On July 4, Lina and I attended a naturalization ceremony for 152 new Americans from 51 countries at Old Sturbridge Village.


Marching to the green where the naturalization ceremony was held

Our friend Françoise became an American citizen!


The presiding judge welcomed the new citizens warmly, shared his own immigrant background and talked about their new rights and responsibilities.  He also spoke of our neighbors for whom, “whether they harvest crops in our fields, help construct our buildings, work in our restaurants or even seek asylum, American citizenship remains a distant dream.”  Speaking to the new Americans, and to all of us, he went on to say: “We must make sure therefore, especially now, when the public discourse about immigration has become so toxic, that the ladder which you have been able to climb to arrive to this day, is not pulled up behind you.”


The judge continued by quoting George Washington: “The bosom of America is open to receive not only the opulent & respectable Stranger, but the oppressed & persecuted of all Nations & Religions.”  This is the promise that I saw fulfilled on the 4th, and the promise withheld from so many others, whether they are Muslims denied entry to the US because they are Muslim, or Central Americans denied the right to apply for asylum and deported back to places where they are in grave danger of being killed.


New citizens from 152 countries

Our new American neighbors said these words as part of the oath of naturalization:  “I hereby declare …. that I will support and defend the Constitution and laws of the United States of America against all enemies, foreign and domestic.”

If 152 new Americans pledged to support and defend the Constitution, isn’t this the duty of all Americans?

Our Constitution is under attack from within.  Voter suppression and gerrymandering have made it possible for a minority of voters to elect a majority of representatives at both state and federal levels.  Unlimited corporate money now flows into our elections, representing the special interests of those corporations.  The judicial activists of the Supreme Court’s majority allowed this in Citizens United as “free speech” yet gutted the Voting Rights Act, and they have just upheld voter suppression in Ohio and a racial gerrymander in Texas.  The Supreme Court has become more and more partisan, willing now to overturn longstanding precedent in order to advance a radical agenda.

Doug Muder, the NH blogger of “The Weekly Sift,” writes that we now have a minority ruling as a majority.

  • The 20 states with two Republican senators in 2016 had a total population of 99,576,045 in the 2010 census. The 16 states with two Democratic senators numbered 126,215,202.  (14 states split their senators.)  An 8 seat Republican majority was elected by a clear minority of the American people.
  • This minority-rule majority would not allow the Senate to consider President Obama’s nominee to the Supreme Court.
  • The Senate confirmed Neil Gorsuch by a vote of 53-46. “22 states had two senators voting for Gorsuch and one (Georgia) had one for and one not voting, so counting Georgia’s population for Gorsuch, those states total 108,613,347.  18 states totaling 135,576,383 people had two senators voting against Gorsuch.”
  • In 2012, Republicans won a 33 seat majority in the US House while losing the popular vote.
  • Democrats won a landslide (53%-44%) victor in Virginia’s House of Delegates yet didn’t gain a majority.

Muder concludes that “minority rulers in Congress, the White House and state capitals keep changing the rules to make it possible to rule with ever-smaller minorities.  And a minority-appointed Supreme Court is fine with that.”

I write as an American who loves democracy.  We need to pass a constitutional amendment to control corporate political spending.  We must protect voting rights and stop gerrymandering, by legislation or amendment.  The Electoral College should be abolished.  3.4 million Puerto Ricans are not represented in Congress, nor are 700,000 residents of Washington, DC, yet they are taxed without representation.  Puerto Rico should be offered statehood and DC representation.


The choir sang the national anthem and “America The Beautiful.”  Let’s live up to those words!

Our democracy has been under threat for many years, and the anti-democratic agenda is advancing.   This is the fight of our lifetimes, and it will last beyond mine.  I’m not giving up.  I’m in.  How about you?


The coconut is the most generous of plants.


Cocos nucifera - Palmae   Coconut, niyog

Cocos nucifera - Palmae/Areca   Coconut, niyog


It provides food and drink: coconut water, milk and meat.  The dried meat, copra, is a major export crop.   Coconut oil is pressed from the flesh.




Lina’s brother was grating coconut meat from the shell yesterday using a kudkuran like this one: you sit on the part to the right and rotate the halved coconut around the metal grating edge on the left.


