unposted note before the storm


Sitio Riroan, Bulusan, Sorsogon


Typical native hut along the coastal villages of Bulusan.


A native outrigger locally known as sibid.


Hard-earned nylon nets and a banca are essential assets for Vicente, a local fisherman.

“From Barack Obama and Xi Jinping to the heads of tiny Pacific island states, they took to the stage in Paris today to tell the world they would act. The rhetoric was lofty, planetary, grave.”

So says the emailed report re COP21 in my email box today, December 1, 2015 —  information given to readers of an environmental news publication that I subscribed to.

But for me the rhetoric whatever the tone is real. No need for me to look further. All I have to do is take a little walk along the sea shores of my hometown (photos).

All I have to do is listen to this fisherman’s unwavering faith in the sea. “ My catch is more than enough for me and my family. We sell those we can’t consume for our other needs. I have no problems with the days not good for fishing…these days happen only in less than a month for the duration of one year.”  How about during storms? Pause. “Ah.. the waters can reach up to there” (pointing to the shore less than five meters from where we were sitting). His hut is open to the elements. And one can imagine where this hut would end up if ever a category 5 typhoon will hit the area. God forbid!

For now, this thought I kept only to myself as I listen to the young fisherman sharing enthusiastically stories about the variety of his bountiful catch, enumerating the several names of local fish species abundant in our shores : turos, bungdo, angol, mamsa, marara etc. The local seabirds he named easily ( I was not able to catch the vernacular name) completely agreed  with their noise dominating the ocean sound while they feast on their catch. Vicente’s modest hut has this uninterrupted view of the Pacific Ocean standing at around 10 meters from the shore line.

I chimed in with the optimism but deep in me the conversation running in my mind were streaming in a different light. Anxiety. Fear. Prayers of protection. May the Great Spirit of the Seas preserve and protect his family and the rest of the families living in the long stretch of the coast of my hometown, Bulusan.

As I leave, I noticed and captured the look of the young fisherman wistfully looking far off to the sea. The look was a mixture of gratitude and hint of uncertainty.

Moments like these my mind reflects on Pope Francis’s  encyclical on climate change, the Laudato si’.

For me, Laudato si’ is a prayer. A prayer to action. A sacred call.

Laudato si’ is a call to protect the vulnerable that includes the fishermen living in places where their livelihood depends on.

For the ‘parapadagat’, the sea is their life.

May we be enlightened by these words lifted from the text of Laudato si’:

  1. Climate change is a global problem with grave implications: environmental, social, economic, political and for the distribution of goods. It represents one of the principal challenges facing humanity in our day. Its worst impact will probably be felt by developing countries in coming decades. Many of the poor live in areas particularly affected by phenomena related to warming, and their means of subsistence are largely dependent on natural reserves and ecosystemic services such as agriculture, fishing and forestry. They have no other financial activities or resources which can enable them to adapt to climate change or to face natural disasters, and their access to social services and protection is very limited. For example, changes in climate, to which animals and plants cannot adapt, lead them to migrate; this in turn affects the livelihood of the poor, who are then forced to leave their homes, with great uncertainty for their future and that of their children. There has been a tragic rise in the number of migrants seeking to flee from the growing poverty caused by environmental degradation. They are not recognized by international conventions as refugees; they bear the loss of the lives they have left behind, without enjoying any legal protection whatsoever. Sadly, there is widespread indifference to such suffering, which is even now taking place throughout our world. Our lack of response to these tragedies involving our brothers and sisters points to the loss of that sense of responsibility for our fellowmen and women upon which all civil society is founded.

More about Laudato si’:


Photos: Alma P. Gamil

Bulusan, Sorsogon, Philippines



Rise and shine

Sunrise, Bulusan, January 8, 2016, 6:12 AM

Sunrise, Bulusan, January 8, 2016, 6:12 AM

Sunrise, Bulusan, January 8, 2016, 6:25 AM

Sunrise, Bulusan, January 8, 2016, 6:25 AM

Every morning there is a show. Tickets not included. All I have to do is to wake up early and head to the nearest shore.  Each show is distinct for each day. No performances are repeated with the best part reserved for the early risers.

