Revenge Travel Bubble: What it’s like to (safely) return to Boracay in the middle of a pandemic - Travel

As restrictions begin to ease, more and more travelers are flying back to the island.

Five in the morning is quite an ungodly hour to be squeezing one’s self into a cab. Normally, I’d be scowling for the rest of the day and mumbling about losing sleep but not this time.

READ ALSO: Island Therapy: Balance Your Chakras, Find Solace, And Experience Sound Healing At This Boracay Spa

I was pretty much wired even before having coffee as I was going to Boracay, a place I’ve been to one too many times in my 20s.

But it’s been years since I’ve seen the island—seven, to be exact; my last visit was for 2014 to report about Laboracay and it was a different time, a much different island.

Luxury of convenience

The pandemic has changed the way we see travel and how we go about it. Prior to the pandemic, I traveled often for leisure and for work. Since COVID hit, the only time I’ve been on a plane was to move from Berlin to Manila at the end of 2020.

The experience of traveling during this time can leave a bad taste in one’s mouth. Necessary restrictions and extra steps can truly put someone off. Like most people, I’m no fan of PCR tests and it’s one of the main reasons I avoided travel. However, as vaccination rates get better and places start opening up, I’ve gotten braver, dipping my feet into the water.

So at half-past-five, I found myself at a private hangar near NAIA waiting to join my first travel bubble with fellow members of the press. AirTrav’s seaplane can accommodate up to eight people and it only took us minutes to board.

No lining up, no airport stress. It is, however, smaller than what most travellers are used to but after a few minutes in the air and seeing how steady it can be, anxieties are easily melted away.

The flight took about an hour-and-a-half, with the plane cruising at a lower altitude. We saw the resort we’re staying at from above: a modern, sprawling property by the beach in Station Zero.

Crimson Boracay’s architecture adds panoramic drama along the coastline with its white, cascading blocks and repeating local patterns we later see throughout the hotel. It’s a minor detail but a design principle that’s much appreciated.

“I like it because it’s my style—contemporary,” Crimson general manager Patrick Manthe says over dinner at Mosaic, one of the dining options in the property. “Sometimes I discover the pattern somewhere I didn’t see [it before]. I like how it all flows together… it’s very well thought out.”

Running a resort in the middle of a pandemic is no easy feat and Manthe admits that there have been major challenges since his arrival. But the recent easing of restrictions are bringing more people back to the island and things are finally starting to look up.

Thankfully, Boracay was mostly spared from the wrath of Typhoon Odette. “Fortunately we weren’t affected by the storm. All good in Boracay,” Manthe adds.

Checking into our suites, we were welcomed by the spacious rooms that are mostly in neutral hues. Classic and cozy. The main draw of the room has to be the bed—most members of our group agreed that it was exceptionally comfortable and where some of us had some of our best slumbers in the last year.  The view of the white sand and azure waters of Punta Bunga Beach was also a treat to wake up to.

Most of our group were billeted in the Indigo building which, like its twin called Cobalt, has a pool right up front. Convenient and also helpful in dispersing guests who come to the resort for safety in the midst of fun.

Art and dining hub

While the island of Boracay is filled with resorts and hotels, there are a few that truly stand out. Crimson, for example, is becoming an art hub and looks forward to spreading that influence to the rest of the island.

“I want Boracay to be seen as a place for the arts,” Manthe says. An artist himself, he even hosted an afternoon of what is popularly called as “Sip & Paint.” The event, where he taught us how to paint, turned our group into wine-fueled artists with our own works of art to take home.

The property is also home to a resident artist Eric Egualada who also offers art lessons for all ages. Hailing from Angono, the artist even does live painting sessions over special dinners at Mosaic.

One thing I thoroughly enjoyed during this trip was indulging in great food and drinks. I highly recommend the Azure Beach Club with its great selection of international dishes. The best laksa on the island, dubbed by journalist Tanya Lara who’s also been on an extended stay on the island, can be found here.

I couldn’t help but agree. Ever since living in Kuala Lumpur from 2014 until 2017, I don’t think I have ever tasted laksa that good.

Under one roof

On our way to the island, I was excited to maybe step out for a bit and explore familiar places in Stations 1 through 3. However, while at the property, I found myself staying within Station 0 for the whole of the trip. There was no need to leave and the place already had everything I needed to enjoy. An hour at the resort’s Aum Spa was a rejuvenating experience. There was no shortage of dining options within the property, and there were activities to keep one occupied.

For families, there are villas in the property offering more space and privacy. The presidential villa even has its own pool where your floating breakfast can be served—Instagrammable and in true, social distancing fashion.

It was my first travel bubble and I admit the term made me apprehensive at first. Will I be bored? Would I long for how travel used to be? Turns out it was a great way to unwind—safely—during this time.

Photos by CAROL RH MALASIG and courtesy of CRIMSON BORACAY

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