Boracay was originally home only to the indigenous Ati tribe. Of small stature, delicate frame, dark brown complexion, nappy hair, this indigenous people arrived crossing land bridges when sea levels were lower and the Philippines was still connected to the mainland.
Around 200 B.C, the migratory waves of seafaring people from present day Indonesia and Malaysia began to overrun the Philippine islands in search of new land. They also settled in Panay Island within sight of Boracay. The epic of Datu Puti, now disputed by many scholars, recounts the tale of the said datu, chieftain, who with other nine chieftains colonized the island of Panay, sailing by boats called balangay or barangay to evade the tyrannical ruler of Borneo, Datu Makatunaw. The early Visayans, Aklanon migrant settlers, are believed to have come to the island in about the mid 1800s. The early Visayans befriended the native Ati families who served as farm workers and permanent laborers. In payment for the services, they were fed. With the help of the Ati, coconut, mais (corn), camote (sweet potato), kimayo (cassava) and tobacco were planted. The place used to be a virgin forest but clearings were made. Several decades ago, only a few knew of the existence of Boracay. It was just one of the many uncharted islands of the Philippines. It first became popular for backpackers during the seventies. And since then, it gradually became a must-see destination in the Philippines. Back in the late seventies, this island had only a few family owned bamboo and thatch cottages to house the few intrepid visitors who came to admire the miracle of nature that is Boracay. The origin of the name “Boracay” is still unclear. In one version, it is said that Boracay comes from the Aklanon dialect word “borac” – a silky fiber obtained from the fruit of the silk-cotton tree (kapok tree) and used for insulation and as padding for pillows and mattresses, Another version says that it is derived from the name bora (bubbles) and bucay (white) from the surf breaking on the sand.