And this morning the show is just as spectacular. Only the battered coconut trees show signs of the fury of typhoon Nona (international name Melor) that hit Bulusan three weeks ago.

Good morning, 2016!

Photographs by Alma P. Gamil
Bulusan, Sorsogon

Fiesta Album 2 : Fiesta Devotions

Equestrian image of St. James the Greater can be seen at the Parish Church of Bulusan during the fiesta celebrations

Equestrian image of St. James the Greater at the Parish Church of Bulusan during the fiesta celebrations.

Saint James the Greater is the patron saint of Bulusan. It is in his honor that the fiesta is being celebrated annually for the last 380 plus years in Bulusan town. Bulusan is composed of 24 barangays/villages. Each barangay has its own patron saint. Even some sitios (smaller unit than a barangay) have their own patron saints too. For the town fiesta in Bulusan, the barangays of the poblacion are customarily the ones hosting the fiesta of the patron saint.

Traditionally a novena is held before the fiesta. The novenario is the 9-day novena before the feast day of the patron saint. It is during these novena days that the village santos are brought to the parish church.

The gathering of saints is an event in itself– a practice in our town that I always look forward to witness annually. This is the only way I can personally see in one day all the santos/santas from outlying villages. I am from the poblacion and visiting these villages even for a local like me will take some time to complete. Bulusan is composed of coastal and mountain villages. Some outlying villages can only be reached by banca or a long hike.

Saint James the Greater, the Apostle image during the novenario procession in Bulusan.

Saint James the Greater, the Apostle image during the novenario procession in Bulusan.

The religious processions with the saints very much mirror Bulusan’s local village culture. Each individual saint carries a touch of the village and its people.

In sharp contrast with the DLC fiesta morning events and the nighttime revelries during the fiesta nights, these religious activities were sacred and solemn. Prayers and singing of hymns were done late in the afternoon processions after the holy mass for each novena day for nine days ending on the eve of the fiesta.

Afternoon procession after the novenario mass.

Afternoon procession after the novenario mass.

Each village have ancient hymns and prayers to their saint. Hymns vary. The lyrics are in the standard Bicol language. The melody too varies but most of the hymns are plaintive songs in the form of prayers to honor the specific saint.

In the recent fiesta processions, I learned that anyone is welcome in the singing and praying. There was no need to be perfect in the singing. You just follow. Imagine hearing hymns simultaneously rendered in one procession with some parishioners reciting the holy rosaries — the effect surprisingly was not a noisy one but a chant-like prayer. The loudest sound with a blaring speaker was at the end of the procession with the hymns for the patron saint drowning the sound of the other saint’s hymns. The refrain of the song became my mantra during the afternoon processions:

Patron Niamong Santiago,
Kami Ngani Sorogon mo…

Villagers from Capiricohan singing hymns to their saint.

Villagers from Capiricohan singing hymns to their saint.

Late afternoon procession passing along Dapdap road.

Late afternoon procession passing along Dapdap road.

A boy stares into my camera during the procession.

A boy stares into my camera during the procession.

A scene at the procession in Bulusan.

A scene at the procession in Bulusan.

Scene at the church grounds during the pre-fiesta procession.

Scene at the church grounds during the pre-fiesta procession.

Village saints lined the entrance of the parish church for the procession. (Bulusan, July 24, 2015)

Village saints lined the entrance of the parish church for the procession. (Bulusan, July 24, 2015)

Saint James the Greater will always be the major attraction of the Bulusan fiesta with the entourage of around 25 villages saints.
Two carosas for Saint James the Greater were seen in the religious processions: One image as an apostle and another image as a fierce warrior riding in a galloping white horse.

Saint James the Greater in his most identifiable image -- a galloping horse and a sword in the final procession of the fiesta. (Bulusan, July 24, 2015)

Saint James the Greater in his most identifiable image — a galloping horse and a sword in the final procession of the fiesta. (Bulusan, July 24, 2015)

In Bulusan, there exists a persistent folk story that Saint James the Greater, our patron saint, has this miraculous power to deflect even the most powerful force of nature like typhoons and volcanic eruptions. Many versions from time to time update the story but the common gist is this : the patron saint is ever ready to protect and shield Bulusan town from danger of any kind.

patinti (vigil light) for St James the Greater during the feast day and the novena days inside Bulusan's parish church

Patinti (vigil light) for St James the Greater during the feast day and the novena days inside Bulusan’s parish church.

