Saturday, August 27, 2011

The Two Palms of the Loboc River

I'm down with the flu.  Defeats the purpose of having cool rainy weather, conducive to relax and sleep. Nevertheless it will allow me to blog a little longer this time, a little escape from the rudiments of checking papers and doing routinary work.
We took the river cruise at the lower part of the Loboc River
River boats carrying the tourists up and down the Loboc

Recently I went back to Bohol to accompany my sister and niece on a leisure trip (finally!). When I was preparing our itinerary, I made it a point to include the Loboc River cruise, as  it was one of the most popular tourist attractions  It is my 10th time to be in the province and I have not gone to the river cruise before. I heard that there is a buffet lunch which allows people to eat a sumptuous meal while enjoying the views of the river.  So food and a view, two items I am crazy for, so we had to experience it this time around!

Enjoying whatever barbecue we got
When the day finally arrived, and we set on foot the river boat, I found the part of
The sumptuous buffet
the buffet lunch is true. For 350 pesos you get the joy of touring the stretch of the Loboc River and the fresh breeze while nibbling on the treats of a 6-course meal.  You just have to brave sea-sickness and fast enough to intercept the barbecue before they reach the buffet table.  The Koreans (there were a lot) hoard them, getting as much as 15 pieces per person. But other than that, the river cruise is a recommendable experience which any Bohol tourist should take part in, barbecue or no barbecue. 
Limestone outcrops
The tailing half-beaks
The wide Loboc river
The view promised is not as breathtaking as the Chocolate hills but nevertheless interesting. The river was wide and much cleaner than the Pasig waters (sorry, I find the Pasig River much better rehabilitated than compared decades ago but obviously Loboc is still cleaner).  The water is a bit mud-murky but teeming with life.  Half-beak (small fishes familiar to aquarium hobbyists) schools were tailing our boat as we made our way upstream. Every now and then a few archer fishes dart to the surface, trying to pounce on dragonflies and other striding insects on the water surface. The riverbank ranges from swampy area to limestone outcrops. The landscape is dominated by 2 species and ironically, both are considered the most improtant of palms, at least in this region.  Sprouting from the muddy flats are the almost trunk-less fronds of the nipa or Nypa fruticans while rising over them are the heavily fruit laden crowns of the popular niyog or Cocos nucifera.
Palms grew abundantly on the banks of the river
Coconuts growing at the river banks
Niyog is considered the most economically important palm in the Philippines.  It is grown all over the archipelago ranging from coastal areas to mountainside plantations, just to harvest the different parts that could be used in everyday life.  The fruit is very much edible and the juice very refreshing.  The fruit meat could yield coconut milk which is fixture in Filipino cuisine.  The fresh sap collected from the fruit stalk could be drank as tuba, fermented into coconut vinegar or further more into lambanog. Coconut is also grown for copra, and utilized to yield the coconut oil used for different commercial and domestic purposes. Wood is used as light construction material.  Leaves and even the roots are used in weaving and other crafts.  There is almost an endless list of how other parts could be harnessed.

Thick stand of nipa
Nipa, or sometimes referred to as sasa, was the subject of my last blog poll as it was the emergent winner of being the second most important Philippine palm.  It is also popular in light construction, as it is the main material for the indigenous nipa hut or the famed  bahay kubo.  The leaves are weaved to form the thatched roof and walls of the vernacular house.  Like the coconut, tuba is also yielded and havested from its cut fruit stalk, further fermented into vinegar and ultimately distilled as lambanog. Even the weird fruit now is collected, epoxied and exported as house decoration.

The abundance of both palms in the countryside determines what type of tuba, suka or lambanog are commonly used in a particular localilty.  For coastal areas like in Hagonoy in Bulacan and adjacent areas, the sasa is the favorite source for the said products (Nypa is a mangrove species thus being abundant in the estuarine and coastal flats).  That is why sukang sasa has become known as sukang Paombong (referring to Paombong Bulacan, known to make vinegar from nipa). In mountainous provinces like Laguna and Quezon, on the other hand, the tuba, suka and lambanog are created from coconut sap as you'll find the coconut growing even on the steep slopes of tall mountains.  In some cases, you'll find them dominating the Quezon landscape, as far as the eye could see.
River boats making their way thru a river of nipa and niyog
The divided crowns of nipa at bottom and niyog on top
Going back to the Loboc River, we find a unique landscape dominated by two of the most economically viable local palms.  I wonder whether the Boholanos get their vinegar from the nipa or the coconut.  Obviously both species are abundant here, growing juxtaposed along the swampy banks and dominating the flora in the area. But just the same, the palms should be given enough importance not only because they are very useful but rather they form a vital part of this beautiful rich environment. Minus the tuba, suka and lambanog, they should exist to provide shelter and sustainance to the ecosystem dependent on them. Or else there would not be anything beautiful to see while eating the few sticks of pork barbecue we managed to snatch from the quick Koreans.  Sayang naman diba yung view, hindi yung barbecue, hahaha!

The next poll is up!

5 comments:

Plant Chaser said...

My family and I enjoyed the Loboc river cruise as well. We didn't have BBQ though.

metscaper said...

Hehehe. The barbecue was OK.

Plant Chaser said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Plant Chaser said...

Patrick, you might be interested in this post:

Seeing Trees

jigs said...

I thoroughly enjoyed your blog, most especially this entry. A friend, knowing I've been looking for authentic Sukang Sasa, gave me a bottle of Sukang Paombong. Upon reading your blog, I learned that they are one and the same. My mother, being Pampangueña, calls it sukang sasâ, you see. Your paragraph on the nipa palm enlightened me tremendously. Maraming salamat. And keep up the great research and terrific writing.