As I reveled and savored those moments of my visits to these spots all uniquely marvelous on their own, I can’t help wondering why it took me so long to drag myself to these wonderful places. I still prefer to use the old indigenous village names rather than the Spanish given names because I believe that the indigenous names give so much clues as to the origin and story of the villages. Though for some reason the reasons for the village names were already lost in time, still for me discovering the origin of the name of each village will remain a challenge. But that would be another story to tell.
I. Buhang (San Vicente)
The village is a place of healing for both the spirit and the body. Observing the hot springs pouring out from the fissures of a low cliff to meet the sea was like witnessing the veins of the Volcano reaching out to the vast oceans in the form of throbbing hot mini-rivulets of volcanic waters. Witnessing the meeting was an enchanting experience by itself. A magical moment when two worlds softly meet each other recognizing their inevitable fate. Hot mineral rich waters from Bulusan Volcano and the salty Pacific Ocean waters blend a cocktail of nature mix in this area. No wonder many attest to its curative efficacy. However, many seekers of healing in Bulusan prefer to catch the tail end of the journey of the hot waters that carries with it the healing gift from the bosom of the Volcano while still in its purest form– just before the instance of the hot waters meeting the sea. A powerful moment which probably where the healing powers of Mapaso Spring emanates.
Mapaso is the indigenous healing ground of Buhang, Bulusan.
II. Bagacay (San Ramon)
I was just expecting a long mountain road with the common and generic views of Bulusan tropical countryside. Coconut palms with scattered pili trees, rice fields in the lower part and some abaca. But the quiet countryside road of Bagacay offered more than that. For instance, a spillway guiding a river flow was so inviting that made us stop to shoot several photos. I noticed though that this river is far from the visita (center) of the village for I can’t spot any residential houses and no sound of people from a village center was audible. It was totally serene and all green when we stopped by.
III. Odikin (Odiquin to some is Santa Barbara)
Odikin oftentimes spelled as Odiquin in formal Bicol text is a village in the lower slopes of Bulusan Volcano approximately 2 km or less from its Permanent Danger Zone (PDZ). It is a place where numerous ancient pili trees dot its landscape in an impressive display like an unknown Heritage Site of Pili trees. I’d never seen such ancient looking trees all densely located in one area. The proud display is a manifestation of the Pili’s choice of natural habitat. Obviously, Pili trees thrive in volcanic landscapes. Roberto E. Coronel stated in his definitive Pili monograph this–that probably the center of genetic diversity of Pili is the forest around Mount Bulusan, a volcano. That the origin and geographic distribution of the species started from here is quite evident.
The main object of my travel to this outlying village was to photograph the ripe fruit of Pandanus simplex (Karagumoy). The ripe fruit has almost fallen to the ground and my chance of photographing the fruit in its ripe form will be gone if I still postpone the trip, according to Oya Choleng my informant from Odikin. The trip to my amazement became a trip of discovery that was totally accidental: I discovered the “Kingdom of the Pili” where Pili trees are thriving so magnificently side by side with modest village houses. It was just like seeing the equivalent of a real heritage tree site where ancient trees are preserved in its impressive form. Not just one or two giant trees but endless. It was just like walking in a kingdom where Pili tree rules. We were actually dwarfed by the massive mighty giants walking under its towering canopies. I can only mumble in awe: These are the true masters.
The ancient Pili trees are not the only attraction of Odikin. The quaint mountain village is just so charming including the unique form of the Santa and the friendly residents. The Saint according to Oya Choleng who grew up here protects them from calamities and lightning from the volcano.
I can always sense If I will be going back to a place or not. And Odikin is a place that I am positively sure that I will be going back for many reasons. Fiesta. Pa-ilaw. A visit to Oya Choleng and her family. Or perhaps, I will invent reasons just to make it sure I will be back and walk again in the Land of the Pili giants. The Kingdom of the Pili trees.
Text and Photographs by Alma P. Gamil
Bulusan, Sorsogon, Philippines