The canals of Banjarmasin

Perhaps Banjarmasin is an amphibian.

On land, I found it like any other Indonesian town, with streaming motorcycles, markets overflowing with stuffed toys and thousands of aneka gorengan (deep fried snacks) carts.

READ: The beauty of bamboo rafting in Loksado

However, once I ventured into one of the town’s hundreds of canals, the capital of South Kalimantan revealed its true character.

When the engines of my small boat began humming, it was like the famous Japanese poet Matsuo Basho’s frog jumping into an ancient pond.

“Foreigner! Foreigner!” a child screamed at the top of her voice. The message was relayed from one backyard to the next, spreading like wildfire. What I had planned to be a one-hour trip for Rp 50,000 with my boatman turned into the greatest egotistical trip of my life.

For never had I imagined I had such great capacity to bring happiness to others. The residents of the canal bank houses came out in their hordes. Naked children, bent-backed grannies, cool-vibe oozing soccer teenagers, toned young males made of copper and beaming pregnant mothers.

At my very sight, the children became ecstatic. The boys jumped from their backyards, creating waves that obscured the otherwise perfect reflection of the houses on the canal water. Kids jumped in all around me, water splashed everywhere. They swam as fast as they could to my boat, hoping to touch me just once or even better, to give me a high-five.

The stronger boys managed to climb into my boat and not knowing what to do once they were there, just gave me a big smile and fell back into the water. The younger ones screamed out, shaking their heads, closing their eyes in utter delight. The girls and the older people folded their arms and greeted me with big smiles.

There was no doubt! What a wonderful person I was. I didn’t know how to react. It was a sudden attack of innocence on my senses.

I wanted to join in the ecstasy, somersault and dive into the murky water and then swim around with the jovial children. But I had a contract with the boatman. So I just waved and waved.

“He waved at me, he waved at me!” neighborhood voices exclaimed. They were in raptures. I almost felt like I could make the world a better place.

Once things calmed down, I could marvel at the endless stream of houses on the banks of the canals, leisurely hanging their scrawny wooden legs in the water. Houses, mosques, madrassas, grocery shops, furniture stalls, all built with patches of wood, the same color as the canals, nailed to each other.

Some of the houses had lost their footing and were slowly merging with the canals, looking like old men slowly crouching for a hot spring bath. Colorful coffins waited patiently in the workshops along the canal.

"Here, mornings began with the boatmen and boatwomen waking up the owners of the gasoline stalls by the canals."

Canals, canals and more canals - some as wide as a soccer field pretending to be a river, some as narrow as a log of wood. They connected here and there creating a maze, quietly going about the business of moving all the muddy water from the washing of the Meratus Mountains, closely watched over by roaming patrols of hyacinths and water lilies.

Here, mornings began with the boatmen and boatwomen waking up the owners of the gasoline stalls by the canals, first by calling their names, then clapping and then a friendly shove with the oars.

Soon, Gauguin’s women came out from the backyards of each house and lathered their whole bodies and mouths sitting on the small jetties built from their house, for the women of Banjarmasin love to shower and brush their teeth at the same time. The elderly man came out too and hundreds of eager fish would splash out, begging them for food in the fisheries built on the canals, because it was breakfast time in Banjarmasin.

As the day progressed, the canals became the highways, moving people in all directions, tiny heads in white hijab going to school, ducking every time their boat passed under a bridge. An endless flow of motorcycles and helmets keep on passing the bridges; from the boats below, they looked like chess pawns on roller blades.

The canal fairies of Banjarmasin, the colorful old women selling bananas, guava, rice and other supplies on canoes, rowed from door to door looking for custom. Throughout the day, elderly women sat facing the canoe holding a fishing rod.

A thousand and one buckets tied with long strings, built to fetch water from the canals, swung from each backyard like pendulums, keeping time in the canals of Banjarmasin.

Read also:

Boating about splendid Banjarmasin

Pioneer flights making travel across Indonesia easier

Loading...

Editor’s note:Yahoo Philippines encourages responsible comments that add dimension to the discussion. No bashing or hate speech, please. You can express your opinion without slamming others or making derogatory remarks.

