Lake Aguingay blows my mind

Lake Aguingay

Lake Aguingay is  a seasonal crater lake that can expand  up to three times the size of Bulusan Lake.
 Photo by Philip G. Bartilet

Lake Aguingay is a seasonal crater lake. Its landscape is in constant flux.

Its landscape is in constant flux that changes according to the season. Photo by Philip  G. Bartilet.

There are so many reasons why Lake Aguingay  blows my mind.

It is a lake three times larger than Bulusan Lake.

It is higher in elevation by almost  two hundred feet from Bulusan Lake, her sister lake located in the same mountain.

It turns into a vast plain savannah during drier months.

It is intermittent.

It is seasonal.

It has its own  ebb and tide.

It is in constant changing cycles. Wet. Dry. Swamp. Shallow. Deep.

Its landscape is in  a state of constant flux.

It is a  patch of unique ecosystem created by the volcano itself.

It is an inverted oasis.

It is a lake bed.

It seems to be a  wasteland in the middle of a vast rainforests. But no, not a wasteland. It is a back-up embankment  for water. A naturally made  landlocked storage of water in times of abundant rains.

It does not matter that its name did not originate from a Princess of local lore but from a very resilient weed* that grows in it faithfully like a persistent lover while the others simply can’t.

It does not matter that it has been created from a lahar and lava flow from earlier period of volcanic eruptions trapped in an upland pool. They say it is a  crater lake. It does not matter.

It is simply captivating.

Lake Aguingay blows  me away.

*Note : Aguingay is a resilient and persistent weed that can grow in very extreme conditions. Its scientific name is Rottboellia exaltata,  to be more exact: 

Weed name: Rottboellia cochinchinensis (Lour.) W.D. Clayton

Synonym: Rottboellia exaltata L.f.

Aguingay is the Philippine common name ( in Tagalog)  for this resilient and aggressive upland grass. Source: A handbook on Weed Control by IRRI 

Based from the following facts:

Lake Aguingay

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Lake Aguingay

Location               Luzon Island

Coordinates       12°44′57.55″N 124°04′23.04″ECoordinates: 12°44′57.55″N 124°04′23.04″E

Lake type            Seasonal Crater Lake

Basin countries Philippines

Surface area       76 hectares (190 acres)

Shore length1   3.6 kilometres (2.2 mi)

Surface elevation            410 metres (1,350 ft)

1 Shore length is not a well-defined measure.

“Lake Aguingay is a vast plain at the center of Bulusan Volcano National Park located near Bulusan Lake at the Municipality of Bulusan, South central part of the Sorsogon Province, Southern Luzon, Bicol Region, Philippines. It is called The Lake because it is occasionally flooded during wet season and dries up during summer. When it is wet it resembles a big lake located right at the foot of Mt. Bulusan. The area is home to various endemic birds, reptiles and other mammals. It is surrounded by lush vegetation and a tropical rain forest. It is only accessible by foot from Bulusan Lake and from the villages of Kapangihan and San Roque.

Aguingay Lake is another dormant crater within the Bulusan Volcano areas. During rainy seasons the water is clear and greenish. Some areas are covered with grasses and rocks. It is home to some endemic birds, mammals, insects and reptiles surrounded by tropical rain forest.”

Lake Aguingay's surface water area varies according to season.

Lake Aguingay’s water surface area varies according to season.

by Alma P. Gamil

Bulusan, Sorsogon, Philippines


Pamughaton at the book fair

Pamughaton book

Pamughaton with some of the books at the Aklat Ani book fair.

The Aklat Ani book fair held at the City Museum of Legazpi City (February 22 and 23, 2013) yielded veritable harvests of Bicolano authored books. Books on sale not only include the institutional names in Bicol history and culture but also the emerging breed of Bicolano writers.

For instance, a Bulusanon writer was for the first time included, representing a language/dialect that differs from the Bicol’s ‘lingua franca’. Publishing this  other Bicol form showcased  the diversity of the Bicol language and provided a sense of balance to the Bicol’s linguistic map. I t ensures that Bicol ‘other’ tongues will not be forgotten.

