Opposite our rented house on Jacinto Road lived a family sunning coconuts. Each morning they spread the opened drupes in the sun to dry, shifting them as the sun moved across the sky. Sometimes the spread came up to our fenced gate. I wondered if they were for eating, and one day in no rush I asked. They were drying them to make coconut cooking oil.
Beyond the fenced gate was Jacinto Road. If one turned right it went towards the direction of the main coastal road leading to Bohol’s capital, Tagbilaran. When one turned left, it was a sloping road leading to Baclayon’s tourism center, where the kayak center was located.
Before I had the bicycle, I had to walk Jacinto Road twice a day to get to and fro the kayak center. I didn’t know exactly how far was the walk. It took a whole kretek - the first puff outside the door to the stub out just outside the market. In between slow puffs, it was easy to forget the easy efficiency of the bicycle, which took me less than 3 minutes of commute.
The walk was long and my eyes wondered and wandered.
Apart from the coconut family, I realized that 9am was really a very quiet time. There were not many people on Jacinto Road. The children were already learning in their classrooms. People were at work. There was still food in the fridge. Unless one’s work required the sun, like a kayaker... the heat would have already forced many indoors.
On Wednesday however, people woke up in anticipation. Every Wednesday was market day, where fresh seafood catches were brought in from surrounding coastal fishing villages. Baclayon’s palengke, or a public market, was especially lively. Hoards of vendors hawked just about everything. There was no shortage.
Baclayon’s tourism center, which was also where the kayak center was located, stood opposite the public market. If I walked, I would walk through the palengke, instead of around it. Perhaps the vendors were selling something new.
Before the palengke, about mid-way along the walk down Jacinto Road, were the two oldest bakeries in Baclayon, Osang's and Sampagita. Osang’s baked a delicious egg pastel broas the traditional way, over wooden stove in an old house. Dried cut logs were piled neatly outside Osang’s, to create fire for endless trays of broas. There was no attempt to be carbon-free. One can go in and see how these broas were prepared and buy them freshly baked.
These bakeries were founded opposite the second oldest church in Philippines. The Church of Immaculada Concepcion was built using slave laborers and cut coral stones, which had aged well in the tropics. The church faced the sea, its tower so high that when one launched the kayak, one’s sight was immediately turned to the bell tower. May protection and peace be with those out at sea, it seemed to project.
One of the enduring sights of the morning walk was the color of flowers growing by the road along the front of houses. Flowers of all kinds, some on single stalk, some grew as bunches, some burst in multitudes of colors, some grew on trees, while others opened among the wired fences. Some of them were amazing. One particular flower, the talampunay, was pointed out to me as a hallucinogenic plant. Another, the beautifully named dama de noche, would only open at night.
Other flowers looked very familiar. I remembered them in my grandfather's gardens when I was growing up in a kampong. Rosal, kampanilya, gumamela...back then I only knew them by their colors - white, yellow, red...
In the evenings when I walked back to the rented house, there would be many people out and about. The sun was setting and the air had cooled. Children were running about the church’s courtyards and youths were tapping their basketballs. The street hawkers were lighting their charcoal grills. Smoke was rising from burning leaves and weeds. The familiar - even nostalgic - smell of burning leaves made me walked even slower, inhaling deeply.
Our neighboring house, rented by a Japanese, had a Ylang Ylang tree. It swayed with the evening breeze. It was a tree I had never seen before. Some little yellow flower fingerlings scattered on the lawn, black ants were all over the incredibly sweet-smelling flowers.
Walking on Jacinto Road - even if just traveling to work - is about marking distances with puffs of smoke, scrutinizing the faces of the people, being drawn by the colors, smelling the past, discovering, slowing down time...On those days spent there, efficiency of travel was certainly not appreciated.