Echoes from the mountains

A view along the slopes of Mt. Bulusan, 2014

A view along the slopes of Mt. Bulusan, 2014

“He was my godson during his wedding

still so young

what a pity…”

“he was there to make copra with his brother

it was still early around 6:30 in the morning

when suddenly

sound of gunfires

obviously coming from one source

enveloped our village,”

“no exchanges of gunfires

the sound was so near us…”

“I suddenly thought of my grandchildren that were on their way to school,”

“I run and run as fast as I could

thanks God the children were already far enough from the source of the gunfire,

after the sounds stopped I lost consciousness

when I woke up they told me the horrible thing that happened to my godson,”

“gunshot wounds

on his head,

stabbed wound on his body,

left dead by the military  until mid afternoon in a farm patch

with a nearby creek in our village

of San Jose,”

“But, oh sigh, he was just a poor farmer

making a living that day

for a few hundred kilos of copra.”

“Hussshh…you should not talk of those things.

“It is better to leave it at that,”

“It will do us no good…

adding up more talks about the incident…”

I overheard the above exchanges from two elderly women passengers  from inside a passenger jeepney  while I was seated in the front seat of a Bulusan-Gubat jeepney waiting for other passengers, September 20, 2014.

Note: The news that appeared in a local daily  (Bicol Today, 18 September 2014) says that there was an encounter between the military and the New People’s Army (NPA) in Barangay San Jose, Bulusan, Sorsogon, Thursday morning, September 18, 2014. The casualty, a farmer, was caught in the crossfire according to the news.

Photo: Alma P. Gamil

Bulusan, Sorsogon


Sea bounty from Gubat

Sea bounty from Gubat

Marine harvests

Marine harvests from Gubat town.

Above photos show assorted marine harvests from Gubat sea coast being peddled near the jeepney stop to Bulusan. Crabs are similar to Bulusan’s kamilo — a local marine crab with polka dots on the outer shell. Notice also the noodle-like green seaweed.

Photos by Alma P. Gamil

Bulusan’s Misa de Aguinaldo Gallery

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

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.


Photos: Alma P. Gamil

Bulusan, Sorsogon, Philippines

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.

Miss Earth 2013 candidates visit Bulusan

This video highlights the beauty of Bulusan Lake and other tourist destinations of Sorsogon Province. Although not covered intensively by the mainstream media this visit was a big event in town. I was not able to catch the much celebrated visit for my own photo file though. Thankfully, this video showcased the entire event from the airport in Legazpi City, Albay (Mayon Volcano as a welcoming sight) to the selected spots in beautiful snippets.

I am particularly biased to the Bulusan scenes featuring the local kids from the village of San Roque playing the banduria music. I can just imagine a beautiful performance of folk music with Bulusan Lake as a stunning backdrop!

Featured in this video are the following Sorsogon tourist spots to visit: Siama Hotel in Sorsogon City, Barcelona Church in Barcelona town, Bulusan Lake and Bulusan Volcano Natural Park, Prieto Diaz Mangrove site and Irosin’s Valley view.

Video from vimeo by CSPhotography of Legazpi City

This is how we make the crispy pili at home

The key in cooking the best crispy pili is using less sugar and syrup -just enough to cover the pili kernels in a thin film glazed coat.

The key in cooking the best crispy pili is using less sugar and syrup -just enough to cover the pili kernels in a thin film glazed coat.

Plastic garapon (container) is  the most common storage for crispy pili.

Plastic garapon (container) is the most common storage ‘jar’ for crispy pili.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

The above gallery is composed of random shots I took while my sis-in-law (Oya Choleng assisting)  was cooking effortlessly the crispy pili, one of the most popular recipes of Pili in Bulusan. The other two are the ‘mulido’ and ‘buding’ both favorites at home. The crispy pili is the easiest to make among the three recipes as the photos will show. Though arranged in a random order, anybody who likes cooking can easily follow the process. There is a caption for every photo to answer the questions of those who want to try our crispy pili version.

Be in a good mood while cooking. This will make the fast-paced process of cooking the crispy pili seems like a breeze – a cooking lesson I learned by observation.

Related post  about Bulusan’s Pili :

Photos: Alma P. Gamil

Bulusan, Sorsogon, Philippines

No to Bulusan Volcano Fragmentation

No to Bulusan Volcano Fragmentation

Bulusan Volcano as viewed from Bulusan town.

This is a wake-up call. Bulusan Volcano is being fragmented right in front and under the noses of anti Geothermal advocates of Bulusan. Complacency is as baneful as indifference  when it comes to issues such as the Bulusan Volcano Geothermal Question. Be very very cautious is in my opinion the best course of action  for some anti Bulusan Geothermal advocates in Bulusan for them not to be misled and be convinced that exploiting geothermal energy on one side (Juban town side to be specific) of the volcano is benign and will be safer than exploiting the Bulusan town side of it.  For me, it is akin to a head where the frontal part has complete anatomical features while the back side is full of pock marks. Totally illogical.