But most people buy their coconut meat from someone using a rotating motor-powered grater.

Not to mention coconut wine, “tub’a”, and vinegar!


Vinegar made from tub ‘a


These bamboo tubes held tub’a, wine made from the sap that drips from a gash in the flower stalk of a coconut palm.

Timber is sawn from the trunk.



After Typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan) decapitated the coconut trees on Leyte …


much lumber was sawn from the salvaged trees.

The shells are used as bowls and ladles and for ornaments.  They also make great charcoal.


The fibrous husks are burned as fuel, for instance for bibingka.



They also serve as planters for orchids.



Lina sweeps the back yard with a broom – the dried stalk which held the coconuts and, before them, the flowers.



She hacks the leaflets from a branch that fell in a strong wind.  The midribs of the fresh leaflets are sharp and flexible.  They make good toothpicks and a springy toy.


The woody stalk of each frond can be used as a post in a house or fence.


She remembers boys riding them as a hobby horse.


And as they float they can be a “salva vida”.  As in fact can the coconut itself.

Another toy was a boat made from the sheath that clasps the leaf.


But today, they are going to be put on the fire!






On September 11, 2014, 56,426 pounds and 3 ounces of yellowfin tuna were brought in to the Fish Port of General Santos City:  a Guinness World Record for the largest fish display in the world.  We decided to visit the Fish Port in the early morning of Sunday, February 10, so we were up at 4:30 and there at 5:30.


This tuna greets visitors to the Fish Port.

The Fish Port is a government owned and operated facility.   It has high standards of cleanliness.  We rented white rubber boots and stepped through a chlorine bath into the area where the fish are handled.  It is dawn.



We went straight to the tuna area where many large fish were already being brought into the weighing area, all carried on the shoulders of men who often weighed less than the fish.



I understand that some tuna weigh as much as 300 kilos (640 pounds).  The largest I saw weighed 88 kilos (193.6) pounds – still a very big fish!

These are yellowfin tuna, one of 10 kinds of tuna identified on a poster at the entrance.


They lie on long wooden carts pulled by one man as they move from the wharf.


The fish were caught on hand lines far out at sea some time during the last week and kept on ice until this morning.  When the bangkas pull in to shore, the fish are slid off the boat into the sea.



A man submerges and stands up with the fish on his shoulder, then climbs the steps out of the water.  Perhaps some tuna are taken first to the wooden carts, but this man took his right up into the weighing area.





There the porter walks under the scale.  The scaler loops a rope around the tail and the porter steps out to let the fish hang free.



Once the weight is recorded, the porter again shoulders his fish, the loop is released and he carries the tuna off to its next destination while another porter steps under the scale with another fish.


Porters are paid per kilo that they carry, so while a heavy fish is a strain on the back, it also means more pesos in their pocket.  They are keenly interested in what the scale says, though they probably already know within a few kilos.


The tuna’s destination depends on its quality.  An American bidding on behalf of a New York buyer told me that yellowfin is a very fine tuna but not as good for sushi and sashimi as the bluefin.  What is more, fish caught on a hand line fight hard for many hours, and the heat that builds up in their muscles begins to cook their meat.  It’s still excellent for cooking but not choice as raw tuna.  Tuna caught on a “longline” are preferred for sushi.

In 1984 I visited the Tsukiji Fish Market in Tokyo on an early April morning.  There the tuna came in flash frozen, and they steamed on cement slabs while buyers bid on them.  Each fish had a gash cut in the side which showed the color of its flesh, and the buyers inspected carefully before deciding how high they would go.

In General Santos, the buyer uses a long sharp probe to remove a thin core of flesh which tells the experienced bidder all he or she needs to know.  This tool is now used in Sendai in Japan, the American told me, but only there:  the Japanese still prefer their traditional method.


Intense interest


as the sampler evaluates the quality of the fish.


Cores of yellowfin tuna

It was a mystery to me who was bidding and how the winning bid was determined in the crowd around each fish, but the process was clearly working, as fish were quickly labeled and moved up to the scales.  Or perhaps, in some cases, the fish were weighed first and then bid on.  As in many auctions, there is much going on that is not obvious.


