Archive for the ‘Camarines Norte’ Category

“To make a man and prepare him as a good citizen” in a Bicol town, circumcision is required

January 24, 2009

In Camarines Norte, there was laughter during the deliberations of the “Tunay na Ulirang Lalake Ordinance” aka TULI or Real Model of Manhood Ordinance.

The piece of legislation was on its second deliberation to make male circumcision in that place mandatory. It was uncertain whether those considering the ordinance were serious or just joking.

According to its author, Provincial Board Member Joeffrey B. Pandi, the circumcision law is important “to enhance the physical well being of a boy or pre-teen, preparing him for early manhood and as a good citizen of his community.”


There is practically no dissenting opinion against Pandi’s odd proposal. The ready acceptance is a reflection of how we regard circumcision today. Many of us still adhere to the old tribal idea that the surgical removal of the prepuce covering the glans penis is a passage to manhood. Without acrimony, we accept a parochial belief that the uncircumcised deserves to be a butt of jokes, short to being a subject of continual humiliation. In our town, to be uncircumcised is to be identified as “half a man.” As a result, many children grow up in trepidation, believing the myth which their families and friends hand down to them.

Our society to this day still exerts strong pressure against being “supot” (uncircumcised) even if it infringes on our freedom to decide on what to do with our bodies. The TULI ordinance perpetuates myths, indirectly encourages intolerance, and curtails our right of choice even if we fail to see it that way.

How will the law be enforced? What punishments will the lawbreakers get? Who will pay for the procedure? Are we ready for the physical and psychological complications which go with surgery?

There are many conflicting justifications for or against the penile operation. An ordinance to force boys to have the procedure disregards the contrary arguments against it. The minor cutaneous surgery comes not without risks; complications like bleeding, tetanus, infections among others do occur in circumcision. Fortunately, the risks are minor compared to the benefit of keeping genital cleanliness (hygiene,) the usual valid reason for the operation.

It has been argued that circumcision lessens the incidence of HIV, HPV (warts,) and penile cancers. The skin removal is part of the religious traditions of the Jews, Christians, and Muslims. Upon the introduction of the “germ theory” at the turn of the 20th century, the Western World adopted circumcision to keep infections away. Primitive tribes in the Africa and the Pacific, consider it an important cultural milestone towards manhood.

So we know the myriad reasons why most of us agree to circumcision. We consider factors like hygiene, medical reasons, religious beliefs, cultural norms, and individual choice in our decisions. A personal matter which causes no harm on others, the minor tampering of our sexual organs is OK. It goes without saying that going against it is also OK.

But the lawmakers of Camarines Norte might be half-serious. The TULI ordinance unwittingly undercuts our basic liberty to choose. Although it appears, the ordinance gets easy support from the community, I don’t think the “funny” ordinance will benefit us in the long haul. Photo Credits: The Passing Strange; Snaphappy4)=0=


Bicol reforestation

December 16, 2008

At the rate of 2,000 hectares per year of reforestation being done in the Bicol Region, it will take about 50 years to plant trees on denuded areas. The time it takes doesn’t include the on-going forest loss due to encroachment of humans.

According to Antonio Abaway, the techinical director of forestry management services, there are about 100,000 hectares of bald forest which need replanting of trees. For obvious reasons, this must be done in many areas of the region as soon as possible.

Though the Bicol River Basin Water Management Project (BRBWMP) is at the center of projects to restore foliage in the area, it’s desirable the effort involves the whole community. People need to be responsibly involved in managing their environment. As an example, the flash floods such as the one which destroyed 7 towns and killed some people in Camarines Norte on December 1, 2008 have been attributed to deforestation. (Photo Credits: Danesller; Dachalan)=0=


New Congressional Districts in Camarines Sur: Is The Great Joker Arroyo Losing Some Of His Faculties?

November 27, 2008

Is the great Joker Arroyo losing some of his faculties?