Pamughaton is the first book to be published using Bulusanon’s mother tongue. It is published by SALABAY thru Abkat, a Bicol Culture and Arts based organization. Several Bicol writers were selected from the different linguistic genre of the Bicol region. Pamughaton’s literary pieces utilize the pure Bulusan form emphasizing the details and nuances of Bulusan and its neighbors’ language/dialect.

Roy D. Frayna is a Bicolano writer and  a Bulusan native. His  ‘Pamughaton’ ranges from  semi-fiction documentary to outright community facts that any Bulusanon and locals from neighboring same speaking towns can easily relate. These are also literary gems considering the high standards as requisite before publishing these kinds of literary materials. Pamughaton site actually covers the whole gamut of Bulusan’s cultural life. A people’s portrait that is as close to Bulusan’s ethnography as you can get.

In the Pamughaton book, the literary pieces were selected from the 2011 and 2012 posts from his  blogsite of the same title (

Incidentally, the International Mother Language Day is being celebrated, every February 21 as declared by the United Nations (UNESCO).

It says:

“Languages are the most powerful instruments of preserving and developing our tangible and intangible heritage. All moves to promote the dissemination of mother tongues will serve not only to encourage linguistic diversity and multilingual education but also to develop fuller awareness of linguistic and cultural traditions throughout the world and to inspire solidarity based on understanding, tolerance and dialogue.”

Photograph by Alma P. Gamil

Bulusan, Sorsogon, Philippines

Buri hat: Bulusan’s ‘other’ hat

Buri hats from Bulusan

Bulusan’s off-white natural hats made of buri traditionally woven in Bulusan.

Made of buri (Corypha elata), a native palm, these hats use the same pattern and style of weave as the karagumoy hats. The pin wheel style on the top weave is definitely Bulusan folk weave art. It is called ‘balay’ or ‘ririk’ by the locals.



Buri hat

Pin wheel pattern of Bulusan hat is typical of Bulusan weave.

Several villages in Bulusan produce these hats like Barangay Sabang, Mabuhay, Balete, Lalud, Buhang and even bordering villages of towns adjacent to Bulusan attesting that traditional craft knows no borders. Bulusan, however, remains the center of trading and  weaving of these buri hats.

Weavers produce these natural hats from the strips of young buri leaves prepared by boiling and drying under the sun to attain the desired natural whiteness.

The traditional buri hats hand-woven in Bulusan for several generations past are of  two sizes as shown in the photo above.

A juvenile Buri palm growing voluntarily in a village farm in Bulusan.

A  juvenile Buri palm growing voluntarily in a village farm in Bulusan.

Photographs by Alma P. Gamil

Bulusan, Sorsogon, Philippines

Bulusan Images of Mierkoles de Sinisa (Miércoles de Ceniza)

In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread, till thou return unto the ground; for out of it wast thou taken: for dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return.

Genesis 3:19

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After the priest blesses the ashes and sprinkles them with holy water, the faithful come forward to receive them. The priest dips his right thumb in the ashes and, making the Sign of the Cross  on each person’s forehead, says, “Remember, man, that thou art dust, and to dust thou shalt return” (


Ash Wednesday is formally named as Mierkoles de Sinisa in Bicol’s Catholic liturgical occasions.

In Bulusan’s Saint James the Greater Parish, an old paroqia of around 385 years, it is  simply referred to by the locals as the ‘Pakruros’. This is one occasion  that even the least regular churchgoer makes it a point to attend the mass celebrating the event. This year the date falls a day before Valentine’s Day–February 13.



The parishioners and the  faithfuls of the parish saw to it that the church was all ready set for the start of the Lent that day. The altar was  bedecked with the color of purple, the traditional color of Lent and adorned with special bouquet of flowers.

