Volcanic Pili nut

Volcanic Pili nut/

Pili nut is pure black when ripe.

The ‘paratilad’ or skilled pili nut de-sheller of Bulusan has a way of retrieving the kernel out from the stony shell within seconds by using a simple bolo.

The geographic distribution of pili trees traces its origin in volcanic landscapes. Pili nut of the Canarium ovatum species according to the Philippine’s foremost fruit scientist Roberto E Coronel, most probably originated from the mountain of Bulusan, an active volcano in the southernmost part of the island of Luzon.  Though there are around 75  Canarium species from around the world, the ovatum kind is mostly confined within this geographic range–the mountain of Bulusan as center spreading out to the entire  Bicol region.

The only exact Pili species (Canarium ovatum) existing outside the Philippines are the Pili trees growing in the island of Hawaii, a known volcanic region. It is not also a mere coincidence that the volcano* is very near the Pacific Ocean. In terms of Pili tree population and diversity, however,  Mount Bulusan is the keeper of its genetic pool. Hawaii has only one pili cultivar. Bicol has countless.

One pili nut confectionery ad touted the pili nut as an extreme fruit of nature highlighting its origin as coming from a volcano. This is most probably a fact rather than an ad. See also http://www.sjorganics.com/all-volcanic-pili-nuts/#.

Pili nut according to Francis T. Zee of the USDA ARS (United States Department of Agriculture – Agriculture Research Service) is “superior than almond”  with this detailed description– “and when roasted, its mild, nutty flavor and tender-crispy texture is superior to that of the almond.”

*Note: I live literally in the fringes of Mount Bulusan in the town center of Bulusan, a Pacific Ocean coastal town rimmed with coral reefs less than 10 km from the center of Bulusan Volcano.

Further reading : http://pamughaton.wordpress.com/2011/01/29/hali-didto/

Photographs by Alma P. Gamil

Bulusan, Sorsogon, Philippines


Sea Warrior

Sea Warrior

Inggo after an afternoon fishing shift in the coast of Dancalan in Bulusan.

Looking very much like a sea warrior, Inggo is in his element every time he’s out at sea. ‘Parapadagat’ is how he calls himself and his fellow fishermen in Bulusan. It is a more forceful term than the simple translation of ‘fisherman’. It means a man who embraces the sea as his ally and only means of survival.

His fish catch from around a dozen of bobo fish traps spread strategically in choice fishing locations in this fishing area of Dancalan  feed his family and lots of spare catch for his wife to sell at the town’s poblacions.

Photograph by Alma P. Gamil

Bulusan, Sorsogon, Philippines

Fresh from the sea

Fresh from the sea

Must be cooked fresh to lock in the flavor.

Bulusan sea bounty

Local fresh catch from the sea sold by the kilo in Bulusan poblacions.

There is only one requirement in cooking  these local fish catches: It must be very fresh. The recipe is simple. No need to cover the natural flavor of the fish with fancy sauces. The aim of the cook is to highlight the freshness of the fish. For these species, cocido (fish stew ) and sinugba (grilled) are most appropriate. Both require kalamansi, a local marble-like citrus fruit with tart sourness that is almost indispensable in Bulusan cooking. Fish catches from Bulusan are known to be extra tasty, attributed to its still pristine rich coral-rimmed coast. Bulusan town faces the vast Pacific Ocean.

Photographs by Alma P. Gamil

Bulusan, Sorsogon, Philippines

Bulusan : Karagumoy Hat Capital of Bicol

A smile in between

Smiles in between loading a truck load of hats in Bulusan.

Sea of hats

Sea of karagumoy hats drying under the sun in the courtyard of a hat trader in Bulusan.

Karagumoy Hat Capital

Baling of karagumoy hats in Bulusan.

One Million five hundred thousand karagumoy hats annually is a conservative estimate of the total karagumoy hat production in Bulusan. With no competing town ready to beat this record, makes the town of Bulusan the undisputed karagumoy hat capital of the region and most probably of the Philippines.

Karagumoy hats are utility hats mainly used by farmers to shield them from the harsh tropical sun in the fields.

Photographs by Alma P. Gamil
Bulusan, Sorsogon, Philippines

The ‘other’ beach

Busy coastal community beach

Coastal community beach in the village of Dancalan, Bulusan.

Coastal community beach

Beach activities of the daily kind.

