Smoke on the Water, Stairway to Heaven, & Thunderstruck

'Natural' soak pit on Ati land in Malay, Aklan, Philippines.

Last Updated on June 3, 2023 by Ellen

It’s some of the best money I’ve ever spent. In fact, the costs were minimal. And the results are some very nice upgrades for the indigenous Ati tribe we have been helping for the last 16 months.

Of course, it’s all happening here in Malay, Aklan, Panay, Philippines – where we are waiting out the coronavirus crisis during our early retired global wandering.

Ati projects update


I’d been eyeing the spot for over a year; a small natural pool in the stream that runs under the footbridge on the trail leading up to the hilltop Ati village.

All that was really needed was a few hours of labor to collect enough river rocks and strategically stack them into a makeshift dam – thereby ‘backing-up’ the flow and dramatically enlarging the pool.

Sure enough! After a half-day of gathering, arranging, and securing stones – the Ati Swim Club is now open… lol.

Seriously, it’s a great result – and retreat from the heat and humidity. I’ve already used the pool a few times in late afternoons as I make my way back down from ‘Ati land’ all sweaty and dirty.

In the photos, you can see the ‘before and after’. What started as little more than a puddle, is now a comfortable cooling and soaking pool.

Special thanks go out to Fermin, Jr. and his family who helped find, dislodge, and carry the dozens of big rocks needed for the dam and then tidied up the surrounding jungle area.

They were washing clothes and barbecuing along the creek when I started the dam work. But Fermin and his crew were all happy to help and make a few dollars (pesos) in the process.

Now the kids – and all the Ati – have a relaxing freshwater swimmin’ hole about three feet deep with comfortable underwater seating.


Another big upgrade; I call it the stairway to heaven.  Check out the pics below. That’s 125 stairs dug into the side of a hill!

I can’t take credit for this project. The Ati chief and elders recognized the need for trail improvement and directed the job.

Still, I give major props to the two young Ati guys who did the actual work. And for spending two days digging in the hot sun — I ‘tipped’ them both a few bucks.

The new stairs offer an alternative route to the upper village which is appreciated by everyone – including me.

Over the past few month’s, the original trail has become truly treacherous in several spots as rainwater runoff has washed away the soil and exposed sections of loose, uneven, broken rocks.

Now anyone ascending to the Ati ‘central plaza’ has a much safer and easier hike — with great views of the sea, port, and island of Boracay in the distance.


Lastly, an improvement I am completely responsible for: an electrical ground.

It was back in early June when we installed and began using the pump, tanks, and distribution system for Ati drinking water. And I’m happy to report, nearly four months later, it’s all working exactly as designed.

With the help of generous overseas donors, we sponsored the water project. It included running an electric line 400 feet down a steep hillside to power the pump which sends drinking water up to a holding tank for gravity distribution.

The one piece missing until now: a proper ground. That meant that – God forbid – if something ever went wrong and a short developed in the submerged pump, electric shock could be a danger. Further, a lightning strike could destroy the ungrounded pump.

Being brand new, we were comfortable using the pump temporarily without the ground. But I did buy and transport an official, 10-foot-long, copper-plated, grounding rod from our provincial capital, Kalibo, which is now in use. Total cost: about $30.

In the photos below at the pump house, you can see the Ati group effort to sink it 10-feet into the earth then attach the wire from the pump motor and housing.

Hopefully, the water pump and system will function for many many future years. Now, I’m confident it will be safe to do so. Philippine electric service is 220 volts.

As always, be thankful and generous (like our overseas donors), happy trails & more beer.
Life is NOW!

Thanks for reading, “Smoke on the Water, Stairway to Heaven, & Thunderstruck.”

Find every Ati story we’ve ever posted on our Ati blog entries page.

Latest reader comments on all blog posts:
  1. When I was 15-16 years old I knew Rachel and her brother often hanging out with them . They lived…

  2. Wow – thank you for the update, Jen. And I’ll check the news reports come May. Best wishes, Ellen

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