This tuna has been graded sashimi quality. It will not go to the nearby canning factory.

The price agreed on is a per kilo price.  The 88 kilo tuna I saw would bring in $528 at a price of $6 per kilo (about $2.75 a pound).  This is a handsome income for a boat crew, especially if their hold is full of tuna.  But they sometimes come back empty after days at sea.

We visited another building where other fish, bucketed out of the holds of boats into plastic tubs, were sorted, weighed and bought.  The variety was astounding.


Parrot fish


By 7:30, the Fish Port has done much of its business and it’s time to clean up.

As we left the Fish Port, we photographed a creative ad for Coca-Cola!


In my last post, “Father Rex”, I included photos of three posters from the Catholic Church’s Episcopal Commission on Indigenous Peoples.  Lina photographed these in the stairwell of the Bishop’s Palace in Marbel, where we visited Father Romeo.

Here are four more posters for Tribal Filipino or Indigenous Peoples’ Sundays from 1994 on.  The graphics are striking.  They have elements of the propaganda posters from the Vietnamese highlands, showing tribal peoples prepared to resist French and American oppression.  Unlike those, these have no guns; they do not show generic tribal people in beautiful costume but portray more individuality; they celebrate the tribal culture and languages; and they mention the church and God in the same breath as struggle, rights and self- determination.





I’ve been telling you stories of Lina’s reunions with people from her past.  Lest you think that I am only a bystander in “la recherche des temps perdus” (the search for times gone by, to borrow from Marcel Proust), let me tell you about Father Rex.

In 1988, Linda and I used one of our “down time” vacations from the refugee camp to travel with Anna and Sam to Mindanao and the province of South Cotabato, home of the T’boli, a highland tribe with remarkable textile and craft traditions.

A plane brought us to General Santos City, a bus to Koronadal, and a jeepney up a bumpy unpaved road to the town of Lake Sebu.  We asked directions to the Santa Cruz Mission and set off on foot.  The walk through magnificent scenery, shaded by groves of majestic bamboo, was long and the day was hot.  A bedraggled family arrived in front of the house of Father Rex Mansmann.  He stepped out to greet us.  “Would you like a beer?” he asked.


That first visit introduced us to him and to the work of the Mission.  Father Rex came to the Philippines in 1961 as a Passionist priest.  The Passionists have a particular mission to the poor and oppressed.  This time was one of great ferment in the Catholic Church, with many nuns, priests and laypeople on the forefront of the struggle for justice and, in this case, for the rights of tribal peoples.


This poster captures the spirit of the Santa Cruz Mission. It’s written in English, then Cebuano, T’boli and Tagalog.

The T’boli ancestral lands are rich in gold and timber, and outside companies were encroaching on their land.  The Mission was in the forefront of the struggle to protect T’boli resources and culture.  Therefore, there were threats against the Mission and its workers.  Tribal peoples all over the Philippines face these challenges.


The mayor of Lake Sebu drove us around to show us the town and the work of the mission.  We saw women weaving “t’nalak”, a fiber taken from the female abaca (a kind of banana) and then ikat dyed with local plants; craftspeople casting brass figurines; a demonstration farm where sustainable livestock husbandry was taught.  Many T’boli wore traditional costume, which Lina and I also wore at our wedding reception.


We are wearing T’boli dress while engaged in a ritual that is not T’boli! My suit is t’nalak while Lina wears colorful cotton and beads.

It felt like heaven on earth.  The only reminder that this was not quite heaven:  in the back of the mayor’s pickup truck rode two armed guards.  I did wonder what I’d gotten my family into.

We saw the Mission School which provided free schooling for tribal children.  It still educates children, both tribal and non-tribal, today.



Rex was gracious and shared not only his most welcome beer but his passion for the work of the Mission.  Our trip was so special that we returned with Lina for Easter in 1989.  I remember waking on Easter morning in a bamboo guest house on the shore of Lake Sebu.  Mist covered the lake and as it burned off, the rising sun shone on water lilies in bloom.


