The Boracay that Michael Caine knew

By Herbert Vego

WHAT if British film icon Michael Caine is offered to work on another movie in Boracay? Would he accept?

At his age, now 90, he might refuse a film offer. But he might come as a tourist to this now world-famous Philippine island.

However, would he recognize Boracay Island as the location of his 1968 war movie, Too Late the Hero?

No, based on my reading of just one chapter in his autobiography What’s it All About? You see, the entire chapter depicts the island as “the worst location” he had ever filmed a movie in.

Even so, assuming Caine comes back to Boracay today – fictitiously identified in the movie as the New Hebrides Island — I bet he would no longer recognize it as the location of Too Late the Hero.

Take note of how the actor described Boracay: “All around us was dense jungle and great hill ranges. Shooting began in some of the worst conditions I had ever encountered on a film. We were plagued by insects, thorns and the highest humidity temperature every day.”

The British/American cast – which also included Cliff Robertson, Ian Bannen and Harry Andrews — had to occasionally go to Olongapo, Manila or any city outside of the Philippines for well-deserved breaks.

Only the late Henry Fonda missed the “agony” because his scenes were shot in a location outside the Philippines.

Writing of the night he visited an Olongapo bar, Michael Caine remembered the scantily-clad girls:

“I looked at their badly made-up, prematurely ravaged faces and saw the eyes go dead the moment no one was looking. These kids had been forced there by grinding poverty.”

One of Caine’s memorable moments in Manila was the night he was taken to a party where he was ushered to meet without prior notice President Ferdinand Edralin Marcos, who was in the company of Adnan Kashoggi, a Saudi arms dealer.

At another time, he stopped his car when he saw a group of children scavenging garbage cans and thought how fortunate he had been with his own childhood.

“The kids finally spotted me,” Caine recalled, “and came over to ask me for money. I gave them all that I had and drove home [referring to an unmentioned hotel] with tears of anger in my eyes at a society that could treat its own people like this.”

The Boracay “jungle” that Caine went to does not exist today. The “open field” depicted in the movie as the territory of the Allied soldiers is gone. In its place have risen thousands of hotels, commercial establishments and boarding houses.

It’s certainly not the Boracay that Michael Caine used to know.

It’s also not the Boracay my friends and I visited for the first time in 1982 when the island was still truly rustic. There was not a single concrete building lining the beach front. Spaced far between were a score of nipa huts and carinderias. A two-bedroom hut for an overnight stay cost us twenty-five pesos only.

Backpacking couples from Germany made up the majority of cottage occupants, according to our room boy.

The room boy briefed us on our own amenities: a wood-fueled parilla on which to broil fish, a box of match and a kerosene lamp. There was no electricity on the island yet.

Strange as it seems, whenever I tell my teenage nephews and nieces about the Boracay of the 1980s, they would wish the island had not urbanized.

“Romantic” is the oft-quoted word I hear from them.



ON the live radio/Facebook program “MORE Power at Your Service” – hosted by broadcaster-turned-PR practitioner Joy Fantilaga – we saw two ladies of the power utility expounding on the “refundability” of electricity deposits paid by customers. They were Atty. Alyana Mae Babayen-on and Maricon Garrido, legal officer and customer care manager, respectively, of MORE Electricity and Power Corp. (MORE Power).

Under Article 28 of the Magna Carta for Residential Electricity Consumers, “A bill deposit from all residential customers to guarantee payment of bills shall be required of new and/or additional service. The amount of the bill deposit shall be equivalent to the estimated billing for one month.”

Unknown to many customers of distribution utilities, including electric cooperatives, a bill deposit by debt-free customers ought to be refunded after three consecutive years of uninterrupted service.

Since MORE Power has been in service as the distribution utility in Iloilo City for three years, would it now refund the bill deposits of good customers?  We personally asked MORE Power President Roel Z. Castro that question over coffee at Hotel del Rio.

Abangan ang susunod na kabanata.