This question first cropped up when he questioned the impeachment moves against Madame Gloria. In the process he impugned the motives of the movers which included progressive elements to which he was formerly part of. But this was quickly forgotten and forgiven as an aberration to which someone of his stature is entitled to. In the great pantheon of civil libertarians, the great Joker Arroyo probably stood just a shade below the libertarian icons Jose Diokno and Lorenzo Tanada.

Then Senator Arroyo ran again under the banner of Gloria’s coalition in the 2007 elections. He neatly reasoned that under Gloria he won’t have to raise his campaign expenses. This drew chuckles and raised eyebrows given the unpopularity of Gloria’s regime. He was lucky to scrape in but just barely. His remaining admirers heaved sighs of relief. And they were hoping that the great Joker will flash again his old righteous self.

But lately, disappointments are creeping against Joker. An Edong Angara is able to maintain some distance from the hated couple but it seems Joker can’t when from all expectations he probably can. After all, he didn’t bow to Marcos. Nor did he kowtow to anybody before. But here he is, clearly identified with the first couple. And we all thought that unlike two incumbent senators who think highly of themselves, Joker was not the opportunist kind.

Recently, he had a run-in with Sen. Aquino who was chairing a committee discussing the addition of more congressional seats to Camarines Norte and Cavite. When Joker insisted on including in the calendar the reapportionment of the 1st and 2nd districts of Camarines Sur, Sen. Aquino called off the committee hearing and asked Joker why he was rushing it when it was not on the agenda. He also said that the reapportionment of Camarines Norte and Cavite districts had already undergone thorough discussions.

In the Philippines, a minimum population of 250,000 is needed to form a legislative district. When a certain district’s population exceeds 500,000 a bill can be submitted to Congress for its division. It is not normal practice to create a new congressional district from two or more old districts. To do this is almost tantamount to gerrymandering.

There is no district in Camarines Sur where the population has already exceeded 500,000. New districts can only be created in this province through gerrymandering. Gerrymandering is the redistribution of electoral district boundaries for political advantage.

In the cases of Camarines Norte and Cavite gerrymandering cannot be easily charged since it will simply divide districts that has already exceeded the double of the minimum population required for a congressional district. In Camarines Norte it will probably involve separating it into the east and west districts with the west composed of Labo and all the towns west of it.

In Camarines Sur, no legislative district population exceeds 500,000 as of the 2007 Census. The 1st district has only 417,304 inhabitants; the 2nd, 474,899; the 3rd, 372,548; and, the 4th, 429,070. With a population growth rate of only 1.86% it is only in 2010, the next censal year, when the 2nd district will probably exceed the 500,000 mark.

The talk in Camarines Sur is that reapportionment is being pushed so that Budget Secretary Rolando Andaya Jr. and incumbent Congressman Dato Arroyo can both run in 2010. Currently, Madame Gloria’s son is occupying the seat used to be held by Nonoy Andaya and his late father. But on this Joker Arroyo has this to say:”That is malicious, tell them that is bullshit”. But I think one can hardly find an adult in Camarines Sur who will not believe such talk.

I remember Joker Arroyo called Sen. Antonio Trillanes as “the poster boy of rebellion”. But I didn’t hear him call Gen. Angelo Reyes as the “poster boy of mutiny”. I bet he would rather pin that monicker on Brig. Gen. Danilo Lim and Col. Ariel Querubin.

I am beginning to suspect now that Joker Arroyo is beginning to lose some of his faculty of sight.

The History of "Tierra de Ybalon" and UP Ibalon

November 14, 2008

by Mighty Baylon

It was said that even before the Spaniards came, our region was already called Ibalon by its inhabitants. I doubt if we were already a united entity during that time owing to the difficulty of transportation and communication and having no ruler higher than a datu. But somehow due to a common language, albeit with distinct dialectical variations, its people might have some sort of common identity.

Ibalon was explored by the Spaniards in 1569 coming from two directions. One expedition came from Panay and passed by Masbate, Ticao and Burias islands before landing on the southern coast of Bicol and it was said it reached Camilig (Daraga) though some thought that the expedition reached only portions of the current Sorsogon.