A little girl from the neighborhood had been chosen to be the angel for the “Salubong” procession.   This recreates the moment when Mary first meets Jesus after the Resurrection.  Images of Mary and Jesus are carried from the church in different directions.  When they come together, the angel, dressed in white and suspended in the air, lifts the veil from Mary’s face to great celebration.  We saw Lake Sebu’s angel waiting patiently for her big moment.

Almost 30 years later, this magical morning remains vivid in my memory.

Father Rex celebrated Mass in vestments inspired by T’boli design.  The liturgy incorporated some elements of T’boli mythology.  Two men with guns flanked him at the altar.  He seemed unfazed by his bodyguard.

We came back with Lina once more, in October, for a festival that brought tribal peoples down from the surrounding highlands for a weekend of celebration:  food, music, dance, crafts – and solidarity.  I remember a field full of people in the most astonishingly beautiful costume.


Every October, the Mission celebrates Tribal Filipino Sunday.  This poster is written in four languages.

Linda and I were inspired by what we saw on these three visits.  I’ve never forgotten the example that Father Rex and the Santa Cruz Mission gave me of service and advocacy, and also of willingness to sacrifice for their beliefs.  This visit to T’boli country was one of the strands of DNA that were woven into the Mariposa Museum, which was born 12 years later in our imagination.

I’ve wanted to find Father Rex ever since Lina and I began to travel around the Philippines.  On February 10 we flew from Cebu to General Santos City.  We arrived very early, left our bags at the hotel and were off to the Catholic Church with our young friend Eleazar, who grew up in General Santos.  The women in the church office knew of Father Rex and suggested we go to the nearby town of Calumpang and visit the Passionist Retreat Center.

Off we went in a trike.  The center’s office was closed.  I hunted for the kitchen, and Lolita remembered Father Rex staying there years ago – but no more.  She directed us across the street to another church and Father Louie.  Father Louie was at an outdoor meeting for parish leaders but a guard passed him a note and he came to see us.  Yes, he remembers Rex fondly and sees him from time to time, but doesn’t know where he lives.  Why don’t we go to the Bishop’s Palace in Marbel?


Father Louie and I

A one hour bus ride takes us to Marbel, and after another trike ride, we get to the Bishop’s Palace.   The bishop is away.  Father Romeo is asleep, the guard thinks.  But no, he’s awake!  Father Romeo greets us.  Yes, Rex is an old friend and may be living down the road in Tupi, or perhaps up at Lake Sebu, but he’s not sure.


Father Romeo stands between me and Eleazar.

It’s too late to continue on up the road to Lake Sebu, but we do stop in Tupi on the way back down to General Santos and visit the Catholic Church.  Marissa is most helpful.  She promises to ask some of the older people in the church if they know of Father Rex’s whereabouts.  We exchange phone numbers and get the bus back to the city and our hotel.


Our new friend Marissa with Lina

By that evening, the efforts of Marissa and Eleazar have borne fruit.  The grapevine has grapes: an address for Father Rex, up in Lake Sebu.

The next morning, a bus and a van bring Lina and me, Eleazar and his friend Nash back to Koronadal and then to the terminal in Lake Sebu.  We find two motorcycle drivers / guides and are on our way over bumpy dirt roads.  Our driver, Daniel, himself T’boli, tells us that his grandfather was Father Rex’s bodyguard!  Finally, we arrive at our destination, Father Rex’s house.


But he’s not there any more, a neighbor says.  Back down the road to find Daniel’s friend, Barbara, also a T’boli, who tells us that Father Rex has moved back to his family home in Pittsburgh.  They will be Skype-ing with him tomorrow, she says.  So I leave our contact information which, by now, has been shared with Rex.  Perhaps we will see him back in the US, but at least we followed this trail to its end here.


Daniel is on my right, Barbara on my left. The drivers’ shirts bear a t’nalak design.

We learn that Father Rex left the priesthood and has a family now, and that while he stayed here, he continued to advocate for the T’boli people.  He is much loved and respected still.

Barbara hears my last name.  “Blair ….   Do you have a daughter?”  “Yes, my daughter Anna was here with us.”  During that Easter stay, Anna became friends with a T’boli girl.  The two exchanged several letters before the correspondence dropped away.  Barbara is not that girl, but her cousin is.  Almost 30 years later, the mention of my name is enough to make this connection.  I am so moved that Anna is remembered still.

