Crazy Stupid Love and Bridge: The Lowdown on Loboc

Loboc, Bohol, the Philippines

May 30, 2004 and April 2, 2011

The lead star of the Visayan-language film Panaghoy sa Suba (The Call of the River) got me at the opening credits. With apologies to (actor-director) Cesar Montano, the languid Loboc River stole every scene it was in. But before the film’s release at the end of 2004, I had already seen its titular star up close and personal during a trip to Bohol.

Busay Falls, Loboc River in 2005

Unlike Cesar Montano who was paddling gently through the sleepy meandering river, I was on a motorized banca. Whatever romance there was in a river cutting through the wilderness had been shattered by the motor’s mind-drilling noise, drowning out bird calls and whispers of the wind. My date and I had to shout our sweet nothings to each other.

The romantic scenery was there to behold: tropical vegetation that increasingly encroached on the banks, their roots half-submerged in water, as we sailed upstream. We were touched by the intimate welcome of leafy branches drooping onto the river, but also embarrassed for our disruptively noisy visit.

The banca made a U-turn right at the foot of Busay Falls, a series of miniature waterfalls, only about a meter tall each. The boatman turned the motor off so we could gingerly approach the falls close enough to be kissed by its cool spray. A waterfall, no matter how small, was a roaring force of elemental passion, a romantic highlight to this river ride.

This DIY cruise delivered the charm of the river within reach: trees, water, and – cheesy alert – love. Even the tarsiers by the bamboo wharf were hanging around alfresco within a perimeter fence, not inside compact cages.

Three Tarsiers and a Tourist (2004)
Loboc River

On my second trip to Bohol seven years later, this time on a family date, we opted for the production number – the Loboc River Cruise. The wharf, by then, was paved and well-appointed with a lounge and a band of rondalla musicians playing folk songs. Both made waiting in line a tad more bearable. There were long lines despite the 50-pax capacity of each Loboc River Floating Restaurant.

Loboc River Floating Restaurant
Trying Tinikling

The rather unremarkable lunch buffet and the jockeying for photos of the scenic riverbanks registered low on the charm meter. Nevertheless, my mother and sister lapped up the musical stop-over that involved folk dancing with local children on a bamboo raft. My sister tried her feet at tinikling, a Philippine dance that required rapid footwork in stepping between two bamboo poles struck against each other. One uncoordinated move could get your feet caught between the poles. Ouch! I expected the worst, but my sister came out of it unscathed.

Alas, the one-with-nature scenes of Panaghoy sa Suba, set to kundiman music, had long been forgotten. While drifting through the scenic river, our fellow tourists found it to be an occasion for a sing-along with the local band on board. The attention span of people nowadays could not accommodate a few minutes of peace and quiet to take in nature’s bounty. Perhaps they barely noticed the Busay Falls, which looked anticlimactic from a distance. Our boat was too big for a close approach to the falls.

Villagers turned Entertainers
Man with a Giant Guitar
Living by Loboc River
Loboc Cruisers

Loboc stories were not all about crazy stupid love, as in the period love story Panaghoy sa Suba. One was about what locals would call the Stupid Bridge. An unfinished bridge, abruptly ending right after it crossed the Loboc River, had become a tourist attraction. Had the bridge construction continued, it would’ve directly hit Loboc Church, a centuries-old national treasure, and required its demolition. Local people opposed the government project and the bridge construction was halted a few meters from the church. Word of mouth had it that someone in power wanted the church torn down for its legendary treasures buried under the structure.

Loboc’s Stupid Bridge (L- Church, R – Bridge)

Methinks, it was plain and simple stupidity – another ill-advised government project implemented for kickback rather than public service. I gave props to the people of Loboc for putting their foot down. They may have lost the romance and tranquility of their river, but at least they had saved their church and heritage.

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50 thoughts on “Crazy Stupid Love and Bridge: The Lowdown on Loboc

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  1. The Tarsiers appear again. Age, you look so young and innocent in the picture. Gliding along with those whom you love by the river is sure romantic but the noise, as you have mentioned is sure an irritant. We love to hear more of your ‘love’ adventures, dear Age.

    Joy always and a lovely Sunday,
    Susan

    1. I was not so young and not so innocent. 🙂 So did I age considerably in the space of 7 years? Love adventures…hmmmmm I don’t have too many of that, I’m afraid.

      Enjoy your Sunday, Mrs. Sus!

  2. That’s the problem with these organized tours/activities. They think tourists want action all the time! There’s rarely any time to have some peace and quiet—and to connect with nature (hehe).

    And that bridge, it’s simply a symbol of someone’s stupidity.

    Sorry, woke up on the wrong side of the bed today. 🙂

    Great post, as usual, AJ!

    1. Right, Reiza. I was in Candaba, Pampanga the other day. I asked a local about places of interest other than the bird sanctuary (which was inaccessible that day) and he said, “Swimming pool!” I was like, we have that in the city; why would I want that here? I guess that’s the problem with tourism. They offer you something familiar when all you want is a different experience!

    2. i couldn’t agree more 🙂 i think we sometimes take the “fiesta” mentality too literally, there are times when you don’t want a rondalla and banda blaring when you just want a bit of silence to enjoy the moment.

