By Florence F. Hibionada/PNS
CALIFORNIA, USA – More fun in the Philippines? Maybe. Or to borrow the word of a Los Angeles (LA) Times Travel Editor, “hardly.” The reason? Boracay, the Philippines’ hyped-up tourist destination that generated a big “thumbs-down” from a renowned Travel Writer.
Located in Western Visayas Region, Boracay fell short – very short – of the expectations of Catherine Hamm who incidentally has since counted and considered the Philippines as among her 34 places called “home.”
A principal figure in LA Times Travel Section since 1999, Hamm became the paper’s Travel Editor in 2003. Interviews granted by Hamm revealed fond stories of her Manila stay during her childhood following her father’s employ with the US Federal Government.
Hamm in Sunday’s LA Times edition wrote a lengthy piece of last year’s Boracay visit entitled “The best island in the world? Hardly.” It was to be one of the day’s main stories that had Boracay summed up by Hamm as the island that “doesn’t live up to the high expectations.”
“Can a million and a half people be wrong?…Can Travel & Leisure be wrong?….Can Trip Advisor be wrong?,” Hamm’s article began as she explained that the said figure was the expected visitors of Boracay this year and “Travel & Leisure” being the magazine that dubbed Boracay as “best island in the world.” Trip Advisor on the other hand is the popular website cum traveler’s best guide online that considered Boracay as a “Travelers’ Choice 2013 Winner.”
For Hamm, all three “could be wrong. Or misguided” followed by “Or I could be.”
And with writing style distinct to Hamm, her article continued stating that Boracay lovers may not be beach experts.
“Maybe they don’t suffer guilt about the poverty or the damage to the environment,” she quipped with her dislike for Boracay compared to Manila’s heat and humidity. The latter even emerged as the better option for Hamm though with her piece concluding that she was better off with Manila’s smog, traffic and heat.
Such as she expressed her disappointment of not finding “the hoped-for-piece of paradise…..”
“If Boracay had been a first date, there wouldn’t have been a second. We just weren’t right for each other. I should have known that from the minute I arrived at the hotel,” she wrote.
Hamm stayed at the plush Boracay Regency where she took particular note of hotel policy cum warning that charges will be made should the linens be stained. The stains being that of Henna Tatto, coconut oil or hair dye.
For Hamm, the hotel policy was a little too much saying she did not understand why she would be charged in the first place saying “What would I be doing that would cause me to damage the sheets like this?”
Hamm also chided Boracay’s road network from the main port calling it “pot-holed obstacle courses” and the stream of Boracay vendors and human traffic as “a bit overwhelming.”
Hamm in the same article also made mention of a news story that wrote of damage to the island’s corals. Said recollection had her quit her “little relaxation” at a snorkel stop.
“…I remembered that the coral that I could now see clearly has been so badly damaged that the Philippine Daily Inquirer reported last year that less than a tenth of it remains in its original state. Coral is critical for marine life. I wasn’t helping. I got out of the water,” she said.
Yet it was to be sight of children begging and mothers with children in tow likewise asking for money that turned off Hamm.
“We didn’t need a henna tattoo or a coconut oil massage and we didn’t want the guilt,” she said while stressing that what she actually came for was the promise of yet another hotel, Discovery Shores, “the hotel that had started me on this Boracay fever dream.”
Voted by Travel & Leisure as the Fourth Best Hotel in the world, Discovery Shores likewise was a disappointment for Hamm and chided for the failed promise of “barefoot elegance.”
“It was a bit of a hike to our room at Moorish-looking Discovery Shores, but things were looking up. Our accommodations included a living room, a bedroom and a small kitchen,” she wrote. “Our bellman explained the large bowl on the floor in which yellow flowers floated on water. Someone would be by soon to give us a welcome foot massage.” Sadly, the masseuse never came or in Hamm’s words was “MIA” or was Missing In Action.
Yet massages or not, Hamm had her enough impressions of Boracay.
“No number of spa treatments was going to change my impression of Boracay, a place for partyers or rich people, of which I am neither,” she concluded. “This wasn’t a love match – not for me. Maybe 30 years ago when Boracay and I were less overdeveloped.”