost anything for a price. Men like these perpetuate a growing problem all over Asia – slimy men who take advantage of beautiful, desperate women.
Sitting between these two men, I begin to notice glaring looks from a growing number of scantily clad Filipino women across the bar. I am in the way. I am cutting into their business. American Guy claims to have no interest in buying love for the night, although he is approached by a beautiful, young magician who obviously has an interest in him. But Aussie Guy is into it. Proudly. Two at once. No remorse.
Like Raymond, a kind and gentle Filipino man with dreams but few opportunities, these beautiful young Filipino women likely have big dreams and are simply doing what is necessary to survive. Sadly, slimy western men perpetuate this cycle. The Beast of Boracay nightlife.
Meet the Lady Boys
The following night American Guy invites my friend and me to join him for a midnight stroll to the really seedy end of the strip to see the infamous Lady Boys all dressed up, doing their thing. Curious, we join him and dive even deeper into the dark side of Boracay nightlife. Pounding music. Clubbing. Flashing disco lights. Hookah bars. Shady characters. Beautiful Lady Boys dressed in their finest.
It’s like walking through a really bizarre movie, only the characters are real and can reach out and touch us.
Walking back to our hotel after “the show”, we feel very vulnerable. Two western women walking along the dark boardwalk, with shady characters lurking in the shadows. (Thankfully, American Guy escorts us safely back to our hotel.)
Raymond warned us of dangers lurking in the dark. After witnessing the nighttime Beast of Boracay nightlife, he was right.
Amazing Boracay – the Beauty and the Beast!
For a look at the relaxing side of Boracay, see “Boracay Relaxation – Tips for Finding Zen in Boracay”. Or for a more spiritual view of the Filipino people, check out “Rainbow Blessings at Jaro Cathedral”.