When Boracay Island was “closed” for rehab last April 2018, it was – in many ways – already a somewhat gay place – e.g. the extremely profit-oriented (and apparently environmentally not-so-friendly) LaBoracay may have been known as a “party time” for everyone marking Labor Day in Boracay; but it was overwhelmingly LGBTQIA-led and driven…
Now, over a year since the announcement of that “closure”, how’s this tropical paradise in Malay, Aklan, particularly as far as being LGBTQIA-friendly is concerned?
Following a visit, here are three signs that the place remains… somewhat gay-okay…
1. The locals are starting to organize.
There have been attempts in the past to formally organize the local LGBTQIA community; but the more recent efforts have been more well-defined (and shall we say more “formalized” and have been gaining more traction, particularly online). For instance, Malay local Aloha Filipino recently attempted to gather members of the LGBTQIA community to formally organize them (the initial attempt leading to – as expected – the stereotypical LGBT-led and -participated beauty pageant).
Organizing is important, obviously, with the local LGBTQIA community encountering issues very specific to them – e.g. sex work on the island, and the risks that accompany the profession.
But organizing isn’t without challenges, and at times, a challenge comes from the supposed supporter/s of the organizing – e.g. there are supposedly local officials who want this organizing to happen so they can then profile the members; and – if crimes involving LGBTQIA people are committed – then they know where to get the information about these LGBTQIA people. Former Quezon City mayor Herbert Bautista’s ill-conceived profiling of LGBTQIA people comes to mind…
All the same, though, that the thought of organizing even entered the minds of the locals is a plus already.
2. Gay expression abounds… along the shoreline.
No, I didn’t notice bars openly refusing LGBTQIA community members (particularly trans) from entering their premises this time around. But this may be because there aren’t as many rowdy bars in Boracay anymore – those late night partying still happen for sure, but… they aren’t as rowdy as they used to be even in the truly rowdy bars in the past.
Let me say this, then: When in Boracay, and if/when looking to score, head to the shore. That’s where the “action” happens.
3. Tolerance (though maybe not acceptance) is more “defined”.
There’s a story that’s been making the rounds in Boracay: A trans sex worker allegedly stabbed a Chinese client for shortchanging her (i.e. not paying her the agreed-upon amount). This is – according to a local source of Outrage Magazine – why local officials want to profile the LGBTQIA people here; so that if something like this happens again, then they know where to go to capture a suspect.
Despite this occurrence (or perhaps because of it?), sex work involving (particularly) trans women has been “normalized” on the island now, according to the same source. It is “tolerated”, and “acknowledged” to exist, so “they are just left to do what they do”.
Yes, yes, yes… I know that I’ve focused ONLY on the tolerance of sex work, which is not the same as tolerance of LGBTQIA people at all (!). But bear with me when I specifically mention the above because – in the past – female sex workers were tolerated (I’d say even encouraged by some venues that saw this as a come-on for tourists) while trans sex workers were barred in these same venues.
Beyond this, though, LGBTQIA faces (particularly gay and trans) are becoming more common in Boracay as a whole – e.g. as vendors/salespeople (akin to Divisoria, if I may say so); as staff of accommodations; and even as government officials (such as our local contact).
The place still has a long, long, LONG way to go to actually openly promote LGBTQIA human rights. But this is Boracay, after all; where every sunset is beautiful not just to end the day, but to mark what surprises still lie ahead/tomorrow. So come visit and expect (if not wait) to be surprised…