A Blessing Poem for My New Year

Blessings from a poem for My New Year

May the nourishment of the earth be yours,
may the clarity of light be yours,
may the fluency of the ocean be yours,
may the protection of the ancestors be yours.
And so may a slow
wind work these words
of love around you,
an invisible cloak
to mind your life.

— from Echoes of Memory, by John O’Donohue

Photo: Pamughaton.net

Bulusan, Sorsogon, Philippines


Slow down Angels Crossing

This would win as the Most Striking Photo of my hometown among the thousands I’d browsed including my own. Not only because the timing is so perfect and the scene so extraordinary but because it tells a lot about my hometown Bulusan.

For instance, the river. Bulusan river at this point is at its finishing journey with the Pacific Ocean just two blocks away. Still clear and fit for bathing and washing laundry at the heart of the Poblacion, the river is said to be the cleanest in the province.

Another is the jeepney ride where one prefers to sit on top even if seats are still available inside. The greenest view along the way will tell you why.

And the most striking are the angels themselves. It is as if they are naturally part of the landscape.

Photo courtesy of Pamughaton.wordpress.com


Bulusan, Sorsogon, Philippines

Indigenous Nativity Scene in Bulusan

Bulusan's Christmas scene 2012

After the Christmas midnight mass of December 24, 2012 locals took a closer view of the Nativity (Belen) at the Saint James the Greater Parish church in Bulusan.

The locally handwoven karagumoy craft accented the Nativity scene in Bulusan’s Christmas this year with the native ‘banig’ mat as wall and the karagumoy hat as the ‘roof’ of the stable.

Photo: Alma P. Gamil

Bulusan, Sorsogon, Philippines

Bulusan’s Pastora is the traditional Pastores de Belen


Bulusan’s colorful pastora of recent Christmas performing from house to house. Photo by Pamughaton.net

Bulusan's Pastora is the traditonal Pastores de Belen

Bulusan’s version of Pastores de Belen is simply referred to as Pastora. Photo by Pamughaton.net

“Pastores de Belen (Spanish for “Shepherds of Bethlehem”) is a traditional dramatic representation of the shepherds’ adoration of the Christ-Child. Singing and dancing from one house to another is usually part of the ritual, though in Cavite and Bulacan the presentation is done on stage or in the churchyard. The actors playing the shepherds are usually children or women, and usually they wear costumes. In Bicol, the pastores are especially colorfully dressed. Most of them are female and wear full skirts, round-necked blouses with puffed sleeves, and wide-brimmed hats. The men and boys wear long-sleeved shirts, breast and waist bands, and decorated hats. The entire group is dressed in one color — either red, blue, or green. They are accompanied by a band and go from house to house singing Spanish and Bicolano carols while dancing, and are given money and food by homeowners. Pastores contests are held on stage in Legazpi, Albay to keep this tradition alive.”


Tiongson, Nicanor G. “Pastores” in CCP Encyclopedia of Philippine Art Vol. 7. Manila: Cultural Center of the Philippines, 1994.
“Philippine Theatrical Dance Forms.” (accessed on November 29, 2007 by WikiPilipinas).

Images by Pamughaton.net

Bulusan, Sorsogon, Philippines

Geometry in Bulusan’s Kinab’anan Weaving


The distinct hexagram shaped like a six pointed star repeatedly appears in a continuous pattern as one weaves the kinab’anan.

Kinab’anan means earthly or worldly. This is a  far cry to the simple and almost minimalist weaving pattern of kinab’anan of Bulusan. The reason why the locals named the weaving style as such is not known. Being a traditional craft learned from generations past the name is as old as the craft itself. And nobody is asking.

For some curious few, the guesses are varied. Some say it is because of the ‘kaban’ Bulusan’s all purpose utility rectangular wooden box traditionally used for keeping earthly possessions deemed important to the owner such as assorted keepsakes like old photos, heirloom jewelries, important documents, clothing for special occasions  etc.  A similar ‘kaban’ like woven box which serves the same purpose as the wooden kaban is also traditionally made using the kinab’anan weave.  Hence, kinaban they say is the root word which means roughly as similar or copied from the wooden kaban.

