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
Philippines

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Payág

Payág (Bulusan, 2015)

Payág (Bulusan, 2015)

still strong at 96 to go to the poblacion.

still strong at 96 to go to the poblacion.

The farmer's sons stay with their lola (grandmother).

The farmer’s sons stay with their lola (grandmother).

Payag is the classic native hut in Bulusan. It is a simple yet brilliant vernacular organic architecture by marrying form and function with the local materials available on site.

I was lucky to chance upon an almost finished payag along the road of Kabugawan in the village of San Bernardo. The pantaw, sirong and dapog can be seen from the road and the natural colors of the anahaw roofing and bamboo walls blend well with the surrounding greens of mostly coconut and pili trees.

The tukod of the window was being prepared by the time we passed by the area. The lone window is an awning type with the tukod as the device for opening and closing the single panel window.

“This is for my mother-in-law,” said the farmer cum hut builder pointing to the direction of an elderly woman sitting near a tree in the front yard. “She is 96 years old but still goes to the market in the poblacion” he added.  I stayed for a while sitting near the yard with two kids looking at me with innocent smiles.

When I told the local farmer how neat and cool is the workmanship of the hut… he replied that some passing tourists also said the same thing about the hut several days ago.  He said this with a smile and obviously amused that his hut was being noticed by visitors to their village. Although I stay in the poblacion, I am familiar with the village rural ways. I understood that for this farmer/carpenter, the form was just a consequence of the function.

Photographs by  Alma P. Gamil

Bulusan, Sorsogon, Philippines

Fiesta album 1: ruffles and boots

Members of the drum and lyre corps after the parade take time for selfie pics. (Bulusan, July 24, 2015)

Members of the drum and lyre corps take time for selfie pics after the morning fiesta parade. (Bulusan, July 24, 2015)

Fiesta is intended to be celebrated to the fullest. It is a collective celebration of a community and there are no excuses. No work. All fun. And of course honoring the patron saint is foremost.

Aside from the preparation of fiesta food in every household for the fiesta ‘handa’ (roughly translates to banquet because the food feast largely depends on the individual household capability), Bulusan fiesta has generally two major community events —  The religious processions and the fun-filled parades that peak on the bisperas (day before) and the fiesta day — Saint James the Greater’s Feast Day. The drum and lyre corps (DLC) from the different local high schools and elementary schools annually provide the colorful side. And the devotees see to it that the religious aspect of the fiesta is not forgotten. A balance act since fiesta is in fact the death anniversary of the town’s patron saint.

Pretty silver ruffles for high school DLC members make a pretty tutu-like skirt

Pretty silver ruffles for high school DLC members make a stunning tutu-like skirt

My fiesta photos of the July 24 and 25 Bulusan fiesta have both the fun side and the solemn elements. Fiestas in Bulusan have always been like that but surprisingly the excitement never wears off. This I think is the appeal of fiestas not only in Bulusan but in all towns and provinces in the country. I still have to meet a local who does not relish fiesta events.

Elementary grade school participants for the drum and lyre event (Bulusan, July 24, 2015)

Elementary grade school participants for the drum and lyre event. (Bulusan, July 24, 2015)

“I feel young just by looking at these photos” says a friend. Well, maybe that is why we love fiestas in the Philippines. It evokes youth and fun for both the young and the old. Fiestas transcend age. It is ageless.

Silver and blue DLC uniforms for this local high school blend beautifully with the sunny day fiesta celebrations. (Bulusan, July 24, 2015)

Silver and blue DLC uniforms for this local high school blend beautifully with the sunny day fiesta celebrations. (Bulusan, July 24, 2015)

DLC participants from a local high school take their boots off to relax before their DLC number. (Bulusan, July 2015)

DLC participants from a local high school take their boots off to relax before their DLC number. (Bulusan, July 2015)

Red, yellow and silvery white are the dominant colors of the day. (Bulusan, July 24, 2015)

Red, yellow and silvery white are the dominant colors of the day. (Bulusan, July 24, 2015)

A DLC majorette and her proud mom with the crowd before the presentation. (Bulusan, July 24, 2015)

A DLC majorette and her proud mom with the crowd at the municipal auditorium before the presentation. (Bulusan, July 24, 2015)

Colorful and shiny boots are part of the festive uniforms of the drum and lyre corps. (Bulusan, July 24, 2015)

Colorful and shiny boots are part of the festive uniforms of the drum and lyre corps. (Bulusan, July 24, 2015)

Fiesta in the age of instagram -- to each her/his own photo. (Bulusan, July 24, 2014)

Fiesta in the age of instagram — to each her/his own photo. (Bulusan, July 24, 2015)

Photographs by Alma P. Gamil
Bulusan, Sorsogon
Philippines

Benign and Beautiful

Business as usual for this local rice farmer on his way to work in sitio Baluarte, Bulusan on June 17, 2015.

Business as usual for this local rice farmer on his way to work in sitio Baluarte, Bulusan on June 17, 2015.

