Bulusan Christmas 2014 Gallery

Officially Christmas celebrations are not yet over. The peak however was during the midnight mass of December 24-25. It was only during this solemn mass that the Nativity scene was unveiled at the altar in Bulusan. Prior to this was the series of Simbang Gabi (Misa de Aguinaldo) masses held at dawn that begins at 4 a.m.

The belief that a wish will come true if one completes the 9-day Simbang Gabi is already popular with the new generation of church goers in Bulusan. But this is only an incentive since waking up at 4 a.m. to attend the dawn mass is a tough act in itself. The main reason I think why the tradition clicks with the young locals as well as the older parishioners is because Simbang Gabi is an opportunity to socialize with friends and family and a way to meet new friends especially for the younger set of locals. In a town like Bulusan, the church is a major converging site where town residents mingle and be updated with what is happening in the community.

Noticeable was the emphasis of religious activities rather than the material aspect of the holidays. The atmosphere of Christmas in Bulusan is more solemn compared to the more urbanized cities and towns. The fun however is encouraged and the tradition of caroling for the kids, ‘kagharong’ and ‘pastora’ were very much visible the whole season.

The above gallery depicts the events that transpired from the first day of Simbang Gabi to the midnight mass of December 24, culminating in the unveiling of the Belen (Christmas nativity scene) and the days that followed that will continue until the celebration of the Epiphany (Three Kings).

Photos: Alma P. Gamil

Bulusan, Sorsogon, Philippines


A walk to remember

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No. This is not about the movie based on the novel by Nicholas Sparks. This is about my after-Christmas Day (December 26, 2014) walk on the beach.

A day after Christmas, I finally made it to my planned shoot on a spot along the stretch of beach not frequented by visitors between the border coast of sitio Tawog and Dancalan in Bulusan. The day was cloudy and the area seemed to have a monochromatic gray hue on it. Nonetheless, I was already there and the next thing to do is what else — press the shutter. And when the boulders arranged like natural zen rock formations on the beach called my attention by forming photographic compositions in my mind, it was a signal for me to begin shooting.

I was in this flow state when my phone rang and the message says: I am on my way.

Rattled I continued with my shooting to calm my mind.

And who would not be? The town resident writer is joining me on the beach! It is no secret that I am a fan. For me he is a rock star and this is a rare opportunity to personally chat with him. I will have to choose between the zen rocks or the rock star.

I chose both. And that was an amazing afternoon walk — a once in a lifetime kind of walk that mirrors a metaphorical journey I am currently undergoing.

Oh, by the way, I am not sure when or whether I will see him again. But it does not matter. I have already frozen the moments of that wonderful walk like these zen rocks on the beach. Living rocks of memories that I’ll treasure forever.

Timeless. Beautiful. Priceless.

My Christmas wish has come true!

Photos: Alma P. Gamil
Bulusan, Sorsogon, Philippines

Bulusan Volcano Natural Park (BVNP) flora gallery 2

Natural adornments dangle along the forest path.

Natural adornments dangle along the forest path.

One of the most common fern at the park (BVNP, Bulusan, 2014 December 4).

Leaflet of a giant fern displays its dainty curls.

Bulusan Volcano Natural Park flora photo December 4, 2014

Wild fruits of an uncommon species.

Bulusan Volcano Natural Park flora photo, December 4, 2014

Brown dots neatly arranged on this fern frond

Bulusan Volcano Natural Park flora photo, December 4, 2014

Minute berries shift colors from yellow to red as it ripens.

An approaching calamity such as this recent typhoon has a way of hurrying up things undone to be prioritized at once. Typhoon Ruby (international name Hagupit) made my long-delayed plan of a mountain hike to BVNP (Bulusan Volcano Natural Park) for some photos of native trees to be done soonest before it made the trees and flora at the park unrecognizable. So off I went December 4 to the park. The weather was fine that day and most visitors and tourists were still oblivious of the coming typhoon.  To my delight my mountain hike at the park resulted to wonderful finds some of which I have never seen before such as the photos of the red and yellow wild fruits (photos).