At the mass, the school pupils were all too busy  and talking at the same time as if in constant giddiness, prompting the  priest to stop several times mid-way of the mass to remind the children to keep still and be quiet while the mass was still going on. At this point, I noticed that the children’s ambient noise sounded like the hum of cicada’s collective singing. Only louder.  But surprisingly not annoying. Cicadas’ (duli-duli to us) distinct noises are associated in Bulusan with ‘Kamahalan’  (Holy Week in Bulusan dialect) because its appearance and singing herald the season of Lent.

Ash Wednesday is ideally observed with the prescribed  fasting and abstinence as articulated  by the priest during the mass. The significance of this celebration is already embedded in the minds of Bulusan folks for hundreds of years of Catholicism.

While receiving the sign of the cross in my forehead, I can’t help but admire the deep philosophical relevance of the ritual reminding me  of my own mortality as the mumble of the words : “Repent… (inaudible words followed) but I was  sure it is a variation of   “…thou art dust, and to dust shalt return” repeatedly said by the priest to each one while placing the sign of the cross on the forehead went on and on as if in a chant. But the children’s mind  were far from that. They were just as excited as always for an opportunity to play at the churchyard as playground after the ritual rather than dwell on the deep meaning of life. Children will be children. They have a playful inclination of their own whatever is the occasion which is so contagious. Philosophical contemplation are better  left to us more matured members of the parishioners. In the photos, the children were caught in their playful mood in contrast to the solemnity of the occasion.


About Ash Wednesday or the Bicol’s Mierkoles de Sinisa

“In the Roman Catholic Church, Ash Wednesday is the first day of Lent, the season of preparation for the resurrection of Jesus Christ on Easter Sunday.  Ash Wednesday always falls 46 days before Easter. Since Easter falls on a different date each year, Ash Wednesday does, too” (Ash Wednesday in the Catholic Church by Scott P. Richert).

Photographs by Alma P. Gamil

Bulusan, Sorsogon, Philippines

Happy Valentine’s Day!

Bulusan Lake

Bulusan Lake covered with mists.

In a Thousand Forms

by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

You may hide yourself in a thousand forms,
Still, All-beloved, I recognize you;
You may cover yourself in magic mists,
All-present, I can always tell that it is you.

I discover you as well, All-beautifully-growing,
In the cypress’s pure young surge,
In the stream’s fresh, living rush,
All-enchanting, I know you well.

When rising jets of water unfurl,
All-playful, how glad I am to see you;
When clouds form and transform themselves,
All-manifold, I discern you in them.

In the blossoming tapestry that covers the meadow,
I see your All-colorful, starry beauty;
When ivies reach their thousand arms around,
I meet you, All-embracing.

When morning lights the mountain range
I greet you there too, All-brightening,
Then, as the sky grows round above me,
All-heart-expanding, it is you I inhale.

What, with out and inner senses, I know,
I know only through you, All-teaching;
When I name Allah’s hundred names,
A name, with each name, re-echoes for you.

Four Laws of Ecology: A Review and a timely reminder for the Bulusan Geothermal Project

Bulusan Lake

Bulusan Lake photo by

Four Laws of Ecology

One of Commoner’s lasting legacies is his four laws of ecology, as written in The Closing Circle in 1971. The four laws are:

  1. Everything Is Connected to Everything Else. There is one ecosphere for all living organisms and what affects one, affects all.
  2. Everything Must Go Somewhere. There is no “waste” in nature and there is no “away” to which things can be thrown.
  3. Nature Knows Best. Humankind has fashioned technology to improve upon nature, but such change in a natural system is, says Commoner, “likely to be detrimental to that system.”
  4. There Is No Such Thing as a Free Lunch. Exploitation of nature will inevitably involve the conversion of resources from useful to useless forms.

Sources: Barry Commoner by Wikipedia. “The Closing Circle: Nature, Man, and Technology” by Barry Commoner, 1971.

Teach us, and show us the Way

Mount Bulusan as viewed from a farming village in Bulusan.

