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Boracay reopening, a revival of tourism industry and workers

Boracay Island, known as one of the premier tourist destinations, is gradually bouncing back. Its long stretch of powdery white sand beach, crystal clear and azure waters, and a stunning sunset, could be seen and experienced again, as it is now open for visitors.

After the provincial government of Aklan’s announcement on the acceptance of tourists in the island; many have expressed happiness as translated with the increasing number of Boracay tourist arrivals amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Data from Malay Municipal Tourism Office showed that for the first five days of December 2021, Boracay Island already welcomed 15,601 visitors and more are expected to visit this Holiday Seasons.

More delightful and grateful, aside from the tourists, are the workers in Boracay. They too, are exultant with the restart of tourism and travel industry in Boracay Island as it means, they will have their jobs and livelihood back. One of them is Lyn Minon, a 37 year-old employee of a restaurant in Boracay.

“Grabe nga kasadya akon nga nabatyagan dahil nagbukas eon ro Boracay para sa turista. Although raya hay amat-amat eang, kahit papano makabulig raya nga kami hay makabalik sa trabaho (I felt so happy for the opening of Boracay to tourists. Although it is in a gradual manner, still it helps us regain our jobs and livelihood),”Lyn emotionally explained.

Tourists going to Boracay Island passing through the Caticlan Jetty Port. Data from Malay Municipal Tourism Office showed that for the first five days of December 2021, Boracay Island already welcomed 15,601 visitors and more are expected to visit this Holiday Seasons. (SQP/PIA-Aklan/Photo courtesy of LGU-Malay)

Lyn is a tourism worker in Boracay Island for 15 years. Boracay has been her life. In this island, she was able to support financially her family living in other province; and also with this island she met her Aklanon husband and together they created a family. She has been in the island since Boracay was just gaining popularity until it became a world-famous island.

Boracay was first closed to tourists in April to October 2018 to give way for rehabilitation as mandated by President Rodrigo Roa Duterte. The second closure was in March 2020 until September 2021. Boracay workers were greatly affected by the two closures.

‘’At first, grabe gid akon nga akig sa Presidente sang ginpasara ang Boracay dahil feeling namon kato nga mga workers, daw ginpatay man kami. Pero later on, narealized man nakon nga kinahanglan gid man it rehabilitasyon kung gusto pa naton nga magbuhay ro isla, (I used to hate the President for closing Boracay as it was tantamount to killing us. However, later on, I’ve realized that indeed the island needs rehabilitation if we want it to stay longer)” said Lyn adding her appreciation for the political will of PRRD.

Lyn Minon, a 37 year-old tourism worker starts her shift in a restaurant in Boracay Island. (SQP/PIA-AKLAN)

In December 2019, spreading of Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-9) in other countries were all in the news, until it reached the Philippines in the first quarter of 2020; prompting the Philippines to close its doors from other countries as well as Boracay Island from tourists to contain the virus.

“It hurt us once again. This time is quite hard as we do not know when this pandemic will totally end,” said Lyn in local dialect.

Workers in Boracay Island are heavily relying on tourism industry. Severely affected by the rehabilitation of the island and of the pandemic were given opportunities by the labor department to engage in alternative jobs and income-generating endeavors, as well as by SSS and DSWD for financial assistance and relief packs.

For Lyn’s part, she was able to get a total of P24,000 from Department of Labor and Employment during the rehabilitation closure and P16,000 from Social Security System for the pandemic closure and P6,000 from Department of Social Welfare and Development

Lyn has expressed gratitude to the government for the financial assistance she received aside from the food packs.

“Yes, it is not enough as I have my four children to feed and my husband was retrenched from work and my parents-in law are living with us; but because of that help from the government, we have sustained our everyday living,” she said in Aklanon dialect.

She appealed to her fellow workers especially in Boracay to learn to appreciate the help from the State and be thankful that the response of the government is timely; given that many or all of the Filipinos are affected by the pandemic. Everyone should do his or her part and not just rely to the government.

“We should also learn to spend according to what we have. We need to be mindful of the things we spend. The closures of Boracay especially during the pandemic, taught me that not all are certain. It is important that you have savings. It may sound cliché, but yes we should save,” advised Lyn to her fellow workers.

She was thankful that her employer retained all the employees but in a pre-agreed working schedule. Her salary was decreased by 50% but Lyn said they are lucky enough to have such set-up than losing their jobs.

The Philippine government, in order to protect the returning tourism economy of Boracay, has strengthened the COVID-19 vaccination roll-out among residents and workers in the island.

As of December 3, 2021, about 98.09% or 23,985 of adult population in the Island were fully vaccinated against COVID-19; while 13,942 tourism workers or 108.85% received the two doses of the vaccine. (AAL/SQP/PIA-Aklan)

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Sheila Patoza

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Region 6

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