Bulabog Beach's Brick Road: Redefining Accessibility

When Boracay comes to mind, people often think of the White Beach strip located on the west side of the island, known for its powdery white sand and the perfect view of the setting sun. Running parallel on the east side, Bulabog Beach has been cultivating an entirely distinct ambience and drawing a completely different crowd. Lately, it’s not uncommon to hear visitors say: “Even if I’ve been to Boracay many times over the years, I have never set foot on Bulabog and had no idea how charming it is.”

Bulabog started to attract attention in the 1980s during the heyday of windsurfing, when Swiss businessman René Wyss brought the sport to the island by opening its first school. What initially began as a fun cup to celebrate the second wedding anniversary of windsurfers Nenette Aguirre, a Malay local, and Roby Graf, one of the earliest Swiss instructors recruited by René, evolved into the Boracay International Funboard Cup.

Since 1988, this windsurfing competition has played a pivotal role in establishing Bulabog as a premier watersport destination. It would later earn recognition as the Philippines' longest-running and most successful annual sporting event. In 2010, it was listed among the "Top 52 Weekend Destinations in the World" by

This annual event played a pivotal role in catapulting Bulabog into the limelight of windsurf destinations when it hit its fifth year and went international. That's when Boracay officially became an iconic windsurfing spot on the global scene, with even world champions choosing this windsurfer’s paradise as their training ground. In fact, nearly all of Bulabog's original establishments were founded by foreign windsurfers who simply wanted to be close to their playground.

Before achieving global recognition, it’s fascinating to note that windsurfers initially set sail at White Beach, riding the offshore winds of the Amihan season. In 1987, 19-year-old Swiss champion windsurfer Sandra Gubelmann – while training on the island – made a game-changing discovery: Bulabog, once considered impassable due to visible seagrass, rocks, sea urchins, and the risk of long windsurf fins getting caught, became a viable option during medium to high tides.

Kitesurfing made its debut on the island in 2001 through Greenyard Funboard Center, and by 2005, it became an official part of the Boracay International Funboard Cup, adding an exciting new dimension to the competition. What truly distinguishes Bulabog as a top windsport destination in Asia is the unique combination of onshore winds ensuring that riders are blown back towards the shore, and the protective reef that provides shallow, calm waters, enhancing the learning and riding experience for all levels.

The golden days and continuous positive growth of Bulabog were met with substantial challenges as the bay's water quality problems escalated. Bulabog became the outfall point for drainage and sewage water; however, these infrastructures were inadequately constructed, failing to meet satisfactory standards while contaminated groundwater of Boracay further contributed to the issue. The coral reefs suffered, water sports enthusiasts fell ill, and the Bulabog tourism industry faced significant challenges.

Around 2010, "Save Bulabog for Boracay" was the heartfelt message that the Boracay Windsport Association (BWA) conveyed through letters, media interviews, and rallies to the authorities, policy makers, and enforcers.The BWA recognized that the national government's negligence towards Bulabog – the island's second most important beach and a global windsport destination –signified a broader disregard for Boracay Island's environment.

Water quality issues inevitably led to the cancellation of the iconic Boracay International Funboard Cup over several years, with the last event held in 2015. Despite the residents’ and stakeholder groups’ persistent pleas for help and the fluctuating progress over the years, it was only when a series of island management concerns, including those in Bulabog, gained significant attention that led to the infamous six-month closure of Boracay Island starting April 26, 2018.

During the closure, several significant initiatives were undertaken that aimed to enforce the beachfront easement, widen the main road with sidewalks, and modernize the drainage system. The previously inadequate drainage system was partially completed and improved and, while the widening of the main roads and sidewalks extended beyond the initial six-month period of the closure, progress was evident. On the contrary, the 25+5 meter beachfront easement had a pronounced impact on businesses, including those on Bulabog Beach. It required establishments to readjust their building perimeters to set back and align with a 25-meter no-development zone, with the primary objective of safeguarding Boracay's shoreline.

In the aftermath of the setback, the government proposed the construction of a 12-meter highway along Bulabog Beach – at the very same space where establishments once stood. This proposal faced staunch opposition from the BWA and Bulabog residents with the support of stakeholder group Boracay Foundation Inc. (BFI), as the island already had two parallel paved highways and BFI did not see the need for a beachfront highway. However, with a budget must come a project and something had to be built. Coincidentally, BWA President Nenette Graf, who also served as an elected councilwoman in the local government bridging both the public and private sectors, proposed a compromise solution: a brick road.

Municipal Ordinance No. 482 establishes regulations prohibiting commercial activities and big vehicles such as e-trikes and motorbikes. It allows pedestrians, cyclists, e-bikes, wheelchair users, and specific vehicles for repairs or emergencies. Special events are allowed with local government approval, but they must remove everything afterward and not obstruct pedestrian traffic.

Before the brick road, walking down the beach during high tide was nearly impossible. Boats were tied to trees and the area along the tree line was submerged in knee-deep wild weeds, creating an obstacle for pedestrians. Only during lower tides would you see joggers and people walking their dogs along the beach. During the construction of the brick road, many residents understandably voiced their complaints, especially those who lost a significant portion of their properties, only to see their beachfront views transformed into a walkway.

Since the brick road’s completion in 2022, it has become a hub of activity and has made Bulabog much more accessible to a wider crowd. People of all ages, residents and tourists alike, are seen exercising, dancing, biking, skateboarding, and swimming along the beach. Most surprising to residents is the sight of baby strollers and wheel chairs in areas that were once very difficult to access with these mobility aids. The brick road has brought a newfound sense of inclusivity to Bulabog, welcoming individuals of all abilities to enjoy the beautiful bay.

Though many businesses were greatly affected by the challenges posed during the island closure such as the setback, the overall consensus of residents about the boardwalk has been positive. After the initial surprise of returning visitors seeing a brick road instead of sand or wild weeds, there is a prevailing sense of newfound opportunities, a revitalizing change, increased foot traffic, and a livelier atmosphere. Inspired by the success and appeal of the Bulabog Beach brick road, establishments along White Beach have been expressing their desire for a boardwalk or brick road of their own.

Bulabog’s transformation from a hidden windsurfing haven to an inclusive and bustling destination exemplifies the strength of community unity. Local windsurfers and kiteboarders turned entrepreneurs, environmental advocates, and concerned residents joined forces to protect and redefine their beloved Bulabog Beach. Amid water quality issues and challenges, they rallied to “Save Bulabog for Boracay” – raising their voices and catching the attention of authorities. The closure of Boracay Island in 2018 marked a turning point. Despite initial setbacks, the brick road has brought newfound opportunities and inclusivity. Bulabog Beach's journey is a story of resilience and shared vision, demonstrating the positive impact of community determination.

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