I am totally against this kind of fragmentation that will  inevitably surface albeit done stealthily by some quarters with their own agenda far from the agenda being espoused by the anti Bulusan Geothermal advocates. I am against it because in the final analysis converting one side of the volcano into an industrial complex for exploiting geothermal energy is tantamount to giving up the whole.  Bulusan Volcano after all is ONE volcano.

I have already argued endlessly on why Mt Bulusan/Bulusan Volcano is an unwise choice of location for  Geothermal exploration in several posts  to the point of repetition but I will not stop doing so.

For instance this note from my previous blog post:

Mt. Bulusan is an active volcano, one of the five intensely active volcanoes  in the Philippines (Taal, Mayon, Bulusan, Kanlaon and Hibok-hibok) whose location is close enough to large communities to be of major concern.The Philippines has a total of 405 volcanoes of which  23 are active,  27 potentially active and 355 inactive according to the released information from Phivolcs.

Given this fact, why pick on Bulusan when there are so many other volcanoes in the Philippines?

A refresher:

Photo by Alma P. Gamil

Pantomina and Bulusanons

“Once the pantomina music starts playing the urge to dance is so heightened  for those present in the barayle (public dance event) especially those of the older set. They could not contain themselves on their seat (diri mapa-udong sa ingkodan),” so said Amador, the gregarious and talkative carpenter currently working in our house. This must be true.  In fact I counted the pantomina music airing in the public sound system to be the most played number on any given occasion in Bulusan.

The music is a Bicol traditional folk music often played in merrymaking events from weddings  to fiestas to coronation of a local beauty queen  and even to welcome a newly elected mayor or just a simple village barayle. But it is only in Bulusan that I have observed closely the magic of this irresistible music to coax Bulusanon’s oldies and not so old to dance and sway with this Bicolandia’s iconic dance, the Pantomina. Its origin as a courtship dance is very much evident in the movements of the dancers where one is permitted to improvise. The effect is a pantomime where the male dancer pleases his partner in the  form of spontaneous body-language-dance/gestures  of courtship from kneeling to flirty hovering around his demure and coy yet flirtatious (preferred dance gestures for the female during the pantomina) dance partner.  Together the dancing pair appears to be imitating a pair of doves in a  ritual dance of courtship.

This video (above) taken during the Kasanggayahan festivities in Sorsogon was a choreographed Pantomina performed by public school teachers representing the Municipality of Bulusan. Although choreographed for the event, the performance nevertheless will give a hint on why the music/dance is such a twin hit i.e. music and dance in one in Bulusan. In my view,  no music captures perfectly the joyful rhythm of the locals other than the  Pantomina.

Video from YouTube (Kasanggayahan Festival, Sorsogon City, 2011)

Jeepney towns


‘Simply best’ jeepney is not that simple. More is the norm.

The jeepneys are still the mode of transportation for several towns in Sorsogon. And these include the towns of Gubat, Bulusan, Barcelona and Prieto Diaz. Shown here is a jeepney plying the Gubat route painted with the typical jeepney art: loud, colorful and fun with sprinkling of religious notes/icons, family endearment names and folk art.

The jeepney is not only iconic to the Philippines. It also mirrors a lot of  who we are. The Filipino-American rapper Apl. de. Ap already bought one for his US tour use – proudly made in the Philippines. In this rural part of Sorsogon however, the jeepney ride is just an ordinary day in the life of commuters like me where the choice is a colorful jeepney or another less colorful jeepney.

It is already a habit while on a jeepney ride for me to scan the rich material written and painted on a jeepney. Noticed also that ‘Mercedes Benz’ logo is a favorite jeepney design accent while the slogans and phrases range from the religious to nonsensical. For instance,  jeepney number one carries the phrase in its mud guard with “In God we trust,” while the second jeepney has this: “Mula sa Piso,” a word play of  the popular phrase “Mula sa Puso,” meaning from the heart.

My favorite spot when riding on a jeepney is the front seat with the open door/window,  to have a full view of the countryside while on a trip. This is the best  spot for sightseeing.

Window sitters are romantic according to a friend. That makes me one 🙂

Photos: Alma P. Gamil
Gubat, Sorsogon Philippines

Weave, Laugh, Live in Barangay Mabuhay

Buri weavers of Mabuhay

The next time you are in Bulusan be sure to take with you one or two of these buri hats woven by women in Barangay Mabuhay in Bulusan. With this souvenir craft you will be carrying back home with you the gregarious nature of the weavers. The women weaving these colorful and natural colored buri hats are always full of life and laughter as they banter with each other while doing the weaving chores. I discovered this while I was on my way to Miligabiga beach where the actual trek begins here in the central part of  Barangay Mabuhay.

Mabuhay which means a place full of life in our dialect is literally teeming with life any time of the day. The word ‘mabuhay’ is also an iconic word in the Philippines as a warm greeting and a toast to a zestful life. In Bulusan however especially for Mabuhay locals, it is a word which is better lived than said.

The buri palm weavers best exemplify this life. The vibrancy of the women brushed on me the short time I was there. Zest is contagious!


Photos: Alma P. Gamil
Bulusan, Sorsogon, Philippines