Hillside villas of Shangri-La’s Boracay Resort & Spa.


Special to the Filipino Reporter

BORACAY, Aklan — All is not well in paradise.

The natives, or Ati in Visayan, a counterpart of the Aeta in Luzon, are restless, and have a right to be.

Powerful land developers want them out of their tiny 2.1-hectare ancestral home to make way for fancy resorts and villas now dotting the country’s premier tourist destination.

The Atis are fighting a losing battle.

And they are not alone.

All over the Philippines, indigenous peoples, in Ifugao, for one, are also slowly being displaced and driven to the mainland where they roam the street, without work and live by foraging for food or begging for alms.

But some businessmen and resort operators in Boracay are taking up the cause of these natives such as Hannah Hotel owner Pocholo Morillo and his family.

Even the newest and upscale Shangri-La’s Boracay Resort and Spa (www.shangri-la.com) is pitching in.

It is supporting a program called Dreams for the Future, or Handum sa Paea-Abutom in Akeanon, to help educate underprivileged children of Barangay Yapak, on the northern tip of the island paradise, where the magnificent Shangri-La is located.

A two-night respite during Holy Week at this sprawling facility of hillside villas, private wharf, shuttle bus service to the commercial hub of the island was a sidelight of a quick trip arranged by the New York Department of Tourism, headed by its efficient director, Emma Ruth Yulo-Kitiyakara.

Barangay Yapak High School, the beneficiary of Shangri-La’s outreach project, is one of the best performing high schools in Boracay, especially in academics.

With the help of the local community, Shangri-La provides books, notebooks, pencils and other basic school supplies to allow the children to focus on their studies and to motivate them to attend classes regularly.

Famed for its powdery white sand, Boracay has consistently been named one of the world’s Top 10 beaches, and most recently landed in second place.

At last Easter, every inch of space in the island of three barangays was practically occupied by visitors, both foreign and domestic.

“You could hardly move around,” said two New York youngsters, Joanna and Jeffrey Tuballes, who were among the throngs of seekers of fun and sun.

And because of the building explosion, Aklan provincial officials led by Rep. Joeben T. Miraflores and Gov. Lito S. Marquez, paid attention to a long-term problem of sustaining the delicate ecology of the island paradise.

Mayor John Yap of Malay, where Boracay is a part of, recently led a groundbreaking of a sanitary landfill in barangay Kabulihan.

The proposed Malay Sanitary Landfill seeks to answer the island’s waste management concern.

The project started under former Mayor Ceciron Cawaling, now a vice mayor.

The private sector is involved in the project.

“Superior technology will be harnessed so that water and the air you breathe will never be in danger,” said R-2 Group of Companies chair Regis Romero, at the groundbreaking site with a panoramic view of the rolling hills of Kabulihan.

Violent crimes are rare and Boracay remains a safe community of 26,000 persons, including transients.

But the local police say petty crimes are the most common felonies, such as theft, bar brawls and robbery.

Peace is maintained by 50 special tourist officers and volunteer auxiliary law enforcers.

In addition, there are over 5,000 security guards employed by business establishments.

Pretty soon, a trauma center will be opened on Boracay by St. Luke’s Medical Center in partnership with Fairways and Bluewater.

The medical facility will fill the void of proper medical equipment and care to emergency situations in the island.

Also planned is a complete wellness center facility comparable to the best in Asia.

Boracay is not all Shangri-La’s or Discovery Suites to stay for a day or longer.

There are smaller but affordable and comfortable resorts like Casa Pilar run by the family of Joe Yap, a former Malay mayor and now a member of the Sanguniang Panlalawigan.

Then there’s an all-time favorite, Queens Beach Resort (www.queensboracayresort.com), on Boat Station 3 run by Editha “Baby” Ang, a prominent Kalibo businesswoman.

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