The above gallery is just a few of my assorted collection of photos gathered that day.

Fortunately, typhoon Ruby inflicted negligible damage to our town. A miracle considering that Hagupit peaked its strength as a category 5 typhoon– a super typhoon in the Pacific Ocean.

Photos: Alma P. Gamil

Bulusan, Sorsogon, Philippines

Kite in the rain

Conrado De Quiros
Philippine Daily Inquirer

4Sep2002 There’s the Rub

Lifted from the column

Elsewhere, “folk” too is the word that sprang to my mind while listening to Gary Granada’s newest album, “Saranggola Sa Ulan”. Where “Huwag Mangamba” is path-breaking in that it redefines the meaning of folk, showing us that it resides as well, if not most of all, in this country’s faith, “Saranggola” is path-breaking in that it gives us the true face of folk, one that has always been as fuzzy as figures in the rain.

“Folk” has somehow always meant American folk music, or its local variant, such as “Anak”. Which presumably has to be distinguished from “baduy” or archaic pop music, as the songs of Ric Manrique and Ruben Tagalog, from local “karaoke” music, such as “Matud Nila”, and indeed from “Philippine folk songs”, such as those danced by the Bayanihan or what we learned from grade school. Granada shows those divisions are completely artificial. Through the magic of wit, charm, playfulness, plaintiveness, lyricism and plain awesome talent, he breaks down the barriers and fuses these elements together.

His best song is easily, “Saranggola sa Ulan”, which is the source of the album’s title. It is a bittersweet elegy-celebration that I am certain will go on to become one of this country’s most enduring classics- I told Gary as much the first time I heard him sing it. It will also probably go on to bequeath to us a new phrase for daring to dream the impossible. The persona in the song believes nothing is impossible, not love between unlikely lovers, not bridging the social divide, not flying a kite in the rain. It’s an inspired phrase, “saranggola sa ulan” (kite in the rain).

From there, Gary goes on to sing “Saan Ka Man Naroroon”, the Visayan song, “Usahay”, the Ilocano song “O Naraniag A Bulan”, and “Mga Kanta ni Gorio”, the last being Filipino folk songs given new more biting lyrics (by Jess Santiago). And of course Gary’s other compositions, which partake in different measure of his gentle wit and wisdom. This is his best album yet, which is saying a lot given that he has made more than a couple of dozen of them in a prolific career. And he ain’t through yet, he’s just peaking..

A walk in the forest

Fallen wild flowers dot the the trail near Bulusan Lake in BVNP (Bulusan Volcano Natural Park, Deceem 2, 2014)

Fallen wild flowers dot the the trail near Bulusan Lake in BVNP (Bulusan Volcano Natural Park, December 2, 2014)

Dense forest along the road to Bulusan Lake

Dense forest along the road to Bulusan Lake

Whenever I hit the road for some purpose in mind like finding some trees to photograph, something unexpected happens along the way. Take for example my forest trek last Tuesday (December 2, 2014). I never imagined that I will be hiking the 1.7 km road of BVNP (Bulusan Volcano Natural Park) to reach the road junction  where tricycles and jeepneys pass by with a Frenchman who was on that day a tourist of the park.

The walk was a breeze. The canopy of the tall tropical forest trees protected us against the bright sunny rays of the sun. The view was like a forest scene straight from the movie Avatar minus the action. The greenery in both sides of the road is great for botanical photo shoots.

For sure I will be back to cover some not-yet-photographed specimens along this stretch. At the road junction Jean was lucky to catch a tricycle bound for Irosin, this means no need of waiting for the Bulusan jeepney that take hours in between trips. From Irosin, he will be on his way to one of the hotels in Sorsogon City where he is currently staying while I rode a passenger tricycle to  Bulusan’s poblacion. Nice meeting you, Jean. Welcome to the Philippines!

Photos: Alma P. Gamil

Bulusan, Sorsogon, Philippines