Snippets from Bulusan Semana Santa 2014 (1)

Bulusan Holy Week processions

Santa Marta during the first day of the Semana Santa 2014 in Bulusan

Although dubbed as Holy Parade by a non-Filipino author, Holy Week procession to Bulusanons will never be a parade. Parades are for fiestas while Holy Week processions of Santos/Santas will always be identified with solemnity and sacredness. The two-line row procession is seldom followed but those who join the procession are aware that the procession is a way of ‘penitensiya’ – an expression of devotion and faith.

My neighbor Jovit (extreme left of photo) is a dedicated carer of two Santas (Santa Veronica and Santa Marta) whose images were already under the care of their family long before he was born.

My neighbor’s grandson, Jovit (extreme left of photo in pink shirt), is a dedicated carer of two Santas (Santa Veronica and Santa Marta, in pink and green gown) whose images were already under the care of their family long before he was born.

One recent development of the Bulusan’s Holy Week processions was the shifting of some Santos/Santas from andas to carrozas. Andas is the carved base supporting the santo/santa that is carried on the shoulders of devotees, usually local volunteers during the entire Holy week processions. The carrozas have the same carved santo base, these are however pulled by assistants as it rolls down the streets during the procession proper. Assistants during the recent processions of Palm Sunday and Holy Wednesday  until Good Friday were wearing uniform t-shirts with the color theme of the day.

From andas to carroza. Not long ago Santas and Santos were mostly carried on the shoulder by men.

From andas to carroza. Not so long ago Santas and Santos were mostly carried on the shoulder by men.

During the processions the parishioners and worshipers are free to select the image of the santos/santas she/he will follow in the procession line. Holding lighted candles throughout the procession is customarily done in Bulusan. Those watching at home along the procession route have lighted candles on their windows and front doors that add to the solemnity of the event. I opted to follow the Dolorosa because of the  sayos (women wearing long black habit) praying the Rosary.

Santa Marta radiates beauty in another exquisite gown creation.

Santa Marta radiates beauty in another exquisite gown creation by Jovit.

As usual, my neighbor’s Santas (Santa Veronica and Santa Marta) were the most stylish. Definitely not kitsch. My neighbor’s santas were always exquisitely dressed but never ostentatious. Recycling and mix matching with the right accessories were tastefully done inch by inch to the last detail. Fine jewelries adorned  both santas. Surprisingly, these haute couture gowns and embellishments did not distract the real essence of the santas role in the semana santa celebrations.

I grew up with the santas already there in our neighborhood, and I noticed that the santas were becoming more radiant with beauty as the years pass. Kudos to Joesie Halim Jaymalin  my neighbor’s grandson – a Manila based artist who is the current carer of the santas.

Santa Marta and Santa Veronica return home to our neighbor's house after the Easter mass.

Santa Marta and Santa Veronica return home to our neighbor’s house after the Easter mass. Shown here for final viewing along the street in Poblacion Central.

Semana Santa or Holy Week is simply referred to as “Kamahalan” in Bulusan which literally translates to ‘highness.’ No wonder why all the santas and santos are wearing royal garb during  Holy Week.

You may visit also my last year’s Semana Santa notes here:

Photos: Alma P. Gamil

Bulusan, Sorsogon, Philippines


My Technicolor First Sunday of Lent

My Technicolor First Sunday of Lent

A scene during the First Sunday of Lent event in Bulusan, March 9,2014.


Newly painted station of the cross altar, Bulusan, March 9, 2014.

I was expecting a burst of colors at the church ground that afternoon — colors of the flowering kind from the masitas (ornamental plants) and tropical trees blooming this time of the year at the church patio grounds.

The burst of colors was there but of a different kind. Lo and behold, the newly painted outside retablo altars at the station of the cross with its vivid and vibrant colors now dot the perimeter of the church yard just in time for the Lenten season!

What a colorful paint retouch! The local artist with his byline at the first and last station of the cross altars seemed to be in his colorful self during the painting retouch work. Same retouching style extends to the adjacent grotto (below photo) with colors of vibrant red, yellow and blue.

I can’t tell whether this is some kind of folk art or bordering on the  kitsch. But what calmed me down was the thought that a local artist did the job. This means this is an authentic rendering of the stations of the cross as interpreted by a local folk artist.

Children sit at the steps of the belfry during the First Day of Lent event in Bulusan, March, 9, 2014.

