A visit to a folk healer

A visit to a folk healer in Bulusan

Oya Panya, a local folk healer, in front of her modest home in Baluarte, Dapdap Bulusan, February 2014.

It is easy to find Oya Panya’s residence in Bulusan. Tricycle drivers will tell you that she lives in Baluarte adjacent to Dancalan Beach.

Oya Panya is a folk healer, ‘parabulong’ in Bulusan’s dialect.

I task myself that morning to take photos of the medicinal plants in her garden. She apologized for the not so good condition of her herbal plants. She is waiting for the planned road widening before rearranging the plants she explained in an apologetic manner.

This however did not deter her from answering my short queries on the several uses of plants that are presently growing around her house. Plants include the following: mansanilla, lakad-bulan, kologon-kogon, surangga, dusol, luya, noni, local taheebo, balbas-pusa, herba buena, buyo, kataka-taka etc.

The focus of our talk however shifted to ‘papas’ when I saw several pods drying in a bamboo slat. It seems that ‘papas’ is her major vegetable growing crop. It grows along the road and has the features of a very resilient plant. This is the kind of vegetable that does not need so much care and attention. It is a leguminous plant that bears large pods upon maturity. The beans are plump inside the matured pods which mean more food value.

Oya Panya told me that she harvests the papas while the pods are young and tender. Sliced thinly and cooked with coconut milk is how she prepares the papas for their meal. The seeds now drying in the pods are for reserve seeds for sowing in her garden to replace the old papas crops.

She showed me the growing papas from their roadside garden in stages from the young papas to the flowering and fruiting papas and to the old papas for replacement after several years of fruiting.

As a former gardener myself, I can spot whether a crop has the potential of being a dependable food material. And this papas crop has what it takes to be an important food crop because of its sustainability and resilient nature. Being a legume it is also packed with protein and carbohydrates.

One thing I learned from that visit though not directly related to herbal cures and medicinal plant documentation  as originally intended is this : eating naturally grown nutritious food like papas is the best way to become healthy. The fit and hearty demeanor of the healer is a testimonial in itself. Who needs herbal cure when one is healthy?

Note: Papas has a strong resemblance to fava — a culinary must from other cultures.

Photos: Alma P. Gamil
Bulusan, Sorsogon, Philippines


Woods by the Beach

Woods by the Beach

“Monochrome has stronger element of abstraction or symbolism. There is an element of taking you to another place. Black-and-white has that physical effect on me.” (ASX.TV: Daido Moriyama — “Reaching Out the Senses” 2012)

I have tried converting to black-and-white some of my color photographs (one photo is the above Woods by the Beach) from my archives to test the effect on me. And I found out that it is true — there seems to be a great difference.

Photo: Alma P. Gamil, Bulusan, 2013

The Circle Game

Be warned. This song  The Circle Game  can make you cry. Just made me cry right now.

The lovely melody and the poignant lyrics however  make this song the  perfect lullaby for an old soul like me.

Interestingly, Neil Young inspired the song according to this article — http://www.openculture.com/2014/02/james-taylor-and-joni-mitchell-live-and-together-1970.html

Video from YouTube

Happy Valentine’s Day!

Happy Valentine's Day!

Bulusan ornamental plant with heart-shaped leaves. (Bulusan, 2014).

These heart-shaped leaves are natural expressions in nature. For this flora species, Valentine’s Day is everyday. But broken hearts are  facts of life too even for these showy hearts (notice the torn leaves).

It is no reason though to not celebrate Valentine’s Day says this flora. Be fabulous!

Happy Valentine’s Day!

Leaf details of a heart-shaped leaf from Bulusan.

Leaf details of a heart-shaped leaf from Bulusan.

Photos: Alma P. Gamil
Bulusan, Sorsogon

Green River


Bulusan River photo by Alma P. Gamil

Green River

by William Cullen Bryant  (1794 -1878)

When breezes are soft and skies are fair,
I steal an hour from study and care,
And hie me away to the woodland scene,
Where wanders the stream with waters of green,
As if the bright fringe of herbs on its brink
Had given their stain to the wave they drink;
And they, whose meadows it murmurs through,
Have named the stream from its own fair hue.

