If Japan’s Shibuya district is the epicenter of Halloween craziness, elaborate costumes and parties, the Philippines has Boracay for that.
In the years before the pandemic, Halloween in Boracay meant all-night parties on White Beach with ghouls, witches, sorcerers and all manner of sexy cinema and TV characters at Station 2, spreading outward to Stations 1 and 3 and Bulabog beach. Basically, there was a party on every inch of the island.
One local told me that many years ago, a group of friends staged an elaborate funeral cortege on White Beach on Halloween night, complete with a costumed corpse inside the coffin that was carried on the shoulders of weeping mourners. The procession was led by death with his scythe, ready to sever the souls of the living off their earthly shells.
Last weekend, the second pandemic Halloween, was a toned-down version of those epic parties because there was a 12 midnight curfew and police personnel were everywhere.
The long weekend boosted Boracay’s visitor arrivals in October, which totaled 32,452, the second highest in 2021. The highest number of recorded tourists for the year was in July at 35,108, with people from Manila coming after a series of ECQ/MECQ lockdowns that started in March and lifted only in June.
Even with Boracay island under GCQ since September, the Malay local government only extended the curfew to 12 midnight (from 10 p.m.) on Friday, Oct. 29.
One thing about Halloween parties in Boracay is that there are always two versions—a children’s party in the afternoon and at night for adults.
Resorts such as Hue at Station 3 and Ambassador at Station 1 hosted children’s parties on Saturday, with the latter continuing well into the night for adults. On Sunday, Dos Mestizos, which traditionally celebrates its anniversary on Oct. 31, held a party, so did Epic, Summer Palace, Ocean Club and most of beachfront hotels.
Pretty much everywhere there was a party in bars and restaurants. You didn’t even need a table in one to enjoy Halloween because everyone that was dressed up that night was walking up and down White Beach.
As expected, Squid Game was the top costume, followed by a coterie of schoolgirls, a coven of witches, one or two wizards, a bunch of bunnies, cross-dressing sexy individuals, devils, pirates, nuns, fairy-tale characters, and people in ‘70s and LED-lit costumes.
One local told me, “If you’re not dressed on Halloween you’re going to stand out.”
Having been living and working from here since July, I knew that was their way of telling me I’d better have something—even if it was just devil’s horns or a mask.
Another told me when we got to a bar with diners dressed in ordinary clothes, “Oh, they must be tourists.”
The condescension may have been subconscious but it was there. People here take Halloween seriously—and you’re expected to do, too.
Nothing will stop this tradition. Not a closure, not lockdowns. It gives hope that things are normalizing, just as more and more people are now playing frisbee on the beach or waiting for a gorgeous sunset at the end of a perfect day in Boracay.