A Dream of Trees


A Dream of Trees

by Mary Oliver

There is a thing in me that dreamed of trees,
A quiet house, some green and modest acres
A little way from every troubling town,
A little way from factories, schools, laments.
I would have time, I thought, and time to spare,
With only streams and birds for company,
To build out of my life a few wild stanzas.
And then it came to me, that so was death,
A little way away from everywhere.

There is a thing in me still dreams of trees.
But let it go. Homesick for moderation,
Half the world’s artists shrink or fall away.
If any find solution, let him tell it.
Meanwhile I bend my heart toward lamentation
Where, as the times implore our true involvement,
The blades of every crisis point the way.

I would it were not so, but so it is.
Who ever made music of a mild day?

I have dreamed of trees

Photos: Farmhouses in Odikin by Alma P. Gamil

Bulusan, Sorsogon, Philippines


Bulusan Christmas 2013 Photo album

Bulusan Christmas 2013 Photo mosaic

The bulk of the above photos were randomly taken during the Christmas Midnight mass of December 24-25, 2013 between 10:00 p.m. to 12 midnight and right after the mass at the Parish Church of Saint James the Greater in  Bulusan. Included also are some snippets from the dawn masses prior to this big event.

Bulusan has a strong Catholic tradition. This can be traced to its three hundred eighty three years as a parroqia* (founded 1630), one of the oldest parishes in the Bicol region.

*  http://webspace.webring.com/people/eh/hello/history.html

Photographs by Alma P. Gamil
Bulusan, Sorsogon, Philippines

Bulusan’s Misa de Aguinaldo Gallery

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Bulusan's Misa de Aguinaldo 2013 Gallery

Misa de Aguinaldo* is popularly known as Simbang Gabi in the Philippines. The old Bulusanon term for this Christmas dawn masses is ‘suhot-suhot’. For several centuries in Bulusan it was referred to as such but now most  Bulusanons call it as Simbang Gabi. This is a recent development  brought about by the strong influence of Metro Manila’s trend among the younger generations. The tradition in fact dates back from the  Spanish colonial period and  remains to be extremely popular with the locals both young and old.

Suhot-suhot it seems is a word destined for antiquity and extinction. Nonetheless the tradition lives on.

The above photos are all recent photos taken before dawn of December 17 to 19, 2013 in Bulusan.  Since the ‘suhot-suhot’ runs until the Christmas Eve, the photos will keep on coming.

* http://www.mb.com.ph/misa-de-gallo-or-misa-de-aguinaldo-whats-the-difference/

Photos: Alma P. Gamil

Bulusan, Sorsogon, Philippines

The Marvelous Anahaw Palm

The Marvelous Anahaw Palm

Bright colored berry-like fruits of the Anahaw palm attract wild birds and fruit bats that serve as its dispersal agents.

Anahaw palm grove

Anahaw palm grove along the road in the village of San Jose.

Anahaw leaves ready for harvest. The palm thrives best in almost all the areas of the mountain villages of Bulusan.


Sadok hat is an all-weather sturdy indigenous hat made of the whole anahaw leaf spread in a bamboo frame and stitched with nito vine.


Beach cottage in Bulusan with anahaw thatch roofing.

I received a comment recently from one of my posted photos asking me where to buy anahaw leaves. I suggested  to my blog visitor to instead ask the jeepney drivers plying the mountain villages of Bulusan town. As far as I know, these anahaw leaves have no known dealers in our town. It is common practice in many Anahaw growing villages in Bulusan to just approach a farm patch with anahaw palms visibly growing on it and then simply order the stuff.

The leaves of these anahaw palms such as that in the above photos prolifically growing near the mountain road of San Jose  are ideal roofing materials for a native themed cottage. The seeds are free I presume  if in case you’re planning to have a marvelous anahaw grove in your own farm.

This spot is only about 30 minutes from the Poblacion where I live.

The leaves of Anahaw palms are used for thatching houses and for making fans and sadok (photo), a native all-weather hat in Bulusan. Fresh anahaw leaves are  also utilized as food wrap.

Aside from jeepney drivers, the tricycle drivers plying these mountainside areas are also good informants on where to buy good quality anahaw leaves.  The Kapitan (village chief) I am sure will be just as willing to recommend farmers with anahaw palms in his/her village.

An added zest to the trip to these villages is the refreshing green mountainscape. Bring a local guide though for this trip.

Note: The foliage of anahaw (Saribus rotundifolius) is the unofficial national leaf of the Philippines.