Photographs by Alma P. Gamil
Bulusan, Sorsogon

A Blessing

May you experience each day as a sacred gift woven
around the heart of wonder. ~ John O’Donohue

For Presence
by John O’Donohue

Awaken to the mystery of being here
and enter the quiet immensity of your own presence.

Have joy and peace in the temple of your senses.

Receive encouragement when new frontiers beckon.

Respond to the call of your gift and the courage to
follow its path.

Let the flame of anger free you of all falsity.

May warmth of heart keep your presence aflame.

May anxiety never linger about you.

May your outer dignity mirror an inner dignity of

Take time to celebrate the quiet miracles that seek
no attention.

Be consoled in the secret symmetry of your soul.

May you experience each day as a sacred gift woven
around the heart of wonder.

— from To Bless the Space Between Us: A Book of Blessings, by John O’Donohue

– See more at: http://www.poetry-chaikhana.com/blog/2013/10/04/john-odonohue-for-presence/#sthash.1vVVwI4M.dpuf

Photo: Alma P. Gamil
Bulusan, Sorsogon, Philippines

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

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..

Bulusan’s First Sunday of Advent 2014


Candle lit for the First Sunday of Advent celebration. (Bulusan, 30 November 2014)

The iconic Advent wreath with the lighted candle symbolizing the first Sunday of Advent. (Saint James the Greater Parish, Bulusan, 30 November 2014)

For me, the First Sunday of Advent signals the beginning of Christmas. It is a countdown to the merriest days of the year. In Bulusan, the altar adornment this Sunday is highlighted by the  iconic advent wreath that will last until December 25.  The elegant flower adornments at the altar were arranged exquisitely for the occasion.

It is also a time of deep reflection and anticipation that gives the long celebration of Christmas its true meaning.  It is a beautiful reminder in the beginning of the season that Christmas is in essence a spiritual occasion.

Lifted from http://www.ewtn.com, the following is a concise definition of Advent and its celebration.

“The word Advent is from the Latin adventus for “coming” and is associated with the four weeks of preparation for Christmas. Advent always contains four Sundays, beginning on the Sunday nearest the feast of St. Andrew the Apostle, (November 30) and continuing until December 24. It blends together a penitential spirit, very similar to Lent, a liturgical theme of preparation for the Second and Final Coming of the Lord, called the Parousia, and a joyful theme of getting ready for the Bethlehem event.

Since the 900s Advent has been considered the beginning of the Church year. This does not mean that Advent is the most important time of the year. Easter has always had this honor.

The traditional color of Advent is purple or violet which symbolizes the penitential spirit. Religious traditions associated with Advent express all these themes.

Advent Wreath

“Customarily the Advent Wreath is constructed of a circle of evergreen branches into which are inserted four candles (advent candles). According to tradition, three of the candles are violet and the fourth is rose. However, four violet or white candles (advent candles) may also be used” (Book of Blessings 1510).

The rose candle is lit the third Sunday of Advent, for this color anticipates and symbolizes the Christmas joy announced in the first word of the Entrance Antiphon: “Rejoice” (Latin, Gaudete). For this reason the Third Sunday is also called Gaudete Sunday, and rose color vestments are permitted.

The Advent Wreath represents the long time when people lived in spiritual darkness, waiting for the coming of the Messiah, the Light of the world. Each year in Advent people wait once again in darkness for the coming of the Lord, His historical coming in the mystery of Bethlehem, His final coming at the end of time, and His special coming in every moment of grace.

During Advent, family and friends can gather around the Advent Wreath lighting the appropriate candle(s), read from the daily Advent meditation and sing songs. The Church’s official Book of Blessings also provides a blessing ceremony for the advent wreath which can be used in the absence of a priest.

Advent Calendar

A personal calendar can be made for the four weeks before Christmas. On the calendar, a person can mark theAdvent Calendar with personal goals of preparation or acts of service to be done for others.” Source: http://www.ewtn.com/advent/advent-definition.asp


Elegant floral arrangement accented the altar dais.


