What does Boracay look like now?

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While the shoreline has been tranquil (locals can only swim from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m.), the roadside has been busy with the road widening projects. In photo: Demolition workers taking a break from a long day's work. Photo by JP TALAPIAN

Manila (CNN Philippines Life) — JP Talapian’s earliest memory of Boracay was that of the island during the ‘90s. “It was a peaceful time back then. It wasn't as loud as it was when it became the number one tourist spot here in the Philippines,” says Talapian, a photographer who resides in Boracay.

Boracay then was abundant with fish, sea shells and wild weeds, horses running by the beach, fruit bats blanketing the island, and many other priceless scenes. There were more foreigners than Filipinos, and visitors would also camp out, light a bonfire, and sing songs under the night sky.  

“The old Boracay was indescribable. It was full of charm and magic. Elders would say that it was an enchanted island. [Folk] stories were also told to us from generation to generation every night before bed,” he adds.

When the six-month closure was announced, different concerns were raised: Will people lose their jobs? How effective would the cleanup be? Is this really for the good of the island?

1 (4).jpg First day of Boracay closure, remaining tourists savor their last moments on the island. Photo by JP TALAPIAN

2 (3).jpg Workers of the Department of Public Works and Highways watch as the demolition of a locally owned hotel begins. Photo by JP TALAPIAN

Talapian says that local residents are cooperative when it comes to the closure since it’s for the betterment of the island. They have also been enjoying the peace and quiet, especially since they may not experience this again once Boracay is opened again to the public. “It's so quiet just like the old days. You can hear the waves crash against the shore and school of small fishes would follow your feet as you walk into the water,” he describes.  

When it comes to the businesses and livelihoods that were affected due to the closure, he explains that the Department of Social Welfare and Development and the Department of Labor and Employment have offered assistance such as the cash-for-pay scheme; however, the help offered hasn’t been enough.

“It isn't enough given that the cost of living in the island is much more expensive compared to other places and major cities in the country, and it's only a monthly contract, and only one member of a family can apply for it every month,” he says.

4.jpg Out of business Muslim vendors of local souvenirs were forced to pack up and leave the island due to the closure. Photo by JP TALAPIAN

3 (3).jpg Left: Sewer replacement tubes serve as a new playground for the local kids of Bolabog Back Beach. Right: A demolition worker glancing through a demolished wall. Photos by JP TALAPIAN

Although he notes that while the shoreline has been tranquil (locals can only swim from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m.), the roadside has been busy with the road widening projects and that the police and the military have been monitoring the island. Residents and workers who are staying in the island were required to get IDs to ensure that no “outsiders” are loitering in the island.

“We need [the ID] everytime we go in and out of the island for verification and also that we won't have to pay for the environmental and terminal fee,” he says. Workers get a green ID while residents get a yellow ID.

When asked about what changes he hopes to see in Boracay after the cleanup, he says that he’s positive that the island will have a more improved environmental system that would make it more sustainable. “There are also talks of controlling the number of tourists that come and go that I'm personally hopeful for, and [I also hope for] better urban planning for Boracay,” he says.

See Talapian's photo essay below on what it is like to be in Boracay now.

11 (1).jpg Workers carry bags of residues from a nearby demolition. Photo by JP TALAPIAN

Extra-1 (2).jpg Locals observe as a nearby demolition happens along the road. Photo by JP TALAPIAN

Extra-4.jpg Demolished dive shop along the White Beach. Photo by JP TALAPIAN

5 (1).jpg Inside a newly demolished home in Bolabog Back Beach. Photo by JP TALAPIAN

12 (1).jpg Left: A local electronics business is forced to self-demolish their store due to the road widening. Right: A portrait of children from the Ati village. Photos by JP TALAPIAN

6 (1).jpg Daily life in Ambulong as demolition and road widening go down right outside their homes. Photo by JP TALAPIAN

10.jpg Local fisherman peddles his 'fresh catch' along the beach early in the morning. Photo by JP TALAPIAN

Extra-6.jpg During sunset, locals burn dried leaves to prevent nocturnal insects around their homes. Sitio Pina-ungon, Brgy. Balabag. Photo by JP TALAPIAN

13 (1).jpg Locals out of jobs who applied to a monthly program by DOLE are forced to clean out the green algeas along the beach. Photo by JP TALAPIAN

8.jpg Locals at night hunt small fishes and crabs along the shallow parts of the beach. This is a local tradition called 'Panulo'. Photo by JP TALAPIAN

Extra-2.jpg A boy watches the reconstruction of a new pipeline along Bolabog Back Beach. Photo by JP TALAPIAN

14 (1).jpg Vivid colors cover the horizon in the White Beach as night falls and another day ends. Photo by JP TALAPIAN