By Ivery del Campo
We were then a newly married couple when my husband Don first arrived, for long-stay this time, in Boracay in 2011. He was an entrepreneur who had just finished culinary school, but was sent to Boracay by Design Plus, the printing press owned by my family, as part of a deal between it and a Boracay-based journalist who wanted to start a magazine. Don was asked to oversee the project because we were quite familiar with the island, having visited it twice before: first in our backpacking years before getting married, and second in our honeymoon.
In that year of doing market study for the magazine under the printing press, Don stayed in Boracay while I stayed in Manila where I taught literature at a university. Don’s initial year in Boracay was eye-opening, to say the least; it was made more so when his local assistant Harold Minano—the first to actually think of a “magazine with a heart” (his own words)—introduced him to Boracay writer Maffi Deparis, whose parents were one of the tourism pioneers or first resort owners on White Beach.
Maffi’s vision for a magazine turned out to be different from that of the Manila-based editors in Don’s team. Maffi shared that she and her friends who have grown up in Boracay have been dreaming of creating a magazine of their own. The wealth of material is potentially endless, with the magazine-in-mind not just providing travel, hotel, and restaurant information, as is usually the case. The envisioned magazine exercises discretion in writing about products and services that invoke a particular Boracay sensibility: support for local artisans, respect for the environment, interest in cultural memory and responsible beach culture.
Maffi came on board, inviting local photographers and writers to contribute as well. She also connected Don to establishments that would make good human-interest articles. Maffi worked with Don’s Manila team for the first issue of the magazine in the summer of 2012.
The first issue was certainly an accomplishment, but Don felt that under the sway of Manila editors who appreciated Boracay more as a party island destination, it ended up reading more like a marketing brochure for “what to do” and “where to go” in the island. From the business standpoint, the magazine lacked distinction from other publications that review hotels and restaurants. From the editorial standpoint, interest was kept away from what Don believed was the real appeal of Boracay Island, the source of its so-called “magic”: its culture and history.
Many other factors aside, ties were eventually severed: from the Boracay journalist who had initially proposed the magazine idea, to the Manila editors and advertisers (except for one person, Manila-based creative director Sherwin Darilag who has remained a very good friend every since). Don brought me back to the island so I could meet Maffi and perhaps redirect the next issues of the magazine. Since I was into literature and cultural studies to begin with, I easily fell in-love with how Maffi presented Boracay to me. When I came to know more about Boracay in-depth, first through Don’s experience with the magazine and second through Maffi’s stories, I knew I was fatally hooked.
Harold has also since connected us to other people who apart from Maffi have also shaped the magazine in major ways. The artist-photographer Abet Jimenez, whose photo concepts ranged from the quaint to the sublime, kept us fascinated with what the magazine can be if its full creative potential is explored. Former government and ecotourism worker Dadjmar Amores connected the magazine to local government and tourism agencies in his belief that thinking about Boracay should not neglect the Panay Peninsula and the Visayas archipelago of which it is part.
My meetings with Maffi and her friends became the start of the work of assembling local voices for expression of the island’s soul. Of another particular importance is Maffi’s childhood bestfriend, Camilla Collings, also a talented writer whose pragmatic views complemented Maffi’s idealistic takes. Both women became the magazine’s editorial backbones.
I have since widened my circle and met more Boracay locals whose stories and perspectives were fascinating and unique to the island. Aside from the magazine, Don and I set up other businesses to sustain our lives on the island. When we decided to stop magazine operations in 2013, relieved of magazine business duties, Don was finally able to practice culinary, working as chef and eventually setting up restaurants.
At present, Don and I are managing a backpackers hostel and restaurant. As I’ve been doing in the past five years, I would take long breaks from the university to carry on an alternative creative life—writing, editing, and doing “beach field work” for pet projects, like an ethnographic study of the island for an upcoming book.
Living in Boracay is certainly not for everybody, though it’s easy to fancy living here for a permanent vacation. But where Don and I lived with separate careers in Manila, in Boracay we do business and creative work together with our small child: he as a chef and me as a writer, both of us full-time hands-on parents, both of us hospitality workers, sharing our common love for photography and all things Boracay. Boracay’s “magic” works in many ways, but for us it has been this: the fusion of our professional, creative, and family lives with the island itself as basis.
Going back to the magazine, it was really more of an experiment: is it possible for an (anti) magazine to survive its own conventions, since a glossy magazine is regarded less as journalism and more as an advertising/entertainment consumer publication? Can the inherent “miscellany” of the magazine genre handle the conflicting interests of, say, an irresponsible developer paying advertising money, and a small local business endangered by the up-marketing of Boracay? Will the magazine look fine featuring environmental activism on the one hand, and hotels with environmental issues on the other? Will the magazine succeed as the commercial product it really is, despite its radical content with less traditional or commercial appeal?
It’s still an open question. The magazine has temporarily ceased the “experiment,” but continues to watch and gather material for a “dream publication.” Especially because the dreamers are all still around, waiting for the right time, not yet giving up.
Find my LinkedIn profile here.
If you want to hang out with us at our Boracay hostel, check out our website.