Yet pure its waters–its shallows are bright
With coloured pebbles and sparkles of light,
And clear the depths where its eddies play,
And dimples deepen and whirl away,
And the plane-tree’s speckled arms o’ershoot
The swifter current that mines its root,
Through whose shifting leaves, as you walk the hill,
The quivering glimmer of sun and rill
With a sudden flash on the eye is thrown,
Like the ray that streams from the diamond stone.
Oh, loveliest there the spring days come,
With blossoms, and birds, and wild bees’ hum;
The flowers of summer are fairest there,
And freshest the breath of the summer air;
And sweetest the golden autumn day
In silence and sunshine glides away.

Yet fair as thou art, thou shunnest to glide,
Beautiful stream! by the village side;
But windest away from haunts of men,
To quiet valley and shaded glen;
And forest, and meadow, and slope of hill,
Around thee, are lonely, lovely, and still.
Lonely–save when, by thy rippling tides,
From thicket to thicket the angler glides;
Or the simpler comes with basket and book,
For herbs of power on thy banks to look;
Or haply, some idle dreamer, like me,
To wander, and muse, and gaze on thee.
Still–save the chirp of birds that feed
On the river cherry and seedy reed,
And thy own wild music gushing out
With mellow murmur and fairy shout,
From dawn to the blush of another day,
Like traveller singing along his way.

That fairy music I never hear,
Nor gaze on those waters so green and clear,
And mark them winding away from sight,
Darkened with shade or flashing with light,
While o’er them the vine to its thicket clings,
And the zephyr stoops to freshen his wings,
But I wish that fate had left me free
To wander these quiet haunts with thee,
Till the eating cares of earth should depart,
And the peace of the scene pass into my heart;
And I envy thy stream, as it glides along,
Through its beautiful banks in a trance of song.

Though forced to drudge for the dregs of men,
And scrawl strange words with the barbarous pen,
And mingle among the jostling crowd,
Where the sons of strife are subtle and loud–
I often come to this quiet place,
To breathe the airs that ruffle thy face,
And gaze upon thee in silent dream,
For in thy lonely and lovely stream
An image of that calm life appears
That won my heart in my greener years.


Dolipay, upper part of Bulusan River, photo courtesy of Pamughaton.wordpress.com

Resolute Stand

Mayor Domingo S. Halum’s unwavering stand for a NO Geothermal in Bulusan is clearly stated in this tarp streamer. Bulusan, February 2014.

Resolute adjective \ˈre-zə-ˌlüt, -lət\

: very determined : having or showing a lot of determination (Source: Merriam-Webster dictionary).

This is exactly what the town of Bulusan needs in voicing out their opposition on the planned establishment of a geothermal power plant in Mt. Bulusan/Bulusan Volcano — a resolute stand on the issue.

The geo project is a dream for some but a nightmare for us living in the periphery and slopes of our beloved mountain – Bulusan Volcano. All the 24 barangays or villages of Bulusan are within the 15 km radius of the Volcano. The Poblacion (my residence) for instance is just a mere 8 km from the center.

Phivolcs (Philippine Institute of Volcanology) is clear about the physical features of the volcano as published in their Bulusan Volcano Profile. It says that the volcano base is 400 square kilometers. This covers almost all the 5 municipalities of Bulusan, Barcelona, Irosin, Juban and Casiguran. It is ONE volcano contrary to the opinion of some that exploring the other minor mountains inside the composite Bulusan Volcano is already reason enough to stop the opposition.

It is my hope that the other Municipal mayors of the concerned municipalities will follow suit.

No to Geothermal exploration in the mountains of Bulusan Volcano!

Note: Bulusan Volcano is a composite volcano numbering more than 8 edifices. It has a base of 400 sq. kilometers equivalent to more than 40,000 hectares. (Source: Phivolc’s Bulusan Volcano Profile)

Bulusan Volcano on a clear day showing some of its edifices/mountains.

Bulusan Volcano on a sunny day showing some of its edifices/mountains.

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Photos: Alma P. Gamil
Bulusan, Sorsogon, Philippines

Field of Greens and Patterns

Field of Greens and Patterns

Infinity rice field, Bulusan, 2014.

Bulusan’s countryside is bursting with color hues of greens and blues. More intense now that the sun is shining again after the January cold spell and cloudy skies.

I particularly love the patterns and geometric shapes in the field at this time of the rice cropping season when the leaves are just starting to flush.

Shown here are some of the week’s photo harvests. As usual, these photos  were all taken at random from a moving jeepney.

