trouble at puka beach, boracay

After the awesomeness that was the Boracay Open, we hung around on the island for a few days of relaxing (from our super-stressful life of ultimate, adventure, and travel) with some of our favorite ultimate players and backpackers. One day, we headed to Puka Beach which claims to be one of the 10 most beautiful beaches in Asia. That’s like me claiming to be one of the 10 funniest, most awesomest Lisa’s in existence, but maybe there’s some truth to their claim. It is really pretty:

Puka Beach, Boracay, Philippines

Puka Beach, Boracay, Philippines

Unfortunately, after a few hours of relaxation on the beach, we had two of our most negative tourist experiences of our trip.

the lady that just walked away
After a few hours of lying on the beach, we decided to grab some food before heading back to the main beach for pickup. There were a few restaurants by all the tuk tuks, and we checked a few of their menus. We balked a little at the prices; Boracay is a very touristy island, so the prices are higher than usual and all of us are budget travelers. One lady came out of a restaurant and told us that she’d give us a deal — “One dish, good for two people!” After a little more debate, we decided to accept her offer and sit down. Since we had six people, we broke into three groups with each pair splitting a dish.

“Restaurant” in Southeast Asia means a different thing than it does back home. Many places are open-air seating areas with dirt or concrete floors and thatched roofs. The chairs are the same cheap plastic pink ones we have in our gardens at home. In most small places, there is usually just one or two people working — the owner / hostess / wait staff are usually one and the same or all related to one another.

After a time, the dishes came out. Two out of the three were decently sized and passable as a meal for two (I guess), but the third wasn’t even enough to feed someone with an average appetite. This was Pily and Jano’s dish.

We call the lady back over and tell her that this isn’t acceptable; she had promised each dish was good enough to feed two people! She hems and haws a bit, but Pily is persistent and the woman finally relents, “Ok, ok, I talk to boss.” She disappears behind a wall.

Five, ten, fifteen minutes pass and she still hasn’t reappeared. We eat all our meals and decide the best course of action now is to ask for a discount. But we can’t find the woman! Pily looks behind the wall, and there’s no one there. The kitchen just turns into the local neighborhood, and the woman is nowhere in sight.

We wait a little longer before beckoning a young guy over to ask for the bill. He brings it out, and we ask him for a discount. He says he can’t do that, and so we ask him to get the woman who had initially brought us in. The kid runs around looking for this woman before abashedly coming back and telling us that, “She left already.”

Seriously?! This woman just walked off rather than own up to trying to scam us out of a few dollars! She went to go hide until we left to avoid dealing with us. In the end, it didn’t really matter since we got the kid to give us a discount, but it is just the principle of the situation. I’ve had some bad service before, but to just disappear is terrible and dishonest.

the trike driver that tried to run Matt over
After leaving the restaurant, we all hopped into a tuk tuk (also known as a tricycle or trike). We negotiated a price of 90 for all six of us (15 pisos each, about 33c USD). The driver tries to raise the price a bit, “That’s so far, there’s six of you, etc etc,” but he finally assents to our rate.

We hop in and chug along the road. After a bit, half of our crew has the driver stop so they can hop out and go to pickup ultimate. Matt, myself, and one other person stay in the trike to go arrange our onward travel for the next day.

We reach our destination and hop out, organize our cash, and Matt hands it to the driver. Immediately, the driver starts yelling at us, “No! 150! 25 per person!”

Matt and I both start arguing back, “No, you agreed to 90! We said 90, and you said ok!” We state this repeatedly, and the driver gets more and more agitated. Finally, he slams the cash down on the floor of the passenger seat, gets behind the wheel and suddenly charges up the sidewalk at Matt. I’m not sure if he was trying to hit Matt or just trying to get the trike out of traffic, but it was a very aggressive move. Luckily, he didn’t get very close before hopping back out and yelling at us some more.

He keeps trying to give us our money back, probably to get us to acknowledge we hadn’t given him enough, but both Matt and I refuse to show our hands lest he shove the money into them. We continue telling him that we agreed on 90, and he keeps trying to tell us why we should pay more — “Always 25 per person on Boracay!”

We don’t relent, and our third passenger refuses to get involved at all, and the driver  starts pleading his case to random other people nearby as though they might be able to help him. He comes back at Matt once more — “You want to fight me?!”

Matt is a tall guy, especially in the Philippines, and he had nearly a foot on this driver, so it was a bit of a ridiculous threat, and Matt called his bluff.

“No, I don’t want to fight you. You want me to call the police?”
“Yes! Get in! We go to police.”
“I’m not going anywhere with you. Call them here!”

The driver yells some more at passing people, and we take this as our cue to exit. We disappear into the crowd, Matt and I both still fuming. After a bit, we discuss it and think that maybe that guy had truly thought we’d agreed to a higher rate.  His anger was so real that it didn’t seem as though he was just trying to scheme us. We decide that maybe it was just a misunderstanding.

Later, we meet back up with the rest of our party, and they confirm that we had repeatedly agreed to the lower rate with the guy. He must have thought that since some people had gotten out earlier that maybe the rest of us didn’t know what the agreed upon rate was. Some of our local Filipino friends hear this story and tell us that we should have taken down the license plate of the tuk tuk and gone to the police with it to keep the guy from trying to do this to other tourists in the future.

Ah well. No real harm done, but it was one of the scarier moments of our trip. Fortunately, these incidents were anomalies and not indicative of our overall visits to the Philippines. We found Filipinos to be some of the friendliest and most welcoming people of our trip. Maybe it was just that we were on Boracay, one of the most touristy places we’ve been, and people working in the tourism industry have become jaded in how they treat travelers.

About lisa

28-year-old Asian-American hailing from Denver, Colorado, USA. Traveler. Adventurer. Ultimate frisbee player. Snowboarder. Photographer. Giffer. Blogger. Sarcastic / snarky / sassy comment-maker. Fond of eating, sleeping, and wandering.

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