Teach us, and show us the Way

by Chinook (Anonymous)

We call upon the earth, our planet home, with its beautiful depths and soaring
heights, its vitality and abundance of life, and together we ask that it

Teach us, and show us the Way.

We call upon the mountains, the Cascades and the Olympics, the high green
valleys and meadows filled with wild flowers, the snows that never melt, the
summits of intense silence, and we ask that they

Teach us, and show us the Way.

We call upon the waters that rim the earth, horizon to horizon, that flow in our
rivers and streams, that fall upon our gardens and fields and we ask that they

Teach us, and show us the Way.

We call upon the land which grows our food, the nurturing soil, the fertile fields,
the abundant gardens and orchards, and we ask that they

Teach us, and show us the Way.

We call upon the forests, the great trees reaching strongly to the sky with earth in
their roots and the heavens in their branches, the fir and the pine and the
cedar, and we ask them to

Teach us, and show us the Way.

We call upon the creatures of the fields and forests and the seas, our brothers and
sisters the wolves and deer, the eagle and dove, the great whales and the dolphin,
the beautiful Orca and salmon who share our Northwest home, and we ask them to

Teach us, and show us the Way.

We call upon all those who have lived on this earth, our ancestors and our friends,
who dreamed the best for future generations, and upon whose lives our lives are
built, and with thanksgiving, we call upon them to

Teach us, and show us the Way.

And lastly, we call upon all that we hold most sacred, the presence and power of
the Great Spirit of love and truth which flows through all the Universe, to be with
us to

Teach us, and show us the Way.

— from The Essential Mystics: Selections from the World’s Great Wisdom Traditions, Edited by Andrew Harvey

/ Photo courtesy of

Bulusan, Sorsogon, Philippines

In Bulusan, Environmental Security means No Geothermal

“Environmental security is the highest form of national security.” Borrowed from a statement attributed to P-noy (President Aquino), this is Bulusan’s rallying cry in its continued opposition for the planned Geothermal Power Plant development in Mount Bulusan.

Ironic because it is the very state (DoE) that is pushing its establishment.  But Bulusan folks know exactly the many geothermal risks of hosting the said Power Plant. The planned  industrial development will convert the last remaining original rainforest of the province  into a Geothermal Field zone of around 25,959 hectares, irrevocably altering its land use.  For how could we reconcile nature conservation and nature exploitation?

Bulusan and neighboring towns however are confident that their voices will be heard.
For one, they have the highest law of the land on their side:

The 1987 Constitution mandates the right to a healthy environment via Sec. 16, Art. II of the Philippine Constitution which provides that: “The state shall protect and advance the right of the people to a balanced and healthful ecology in accord with the rhythm and harmony of nature.” Section 15 of the same Article provides that: “The State shall protect and promote the right to health of the people and instill health consciousness among them.”

Signs of Steam in Mount Bulusan

Mount Bulusan, an active volcano of composite mountains, forms interesting cloud formations probably signs of steam. A key biodiversity area (KBA) with 43% endemism, it is the last remaining original rainforest of the province of Sorsogon.

Newly irrigated rice fields

Golden morning sunlight is reflected in this newly irrigated rice field in a farming village of Bulusan. Water is abundant year round from Mount Bulusan- a prime watershed area serving 5 municipalities in its immediate vicinity and 5 more neighboring adjacent towns.

Bugas Spring

Bugas Spring is just one of the many mountain springs that dot the whole landscape of Bulusan town. Household tap with the freshest mountain spring water is the cheapest in the province at 25Php per month of almost unlimited use.

Bulusan Lake

Not just pure beauty. Bulusan Lake is a nature-made water embankment that ensures a perpetual supply of mountain fresh water to the communities surrounding Mount Bulusan. Most of Bulusan’s  countless springs can be traced coming from here.

Signature for a Mountain

My signature is in there, too. I share the same view with my town mates that the Geothermal Power Plant establishment in Mount Bulusan will endanger our very own habitat.

Bountiful rice harvest

Irrigation waters supplied by Mount Bulusan ensure triple harvest than the usual even during the El nino months.


