Up the Hill & Down the River

Yesterday afternoon I decided to try to reach the highest accessible point in the village of Loboc (on the island of Bohol).  There’s a giant cross at the top of one of the hillside roads, which I thought would make for an easy target and a good view.  When I asked people how to get there, they waved their hands and said, “just walk up that road.”  So I walked. And I walked.  And I trudged.  And I never did find that cross, but I did see a lot of great sights along the way.

It is impossible to travel through Loboc without passing rice fields — some no bigger than someone’s front yard, and others acres and acres large:IMG_1530.jpg

It’s harvest time, and the farmers here do all of the threshing by hand.  Then some of the farmers will separate the grains from the stalks using a machine that they own or rent.  Other farmers still beat the stalks by hand to make the grains fall off — a hugely labor-intensive project — while others carry their stalks to a central location with a big machine to have this done:


Once the grains are separated from the stalks, people leave them out in the sun to dry.


In our neck of the woods, people spread the grains out on tarps smack in the middle of the road.  And if a car or a motorbike needs to get by, it just drives right over the rice.  We found this very strange, but no one else seemed to think much of it.


If you’re not working in farming or the tourism industry in Loboc, chances are high that you or someone in your family is involved in fishing.  At the market I passed, the vendors kindly offered to let me try dried fish (I declined — you can probably see why):


They also had a wide range of very fresh fish on offer:


My walk took me past lots of different sizes and shapes of houses, from woven grass huts to sprawling, low-slung concrete endeavors.  I am most interested the architecture that seems to have some lingering Spanish influence; these buildings are largely made of wood and often use what look to be stair spindles for decoration.  As you can see, however, wood buildings don’t always hold up well in a rainy tropical climate:


I passed many building projects.  Lots of construction work that you might be expect to be done by machine is done by hand instead — I saw people working all day cutting these bamboo poles down to the proper size and shape using only hand saws.


It goes without saying that I walked past lots of flowers…


I also passed several impressively large orb spiders…


… and more chickens than I could count:


My walk eventually ended up feeling more like a hike, both because the grade of the road increased sharply and because homes became much fewer and farther between.  Indeed, at one point the tarmac ran out, and my path started to feel a much more like a very wide goat trail than a proper road.  After a good deal of searching for a vista, I finally came upon a cleared hilltop.  I had a view all the way down to the sea!  I could also see the section of the Loboc River that ran along the area in which we were staying and, on the right below, the beginnings of the village of Loboc itself.


People all along the walk were very friendly, waving hello and appearing genuinely pleased (and puzzled) that a random white woman was wandering up in this remote area.  Two women near the top of my walk engaged me in a full conversation, wanting to know my name and where I was from.  I learned that they were busy cutting a palm leaf into itty-bitty strips to make a broom.  It looked like a challenging project.

The most exciting part of my walk down was the motorbike ride!  A young man on his bike pulled over and asked if I wanted a lift.  I thought, “hmmm … I don’t know this guy, and I’ll be on a moving vehicle with him in a country where they don’t wear helmets, and we’ll be flying down a super-steep back road together.”  And then I gave an enthusiastic “Really?  Yes!”  It was a very brief ride, but also wonderful — I can see the appeal.

Life in Loboc largely revolves around the river.  We spent a lot of time walking along its banks (you pretty much have to do so to get anywhere).


Sunset was stunning last night.  I miss sunsets like this — we just don’t have them in Singapore.


This morning, Prescott and I went on a Stand-Up Paddleboard tour up the river.  It was hard work, but fun.  We had good companions (Walker from Scotland and Charlotte from Australia), who had a waterproof phone case and were kind enough to take our picture after we played in the waterfalls at the end of the trip:




All in all, being on and swimming in the river — though this sign did make me wonder about the wisdom of spending too much time in there:


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