A colorful "Boracay" display is unveiled during the reopening ceremony of the Boracay Island, the Philippines, Oct. 26, 2018. The world famous Boracay Island reopened its beaches and waters to tourists amid pomp and fanfare on Friday after six months of rehabilitation and cleanup. (Xinhua/Rouelle Umali)
BORACAY, the Philippines, Oct. 26 (Xinhua) -- The wait is over. The world famous Boracay Island reopened its beaches and waters to tourists amid pomp and fanfare on Friday after six months of rehabilitation and cleanup.
Visitors were greeted by the island in a merrymaking mood, with dancers showing off an orchestrated number during the grand opening ceremony, just along the pristine white shores.
Hordes of tourists thronged onto the island with excitement, most of whom arrived early in the morning at the Caticlan Port and are impressed by how the island has completely changed.
"Boracay is always my go-to place, it's like my escape from stress. So, seeing it like this, even more beautiful than before, makes me want to come back again," tourist Jane Narciso said.
According to the Philippine Department of Environment and Natural Resources, the island is expecting more than 6,000 tourists on the first day of the soft opening, but this carrying capacity is being closely monitored in the ports of entry to avoid the mistakes of the past.
The reopening was a proud moment for the Philippine government who poured the needed effort to make the white sand spotless, and the water clean and safe ahead of the opening.
However, the state of the roads is a different story. The main road to the island is still under construction, and some areas are not yet accessible to vehicles. The government said that there is nothing to worry about as 80 percent of road reconstructions for the first phase have already been finished.
Many restaurants and hotels are still closed due to non-compliance, but more establishments are expected to reopen in the coming months as soon as their business permits are cleared by the concerned agencies.
The Inter-Agency Task Force, which is responsible for the rehabilitation work, admitted that there is still much work to be done, and asked for patience from the tourists, after receiving reports of visitors getting confused about the unfinished rehabilitation.
"This is only the first phase of rehabilitation, we have a lot to do in the next months. So, we ask our stakeholders to help us in taking care of the beauty and cleanliness of the island," Philippine Tourism Secretary Bernadette Puyat said.
Boracay will go through two more phases of rehabilitation which will last until December 2019.
In spite of the six-month hiatus in Boracay, the tourism department is confident that they still reach their target of 7.5 million total arrivals in the whole country by the end of 2018.
The stakeholders of the island also want the lessons of Boracay to set an example of how proper handling of the environment should be.
"The lessons learned here are not for Boracay alone but also for the other island destinations in our beautiful country. It will not end in Boracay. It is just the beginning," Puyat added.