  3. I”ve been to other parts of Bohol but not to Loboc yet. I must be there and witness what you have had vividly described here. Thanks for sharing this. Once again, hats off for a superbly written piece,

    1. I was on an outrigger boat (called banca in my country). It’s the closest I’ve been to a waterfall since my visit to the Niagara. Of course, this banca was no Maid in the Mist, haha!

  4. Anything that says CRAZY STUPID and LOVE with make me click anytime!
    Landi lang sa Loboc, I want to be able to to that naman sana other than the tourist-y cruise lunch, thingy.

    And the stupid bridge… sigh.. ibang level. Man and Filipino politician’s ingenuity realized forever in concrete and rebars.

  5. This is a very interesting update. Never been to this place but I would like to go on a cruise. How much it cost and how long? I like to travel and visit locally where you can jibe with the locals. Very tempting to visit this place! Thanks AJ!

    1. A trip to Bohol is not complete without going on this cruise. 🙂 It costs somewhere between P350 to P400, all in – lunch buffet and folk dancing stop-over (yeah you can try the tinikling!). The cruise takes about an hour, but the waiting is about that long too. Tip: get there early, like 11-ish.

      Another place I can recommend (but didn’t go to, so no blog post about it) is Danao Adventure Park. Yet another reason to go back to Bohol. 🙂

  6. I thought that guitar looked huge but then could have just been the angle of shooting the pic. The story of the stupid bridge illustrates how people have to band together to protect their heritage.

    1. It really was a plus-size guitar, Jim. Yup, moral of the story: Take the initiative in protecting your town’s treasures because the national government may not always have your best interests in mind.

  7. Another great post that gives me insight to what your part of the world is like – I love it. Interesting information about the river and how river life has changed over not so many years. The photo of your Sister dancing is great – wonderful action! It looks like she is having a great time. All the photos are interesting. I agree – it’s too bad people can’t sit and relax, be quiet and just look at the beauty around them.

    1. I’m conflicted about tourism infrastructure. Of course it’s good to make our sights more tourist-friendly and increasing tourist traffic would certainly infuse money to maintain/protect these places. On the other hand, the spirit of the place is kinda lost in the commercialism. Win some, lose some, I suppose. It’s a delicate dance, just like the tinikling. Thanks Mari!

  8. picturesque photos and intuitive thoughts!

    Loboc River is a must-visit haven that I long to see! thanks for sharing your endeavors! As a travelover, I appreciate your blog a lot! ^_^ KUDOS!

  9. 🙂 You’re welcome! Much gratitude for the kind response! I will definitely visit there and say HELLO! to the ever observant tarsiers! I will also check if I can catch an angry bird there… LOL!

    I’ve started my travel and photography blog but haven’t updated yet 😦 yours inspired me! keep it up!

    1. You must think it can’t get any more absurd than that, right? In this country, yes it can. Any government project is a treasure hunt. Most government officials see projects as money-making schemes, pocketing a large slice of the budget. So we have get half-assed infrastructure while they fatten their asses with millions, or even billions, of public money. Arrrrgh!

    1. Oh, you wouldn’t miss it in Loboc. It’s a big white elephant right across from the church. Dunno when it was built. It was already there in 2004 and it couldn’t be very old cuz the concrete looked new then.

    1. My point exactly. The river is all but forgotten in the flurry of activities. It’s a pity to be there and yet miss out on its natural beauty. Much better to go DIY.

  10. “Without the filter, is it possible to achieve the effect only with a slow shutter speed?”

    Hello AJ 🙂 I received your comment a while ago… Regarding your question, YES you can achieve that effect with a slow shutter speed. But the picture will become overexposed(too bright) without a neutral density filter, washing out the interesting scenes in your photograph.

    If you don’t have any filter available, you can also adjust the aperture of your camera to it’s smallest size (let’s say f/22). In this way, the amount of light entering the sensor will be lessen, thus decreasing chances of producing an overexposed photograph. 🙂

    Biboy Fotograpiya

    1. Wow, thanks for the prompt and clear reply, Blaine! That would’ve worked nicely in Busay Falls if I knew how to do it then. But yeah, I’ll try it out.

  11. I’ve been to Bohol last year and this was the place i was really looking forward to. Unfortunately, we weren’t able to see it, actually i saw it but it was not enough, it’s just some portion because we need to go back to Cebu. Ang ganda ganda ng Loboc River that’s why i really want to see it. ciao.

    1. Was it a day trip from Cebu? Many people do that, but I think it should be the other way around. There are more places to see and things to do in Bohol than in Cebu!

  12. yan ang problema sa atin,we dont value those heritage sites.kita mo nangyayari sa intramuros and pati pala sa simbahan jan sa bohol.ang macau nga proud na sa facade lang ng church e ano pa yung mga baroque churches natin di ba na intact pa.

    1. Sad but true. Although I think a lot more Pinoys now, even at the grassroots level (like the people of Loboc), have at least some heritage awareness, perhaps because of tourism. But still, people should be educated in preserving their historic relics. Sometimes good intentions can irrevocably damage a historical object or building, like most of our churches have been restored by peeling off the palitada which actually protected them.

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