  • Philippines to fly over disputed South China Sea: Aquino
    Philippines to fly over disputed South China Sea: Aquino

    Philippine military and commercial aircraft will keep flying over disputed areas in the South China Sea despite Chinese warnings over the airspace, President Benigno Aquino said on Monday. "We will still fly the routes that we fly based on the international law from the various conventions we entered into," Aquino told reporters when asked whether the Philippines accepted China's position. The Chinese military last week ordered a US Navy P-8 Poseidon surveillance plane away from airspace …

  • ‘Kentex owners still in Phl’
    ‘Kentex owners still in Phl’

    The daughter of one of the Kentex Manufacturing Corp. owners has assured the government that the businessmen are still in the Philippines, contrary to some reports that they have fled the country. Barbara Ang, daughter of Kentex shareholder Veato Ang, said her father and his business partners have no plans of leaving the country despite the razing of the Valenzuela slipper factory, which killed 72 workers on May 13. Valenzuela Mayor Rex Gatchalian also stood by his promise to punish any local …

  • Gasoline prices up, diesel down
    Gasoline prices up, diesel down

    Oil companies announced yesterday a price hike of 50 centavos per liter for gasoline and a rollback of 50 centavos per liter for diesel effective at 6 a.m. today. Independent oil firms were among the first to announce the price adjustment. In an advisory, PTT Philippines, the local subsidiary of Thailand’s biggest oil firm said it cut diesel prices by 50 centavos per liter and increased gasoline prices by 50 centavos per liter. …

  • Lawmakers to review building code provisions
    Lawmakers to review building code provisions

    Lawmakers are set to review provisions of the National Building Code and Republic Act 10121, or the Philippine Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Act, to strengthen contingencies and policies to prepare the country for possible major earthquakes. The move came following proposals from Reps. Winston Castelo of Quezon City and Lito Atienza of the Buhay party-list to review the two laws and other regulations during a hearing of the House committee on Metro Manila development on the …

  • Noy: Phl may attain first world status with continued reforms
    Noy: Phl may attain first world status with continued reforms

    The Philippines’ attaining first world status may soon be imminent if significant reforms initiated by the current administration would be consistently pursued, President Aquino suggested yesterday. “Kung madidiligan ang ating mga pinunla, at makaka-graduate ang mga pinag-aaral natin upang makapasok sa maaayos na trabaho, baka po tuluyan nang nasa first world status tayo sa panahong iyon (If we water the seeds sown and those we sent to school will find better jobs, then time will come that …

  • Phl won’t recognize China air restrictions
    Phl won’t recognize China air restrictions

    The Philippines will not recognize restrictions on air and sea travel set by China in the West Philippine Sea, President Aquino said yesterday. “We will still fly the routes that we fly based on international law and the various conventions, agreements that have been entered into through various decades,” Aquino told reporters in an ambush interview after inspecting the Marikina Elementary School in preparation for the opening of classes in June. “Maybe we should not think about getting …

  • Rainy season likely in 2nd week of June
    Rainy season likely in 2nd week of June

    Filipinos may have to wait until the second or third week of June for rain, the Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (PAGASA) said yesterday. Rene Paciente, chief of PAGASA’s marine meteorological services section, said they expect the rainy season to start in the second or third week of June. The criteria for declaring the onset of the rainy season include the prevalence of the southwest monsoon and the 25-millimeter rainfall recorded in at least five …

  • UN urged to probe torture cases under Noy’s term
    UN urged to probe torture cases under Noy’s term

    The United Nations has been asked to look into   110 cases of torture and numerous cases of illegal arrests during the Aquino administration. Cristina Palabay, Karapatan secretary-general, yesterday said the matter could be looked into when the United Nations Subcommittee on Prevention of Torture (SPT) visits from May 25 to June 3 to monitor the  implementation of the Optional protocol to the Convention Against Torture (OpCAT), which the Philippines ratified in 2012. “We enjoin the UN SPT to …

POLL

Should Aquino be held accountable over the Mamasapano operations?

Loading...
Poll Choice Options