When is it going to stop being cool?
Let’s brush up on a little history first.
You could call Labor Day an American invention. Created in the late 1800s thanks to the growing strength of American labor unions, the holiday was founded to celebrate everything that American workers and laborers had done to strengthen their country. In the Philippines, the wheels for our own Labor Day to come into existence started turning in 1903, when thousands of workers marched to Malacañang in the beginning of May to demand better working conditions. Source. Are you following so far?
Let’s fast forward a little. In June 2013, according to reports, Dexter Condez, a youth leader for Boracay’s Ati tribe was gunned down while heading home from a meeting. The gunman was identified as Daniel Celestino, a security guard working at the Crown Regency resort. During this time, it was coming to light that the Ati tribe of the island was being pushed out of their native land, due mostly to commercialism and, implicitly, the demands of tourism. I don’t know if anybody remembers this. Historical amnesia, what’s good?
As for when exactly Laboracay was born? That’s a little harder to pinpoint. Laboracay isn’t so much a single event as it is a concept which has been around since I was 17. What I understood, fresh outta high school and ready to flex private school privilege on a white sand beach, was that this was a thing we all did. It was like a rite of passage — spend some of your parents’ money, drink like filter-feeders, and act like fools with the other kids from the neighboring schools. It made sense that the college kids did it too, with a higher degree of freedom, to celebrate their newly gained independence and transition into the world of hustling young adults. Try looking for any Laboracay video. More alcohol than saltwater, more strobe light than palm tree, the electronic beatwork in the background more Zedd than Kaytranada.
And with the recent academic calendar shift moving the last day of school a little further down the year (around the end of April for most), it seems like Laboracay is set to happen again this year. More booze, still not enough self-reflexivity. It could be that Laboracay was a good idea before — the white collar workforce getting their seaside fix for the summer. If you’re looking to go to Boracay to get away from the drudgery of office life for a little while, I can’t blame you. But shouldn’t the idea of it make us cringe now? I’m not about to stand on a soapbox and ask you to stay at home ~for the good of the people~ but I mean, you’d think at this point, Laboracay would gross us out just a little but more.
According to the Department of Labor and Employment workers are entitled to take a leave and spend some time with their family on special public holidays like Labor Day. If they choose to work, they’re entitled to double their normal pay, or an extra thirty percent for every hour if they work for more than eight hours. I wish I could assume that every hotel and resort in Boracay follows that law, but considering Boracay’s violent history of pushing indigenous people out of their land in order to make room for kids to get faded, I doubt that’s the case. Those are cooks and bartenders and waiters and busboys and sailors getting overworked on a day they’re supposed to catch a break. “I’m helping them earn a livelihood!” you might say. Well you’re quite the saint. Drinking beer on a banana boat? How pious.
I don’t know, man. I’m all for the “work hard, play hard” ethos, but if your way of playing hard means making others work harder than they have to: hard pass.
Granted, the takeaway here shouldn’t just be to visit Boracay during late May or early June for propriety’s sake. And I don’t know if Laboracay is ever going to die, but if it will, it won’t be this year. However, assuming nothing can stop people from flocking to where the water is, let’s maybe get our manners straight. If you end up going to Boracay on Labor Day for whatever reason, don’t be an a-hole to the dude bringing your drinks, throw your cigarettes in the proper bins, wear a condom for goodness sake (and dispose of it properly), maybe try Airbnb-ing instead of reserving a room at a monolithic hotel. Party responsibly. If you can, try going to the other beaches you might see featured on whatever Alternative Destination Listicle you bump into on your feed, and ideally no single area is concentrated with tourists because everybody’s so dispersed. Although I think we’ll be calling La Union lame a few years down the line.