Lina, Eleazar, Nash and I enjoy the rest of the afternoon visiting special places in Lake Sebu with Daniel and his companion driver.  From a height of land, we look out across the lake.


Someone paddles a dugout canoe from one of the islands to shore, past the pens where tilapia are raised.


The traditional weaving center commemorates the life and work of a Philippine National Artist, Lang Dulay, who was central in keeping alive the tradition of t’nalak.  Traditional dye plants grow in a small garden, while a weaving display shows us both the ikat dyeing technique and the weaving itself.


It takes many days to prepare enough abaca fiber for one length of t’nalak cloth.

Seladang Dulay continues to create new designs, as did her mother.


The yellow border is a design innovation.


The warp has been tied off and waits to be dyed to give the distinctive ikat design of t’nalak. The fiber is abaca.


Some of the 50 or so designs of t’nalak, woven in 6 meter lengths


Seladang’s son polishes the t’nalak yardage with a cowrie shell at the end of a flexible bamboo arm.  His father looks on.

We visit a brass casting workshop and meet the master artisan, Datu Bundos Fara, and his son.  The son is making wax medallions which will later be encased in clay.  The clay will take the imprint of the wax, and when the mold is dry and heated, the wax will be poured out and replaced by molten brass.  The brass will harden, and when the mold is broken, they will remove the medallions which are presented to winners of athletic competitions.


A medallion is sculpted from beeswax. Note the bicyclist, runner, horse and the waves of a swimming pool!


Three or four wax medallions are encased in one clay mold.  The molds dry on a bamboo shelf.


The vertical bamboo tubes in back are the bellows for the small charcoal forge in front. The sticks protruding from the tubes are pumped up and down: a wad on the end creates a seal to push air horizontally to the fire. The bilge pump in “Pump Boat” works in the same way.


Datu Bundos Fara holds a clay mold and a finished medallion.


This is a modern market for the ancient technique of “cire perdue” or “lost wax” casting.  The more traditional designs, which we saw in the 1980s, are bells, bracelets and figurines of T’boli in traditional costume and activity.  These are still made.


Wax bells and a figurine – a warrior? Many figurines show T’boli playing their traditional instruments.

Cire perdue.  Les temps perdus.  Is anything ever truly lost?

I’ve written about Philippine textiles here



and about the Catholic Church’s role in resisting oppression here


Reconnecting with people from our past is very important to both Lina and me, and every trip we take adds to the list of people whom she reels in from years ago to be part of her life today.  In this post, you’ll meet some of them.

Lina went to grades 1 and 2 at the school in the sugar mill, Central Azucarera de La Carlota, in Negros Occidental.  Her first grade teacher, Mrs. Lechuza, still lives in the nearby city of La Carlota and we visited her there three years ago.


A footnote to this photo:  Our wedding in 2009 was catered by the Maplehurst Inn in Antrim, owned by a Filipina, Juliet.  On the phone to one of the staff there, Lina detected an accent in his voice and asked where he’s from.  “The Philippines”.  “Where in the Philippines?”  “Negros”.  And so it continued until she discovered that she was talking to Danny Lechuza, the son of her first grade teacher whom she remembers as a 4 year old in blue shorts and a white polo shirt walking next to his mother!

When she was eight, Lina moved to the island of Cebu with her father and attended school in Bato, on the west coast, for grades 3-5.  Our boat from Negros docked in Toledo and we took a trike down the coast to Bato, where she found Manong Felix and Manang Belen, who live in a house they built on a lot sold to them by Lina’s father.


Manang Belen and Manong Felix with their family in Bato

The house Lina and Papa lived in was further back on the lot.  It’s gone now but not the well where they drew their water or the cacao and coconut trees she remembers.


The old well still works …


and the cacao tree bears prolifically.

We visited her elementary school and met the acting principal, Samson, who attended this school too and remembers many of the teachers Lina had.


Samson stands directly in front of the flag pole where each morning the flag ceremony is held.

We then went further south to Pinamungajan and spent the night with Abby and Lito. Abby is the daughter of Manong Felix and Manang Belen.  She remembers well Lina, Papa and Edna, Lina’s younger sister by three years.


