Back to Boracay through the Nautical Highway (Part I)


We’ve done it several times, and we are still going on road trips to Boracay via the Western Nautical Highway.

My buddy, Noel Mesina, and I enjoyed the trip despite the hassles inherent to it. If you’re not afraid of the huge waves that could torture your boat anytime during the voyage (in one of our trips, the majority of the passengers of the Ro-Ro [roll on, roll off] ship threw up, clogging the pipes and flooding the floors of the comfort rooms with vomit and human waste), it is really worth doing.

I can’t remember how many times we have done it; all I can remember is that we always have fun doing it.

Road trips are a much cheaper way of traveling around the country since airfares are much more expensive, especially if you’re traveling with a big group.

I have stopped doing road trips to Boracay for almost a decade, while still flying to the island through direct flights to Caticlan or via Kalibo.

However, I did other road trips to other destinations, longer routes to Mindanao via the Eastern Nautical Highway and the so-called Northern Loop, covering both the Eastern and Western coast of Luzon.


Recently, Noel and I just decided to do a road trip again to Boracay to visit some friends. It was a spontaneous ride, thus we weren’t able to borrow a new car to test drive.




Approaching the port of Calapan on board the Ro-Ro from Batangas City.



FRIENDS


A yearly reunion of friends and relatives of Steve.


My frequent visits to Boracay were not only because of its powdery white sand beaches, nor its nightly insane parties. Over the years, I have made friends with the main characters of the island.

The first close friend I ever made in Boracay was Steve Tajanlangit, a pioneer on the island who sadly passed away a couple of years ago. Since his death, friends and relatives of Steve celebrate on his birthday, November 12, in his Boracay Terraces Resort to commemorate him.


It’s some sort of a reunion for Steve, who played a major role in bringing investors and tourists to Boracay. In those reunions, another close friend, Bingoy Remedios, kept inviting me to his newfound haven in Nabaoy, which he named Finca Verde or the Green Farm.


He encouraged me to spend a night in his farm to detox after nights of partying in Boracay. He said the last night of a Boracay visit should be spent in Finca Verde, which is less than ten minutes away from the Caticlan Airport.

Bingoy, owner and operator of Dos Mestizos, has been a Boracay resident for more than 20 years. His restaurants (the other one is Rojo by Dos Mestizos in Fairways & Bluewater Newcoast Resort) are best known for its paellas and tapas.

Getting tired of the rat race, Bingoy needed a Finca Verde where he could relax after a grueling pace in Boracay. When he was developing the farm, Bingoy and wife Niña Bustamante, together with their lovely daughter Chabeli, would spend the weekends in Finca Verde. Now that the farm is almost fully developed, he works weekends (and during special events/occasions) in Boracay and spends most of the week in Finca Verde.

He said: “What we’re trying to promote here is a natural farm, and that’s how we started a few years ago. We’re not really done yet, we’re still in the works. We’re hoping to open this to the public.”

Bingoy will have a different offering in his restaurant in Finca Verde: “We plan to have a daily buffet here of natural food.”

“Everything will come from the farm, including the meats like pork - we will have organic pork, ducks, chickens, goat. So this restaurant will be basically a Filipino restaurant but using natural or organic food,” he said.

The farm will also supply both restaurants in Boracay with organically grown ingredients, like arugula, lettuce, ducks, and other things that are difficult to get in the island.

He plans to promote Finca Verde as: “the greener side OFF Boracay.”

Finca Verde is very near and accessible to and from the party island of Boracay.

“So you can stay in Boracay, come here for the day, enjoy the food all day and get back by 5 o’ clock in the afternoon. It’s a short ride, it’s a 10-minute ride to the jetty port.”

Aside from the food, Finca Verde has a lot of activities to offer. People can go biking, they can ride ATVs, go for white water tubing in Nabaoy River. There’s also a two-hour trek going to Nagata Falls.

Bingoy says, “it’s entirely different from the island (Boracay). The island for us is the city. This is our, what you call, our therapeutic place, you know, away from the business.”

“Supposed to be away from the business but then, maybe it’s the businessman in me that I want to show it also to other people. We want to share it. So we’re ready to share this too – to the public, to people that come to Boracay because we don’t want them to think that Boracay is all about partying.”

Currently, Finca Verde has a main house, were Bingoy and his family live and it is also the restaurant. There are three cottages with private baths and toilets. He intends to build more cottages and a yoga center. The main house will eventually become the main restaurant as he builds his residence in a two-hectare property adjacent to the four-hectare Finca Verde.



Living Museum





About five minutes away, visitors of Finca Verde can also visit the Motag Living Museum which was created by Nanette Graf, a long-time Boracay resident as well.

The visit, including a walk through the rice paddies, will last an hour-and-a-half observing how the natives lived as far back as the 1930s. Visitors can join the locals planting rice and other activities done in a rural setting.

Another friend, Nanette is also one of the main characters in Boracay, having introduced and pushed kite boarding on the island, which now hosts international kite boarding competitions.


Mother and daughter, Niña and Chabeli enjoying a handicraft activity in Motag.

It’s actually her experience in Boracay, which she saw develop into a big tourist destination in this part of the globe, that led her to conceptualize the living museum in Motag where she’s the barangay leader.

As an interactive living museum, Motag was built with the help of the community people. You will see real people in the two-hectare living museum as they show how the Filipinos in the past lived in houses built “without nails, without metal or anything, you know, it’s just pure rattan, bamboo, and wood sticks – nipa hut,” said Graf.

“See the past come to life,” is the slogan of our museum, as you will see real living village people, said Graf as she explained how it was built.

“We had a meeting then we picked their brains, what is their memory of a farmhouse, what’s in there, what they were doing. We wrote about it and whatever you see in this museum is actually a product of their contribution, from every elderly in the village.”

How did she get the idea?

“I mean, I’ve been living in Boracay since 1984. That’s where I started my business ‘cos my family had a little resort. After college, I moved there, so I practically grew up witnessing the tourism grow in Boracay.

“If you go to Boracay now, it’s no longer in the Philippines. It’s not the Philippines that we imagine…there’s no heritage or culture, there’s no tradition you see there except party, water sport, beach – other things except being Filipino,” she said.

Since she’s from the mainland, she thought of something that they can offer. She wanted to present the culture on the island. Something that will remind tourists what the Philippines is really like.

So she asked herself, who are we really? Who are the Filipinos? Who are the people of the island?

“And what we’re presenting here are actually the things they were doing in the past, like yung mga tobacco, rice land – there used to be rice land in Boracay, pero wala na. There used to be carabaos in Boracay, wala na.

“They plant camote, they harvest coconuts, they do fishing and – pero wala na yun, hindi mo na makikita kasi bawal mangisda. Wala namang farm kasi nabili na ng mga resorts, ‘di ba, wala na talaga.

“So how else…they have to see it somehow.”

Those are the reasons why she came up with the idea of a living museum in Motag. The living museum reminds the people of Boracay who they really are.

She said, they themselves are confused who they really are. “And the only way to do it is to have something like this, I think.”


The living museum is the locals’ pride. They are kept busy playing the real characters of the museum. Suddenly, they have a new purpose in life, which is giving a glimpse of their past. The idea was hatched because of Graf’s real life experience in Boracay but the concept was really developed by the elders of Barangay Motag.

It’s their pride that you don’t see when they are out of the museum but once they are inside the museum they are like stage actors, very proud to do their respective roles.




The Motag Living Museum keeps the locals busy, playing the real characters of the museum and they are very proud to do their respective roles.