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

Blue note

lessons with the color blue. Bulusan, 2015

Lessons with the color blue. Bulusan, 2015

One afternoon I heard the sea calmly taught me: That some thoughts are best relayed without words.That is the eloquence of silence. And I further asked : What is the eloquence of the heart? The sea answered with a blue silence.

Photograph by Alma P. Gamil

Bulusan, Sorsogon, Philippines

So long

“One day I will find the right words, and they will be simple.”
― Jack Kerouac

Ricefield ready for the planting season, Bulusan, January 6, 2015.

Ricefield ready for the planting season, Bulusan, January 6, 2015.

This blog will be inactive indefinitely as I gather materials/subjects for another day.

Thank you for the visits.

Photo: Alma P. Gamil
Bulusan, Sorsogon, Philippines

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

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

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

Beautiful Dao

Dau tree beside the entrance gate of San Vicente National High School. (Bulusan, 2014)

Dao tree beside the entrance gate of San Vicente (Buhang) National High School. (Bulusan, 2014)

I was looking for some local trees to document the list of which I carry with me but stumbled on this beautiful Dao tree instead located near the entrance of San Vicente National High School in Bulusan. Dao (Dracontomelon dao) is also native but it is not the subject that I need at this time. Nonetheless,  the tree is so irresistible it deserves its own post.

The tree is the perfect picture of grace and strength in one frame. There was no need for me to exert much effort. This Dao tree literally photographs itself.

“Be careful being near the tree, ” the canteen owner warned. “Recently one of the teachers consulted a parabolong (folkhealer) for an unknown skin ailment. They say that the teacher often walks near the tree to find some signal for her phone. Maybe she did not acknowledge the tree territory. She has forgotten to ask permission to the Dao tree.”

“Oh, I did. But thanks for the reminder,” I replied with a knowing smile.

Before I left, I thanked the Dao tree. Acknowledging the presence of an unseen dweller in trees and some nature spots and giving due respect to them is an aged-old custom in Bulusan. A simple ‘makitabi,’ when asking permission to enter a certain spot and ‘salamat’ (thank you)  will suffice.  I do this routinely in all of my photo treks involving trees and nature scenes. It helps.

So far, I have never experience any ire from unseen spirits which the local generally refer to as ‘may tawo’ alluding to the unseen person/dweller of a tree or a spot. Being respectful to all — unseen or not is for me a very sensible way of going around the villages. Following this custom in fact gives a welcoming feel for every place I visit.  And to my delight the photos almost always turned out great!

Photo: Alma P. Gamil

Bulusan, Sorsogon, Philippines

The extraordinary ordinary Malubago tree

The beach as playground for these coastal community children in Dancalan, Bulusan

Children in Dancalan, Bulusan playing under the shade of Malubago trees lining the beach area of their coastal village.

Seascape viewed from a Malubago hedge.

Seascape viewed from a Malubago hedge. Notice the exposed roots of the Malubago trees that serve as a natural barrier from the tidal flow.

Malubago trees as viewed from the ocean’s edge of a coastal village in Dancalan, Bulusan.

One does not have to be an expert in shoreline conservation and preservation to see the effect of growing Malubago trees along the sea shores. I did see it myself in my recent beach walk along the shore of a coastal community half kilometer away from the frequently visited Dancalan Beach Resort.

This coastal area however is not frequented by visitors since easy access here entails passing by some coastal rural homes lining the major road. Although the beach sand is still in the range of a light-colored sand, this beach area is not a ‘resort’ area. It is a rural coastal community populated by mostly fisher folks. Women were busy weaving karagumoy hats when I passed by and they kindly showed me the way to reach the beach just a few meters from their residence.

Children were playing under the Malubago trees, running around with crescendos of shrieks and cries oblivious of my presence as I walk and take photos in a leisurely pace along the shore. The sea view from a new location was just the thing I needed to compose some new images in departure from my usual beach photographs. But what really caught my attention are the Malubago trees along the shoreline of the coastal village.

The Malubago trees although unassuming and modest in appearance  did not escape my observation because these trees dominate the landscape in this long stretch of almost white beach. The beach vegetation as far as my eyes can see are mostly coconut and Malubago trees. The Malubago stands where other vegetation failed to grow. Some of its roots are exposed to the sand but still very much standing exhibiting its resiliency to the elements. It does not encroach the sea but only occupies the demarcation of the shoreline and the residential houses. Obviously the trees serve as the first line of defense in times of typhoons and sea storm surges yet it flourish with its shy flowers peeking out of the almost heart-shaped leaves.

The flowers are described as bell-shaped by some botanists. For me, the Malubago flower appears as a half-open yellow hibiscus — shy and seems to decide not to fully open to evade attention from flower pickers. Maybe this strategy pays off because there are fruits in almost all of the branches securing the next generation of Malubago trees.

I learned however from googling that Malubago can also be propagated by means of stem and branch cuttings. Making a fence out of the branch cuttings is an easy way to propagate the Malubago. With a firm grip on the ground, the cut branch will grow to a brand new Malubago tree even if left to its own devices.

The Species Profile for Pacific Island Agroforestry (www.traditionaltree.org) states that Hibiscus tiliaceus (Malubago’s botanical name) main agroforestry uses are soil stabilization and coastal protection. It can grow in extreme environment and is also drought tolerant. Fast to grow and forms walls of thicket if not pruned which makes it ideal as windbreakers along the shores. And this is the reason why it is used for coastal protection : “The long spreading branches root where they touch the ground enhancing the tree’s ability to stabilize soil on slopes, along river banks, swampy areas and shores exposed to moderate  coastal tides.”

But just like anything that is familiar and common, we tend to take the Malubago tree for granted.

Malubago Flower

Malubago flower is cousin to the showy ornamental hibiscus.

Sea view from under the Malubago canopy in Dancalan, Bulusan

Sea view from under the Malubago canopy in Dancalan, Bulusan

More of Malubago tree here:


Photos: Alma P. Gamil

Bulusan, Sorsogon, Philippines