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:

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

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


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


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..

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

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, 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:


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 dark side of the coast

Low tide reveals mangrove remnants from a previous mangrove stand.

Low tide reveals mangrove remnants from a previous mangrove stand.


More mangrove trees are needed in this vast seascape.

While taking photographs of the breathtaking seascape of sitio Taisan (San Vicente, Bulusan), I noticed some tree stumps on the shoreline bed. There is no doubt what these stumps are. These are mangrove stumps  maybe several decades old. It points to one thing that this area was once a lush mangrove forest. No wonder there is a mud-like quality to the sea bed.

These photos (above) are images of  a deforested mangrove swamp. A desolate landscape crying for help.

To reclaim the mangrove forest that once upon a time existed in this coast will entail a gigantic and heroic effort.

If not planted with more mangroves, the shoreline will continue to recede. And most importantly during typhoons there will be no vegetation to block the raging surge from the sea. It is already an established fact that mangroves are effective barrier and protection in the coastline that save communities.

With the mangroves back, the kinis (mudcrab) will flourish abundantly more than the local paraagahid (pole net fishermen) can catch for their livelihood. Mangroves are natural habitats of mudcrabs.

I hope these images will convey an SOS to coastal environmentalists including those based in Bulusan. The few surviving juvenile mangroves from the initial replanting activity (photo) are reminders that there’s hope that the mangroves of Taisan could be reclaimed.

Let us bring back the mangroves of Taisan.

It is to the credit of Tribu Bulusanon (, a local environmental group, that the first  mangrove reforestation project in this coast took off.

But it was just a beginning. More is needed.

Surviving mangroves of Taisan

Surviving mangroves of Taisan from the initial mangrove replanting project.

Bare mangroves means dwindling catch for the paraagahid fishermen.

Bare mangroves means dwindling catch for the paraagahid fishermen.

Photos: Alma P. Gamil

Bulusan, Sorsogon, Philippines