Crop rectangles, Bulusan 2014.

Seeing double green, Bulusan, 2014.

Blue and green; horizontals and verticals, Bulusan, 2014.

View from the sideview mirror, Bulusan, 2014.

Walk back home after an afternoon farm chore, Bulusan, 2014.

Photos: Alma P. Gamil
Bulusan, Sorsogon, February 2014

Bulusan’s Candelaria

Bulusan's Candelaria

The culture of food : food and culture merge in Bulusan’s Candelaria. Above photo shows a local boy with his mamon ready to be blessed in the town’s Parish church, February, 2, 2014.

Like many other Catholic celebrations, the influence of the local culture and its Catholic beliefs fused to create an original form of event. In Bulusan, the locals take on the Candelaria celebration is bread themed. Hence, the mamon. Other kinds of bread are also present during the priest’s blessing of  the candles and some religious images but the mamon rules as captured by these photos of this morning’s Candelaria mass.

The Feast of the Candelaria, February 2, is actually a continuation of Christmas. Count forty days from the birth of Jesus (Christmas day) and the child Jesus must now be brought to the temple for presentation as tradition dictates. As explained by the celebrating priest in this Sunday’s morning mass, the Candelaria celebration is to commemorate the “Presentation of Christ at the Temple”.

Candles also are very much in the picture because this event is also in honor of the Feast of Purification of the Virgin Mary with the Philippines Nuestra Senora de Candelaria’s Feast being celebrated on the same date.  Significantly,  the candles symbolize the inner light of Christ being shared with the world.

The mamon, assorted bread, candles and religious images will be brought back to the respective homes of the faithfuls after the mass and the priest’s blessings for these items are finished. The candles according to the priest can be used as altar light or vigil light during prayers at home. The bread must be savored to the last crumb because it has been blessed with holy water – ‘benditado’ in the local dialect. It has been bestowed with ‘holiness’ comparable to the host partaken during mass celebrations.

Enjoy your mamon! A short Our Father prayer is said before devouring the treat is a must  at home with my siblings during our childhood Candelarias. We however and most Bulusanons simply refer to this Catholic feast as ‘Tagmaramonan’.

The texture - not so soft but not so heavy. The taste - just the right kind of sweetness that does not overpowers. A classic from the simplest baking recipe there is.

Bulusan traditional mamon: the texture – full and fluffy but not airy. The taste – perfect balance of sweetness  and rich flavor from the egg that does not overpower but will keep you yearning for more. A classic from the simplest baking recipe there is.

Photos: Alma P. Gamil
Bulusan, Sorsogon, February 2, 2014

Recommended related reads for Bulusanons:



Traditional Mamon for the Candelaria

The antiquated wood-fired oven of our neigborhood panaderia (bakery) has the right kind of heat that the mamon requires.

Traditional Mamon for the Candelaria

Tomorrow, February 2, is Candelaria. In Bulusan this catholic feast is celebrated with mamon and candles being brought to the church for blessing. As to the question on why mamon is traditionally associated with this event, the answer will take a long cultural discussion that dates back to the Spanish colonial period.

Meanwhile, I will try to show how we make this traditional bread/cake which is simply referred to as mamon by Bulusanons straight from our kitchen table to the neighborhood panaderia (bakery) with a circa 40’s hurnohan – a native kind of wood-fired oven. In our decades long experience (after several trials with the modern oven) – we have concluded that the best mamon can only be made by using this antiquated hurnohan. We made our own mamon a day earlier than the rest to avoid the other locals who for sure will simultaneously avail of the services of this panaderia that doubles as community baking service shop during celebrations such as this Candelaria

The shape of the mamon does not matter much. It depends on the available mold for baking. We use cupcake style molds for easy serving and storage.
Tomorrow I will be taking photos of the blessing at the church for our mamon now ready and packed in containers. See you there!

Notes: Loida, my sister-in-law and Jomabel, our  household assistant did the whole cooking preparation except for the actual baking at the hurnohan which is a block away from our house. There are only three main ingredients : flour, sugar and eggs in equal proportions beaten and mix together until the batter attained the finest consistency (photo). The resulting bread/cake has a texture so filling and a taste that is so heavenly! No wonder why Bulusanons made it a traditional bread/cake for the Candelaria.

Photos: Alma P.Gamil
Bulusan, Sorsogon, Philippines