Pandemic walks with Ati soothe soul, seem surreal

tedly takes a pandemic walk with ati carrying supplies up the mountain

Last Updated on June 7, 2023 by Ellen

I’ve now walked the mountain trail dozens of times; in blazing sun and heat; in rain and wind and mud; drenched in sweat and near exhaustion. In fact, my legs ache as I write this. But my soul is better for it.

Pandemic walks with Ati

The steep, dirt, mile-long path I’m referring to leads up to the infrastructure projects we are sponsoring with the indigenous Ati tribe here in Malay, Aklan on Panay Island in the Philippines.

It has been one month exactly since we got involved and I made my initial trek. At first it was novel and fun. Then, after hauling up cinder-blocks with the work crew, I started to dread it. Now, I genuinely enjoy the peace and solitude and beauty of the walk, the place, and the few people.

left, view of boracay island; right, pandemic walk with ati woman carrying sticks balanced on her head, and the photo is in black and white to give an older era feel.

Of course, the visible progress made on the hen house and water piping and electric system preps motivates me. But it’s the sometimes jarring juxtaposition of man and nature in this environment that somehow seems to spellbind me. It’s like a different time.

Actually, most everything in this rural seaside area with a view of the famous, touristy, offshore island of Boracay feels nostalgic. The endless rice fields. The tiny homes made of palm and bamboo. The sputtering, small, fishing boats that ply the waters. The dearth of automobiles. The loose dogs and chickens and farm animals and ever present fires.

left, a hut seen on a pandemic walk with the ati up the mountainside; right, an ati man with a bull in a black and white photo

The most similar experience I can think of in America is visiting the Appalachian hills of West Virginia – where the tiny towns and hollers and mobile homes and poverty harken to a period a century ago.

Scenes seem surreal

Here, in the rural Philippine hills, were it not for the motor scooters (and plastics), it could well be the 1600s or 1700s.

In the last week, I twice carried heavy loads on the 30-minute mountain hike; once a bundle of chicken netting – the other, two 2×4 pieces of lumber. The lumbering lumber trip was made with a handful of Ati laborers who carried similar beams (photo at top).

pandemic walks with ati soothe tedly's soul, even if he carries heavy netting rolls like this one

As I huffed and puffed and briefly rested with the barefoot, younger workmen and some nearby baby goats, it was as if everything was in slow motion, grainy, almost black and white, like a silent movie – a dream. A complete escape from a world gone pandemic mad.

Tomorrow, I will again make the mountain climb; alone, with my thoughts and thankfulness. I will greet the Ati workers and chug the earthy air and retreat once more to that earlier era where life was healthy and wholesome and heartfelt.

As always, be thankful and generous, happy trails & more beer.

Life is NOW!

Thanks for reading, “Pandemic walks with Ati soothe soul, seem surreal.”

Read more trippy pandemic experiences of riding out the COVID-19 crisis in the Philippines:

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