BORACAYManila, June 17, 2003 by Christine S. Dayrit (STAR) Sun-worshippers who flock to Boracay increase every year. This was one of the things I noticed during my trip to the island last summer.

From the hangar of the Manila domestic airport, Pink Patio Resort president Charlie Uy, managing director Kelly Boncan, Travel Edgeís Enrique Herbosa and I took the Cessna 172 XP plane. We headed for the emerald island of Boracay that seemed to be floating on a jewelerís table covered with lush green foliage. As drops of moisture formed outside the windows, the cockpit was filled with noise reminiscent of high-pitched shrieking cicadas in summer.

Our pilot, Lt. Col. Charlie Uy of the Philippine Air Force Reserve who heads the search and rescue team (trained by the 505th search and rescue group) pointed out a slice of white land that appeared on the horizon. Charlie enthused, "That is Semirara Island which almost became the dumping ground for garbage." Charlie, who once headed the Boracay Foundation, headed the group that went against this environmental slaughter.

As we drew closer towards Boracay, the cobalt blue and turquoise waters teeming with marine life beckoned. A 15-minute banca ride from Caticlan took us to the much-awaited paradise. We went to Pink Patio Resort (located in Station 1). We were welcomed by Pink Patio general manager Skippy Madrazo (who worked for JW Marriott in Washington, USA in the past), as well as Frontliner awardee Jona Palomata.

We then had a sumptuous lunch of Pink Patioís famous chicken cooked with seven herbs and spices, spicy Chinese vegetables, fish fillet in black bean sauce, shredded beef and caramel custard. Golden Bamboo is indeed the only authentic Chinese restaurant on the island. For dinner, Charlie, also a good chef, prepared his shabu-shabu as he shared his aviation experiences.

We enjoyed a good nightís rest in our fabulous rooms, with the tropical blooms and pastel colored furnishings creating a truly relaxing atmosphere. In the morning, we were treated to a relaxing aromatherapy massage, as well as Pink Patioís bubble machine. This unique contraption was like a space capsule where one had to lie in as steam pressure for weight loss and massage, plus mood music pamper your body and soul.

A highlight of the trip was the rock-climbing competition called "Hang Loose in Pink Patio Boracay." Ninety competitors (men, women, young boys and girls) competed in the first leg of the National Sports Wall Climbing Competition. The three-day tournament, supported by the Sports Climbing Association of the Philippines, was held at Pink Patioís 42-foot high fiberglass wall, which was consistent with international standards. (By the way, winners from each division will compete in the second leg at the Power Up in Pasig, followed by the finals at Rockwell Center in Makati City. They will also have a chance to represent the national team in the Asian X games.)

Clad in their distinctive Fluid Bombproof, Surf Gears, Billabongs and North Faces, the youngsters tried to conquer the wall. The rules are fairly simple: A climber has to establish a firm grip on foot- and hand-holds that line a vertical route on simulated rock wall in not more than seven minutes. Climbers cryptically refer to the challenge as "solving the problem." The "problem" happens to be a rock wall laced with foot-and-hand-holds as well as hooks called quick draws. According to Simoun Sandoval, president of the Sports Climbing Association of the Philippines Inc., itís not really how fast you finish the route but how high you get.

"The higher you go, the more points you obtain. Thatís how you would be ranked among your peers," he said. Cebu native Jun-Jun Vidal literally topped the seven other qualifiers in the final round of the Menís Open while Ina Flores and Lissa Lesaca in the Womenís Open had a tied score in the finals. Flores, the winner of the same event last year emerged victorious. The Metro Manilan, with braided hair and a disarming smile, simply captured the crowd with her methodical and fluid style. She said, "I just climb normally. Itís about taking one problem at a time."

Jeremy Flores, head of the Juniors Division summed it up best: "Mental preparation is the key but you have to understand there are many factors to consider: physical strength, flexibility and endurance are just some of the things that will make or break a climber."

If you have never tried it, rock-climbing may sound like a dangerous and reckless activity. However, the sport has undergone some advances in recent years, making it safer and easier to learn. Before, rock-climbing was exclusively an outdoor sport, but with the advent of indoor-climbing walls and gyms, the situation has changed. Indoor-climbing gyms can simulate much of the experience of real rock-climbing. Kids in particular enjoy this form of climbing, and it provides a safe way for them to get acquainted with the sport.

At the awards dinner, Jack Agrabio, an in-house rock climbing instructor, said he has regular climbers who are 14 years old and below. The sport has even been adopted for the physical education classes of the students of nearby Brent School. "The sport teaches one to be mentally focused as one tries to solve a puzzle while getting physically fit. It can be done the whole year round and itís also very affordable at P200 for four hours of climbing with an instructor," Jack added.

Another outstanding feature of the Pink Patio resort is that it is the safest resort on the island because the headquarters of the 24th Reserve Airlift and Tactical Support Detachment of the Philippine Air Force is within its premises. Two rubber boats are always ready to respond to any emergency. The resort is also equipped with 16 close circuit TV cameras to ensure the security of the guests.

On my way to the grotto as the sun was beginning to set, I met up with Kelly and her cousin lawyer Michael Guingona, former mayor of Daly City, San Francisco in California. Over fruit shakes at Fridayís Resort, Michael said, "The many foreign influences combined with the local culture has created a diverse and dynamic spirit. The variety of international cuisine to choose from is great. No other beach in the world can compare with Boracay, thatís why I keep coming back here."

At the Asian Spiritís departure lounge, we admired the Balinese-styled landscaped gardens and the stone artworks, wood-carvings, and native bags. From above, I remembered our many walks along the long stretch of powdery sand. The sun was about to set. The idyllic paradise would soon be transformed from rustic rural to metropolitan mambo. A jamboree of bars, restaurants and night markets would come alive, since Boracay pulsates and celebrates life in its own distinctive way.

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For more information: Please contact Pink Patio at 845-2222 to 27. Asian Spirit flies to Boracay seven to nine times daily from 8 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. For reservations, call 851-8888. E-mail author at Miladay@pacific.Net.Ph.

Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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