Travelling to Boracay for NYE 2020
We were in Boracay for the NYE!!!
After being stuck at home for almost a year, I must admit we were really itching to go on a trip. However, with all the travel restrictions, we were actually settling for a hotel staycation in Manila or a beach trip to Batangas to welcome the New Year.
All it took was one text from my cousin about their plans of spending the holidays in Boracay and the next thing I knew, I was booking our tickets to our favorite island.
Unlike before, a lot of things should be taken into consideration now when travelling. Number one is the fear of contracting the virus and spreading it to the entire household when you get home. Since we don't have kids yet and we don't live with any family members, it was an easy decision for us. There's also that added expense of the RT-PCR Test. It doesn't come cheap especially that you needed your results ASAP. Average cost of RT-PCR Test with 24h results is 5,000 pesos.
RT-PCR Test and Health Declaration Form
As soon as we booked our tickets to Boracay, I started calling different clinics to ask about their RT-PCR rates. Our flight was 2pm of December 30 so we needed to get tested by afternoon of December 27 or morning of December 28 at the latest just in case the results will be released more than 24 hours.
We would have gone to MOA Arena to get tested for free but there was no guarantee that we could get the results in time before our flight. There's also a cheap RT-PCR test at UP-PGH wherein 50% of the fee is subsidized by the Department of Tourism. They announced this mid December. You only have to pay 900 instead of 1800. Discount is only available for leisure travel and not to those who would like to go home to their provinces. We tried to apply through their website the day after Christmas (since their application page was not accessible during the Christmas holiday) but our application got rejected. They said there was not enough time to process our application prior our flight. Oh well.
We were set to avail the 5,000 peso test because we only got a few days left before our flight date. Good thing Dell stumbled upon The Lord's Grace Medical Clinic. You know how Facebook spies on you and would bombard you with offers on the things you searched for or talked about. Hahaha. I've proven it many times! Anyway, their ongoing promo rate for RT-PCR with guaranteed 24h results was just 3,300. I even have to verify with them if it already included the tax because some clinics would only publish their rates before taxes to make it look cheaper. For 3,300 pesos, this was already a good deal considering we ran out of the more affordable (no 24hr guarantee) options and they're accredited by the DOH and they have their own equipment to run the test. Promo is only up until January 5. Sorry if I'm just posting this now. So the day before our test, I pre-registered and booked for an appointment. They're testing site is located at 1 Macapagal Ave in Pasay near World Trade Center.
On the day of our test (December 28), we realized that their appointment scheduling was useless. We had to line up with everybody else — walk-ins, referrals from the Pasay City barangay health centers, big groups from companies, and foreigners. It was a bit chaotic but we were lucky to have arrived early before the horde came. We arrived at 930am, lined up for payment, info verification and finally the dreadful swabbing. We were done by 11am. Masakit siya ah. To describe what it felt like, para kang nahulog sa banana boat at napasukan ng tubig dagat sa ilong. Yung akala mo pasok na sa ilong, mas ididiin pa. Haha-huhu.
I've read comments from those who availed of their services that they got the results around 630pm of the same day they got tested. Even if our results will be released the following day, That still gives us enough time to submit our requirements to Boracay. We got home from the testing center by lunch time and I kept myself busy so I would not be tempted to check my email every now and then. I even asked Dell to take a nap because he was super anxious that we'd test positive for Covid-19. He didn't get to sleep well the night before because of that.
True enough, email came in around 640pm. Nakakakaba. Same thing I always feel when checking if our visas are approved. I also opened Dell's email before I went upstairs and told him the news. We both tested NEGATIVE, obviously. =)
So I proceeded to the next steps. You can easily search about these requirements online but I asked our hotel to send them to me because they know better.
Log on to https://www.touristboracay.com/ and fill out the health declaration form. You will then be given instructions to email the ff. docs to email@example.com. Please do note that each tourist should fill out separate health declaration form.
Negative RT-PCR Test Result - with date of extraction within 72hrs to date of travel
Confirmed Hotel Booking (your hotel must be accredited)
Proof of ID with Philippine Residency
Round Trip Flight / Travel Details
Wait for their reply. If the documents you submitted are complete and valid, they will send you your tourist health declaration with QR code which you will use to enter Boracay.
I got a reply after 40 minutes. We're good to go!
Have a copy of all the documents on your phone (especially the QR code) or print it.
I printed everything out then we waited for President Duterte's announcement of the new quarantine classification for January 2021 that night. You know, just to be sure because there have been news circulating that there will be a Metro Manila wide lockdown during the holidays. We don't wanna end up getting stranded in the island.
Flying to Caticlan
On the day of our flight, we headed to NAIA Terminal 4 (because we're flying in to Caticlan via CEBGO) and just as we are about to enter, our car was stopped by the security guard and we were informed that all flights leaving that terminal have been transferred to Terminal 3. So we told the Grab driver to drive to T3. Grab recomputed our fare after we changed the pin and were charged additional 150 pesos for that. No email, no text alert, no announcement from the airline's social media account, not even from the airport authorities or DOT. Haller Ms. Berna! Imagine how many passengers have been redirected by that guard that day and the previous days. There should have been a clear announcement about this. Sayang sa oras, sayang sa pamasahe. Haaay this government talaga.
