Meet the locals
He rides the rapids with the confidence of a cowboy riding a bucking bronco. Junior Obiena is one of a dozen boatmen who make a living taking tourists down the 10km-long Ulot River. He’s been at the helm of his watercraft far longer than this fledgling tourist attraction has been operating in his town of Paranas. “I started working when I was 13,” says the 33-year-old. “We ferried villagers to and from their homes upriver. We were critical to their daily lives.” Aside from his usual boat runs, he remembers delivering relief supplies to flood victims. With better roads now — and with tourism bringing a new source of income — Junior has had far less emergencies to deal with. “Life is so much better,” he admits, “now I only have to make sure our tourists have a good time!”
Where to eat in Samar: Rutchel’s, Niño’s and San Juan by the Bay
Where to stay in Samar: Lola Rosa B&B
This article first appeared in the June 2018 issue of Smile magazine.