Another came from Manila passing by current Laguna de Bay and probably through Mauban, Quezon in search of the famed gold of Mambulao (J. Panganiban today) and Paracale (but which was reported to reached the present Naga City). It was said that most of the inhabitants of the place then were Tagalogs coming from Mauban and trade links were maintained via boats in Lamon Bay.

This aspect can only be understood today if one knows the trade winds and that sailing by boat (paglalayag) is the dominant method of long-distance transportation then owing to the lack of roads. Southern Bicol is definitely known in Panay because the historical fishing season in central Philippines revolved around the Sibuyan and Samar seas where fishermen followed the fish in a counterclockwise cycle.

The expedition that emanated from Manila called the northern part of the peninsula called the place “Tierra de Camarines” due to the abundance of rice camarins. The southern half of the peninsula was called “Tierra de Ibalon”.

Another expedition was launched in 1573 coming from Manila. Entering the current Naga from San Miguel Bay it followed the course of the Bicol River until it reached Lake Bato where they found the village of Libon (or Libong). This expedition later reached the current Legazpi probably through the Albay portion of the Bicol River.

Ecclesiastically, the whole of Bicol was under the diocese of Nueva Caceres which was founded in 1595. But militarily the northern part was ruled from Manila and the southern part was ruled from Panay. The southern part was for a short time called the “Partido de Libon”.

Later the term “Tierra de Ybalon” was used to refer to the whole peninsula. In 1636, the peninsula was divided into two administrative areas. To “Ambos Camarines” the areas under the present towns of Donsol, Camalig, Guinobatan, Jovellar (Quipia), Ligao, Oas, Polangui and Libon was transferred. This was latter called the “Partido de Iraya” . However the areas under the current towns of Lagonoy, Sagnay (but these probably included the whole of the current Partido area) and Caramoan peninsula were included in “Partido de Ibalon”. This is thought to be the area called “Partido de Lagonoy”. This arrangement is only understandable if trade winds and sea patterns are considered and the Bicol River as a transportation artery is recognized.

In 1846 “Partido de Iraya” and “Partido de Lagonoy” were exchanged, paving way for the modern division of Albay and Camarines Sur.

Steve David, a charter member of UP Ibalon, did the research of the term “Ibalon” in behalf of our organization. He was the proponent of the name “Ibalon” for the new organization that will replace UP Paglaom. However, I vetoed his spelling “Ybalon”. Too close for comfort and we will just spend the rest of the time explaining the spelling.

The name was carried and as they say the rest is history.

Grandma’s Yummy Favorites in the Bicol Kitchen

August 4, 2008

1. Ginota’an na Natong (Laing) is probably the most popular Bicolano food. It’s made of fresh or dried natong (dasheen bush leaves) bathed in gota (coconut milk.) It’s flavored with pork bits and spiced with superhot siling labuyo(chili,) garlic, ginger and shrimp.

In places like Iriga City, Ginota’an na Natong includes fresh libas leaves which give a tasty sourness to the dish. Ginota’an na Natong, also called Bicol Express, comes in many versions in different Bicol provinces. Green hot peppers, squash, young squash leaves and flowers, curacding (mushrooms,) balatong (string beans,) eggplants, lambo (bamboo shoots,) and langcawas tubers are ready natong susbstitutes.

2. Gulay na Lubi-lubi is a special treat from the tropical forest. The uncommon wild young lubi-lubi leaves are cooked in coconut milk with minched tinapa (smoked fish) and a cube of flavorful roasted dina’ilan (shrimp) from Camarines Norte. Similar gulay can be made from green papaya, jackfruit, marigoso, calunggay or young cassava leaves.

3. Because of environmental conservation, Kinunot, a dish made from sea turtle may recede in the background. That’s because pawikan, the endangered sea turtle is now a protected species like the tiny tabios (sinarapan) fish found in Buhi Lake. When cooked in coconut milk, chili, black pepper, salt and vinegar, sea turtle meat is as yummy as pating (shark) and pagi (stingray.)

4. Tabios, the diminutive endangered fish from Lake Buhi is wrapped in banana leaves, cooked over hot rice, and flavored with lemonsito (calamansi) juice. A yummy alternative is to cook it fried with cornstarch just like ukoy.

