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These Pinays Share What It’s Like To Have A Staycation In The New Normal

Learn about safety protocols, curfews, and more.
PHOTO: (LEFT TO RIGHT) COURTESY OF MICHELLE, COURTESY OF BIANCA
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(Editor's note: The establishments mentioned in this article have been accredited by the Department Of Tourism. To access DOT's list of accredited tourism enterprises, click here.) 

With the COVID-19 pandemic being far from over, the public is still advised to stay at home and only go out when necessary. While traveling for leisure has a few risks, the reality is it can be done, following certain safety protocols, of course. Cosmopolitan Philippines spoke to two Pinays who recently flew to Boracay and Balesin for a staycation. Read on to know more about their experiences.

Bianca, 25

Where did you stay?

"We booked our stay at Hennan Crystal Sands in Aklan, Boracay. My other friend stayed at The Lind so we'd also hang out at her resort."

Boracay, Philippines
COURTESY OF BIANCA
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What precautions or research did you do before going there?

"I've seen so many influencers and friends go to Boracay again, and they've posted how hassle-free and safe everything was with the protocols! This honestly was so exciting since I've been meaning to go back. I had loads of flight credits with a local airline, since one of our trips last year got canceled. We got to use the credits to easily book our flights, thankfully. The flights are crazy affordable now, but the price of the RT PCR test low-key evens it out.

As for the place where I stayed, I booked Hennan Crystal Sands online—all hotels are discounted now up to 70 percent. There are actually many choices for accommodation, and the deals are great even for luxury hotels. Lots of chic new places just reopened, too! Many resorts also have package deals for stays.

The most important thing you need to have when you go to Boracay is your personal QR code—this is like your ID and health declaration for all establishments in Aklan. It was so easy to get the code. All you have to do is fill out a form on the official government website of Aklan province, and then email the following requirements: confirmed hotel and flight bookings, and negative PCR test results. Your results have to be issued maximum 72 hours before entry. Once you email the requirements, they send your personalized QR code in less than a day!"

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Who did you go with?

"I was with three of my best friends so that makes us a group of four. Initially, we planned this trip since one of our friends was set to migrate to the States in January, and we needed one last trip together (my travel squad!). Bora meant a lot to us too since we had so many memories there in our ~youth~. One of our friends who lives in LA was in the country for the holidays too, so it was great to be reunited with her and go on a vacay together, since we only see each other once a year. She booked her stay with her family but there were days when we would hang out at her resort."

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How long was your stay?

"We stayed for five days and four nights! That's the perfect duration for me—enough time to just relax and enjoy your stay."

How different was it compared to pre-pandemic?

"Definitely a lot less people than pre-pandemic! It really felt like paradise, being a lot more peaceful and pristine than our last visit in 2019. Social distancing protocols are still implemented in all establishments and on the beach as well. Everyone is still asked to wear a mask when walking along the main beach and when near others. There are some marshals at the beach to remind you, too. It wasn't that much of a hassle to be honest—it felt safe the whole time especially knowing that everyone had tested negative before arrival at the island.

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Social distancing protocols are still implemented in all establishments and on the beach as well. Everyone is still asked to wear a mask when walking along the main beach and when near others.

The biggest difference with Bora then and now is definitely the nightlife…or lack thereof. There's an 11:00 p.m. curfew around the island, so you have to be back in your respective hotel by then. You could still hang out in your own hotel and hotel rooms though, making it a lot more intimate.

There are roving security cars to make sure all establishments are closed and no one is loitering around. There are still some bars open until 11:00 p.m., but you're seated apart from other tables and there is definitely no dance floor. There are however live music sets by artists and bands. We were lucky enough to experience a really great live performance on our last night— oh how we've missed that kind of energy!"

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Would you do it again?

"Yes!! I'm already looking at dates in April, and I'm even considering staying for maybe a month since I can work remotely. Several hotels and Airbnb's offer discounted monthly rates for stays, so I could work at beachfront cafes and restaurants with Wi-Fi and a gorgeous view. It's so tempting to live in paradise for a while longer, especially with how safe it is for everyone."

Boracay, Philippines
COURTESY OF BIANCA
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Michelle, 25

Where did you stay?

"I stayed in Balesin Island Club. There were seven villages: Balesin, Bali, Phuket, Mykonos, St. Tropez, Costa del Sol, and Toscana. Each one had a theme where they mimicked the country's architecture and food served per destination was also based on the location’s dishes."

Balesin Island Club
COURTESY OF MICHELLE
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What precautions or research did you do before going there?

"In accordance with the Department of Tourism's Administrative Order, all hotel guests were required to present a negative same-day Antigen Swab Test result before check-in. As a safety protocol within our group, everyone had to take swab tests days before entering the island, too.

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Before going there, we checked the club's Instagram account for any important details we should take note of. It was good to see the planes that were used to take guests to the island are disinfected regularly."

Who did you go with?

"I was with my coworkers for a well-deserved company outing! The trip was for all the milestones we achieved in 2020. There were 18 of us total. It was fun to spend quality time with the group, and not think about our deliverables, haha!"

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How long was your stay?

"We stayed there for four days. We were packed with activities like snorkeling, fishing, karaoke night, and socials night (aka my fave night)."

Balesin Island Club
COURTESY OF MICHELLE

How different was it compared to pre-pandemic?

"Since Balesin is a private island club, to be able to stay, you either have to be a member yourself or be endorsed by a member. I think one noticeable difference is dumami pa members nila during the pandemic.

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Also, you tend to appreciate going on vacations more because somehow, you're reminded of how it used to be pre-pandemic. We still observed 'new normal' practices, for sure. Although most of our activities were done outdoors, masks were still required especially in air-conditioned areas. We also made sure that everything was extra sanitized and no one shared glasses or utensils when dining. As for our sleeping arrangements in the room, everyone had single beds."

Would you do it again?

"Yes, definitely! I'm so grateful to be given the opportunity. I know the situation is not going to be different any time soon, but I'm still hoping that one day, everyone can get back to their pre-pandemic lives."

Balesin Island Club
COURTESY OF MICHELLE
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Answers have been edited for clarity.

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