For me, however, I made my guess  by following the very visible clue,  i.e., the shape of the weave itself:  the hexagram. Thru this geometric figure  I was able to discover a very plausible answer to the question  on why kinab’anan was the name given to this traditional weave style.

The hexagram is the star-shaped geometrical figure that forms from intersecting the six strips of karagumoy that come naturally during the weaving process. At first glance the two equilateral triangles which compose the figure are  not noticeable.

But close examination reveals not only these triangles intersecting each other but also a hexagon inside the hexagram.

The hexagram is a mysterious geometrical figure that can be seen in many iconic religious and cultural symbols including the Star of David. Incidentally the hexagram is a recurring shape in almost all weaving crafts in Bulusan from the karagumoy kinab’anan ‘bay-ong’ to the utility boxes called ‘kapipi’ to the indigenous bobo fish traps for ‘turos’ fishing.

The distinct hexagram weave pattern itself provided the answer as to the origin and reason why the weave was named ‘kinab’anan’ or earthly.

Wikipedia article on the hexagram says:

“The hexagram is a mandala symbol called satkona yantra or sadkona yantra found on ancient South Indian Hindu temples. It symbolizes the nara-narayana, or perfect meditative state of balance achieved between Man and God, and if maintained, results in “moksha,” or “nirvana” (release from the bounds of the earthly world and its material trappings). ”

‘Earthly world ‘ are the key words.  This translates exactly to kinab’anan.  No wonder that for the entire weaving steps the hexagram appears repeatedly from start to finish.

Photos: Alma  P. Gamil

Bulusan, Sorsogon, Philippines

Following Inggo the fish trap weaver in Bulusan (First part)

This slideshow requires JavaScript.



Inggo hiking the mountain trail to the bamban patch.


The bamban plant with thumb-sized stems –the source (no other natural substitute) of bobo fish trap materials.


Stems of bamban ready to be split to the right measurement for the bobo fish trap weaving.


Inggo demonstrating how to split the stem of the bamban.


No need for a stick or tape measure. A ‘dangaw’ is the unit of measure used by weavers. It is the length of the stretched fingers from the tip of the thumb to tip of the small finger.


A knife is practically the only tool needed.


Inggo showing the split stems of the bamban. Looking on is Nora his wife and their youngest.


The longest strip from the bamban material. Bamban strip is strong and sharp like a razor blade. Splitting the stems require utmost care and skill.


Measuring the opening or mouth of the bobo fish trap.


Laying down the strips for the ‘balay’ or the beginning weave.


Counting the right number of bamban strips is extremely important. Weaving the bobo is like geometry at work. It must be mathematically accurate.


Making the circular opening of the bobo fish trap.


The ‘balay’ dictates the succeeding weaving steps hence the exacting number of bamban strips.


Inggo securing the beginning weave of the balay by reinserting the strips at the edges.

From the mountainous part of a farm patch Inggo showed me the source of  his bamban materials for the fish traps he regularly used in his daily fishing trips offshore of Dancalan in Bulusan town.

The sequence of events is an actual documentation of a regular day in the life of a fisherfolk in Bulusan. In between shifts from his sea forays are weaving chores  of  this dependable bobo fish traps tested by generations of  ‘parabobo’ (artisanal fisherman utilizing mainly the bobo for fishing)  in Bulusan.

Not shy to share some anecdotes of his life while weaving the bobo he interpersed the weaving demonstration with stories of his fishing life.

“I have seen the many faces of death  in the sea but this is my lot in life to be a ‘parapadagat’ (a man who depends solely on the sea for survival. The term fisherman is a pale translation). I have to embrace it and in fact I am most  at home when I am in the open seas, ” related Inggo.

With continuation.