A busy beach by the looks of it. Not the tourist-kind-of-beach unlike the almost white beach of walking distance from here and lining the same water edge of this coastal village of Dancalan. Activities are announced by the view on the beach (photo): laundry drying on the clothesline, dozen of karagumoy hats sun drying along the sandy beach while parked bancas wait for their sea masters for a foray to the seas.

This is a ‘real life’ beach. Inggo and his family live here.

Photographs by Alma P. Gamil
Bulusan, Sorsogon, Philippines

Bulusan Water Gallery Series 1


Bayugin Falls’ gushing mountain stream in Bulusan, Sorsogon


Dolipay is the interior part of Bulusan River*, the cleanest river in the Province of Sorsogon

Bulusan Water Gallery

Carbonated mineral waters of Masacrot Spring in Bulusan, Sorsogon. Visitors flock to the spring year round to savor its unique ‘soda’ waters.

Bulusan’s pride is its water. In fact, its name means a place where water flows abundantly. And not just ordinary water. It is water fresh from the mountain springs filtered by the rainforests and arterial bosom of Mount Bulusan.

*Bulusan River – A National Awardee  for the Gawad Pangulo para sa Kalikasan Award for Cleanest In-land Body of Water

Photographs courtesy of http://pamughaton.wordpress.com/

Bulusan, Sorsogon, Philippines

Last trip: Rush hour in the country

Last trip: Rush hour in the country

Top loading is in the extreme during the ‘last trip’ from the poblacion back to the villages. Last trip here means this jeepney’s trip will be the last for the day. The next trip will be the next day. Its either these students walk several kilometers from the Poblacion in Bulusan town or do this extreme jeepney ride to reach their home in the village.

Photo: http://pamughaton.wordpress.com/2011/05/17/huyabit-lastrip/

Bulusan, Sorsogon, Philippines

Deep Pink Spiked Balls

Deep Pink Spiked Balls

My wandering eye most valuable reward came early this year when my photographs of a local flora were included in the Co’s Digital Flora of the Philippines http://www.philippineplants.org –the most authoritative reference of Philippine flora dedicated in memory and honor to the eminent botanist Leonard Co. This is a big inspiration for more photos to follow and a realization of a great opportunity for me to be able to make my humble contribution to the documentation of the flora of the Philippines.

The photo shown here of a species of a local  pandan with fruits that look like deep pink spiked balls is said to be the first of its kind in the CDFP gallery. The rest of the photos can be viewed in this web site http://www.phytoimages.siu.edu/  with this specific image (above photo) at http://www.phytoimages.siu.edu/imgs/pelserpb/r/Pandanaceae_Pandanus_sp_58978.html.

Photo by Alma P. Gamil

Bulusan, Sorsogon, Philippines

Pili: Cousin to Frankincense

Manila elemi tree a.k.a Pili tree

Manila elemi tree a.k.a Pili tree

Manila elemi oleoresin

Manila elemi exudate after around two weeks from incision of the bark. (pili tree location: around 20 meters  from the Manapao Barangay Hall, Gubat, Sorsogon)

Cousin to Frankincense

Manila elemi resin still soft and packed ready for transport from the buying station in Manapao, Gubat, Sorsogon.

Today is the Feast of the Epiphany and this day I am reminded of my article about the manila elemi, ‘pilit’ in our dialect– Philippine Daily Inquirer – Luxury fragrance in Bicol backyard. or http://newsinfo.inquirer.net/6798/bicol-grown-‘pili’-has-the-fragrance-world-over-a-barrel

My inspiration for writing the article was based on one of the gifts of the Magi presented to Baby Jesus in Bethlehem–frankincense. Pili and Frankincense tree belong to the same oleoresin producing trees of the Burceraceae family.

Pili or the Manila elemi tree is an endemic tree of the Philippines of which the center of origin is said to be in the volcanic rich rainforest of Mount Bulusan. Pili tree produces an exudate or oleoresin that is almost similar in scent to  the frankincense–balsamic, musky, citrusy fresh and it has almost the same uses from incense manufacture to perfumes.

The article created a sort of epiphany to the ‘pilit’ known internationally as Manila elemi as a valuable  natural resource in the region if given the proper support by the government. As for me, the article redirected the course of  my succeeding activities and researches. Photos: Taken at Manapao, Gubat, Sorsogon, Philippines by Alma P. Gamil

Bulusan, Sorsogon, Philippines