Reflections on Boracay Nightlife – Beauty and the Beast

Sunset spot - Boracay

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.

Security Guard - Boracay Beach
Smiling security guard.

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…

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 

Boracay Beach sunset
Boracay Beach sunset

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.

Stunning Sunsets

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.

Sunset spot - Boracay
Sunset spot – Boracay

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 with backpackers on a pub crawl, 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”.

Beach near Boracay Philippines
Beach Therapy

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16 Replies to “Reflections on Boracay Nightlife – Beauty and the Beast”

  1. Thanks for sharing this piece with me, I really enjoyed the contrast between your positive experiences on the island by day and the less pleasant experiences by night.

    Seems like you enjoyed your stay quite a bit more than I did, warts and all!

    1. I really enjoyed reading your honest Boracay review a few days ago – helped me put things into perspective! Boracay and I had a complicated relationship!

  2. Gosh, Andi, you were really walking a fine line regarding your night time adventures. So glad you were safe. A beautiful place! Love, Cousin Carol

    1. Yeah, it was interesting and the nights were a little darker than expected. It’s a beautiful place but we sort of have a love/hate relationship! 🙂

  3. I love how you started off with Raymond’s perspective. I recently visited Bali with my husband on our honeymoon and we met a lot of amazing locals and it was hard not feeling guilty when we saw how little they lived on, though Bali is a popular tourist destination. The two perspectives of the day and night life were really interesting. Thank you for sharing.

    1. Thanks Monica. It was interesting getting a glimpse of “real life” by getting to know Raymond. We were able to dig deeper into Philippine culture and people.

  4. Brilliantly written, as usual. I was interested to hear your perspective on Boracy. We decided to skip it, as I had read many times that it was very touristy. But I had also read many places that it had the most beautiful beaches. Sad to hear about the dark side of it, but glad you had some great experiences there 🙂

    1. Thanks Faith! I was a little torn regarding Boracay. Maybe I would have embraced it fully ten years ago, when I was younger and it was a little less dark? I’m looking forward to discovering all the other amazing beaches in the Philippines!

  5. Love your story, Andi. I can understand where you are coming from, but luckily I was never out that late or too far from the hotel at the end of the evening to see this side of Boracay.

    1. You’re a wise woman! Boracay is beautiful during the day! Glad you enjoyed your time there!

  6. That looks amazing !! I heard so much about Philippines lately so I definelty gonna plan a trip there! Hopefully I will meet someone like Raymond to show me around 🙂

    1. It’s great getting to know the local people and viewing “real life” rather than having just a tourist view. The water is clear and the beaches are stunning! Enjoy! 🙂

  7. Great article Andi! I’ve been to both places and Palawan is definitely more serene than Boracay. It’s very commericalised in Boracay, which only contributes to what you mentioned in the article!

    Palawan is becoming more and more popular though! Hopefully, the same trends don’t filter across the waters, though I’m not positive about that!

    1. Thanks Tom! I’m hoping to make it to Palawan and Coron next spring. Hopefully, I’ll find a beach bar featuring one of the many amazing Filipino bands playing covers of 70’s classic rock. 🙂 (That’s my dream!)

  8. The night life would not be for me! It would make me very sad.

    1. Yeah, the night life wasn’t really my scene either. Maybe if I was a decade younger I’d have a different view. 🙂

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