5 Sinanglay—tilapia, karpa or puyo (martiniko) fish garnished with chopped onions, ginger, tomatoes, and sour iba (kamias.) The fish is wrapped in fresh dasheen bush leaves and cooked low fire with thick gota (coconut milk) and a dash of hot peppers.

6. Baduya (Sinapot) is very popular with the children. Ripe native bananas dipped in cornstarch are fried. Versions like caling-quing (Bicol camote fries,) tinanok (boiled camote,) and banana/camote cue and linabonan na camote (boiled sweet potato) are excellent meriendas.

7. Sina’sa , common in Rinconada towns like Baao, Nabua, Iriga, Bato, and Buhi is made from charcoal-roasted freshwater fish like puyo (martiniko,) talusog (snakehead) or tilapia. It is garnished with finely chopped tomatoes, ginger, fresh onions, red peppers and a dash of vinegar.

8. Bokayo—young coconut meat, cooked brown with sankaka, sweet caramel prepared from sugar cane.

9. Paksiw na Casili—fresh-water eel (burirawan) cooked in vinegar, ginger, onions, pepper leaves, and black pepper. Paksiw can also be prepared from fish like mirapina, tuna, carpa or tilapia. Frying the eel and fish are good cooking options.

10. Tinuktok na Hito—a soup dish of chopped hito fish and young coconut made into fish balls with garlic, ginger, onions and red peppers; fresh camote tops or breadfruit slices (ogob or og-og.) are added.

11. Piga nin Carpa—carp ovaries and eggs sautéed with ginger, onions, garlic and marigoso (bitter melon.)

12. Adobong Orig—cubed pork meat cooked slowly on its lard with rock salt to taste and black pepper.

13. Tinolang Manok—hot soup of native chicken with lemon grass, fresh green papaya, sayote, calunggay (moringa) and pepper leaves.

14. Ogama—small boiled crabs dipped on salted vinegar, sili ng labuyo (tiny red peppers,) garlic, and onions.

15. Pinuyos—sticky rice with coconut milk and a dash of salt wrapped in banana leaves also called Binugtong. Ibos, a similar version is glutinous rice wrapped in young coconut leaves.

16. Sinabawan na Carabao—hot soup made from young tender carabao or beef meat with taro roots, pechay leaves, cabbage, and red pepper.

17. Lechon—roasted pig of Bicol is usually flavored with rock salt and tamarind leaves. It is served with a brown sarsa (sauce) made of roasted pork liver.

18. Balaw—baby shrimp fries, wrapped in banana leaves, flavored with generous lemonsito (calamansi) juice and cooked over rice.

19. Pancit Bato—noodle dish flavored with chorizo, slices of fish cake, pork or chicken meat, and wrapped in banana leaves.

20. Miswa—hair-thin white noodle soup with hibi (dried baby shrimps) and sliced green patola.

21. Sinugbang Talong—charcoal-cooked barbecued eggplant with a dash of lemonsito (calamansi) juice and salt. Talong can go with fresh garden tomatoes, dina’ilan with lemon.

22. Balaw—shrimp fries sautéed in oil, pork meat, green peppers, and lemon juice. Balaw goes well with blanched camote tops, kangkong, or upo (white squash.)

23. Linubak—boiled green bananas, taro or camoteng cahoy (cassava roots) pounded with grated young coconut, milk, and sugar.

24. Su’so—fresh water spiral black snails or river clams boiled with coconut milk, bamboo or pako (fern shoots,) onions, garlic and ginger.

25. Dila-Dila is sold by itinerant vendors on the street together with suman. It’s made of grounded glutinous rice, deep fried and topped with glazed sugar cane caramel (sankaka.)

Bicol cuisine is mainly dominated by the use of coconut and its derivative products. Scrumptiously hot with fresh siling labuyo and black peppercorns, the native Bicolano food is a fusion of Asian-Polynesian influences as demonstrated by the use of exotic lemon grass and tropical edible plants like dasheen bush, libas, lubi-lubi, kangkong, and calunggay which grow abundantly in the region. =0=