Hacienda Maria Part 2: The Kawa Pots

Suzette Standring
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We’re at Hacienda Maria on the island of Panay in the Philippines, our cave adventures complete. Back at the veranda, the family has cooked us lunch – rice, pork soup, adobo chicken (stewed in soy, garlic and vinegar), what looks and tastes like baked mackerel steaks, and Gold Eagle beer.

We’re the only visitors today, so I ask Jornel about tourists here.  Lots of Russians and Asians, mostly in August, maybe 300 visitors a year, mostly to see the caves.

I ask the 16-year-old about school, but he had to quit to help with the farm.  With eight siblings, there’s little money for education, so tourism helps.

Yet, much is needed to work that angle.  Wifi, for one. A website. Americans ain’t gonna go for that primitive toilet, and there’s big time liability with possible injuries. 

Yet what they do have here is the uncut version of paradise. 

And now it’s time to see more of it.

We set out for the waterfall on on a path flanked by pink flowers, marigolds and spiky tea plants, surrounded by jungle foliage. Strange butterflies flit about.  Occasionally, a small “nipa hut” from times past in rural Filipino life, and maybe a neighbor’s house along the way.

Then we come to a bridge. (Anyone who weighs over 200 pounds might be in trouble.)  We have to cross two of them!

Everywhere nature is untouched by litter or construction debris, or motorbikes. You go on foot, or you don’t go at all

Then we hear the sound of rushing water, and Jornel is excited to go swimming with us. Imagine, they own a waterfall.

I am in shorts and a top. I didn’t bring a bathing suit. But after steep steps to caves and foot bridges, I’m content to sit with my feet in the water.  David dives from a wooden platform into the water.

Jornel and his cousin climb nimbly to the top of the waterfall, run forward off the bald pate of a huge white boulder and jump into clear green waters below.  I film them hollering, laughing and diving.

They are eager to see the clips.  “I’ll send them to you, what’s your email?” 

“No email, ma’am.  No signal,” said Jornel.  

I. Can’t. Imagine.

Time slows down.  We relax, swim, and laze by the water’s edge, I marvel at their personal swimming pool.

“Ma’am are you ready for the Kawa?”

“Sure!  What’s that?”

“Jacuzzi hot pots.  You will like it.”

With little electricity apparent, I assume they are hot springs, so off we go.

Close by, a sign.

A most curious sight!  Ten large human-sized pots or “kawas” are installed in a forest clearing.  Jornel’s cousin had gone ahead and filled two with water, sprinkled with flowers and herbal leaves.  Fires had been stoked underneath the pots to heat the water.

“Get in, it’s nice.  Herbal leaves good for your skin.”

Again, no bathing suit, but I’m not about to miss this so I climb, regular clothes and all.

David makes the requisite cannibal cooking jokes, but how can you not?




I look over at David who fills his stewpot, and I say, “Now I know where the pork soup comes from.”  Heh-heh.

Where did they get these metal tubs? The family bought the kawas from Manila.  Jornel thinks they are giant rice pots (and Filipinos do love eating rice).  

As I sat inside the pot, the heat from the fire warmed the water in no time flat.  So relaxing! I sat back, listening to twitter (the birdie singsong kind), a cock crowed in the distance, and above palm fronds waved gently. Whoa, dude, now this is worth the trip.

Jornel, our lovable teenager, entertained David with two “fighting” spiders.  Apparently, when spiders battle, one will vanquish the other by spinning a web around the loser. David was fascinated.  I say, “Boys.”

Jornel was adept at catching spiders and getting them to stay on a stick to face off.  Not easy since either one tended to run away rather than fight.  

This is what one does in the absence of Internet.








A bit creepy, but I paid them no never mind.  I was blissing in my kawa.

They should market this kawa concept! Anybody would love this unique full body soak.  (Now if only they had a website.)

Then it was time to get going. We took the ferryboat back to Boracay in time to hit the White Beach to watch boats and see another golden sunset.