Boracay Story: The Staple Sandcastles Now Bygone

Prior to 2008, the white-sand shores of Boracay had another occupant aside from the sauntering and sand-bathing tourists: artfully crafted sandcastles set aglow with oil lanterns.

But these sights, in the days and years proceeding, have slowly become elusive, much to the bewilderment of the people who were once admirers of the art to the point of making the structure a backdrop in their souvenir pictures.

Questions about where the sandcastles have gone—or why they only scarcely decorate the shores—have been asked by Boracay tourists until today. What has happened to the artists building them? Is a current ordinance responsible for the sandcastles’ fate? Let us delve into the details and find out why . . .

Sandcastles became a Boracay staple sight …

Back in the days, anyone could play with the sand along the beach. Children would build structures out of them during their afternoon playtime, then level them down at dusk. But far from their imagination, they would soon develop the genuine skill of building sandcastles complete with distinctive details like turrets, staircases, and towers.

But playing with the sand has also interested some adults, who eventually learned to create castle replicas themselves. These island residents discovered that their sandcastle building skills could be a source of income. Unlike the children who would receive coins from tourists for their adorable creations, adults would be paid by hotels and resorts to create a piece of art for their events.

That is how the sandcastles became an everyday spectacle along the shores of Boracay Island. The sandcastles were either built by innocent children who would get voluntary donations from locals and foreigners for their hours of effort, or the adults would build their own to regale tourists (and get occasional coins as well) or create one as commissioned by establishments.

… and have since disappeared

In 2007, the municipal government of Boracay enacted Municipal Ordinance No. 246, a regulation that monitors the creation of sandcastles on the beaches around Boracay Island. However, it was not until January 2008 that the local government sternly imposed the said order.

According to one of the provisions in the ordinance, building sandcastles for all purposes is strictly prohibited, unless a permit from the mayor’s office has been secured and the rules for building are followed, such as building the structure “within the six-metre stretch from the edge of the vegetation area” and not displacing “any amount of sand outside the three-square-metre area within which the sandcastle is built.”

The paper also cited that the activity changes the terrain of the beach since mounds of sand are needed for creating huge sandcastles. Local officials have also cited the issue of loosening sand, and that even though the building spot is flattened, the beach area does not return to its original form. Add to these the danger that the holes left by artists pose to tourists strolling at night as well as the pollution of the sand caused by the oil lanterns.

Building sandcastles has become occasional and restrictive on Boracay

So, now that the sandcastle building activity that the residents could once do freely is being regulated, Boracay tourists will see less of the stationary marvels. Since 2008, Php100 must be paid daily per square metre of space used for building the art piece, on top of the Php600 mayor’s permit. Business owners who still want the attraction in their hotels and resorts only have to shoulder these government fees (exclusive of the payment for the artist builder), but they can only put up the sandcastles for a maximum of five days.

No matter the angle that is taken on the issue—either the island’s administration is trying to share a piece of the pie from the profitable sandcastle building or is protecting Boracay out of goodwill from being damaged by the innocuous activity—the fact remains that the millions of tourists visiting the famous island will miss this low-cost attraction.

Your photo souvenir with a Boracay sandcastle in the background has now become a relic. Would you miss this dainty head-stopper on your next visit to the island? What do you think about Municipal Ordinance No. 246? Share your opinion by commenting below!

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