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TALES FROM THE HINTERLAND

There's nothing like a bike that allows its rider to get a good scan, unfiltered, of the open roads, narrow alleys, expansive fields or divergent landscapes that are traversed; and close scrutiny of people you pass or come in contact with along the way. A closed motor-running vehicle doesn't allow you that. So it has been that after years of cycling in and around a Jakarta suburb, Adrian set up a school for undocumented children living in informal settlements. Sekolah Bisa in Indonesia lives and thrives today because of those bike rides, and because of the heart and mind of the rider singularly devoted to the betterment of disadvantaged children.

Starting the Foundation from the base in Tunga was a challenge Adrian took on. Here he shares three of those rides and close encounters.

On teaching sabbatical and based in Tunga, Leyte, Adrian Thirkell spent 2016-17 deciphering the challenges faced in rural Philippines. He has trawled a good number of barangays in the 2nd district of Leyte, on his bicycle, getting to know the landscape and, much more so, the people who live within it.

The English philosopher, Bertrand Russell, never visited a Philippine barangay, except in the form of disembodied epithets churning inside my head as I cycle my way through a string of rural communities stretching from the municipality of Tunga to Carigara. READ MORE

No rice: Evkim from the hinterlands

The coconut trees are all down from the ravaging of the eastern Visayan ecosystem by typhoon Yolanda but there are stubbly banana groves and spindly wild-seeded guava bushes (their fruit tugged from their branches unripe by children each morning) all along the ascent from the tiny municipality of Tunga, up through the more remote, rural barangay of Binibihan, 156 meters above sea level. READ MORE

Julius: Barangay Macalpi, Carigara

There’s nothing pretentious about Barangay Captain Benilda’s tiny wooden village store in the Eastern Visayan village of Hilaba. From the roadside, all you can see is the unprepossessing front of a 2 x 2 metre shack. Inside, it’s an Aladdin’s cave of sorts, crammed with the staples of village life: rice, corn, oil, sugar, salt, sachets of coffee. But it takes me less than a few minutes of conversation, sat on a white plastic stool, Benilda stationed where she always is, behind the wooden counter, to realize that the store is very much more than meets the eye. READ MORE

Kapitan Benilda: Barangay Hilaba, Barugo