As children, Lina and Edna played in the sea close by.  They gathered shellfish and caught octopus and fish.  The family was not wealthy but never went hungry.  Edna was sometimes nowhere to be found.  Local fishermen would point to a bangka pulled up on the beach.  Edna would be sleeping in the bangka, shaded by coconut leaves.



Lina has wonderful memories of these years with her Papa.  Yet she missed her mother, and when this feeling was strong, she’d look across the water to Negros and remind herself that Nanay was just over there.


Negros in the distance, across the water

It’s common for children in the Philippines to live with grandparents and other relatives, even with friends of the family.  Parents often work overseas or in another province and, rather than move the children, they may place them with people they trust.  But even in this context, Lina’s story is unusual.

Lina moved back to Negros.  Between 6th grade and college, she estimates she lived with ten different families in and around La Carlota.  Her parents lived on different islands and, in order to assure some continuity in her education, they entrusted her to others.  She also took matters into her own hands: for instance, she once left a family where she felt unsafe and walked into a home where she heard singing and asked to stay.  That family took her in.

On a visit to Sugar Central, she directed Nilo, our friend and trike driver, to a neighborhood where she lived in grade 6, a “tough” barrio where there was a lot of drinking and cursing.  Nilo asked if she remembered any classmates, Lina recalled a family name, and we were soon walking down a small street and guided to a house whose owner was out.  We waited while someone looked for her, and before long Mildred appeared.  Lina introduced herself, there was a moment of stunned recognition, then a warm embrace.  We spent an hour with Mildred and her son.



Mildred’s son

I asked them for a story of their time in school.  Lina remembers skipping rope in the school yard.  Her skirt had red and white vertical stripes with an elastic garter.  A boy pulled down her skirt and she crouched in her bloomers, covering herself.  The other boys all began laughing at her.  Mildred stepped up and punched them all.  She had a reputation for being scrappy, while Lina was quiet and “good”.  I smiled to hear this (not the “good” but the “quiet”).

I’ve already written about her years in Catholic high school (grades 8-10) in “Walking to School”.  (At that time, there were only 10 years of public education before college.  This has only just changed in the Philippines.)

While at La Carlota City College, Lina lived with her beloved Lolo Santo and Lola Toting, a relative of her mother, in the home we still visit every time we go to La Carlota.  On each visit, she convenes some of those college classmates for a meal and time to share memories and news of their lives today.



For more on life in Sugar Central:


“Walking to School” (Lina’s high school years):


“Cucumbers” and “Bibingka” (from Pinamungajan):






The morning we left from Pinamungajan to Cebu City, we took this photo of an aircon bike.  The owner clearly has a good sense of humor!  We didn’t know this was an omen of things to come later that day.


Cebu has many interesting museums, including several wonderful “heritage house” museums.  Yesterday we visited the Museo Parian sa Sugbo, or the Jesuit House Museum, which dates back to 1730 and is entered through an active warehouse for the owner’s hardware store!  Today we went to Casa Gorordo, built in the 1860s and now superbly restored to show the lifestyle of the wealthy Cebuanos in the 19th and early 20th centuries.  There’s much to tell about both, but this post focuses on a most unusual museum, unique in the Philippines and perhaps in the world:  the Museum of Bicycling.


Located in the Elicon House, which houses an eco-hostel and eco-cafe, it combines a serious devotion to bicycling as an instrument for change with a fine sense of humor.



The museum displays dozens of bikes,



quotes from some well known people (!),


and “outsider art” by Paulina Constancia.  Each of her many paintings includes a turtle on a bike (slow and steady wins the race), a coconut tree and a hibiscus blossom, symbols of beauty and utility in Philippine culture.


The museum is not shy about inspirational, even evangelical, statements!


Bamboo bikes and a bamboo scooter are highlighted.




It doesn’t take long biking NH roads to realize that Hemingway is right about this!


There’s a section devoted to street vendors and the goods and services they sell from their bikes or (in this photo) trikes with two wheels in front.


This vendor sells pan de sal (fresh bread) from the basket on the front of his bike


while others offer street foods from carts mounted behind.