Photos by Alma P. Gamil
Bulusan, Sorsogon

Artisanal Jewelry from my sister’s atelier

Artisanal Jewelry from my sister's atelier

Joy Gems Bicol, Philippines

Our family has always been into some kind of local crafts from dressmaking (my mom’s) to handicrafts production utilizing indigenous materials until the late 1980’s when export declined. So it was not a surprise when Josie, my sister pursued the more intricate art of jewelry making. For several decades, her venture evolved from a corner wedding-ring-college-ring kind of jewelry shop to a jewelry atelier where hundreds of fashion and fine jewelleries  are custom-made and selectively produced for loyal clients.

This gallery of one-of-a-kind jewelry art  (above photos) are just few of the items that her modest workshops have already produced for the last several years. There were hundreds more –  all sold out. More designs are being crafted as of  this moment with no signs of slowing down.

Each item speaks for itself and the style easily stands out despite the deluge of machine-made imports.

All of the pieces of jewelry are handcrafted by local artisans. The designs are most oftentimes inspired by local flora and fauna and the tropical surroundings of the Bicol region. Her genre of jewelry art can be categorized as Contemporary Ethnic Filipiniana.

My sister’s workshops are located in Bulan, Sorsogon and in Sorsogon City.

Photos courtesy of Peewee Benitez from his Instagram and FB sites and Joy Gems Bicol, Philippines.

An accidental walking tour in the mountain village of San Jose

An accidental walking tour in the mountain village of San Jose

Buri palms growing naturally planted by fruit bats that feeds on the buri palm fruits. Also in the photo is the local farmer who made my photoshoot a serendipitous farm tour.


Native santol fruits are rich source of vitamic C and a local delicacy when cooked with coconut milk in the ‘suli na santol’ dish*.

Buri Mother Palm

Death inevitably follows after the once-in-a-lifetime blooming and fruiting phase of the Buri palm (center) but not after over a million seeds are dispersed by wild bats and birds.

Buri palms and assorted crops

The farm owner showing me the Buri palms and assorted vegetables and root crops growing in his farm lot.


Tuba is a fish poison plant that does no harm to the water ecosystem. It is traditionally used for artisanal fishing.

Karagumoy grove

Karagumoy leaves sell from 50 to 70 pesos per hundred. This pandan species is the main source of the materials used for making bay’ong and the common karagumoy hats.*

Fallen Karagumoy fruits

Fruits of the Karagumoy are usually cut off from the stem before they ripen to prevent the plant from stunting.

Pili seedling

A Pili seedling finds a suitable growing spot inside the stalk of this Karagumoy. Intercropping the Pili trees and Coconut with Karagumoy is a common practice in Bulusan.

Dolaw is turmeric

Dolaw a.k.a. turmeric is a popular folkloric medicinal plant in the villages of Bulusan.

While shooting a wild plant along the road of Barangay San Jose, I spotted an elderly farmer tending his front yard garden of assorted vegetables and crops. As good custom dictates, I said my “Mayad na adlaw po, (Good day),” to greet the village resident. My gesture was met with enthusiasm as soon as he learned that I am into photographing local plants. It was a spontaneous hospitality.The next thing I knew was I am being toured to a biodiverse residential family farm – a product of long years of dedicated and devoted farming life. Coconut trees interspersed with Pili trees, intercropped with Karagumoy and Buri palms and so many assorted fruits and vegetable –  more than my camera could capture extend from end to end of the most livable farm patch I have ever seen in Bulusan.

Voices of family members from a modest cemented house (a child and elderly grandmother, and a mother were discussing what TV program to watch) can be heard from the spot where I was busy taking the photos (above). Mixed with the ambient sound of the village farm, the voices arguing at times added to the bucolic charm of the place. No wonder why the resident farmer seemed so enthusiastic to tour me around. “Almost everything we need, I get it from here. My children though are advising me to retire because of my age. They can support me well even if I stop farming. But this is where I get my energy. I’ll become weaker if I stop tending the farm,” he related as we walked around the farm.

My tour was cut short though because the tricycle ride that brought me to the village was only good for an hour or two as agreed upon me and the driver. Despite of the shortness of time, the hurried trip turned out to be a serendipitous farm tour that yielded several plant photos with some ethnobotanical notes to boot.

*Suli na santol recipe :http://pamughaton.wordpress.com/2012/09/06/suli-na-santol/

*Karagumoy hats :https://bulusanruralvagabond.wordpress.com/2013/01/21/karagumoy-hat-capital/ Continue reading