Minutes after the steam-driven Bulusan Volcano eruption of June 19, 2015, I headed to Baluarte in the outskirt of the poblacion where the view of the volcano is unblocked by residential houses. I spotted several farmers attending to their rice paddies as if nothing unusual happened. It was the onset of the rice planting season and the field is flooded with irrigation waters as preparation for rice planting. One farmer told me that had I arrived earlier the volcanic ash-cloud was still beautifully formed compared to what I was looking at that moment I arrived in the area. The wind easily dissipated the volcanic plumes.

I stayed awhile just in case a sudden eruption will follow. I waited. The volcano was silent.

As I waited, I busied myself taking some photos of the surrounding rice fields where farmers were doing their regular morning field chores. No eruption followed. I was about to get back home, when suddenly the quiet farmer from the nearest rice paddy next to the roadside where I was standing turned to me and requested in a serious tone : “Retratoha man ako (please take a photo of me, too),” spontaneously posing with his hoe in hand and beaming with a toothless grin.

Of course, I obliged happily. This for me was unexpected. For a moment I have forgotten my original intent which was to photograph the volcano in action. I grinned back and quickly pressed the shutter. How could I possibly presumed that a busy farmer would not want his photo taken by a shutterbug? I went home smiling with this thought.

“Please take a photo of me, too.” (Bulusan, June 19, 2015)

As of today, August 15, alert level 1 remains in effect for Bulusan Volcano.

Alert level 1 for Bulusan Volcano is described by Phivolcs (Philippine Institute of Volcanology) as a kind of low-level volcanic unrest. Entry to the 4 kilometer permanent danger zone is strictly prohibited.

Luckily for Bulusan town, the volcano’s continuing low-level activity is mostly confined to the western side of the volcano that faces the towns of Irosin, Juban and Casiguran. Bulusan town is located in the eastern hemisphere of the volcano’s lower slopes. This is no reason though to be complacent especially for my townmates residing in mountain villages near the PDZ (permanent danger zone) where the smell of azupre (sulfur) pervades the surrounding mountain air in times like this — a reminder that we, Bulusanons live in the embrace of a living and beautiful volcano.

Bulusan Volcano at dusk viewed from the roadside of Baluarte still showing slight steam/ash emission on June 18, 2015.

Bulusan Volcano at dusk viewed from the roadside of Baluarte still showing slight steam/ash emission on June 18, 2015.

Photographs by Alma P. Gamil
Bulusan, Sorsogon
Philippines

My Bulusan Lake list

Bulusan Lake,  2015

Bulusan Lake, 2015

Bulusan Lake is undoubtedly the most photographed spot in Bulusan for obvious reason. The beauty commands awe. This however makes visitors to the nature park spend more time taking selfies with the lake rather than exploring the vicinity.

As a local the following activities are my suggestions to would be visitors of the lake :

1. Remember that the place is a nature park and it’s teeming with biodiversity. Make use of your camera whatever is at hand and snap away photos of the flora within your reach. For all you know there are species still waiting to be discovered – by you.

2. Hike the perimeter of the lake in a pace of your own liking. The greenery will make you stop once in a while so it is advisable to make the trek earlier preferably in the morning.

3. Watch the fog kiss the lake.

4. Observe the mesmerizing reflection of the water from the lake above the canopies of giant trees with the sun at high noon.

5. Ride a rustic boat instead of the colorful ones for a change and learn to row the one-sided outrigger banca (photo).

6. Cook your meals inside the lake vicinity. I suggest grilled tilapia from the lake, hot rice and kinilaw na pako (fern salad) from edible ferns picked along the forest trail.

7. Camp overnight and listen to the nature acoustic. Record the sound of the unseen rainforest’s creatures nearby.

8. Firefly gaze at night.

9. Butterfly watch in the morning

10. Bird watch. Early morning is best.

11. Snooze during siesta time with the sound of the forest as your lullaby.

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

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

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

My Cloud Gallery

I am a cloud spotter. I hunt unusual cloud formations near my location – Bulusan. My usual cloud spotting adventure begins the moment I step out of my room– in the azotea to be exact.

Since I am home most of the time, all I have to do is look to my right and above the roofless azotea anytime of the day. Although the complete view is hindered by the roof edges of the poblacion’s residential buildings, I still manage to get some unusual cloud formations above the mountains and hills that form the backdrop on the west side of the town.

The east side of the poblacion where I reside has an expansive Pacific Ocean horizon. An entirely different panorama. To hunt the clouds here I have to walk to the ocean’s edge which is only minutes away for more unexpected cloud show. But sometimes the front window facing the east offers some cloud surprises too.

I am always on the look out for clouds above the fields and hills during my jeepney rides. I love the way clouds change its colors dramatically at the time of the setting of the sun behind the hills and mountains on the west side. The shifting intensity is like a real time-lapse scenes unraveling before my very eyes spreading a blanket of its colored reflection on anything on the ground. Pure wondrous sight. In moments like these, my shutter is on a frenzied mode.

Here are some of my cloud spottings.

Massive lenticular cloud formation above Mt. Bulusan

Massive lenticular cloud formation above Mt. Bulusan

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The west sky view as viewed from our azotea in Poblacion Central.

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:

https://bulusanruralvagabond.wordpress.com/2013/10/23/saint-of-happy-meetings-and-endings/