Photos: Alma P. Gamil

Bulusan, Sorsogon, Philippines

Sensuous charm of Mount Bulusan

Sensous charm of  Mount Bulusan

Mount Bulusan’s image changes drastically depending mainly on two factors:  one is where it is being observed and  second of course is the eye of the beholder such as this very sensual Mount Bulusan photo captured in a farming village of Bulusan town.

This image with a likeness to an almost perfect pair of breast all bared to the sky is a stark contrast to the Vesuvian look of Bulusan Volcano pictured in almost all websites — a rugged male mountain devoid of  feminine charm.

The intimacy of the photographer to the place is evident here. The pool of newly irrigated rice field reflecting the  image highlights the rural charm of  Bulusan and provides a tasteful balance of innocence to the otherwise epicurean suggestion.

Photo: http://pamughaton.net

Bulusan, Sorsogon, Philippines

What they say about Mount Bulusan

Bulusan Volcano’s twin peaks. Photo courtesy of Glenn Olayres Belarmino


A member of the Pinoy mountaineering team savors the moment by the crater of Mt Bulusan (photo: http://www.pinoymountaineer.com).

After reading the account of Pinoy Mountaineers  about their Mt Bulusan trek I repositioned to number one in my bucket list this:  to finally set upon my  eyes the grand abyss of  the gaping crater summit of the legend that is Mount Bulusan with heavenly clouds floating lightly inside and above it while I listen to Handel’s Messiah “Hallelujah” chorus to better celebrate the grandness of creation.

It is said that Handel wrote the music “in a fervour of divine inspiration”  in which “he saw all heaven before him.”

The  Pinoy mountaineers’ account with their awesome photos of Mount Bulusan’s crater summit on the day of their successful climb of June 24, 2012 actually made me pick Handel’s Messiah as the  musical score of my choice for the heavenly inspired view.

Part of http://www.pinoymountaineer.com  account reads:
“Finally, we reached the point where the grass gave way to scree slope, which meant that we were very near the crater, and it was very much reminiscent of some of my hikes in Japan. I was thinking: If only Bulusan were in Japan, I’m sure it would make to the Hyakumeizan (100 Famous Mountains)! Someday, I would like to make a ‘Philippine Hyakumeizan’ and for sure Mt. Bulusan will be part of it!”

“At first, the crater was surrounded with clouds and steam, and we could not see anything. But its majesty gradually unfolded before us, until we saw its entirety – a truly majestic sight comparable to Mt. Kanlaon in beauty and grandeur.”

“Soon, the clouds began to roll and it was time to go back. As if to bid us farewell, a succession of unusual fauna appeared before us (see Hiking matters #277). By 1000H, we were back the Lake Aguingay campsite, and after brunch, we continued the trek all the way back to Lake Bulusan, this time taking a route that circumvents the lake.”

“What an unforgettable trek! I can easily say that Mt. Bulusan is one of the most beautiful climbs in the Philippines, and I highly recommend it. Thank you to my team members, and to the friendly locals for their warm hospitality!”

Bulusan, Sorsogon, Philippines

Bulusan’s Karagumoy hat: A true green hat

The pattern and symmetry of Bulusan’s karagumoy hat is akin to basketry that follows the code of ancient weaving.

Sun drying is the only post weaving process employed on the karagumoy hats and there are no chemical preservatives and color dyes applied making it a 100% green hat.

The Karagumoy hat is not the kind of hat that will merit a second attention in Bulusan. The hat is so common that it is usually taken for granted by the locals unlike the colorful and stylish beach hats also woven in Bulusan and displayed during festivals, trade fairs and in souvenir shops.

But the simpleness and practicality of its design is based on its purpose–farmer’s sun protection in the field.

The demand of this kind of hat is obviously its utilitarian importance.

Close scrutiny however reveals the beauty of the hat. It has symmetry and a natural beauty that mirrors the relax mode of the tropics. The pattern of the weave is akin to the craft of basketry that follows the ancient code of weaving. The natural materials make it more appealing as an organic utility hat.

Photos: Alma P. Gamil

Bulusan, Sorsogon, Philippines