Advent wreath is festive in its simplicity. It solemnly announces that Christmas season is here.

Photos: Alma P. Gamil

Bulusan, Sorsogon, Philippines

The charm of Taisan

Texture in earth colors characterize the sea view of Taisan in Bulusan.

Textures in earth colors characterize the sea view of Taisan in San Vicente, Bulusan.

I consider the seascapes of sitio Taisan as one of the most mesmerizing views in the village of San Vicente a.k.a Buhang. I have no idea on the reason why the place is called Taisan. ‘Taisan’ roughly translates to  a place with many unattached old singles. The local vernacular for ‘old maid’ is ‘tais’ (pronounced  ta-is).

For the record: I have not seen an old maid in the area during my short visit.

It is however only by mere coincidence that the name of the sitio shared my  fate — of being an old maid 🙂  But this is another story.

The day was just marvelous for a photo shoot and the thought that  Taisan is not yet listed as one of Bulusan’s tourism destinations makes it more exciting. It was like discovering a new tourism spot.

The shoreline of Taisan is just a walk away from the road where jeepneys from the Poblacion pass by daily. It is here where my sights were drawn that sunny Friday morning after visiting San Vicente church for my sister’s prayer petition. After the ‘pailaw’ (light offering) I had so much time left to walk around the shore area of Taisan — a 3 minute walk from the village church.

It was as if the seascape was inviting me to a photo challenge. How can I resist? Sea with hints of indigo and turquoise. Powdery blue skies. Sea bed textures in earthy tones. The panorama was so inviting.  My imagination was running wild like a painter with a brush in situ.

I was in a trance-like state gazing at the horizons. The rays of the mid-morning sun surprisingly did not diminish the raw beauty of Taisan shores. I had to give in to the urge of the shutter.

The resulting images imparted not just a visual feast for me. It was more. Taisan taught me a lesson that being an ‘old maid’ is just a state of mind.

Maybe true.

Taisan is after all full of charm and edgy beauty.

Rock couple in Taisan's low tide, Bulusan 2014

Rock couple in Taisan’s low tide, Bulusan 2014

Photos: Alma P. Gamil

Bulusan, Sorsogon, Philippines

Saint Raphael: Angel of Joy

My visit to the Saint Raphael Church in Legazpi City yesterday (October 24) was not planned. I went to the city of Legazpi to do some errand for my aging mother. But the office where I was supposed to go was close. I was told the city is on a one day holiday because October 24 is a fiesta in this part of Legazpi City – the port district with Saint Raphael as their patron saint.

For me, fiesta means a visit to the patron saint’s image at the church celebrating it. Thus I immediately changed my direction to the streets leading me to the shortest path where the church is located. And as fast as my walking pace could go I traversed the city blocks finding the church of Saint Raphael easily.

It was around 2:00 PM but the devotees and visitors could still be seen at the church’s premises coming and going lighting candles near the entrance of the church.

After I made my offerings of lighted candles and said my prayers I took these souvenir photos of Saint Raphael, one of my most loved saints.

Saint Raphael in the litany of prayers to the saint is honored as the angel of joy. It is said that Saint Raphael delights in bringing happiness everywhere he goes.

Bas relief of Saint Raphael at the facade of Saint Raphael Church in Legazpi City

Bas relief of Saint Raphael at the facade of Saint Raphael Church in Legazpi City

Saint Raphael, Patron saint of Legazpi City Port District inside the Saint Raphael Church in Legazpi City

Saint Raphael, Patron saint of Legazpi City Port District

Saint Raphael the Archangel Church in Legazpi City

Saint Raphael the Archangel Church in Legazpi City

Photos: Alma P. Gamil

Related post:


Thank you, Saint Anthony

I have already accepted the loss of  my photos when suddenly this afternoon while I was searching for my music file it suddenly appeared in a drive that I have tried checking for a hundred times already but to no avail. It was as if the files were playing a trick on me. My feeling was of surprise and elation. It felt like these gifts of framed time and space captured for the last two years were really meant for me. I am embracing these gifts now.

Thank you to San Antonio, the patron saint of lost articles and the grace of finding them.


Image of San Antonio from the village of Balite, Bulusan

Photo: Alma P. Gamil