Mount Bulusan is home to the Pili, Bicol’s flagship crop. The mountain’s forest is cited as the center of origin and the center of genetic diversity of the pili species in the world.

Bulusan, Sorsogon, Philippines

Bulusan LGU’s Shining Moment for Ecology

Bulusan Municipal Hall photo:

Bulusan, Sorsogon

Photo by Alma P. Gamil

“In 2011, the local government of Bulusan passed a resolution to strengthen its opposition on the geothermal energy exploration project pushed by the Department of Energy (DOE). DOE saw the Bulusan Volcano Natural Park (BVNP) as a viable source of some 40 megawatts of geothermal power after a five-year exploration and construction activities. The local government of Bulusan was quick to oppose this activity by passing a resolution against geothermal energy exploration in the municipality. The plan calls for a pre-development and development stage which would necessitate drilling of exploratory wells deep to the earth‟s core, clearing of the forest, and construction of geothermal plants, power turbines, and toxic waste tailing ponds. ” ( paper by Cris Sarmiento, 2012)

A clarification though,  the area in question is  not the BVNP area  but its immediately adjacent surroundings. The area to be explored from what I’ve heard at  the IEC  given by the Geothermal company year 2011, is actually 25,959 hectares, an area approximately six times larger than BVNP. The BVNP is a protected area comprising only of 3,673.29 hectares.

As already being cited in many papers,  the SB resolution Number 55-2011 passed November 14, 2011 by LGU Bulusan is now a landmark municipal resolution on environment in the Philippines from a Local Government Unit voicing  its opposition for Geothermal power development inappropriately sited in an ecologically rich area-such as Mount Bulusan.

The main focus of Bulusan’s present administration is ecotourism with flagship programs highlighting the town’s natural beauty including the countless mountain springs dotting the area of concern. Bulusan Lake, a major tourism destination of the province  is located inside the natural park.

Related post:

Bulusan, Sorsogon, Philippines

‘Green’ Geothermal in Bulusan : Here’s the caveat

'Green' Geothermal in Bulusan : Here's the caveat

Mount Bulusan as viewed from our family house azotea in Poblacion Central, Bulusan.

Impacts on Water Resources
The extraction, reinjection, and discharge of geothermal fluids
may affect the quality and quantity of surface and groundwater
resources. Examples of specific impacts include the inadvertent
introduction of geothermal fluids into shallower productive
aquifers during extraction and reinjection activities or a reduction
in the flow of hot thermal springs due to withdrawal activities.

(Source: EHS Guidelines for Geothermal Power Generation, World Bank Group)

I am personally not against Geothermal Energy development.  What I am against is the inappropriate choice of the location. Mount Bulusan is at the center of 5 large communities– including my town (which lies within the 8 km radius from the center). Five more towns are adjacent to these “volcano”  towns. A total of 10 municipalities with population of  around 500,000. Google map shows that Bulusan Volcano is like a heart in the middle of the South central part of Sorsogon Province. Its mountains (it is a composite mountain) is one of the last remaining rainforests of  Bicol region with 43 % endemism, meaning some of its flora and fauna exist nowhere else but here.

I drink from the water flowing in our tap filtered by the rainforest and aquifers of  Mount Bulusan. Our daily rice consumption is locally grown, irrigated by the waters of Mount Bulusan. I bath with the crystal clear waters of Mount Bulusan. And so much more.

The planned  Geothermal industrial power plant (40MW, initial) will require the conversion of the surroundings of Mount Bulusan (around 26,000 hectares) into a Geothermal field zone atop our residential communities. I share the concerns of many including the studies already published in journals that the toxic waste water is not guaranteed to be  leakproofed and will ultimately leach into groundwater. In addition,  the storage/dump ponds for extra waste water and sludge  are vulnerable to the more than 20 typhoons that visit Bicol region annually.

Photo: Alma P. Gamil

Bulusan, Sorsogon, Philippines