Anyway, at NAIA Terminal 3, you have to scan the QR code by the entrance using the TRAZE contact tracing app. It's okay if only one from your travelling group has the app. Just mention to the guard that you're travelling together. NO FACE MASKS, NO FACE SHIELDS, NO FLYING. All check-ins must be done through the self service kiosks. From there you can print your boarding pass and bag tags (if you have check-in baggage). After that, drop your baggage at the airline counter. The staff will check for additional documents depending on your destination. In our case, we presented our health declaration forms and IDs.
Final security check and boarding process are still the same except for the constant reminders of wearing your face masks and face shields all the time including the entire duration of the flight.
There are also a few changes inside the airplane. You are not allowed to stay on the aisle while waiting for your turn to pee. The flight attendant will just approach you if the lavatory becomes available. Even if the pilot gives a go signal to disembark, you can only stand to get your bags on the overhead bins when your row number is called.
Arriving at Caticlan and Going to your Resort
Upon arrival at the Caticlan Airport, someone will check for your temp then you will have to line up at the "IMMIGRATION" counter before you can get your bags. They will scan your QR code, check your ID and record your temperature.
Once we collected our bag, we headed to the transfers kiosk. Some resorts have their own transfers but you may also book from accredited tour operators. Fees start at 500+ per person per way. We've been to Boracay several times already so we just opted to take the DIY route. Even if you just take the tricycle from the airport to Caticlan Jetty Port, you will still have your QR code scanned. They will then provide you with a trike coupon which you will give to the tricycle terminal counter outside the airport. Tricycle costs 100 per trip and they only allow 2 passengers. If you haven't been to Boracay recently, the arrival terminal is located farther away from the jetty port. The departure terminal though is still in the original lcocation.
At the Caticlan Jetty Port, the ticket counters are now located inside the terminal. There are still two separate lines for locals and tourists. Before buying your tickets, have your QR code scanned and IDs checked.
Boat Fee - 40
Terminal Fee - 100
Environmental Fee - 75
Due to social distancing measures, boat seat numbers are now provided and the boats I think are only operating on 50% capacity.
And just before boarding, there's another QR code scan. You would need to go through 4 scans before you even set foot on the island.
As soon as we arrived at Cagban port, we boarded an E-trike going to Sur Beach Resort which is located in Station 1. A chartered trip would set you back at 150 or 200 depending on the driver's mood. Lol. We used to share the tricycle with other passengers and just pay 20 each. We were that cheapo back then. Hahaha. If you're with a big group, you may opt to take a multicab although they also have a reduced seating capacity now. Just check which option works for you.
Boracay in the New Normal
There are a few observations I would like to share about the island in the new normal.
- Masks should be worn in public places at all times even on the beach. My cousin said there were marshals who roam around to check but when we were there, I haven't seen any.
- Masks and shields should be worn when taking public transport. Again, not strictly implemented. An E-trike can only accept 4 passengers per trip. Sometimes they allow us to take one trike (we are a group of 6) but we never share the trike with other people we don't know.
- Sur Beach Resort is operating on 50% capacity. They offer ala carte breakfast instead of buffet. It's probably the same with other resorts too. They don't accept non-hotel guests to dine at their restaurant. Rooms are not automatically made up everyday. You would have to request for it. Staff going inside the guest rooms wear their full PPE.
- There are designated areas in the beach for swimming although it is rarely being followed. People practice social distancing by the beach anyway and there are not many tourists as compared to before.
- There's an 11pm curfew in the island but some establishments close earlier. They extended the curfew to 1am during NYE. Lots of businesses have temporarily closed. McDonalds's was not spared. Others have even closed permanently like our go-to Indian restaurant, True Food.
- Curfew means no more night life. Even Epic bar had to follow the curfew time.
- If you want to experience seafood paluto, you can still go to E-Mall Station 3. The wet market at the old talipapa though is closed and Aquafresh is the only open restaurant in the area. So your choices are limited to what the restaurant has in stock. The excitement is not the same like in D'Talipapa back then but we're happy that our expat friends enjoyed the food.
- There are still water activities such as paddleboarding, jetski, and island hopping.
- There are still locals peddling food, souvenirs and offering activities but not as many as compared to before.
- If you need a massage, you can ask your hotel to call in the masseuse for you. We had ours done at the resort's cabanas. I'm not sure if the massage parlors around Station 2 are still operating.
To sum up this trip, it's like visiting Boracay on a low season and 5x quieter. No parties. No traffic. No hordes of Chinese and Korean tourists with flags like children on a field trip who line up at Halowich / Crazy Crepe / Andok's. But kidding aside, except for the Covid-19 virus and the many people who lost their jobs/businesses, I liked the island how it is now. Boracay is worth all those extra travel procedures and the swab test.
***Dell and I decided to stay at home after the trip (except to do the groceries and other errands) and not meet any of our friends or family members for at least 14 days just to be sure.