Children sit at the stair steps of the belfry during the First Sunday of Lent event in Bulusan, March 9, 2014.

The first Sunday of Lent in Bulusan was attended by mostly children and local parishioners from around the Poblacion and nearby villages. Children with their favorite playmates grouped together in clusters waiting for the ‘istasyon’ ( station’s prayers)  after the mass and obviously enjoying the waiting time  as bonding and playing time.

Istasyon (Stations of the cross prayers) will cover the 14 newly painted stations of the cross outdoor altars and will be repeated for the next Sundays of the season of  Lent.

The station of the cross prayers went smoothly that Sunday afternoon though lengthy as expected. The prayers for the complete set  of  the 14 station altars could last for almost an hour. So I went home late again but not until I was able to take some snaps of local children playing inside the sprawling yard with the belfry as backdrop.

Brightly colored grotto for the Lenten season, Bulusan, March 9, 2014.

Subdued and simple altar adornments with purple hues at the First Sunday of Lent in Bulusan, March 9, 2014.

Subdued and simple interior altar adornments with purple hues during the First Sunday of Lent event in Bulusan, March 9, 2014.

Photos: 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.

Saint Francis of Assisi’s Sermon to the Birds


Sermon to the Birds, Francis of Assisi, about 1220

“My little sisters, the birds, you are bound much to God, your Creator, and always in every place you ought to praise Him, for that He has given you liberty to fly about everywhere, and has also given you double and triple amount of rain; moreover He preserved your seed in the ark of Noah, so that your race might not perish out of the world; still more you are beholden to Him for the element of the air which He has appointed for you; beyond all this, you do not sow, neither do you reap; and God feeds you, and gives you the streams and fountains for your drink; the mountains and valleys for your refuge and the high trees on which to make your nests; and because you do not know how to spin or sow, God clothes you, you and your children; therefore your Creator loves you much, seeing that He has bestowed on you so many benefits; and therefore, my little sisters, beware of the sin of ingratitude, and learn always to give praises to God.”

Image via Parabola Magazine : Fritz Eichenberg, Quaker Artist (1901 – 1990), “St. Francis, Sermon to the Birds,” Wood engraving, 1952.

Akira Kurosawa’s Dreams – Crows


A brilliantly colored vignette featuring director Martin Scorsese as Vincent Van Gogh. An art student (a character wearing Kurosawa’s trademark hat who provides the POV for the rest of the film) finds himself inside the vibrant and sometimes chaotic world of Van Gogh’s artwork, where he meets the artist in a field and converses with him. The student loses track of the artist (who is missing an ear and nearing the end of his life) and travels through other works trying to find him. Van Gogh’s painting Wheat Field with Crows is an important element in this dream. This Segment features Prelude No. 15 in D-flat major (“Raindrop”) by Chopin. The visual effects for this particular segment were provided by George Lucas and his special effects group Industrial Light & Magic.

-Wikipedia,  Dreams  (1990)

Akira Kurosawa’s Dreams is a 1990 magical realism film.  Crows is one of the eight dreams in the film.

Video from Youtube excerpted from Akira Kurosawa’s Dreams.

How to be alone

“You could be in an instant surrounded if you needed it. If your heart is bleeding, make the best of it. There is heat in freezing, be a testament.”

and may I add…..go on a blogging frenzy…. challenge yourself to a photo walk… explore your habitat…start with what is under your feet…wake up early with a smile and a song in your heart 🙂

Good morning!

Santa Marta, an exquisite gem

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It was a joy to watch Santa Marta in the procession the afternoon of Domingo de Ramos and the recent Mierkoles Santo (Holy Wednesday). Every detail was in the right places– the gown (of high couture), the accessories and the iconic symbol of every santa (grapes or bread for Santa Marta). My neighbor’s grandson  is doing a splendid job in taking care of the Sta Marta I have known since I was a little girl from our neighborhood. The face is still the same etched in my middle-aged memory. She  never ages. She is timeless. She is more radiant now with the artist touch of the current carer.

Santa Marta will always be part of my Holy Week memories. After all, she ‘lives’ in  the same block as my own in Poblacion Central, just a house away. She comes ‘alive’ in full regalia once a year during the Kamahalan, Holy Week in Bulusan to join the other santos and santas in the Holy Week processions.

Santa Marta of Bulusan

Santa Marta at the Saint James the Greater Parish Church in Bulusan, Holy Week 2013.

Photographs by Alma P. Gamil

Bulusan, Sorsogon, Philippines