Bike power can run many machines.  Next to the kitchen, a bike powers a blender (the blender top isn’t in place yet).


A chain driven grinder:


with the rear wheels propped above the ground on a stand, the man sharpens blades as he pedals.


A coffee grinder!



Paulina Constancia’s opening painting shows all these people (and animals) choking in gridlock traffic.  Here’s a vision of a much happier future.


Oh yes, a bike can turn the agitator of a washing machine


and pump water!


A new take on the classic chandelier, powered in this case by a light switch on the wall.


The town hall or “municipio” of Pinamungajan faces the island of Negros across Tañon Strait.


We walk from the Municipio to this platform – a bandstand? – and then peer over the wall beyond.


Two women and a child are digging something from the sand flats exposed at low tide.  Lina calls down and asks them in Cebuano what they are gathering.  She does not understand their answer so we find our way down to the beach.


This is what their bucket holds:  “sea cucumbers”, the woman in the dark sweatshirt explains.  “Delicious!”


She moves across the sand intently, bends over and scoops an inch or two of sand away.


Spying a small dark tip, she pulls a sea cucumber out of its burrow in the sand.


How does she recognize the telltale small hole above each sea cucumber among the thousands of holes pitting the sand?  I think she knows the exact size hole to look for.  She is not distracted by the tracks of a mollusk.  She doesn’t seem distracted by anything, even by us!


I try my hand and, with her help, dig out a couple.


This is a fairly large sea cucumber in the morning harvest, though I’ve seen far larger cousins lying on sandy bottoms of other tropical seas.


Soon we are all foraging under the watchful eye of the women’s dog.


I love watching the little girl roam around with her plastic spoon, taking swipes at the sand and occasionally sipping some sea water from the spoon!


She is learning from her mother and aunt, just as the bibingka makers in the last post learned from their mother.


And she is enjoying the freedom to roam, to be outside, to participate in an adult activity.  Her mother is vigilant, though, and here has called her daughter back from close to the water.


Two sisters from the house we’re staying in have accompanied us to the shore.  The younger one shows off a find.


This is the seashore that Lina played on and gathered food from 58 years ago.  She remembers the freedom of those days with pleasure and nostalgia.


We find two sisters making “bibingka” in a corner stall near the church and market in Pinamungajan, on the west coast of Cebu.  They learned to make bibingka from their mother, who occupied the same stall many years ago.


They are unfolding these bundles of banana leaves and molding them in a scalloped shape into metal rings on a tray.


The woman in the cap then ladles a liquid batter of water, rice flour, sugar, coconut milk and yeast into the leaf cups.


In back of her are very small ovens heated both below and above by dried coconut husks.



A tray of bibingka is pulled out from one of the stoves and checked.  It’s not quite ready.


One tray waits to be filled while another waits to be sold and eaten!


The secret to the best bibingka is the fire on top, which gives them a crisp crust.


This woman learned her craft as a child.  She and her sister make the best bibingka!


For another post that mentions bibingka, read “Misa de Gallo” at


On the road between Sibucao and San Enrique on Negros, Lina saw this rice mill.


Bags of “palay” or “humay”, newly harvested rice, stand waiting ….


to be emptied out onto the cement pads, where men with wooden rakes will spread and turn the rice to speed its drying.  The lines of rocks separate one farmer’s crop from another’s.


When it’s dry, workers scoop it into empty bags.


Bags waiting to be emptied, or waiting to be carried into the mill.  Notice the slight camber of the drying surface.  This allows rain to drain off to the sides.


Men with very strong necks then carry the bags of palay into the mill.


Waiting to be milled …


The bags of palay are opened and piled around an intake hole, spilling the rice downwards.  This is the beginning of the rice’s journey through a bewildering array of pipes and machines that shake, and rattle, and roll!  During this process the rice hull is removed and blown away, chaff is screened out, and the the kernels are milled to remove the outer layer and produce white rice.  These pictures do not show the correct sequence as I couldn’t follow it!






At the end, the rice descends a chute into bags of “bigas” or “bugas”, the milled rice.  You can see 5 very short videos of this process on my Facebook site, which incorrectly names the island as Cebu.  Again, the videos are in no particular order, but they’ll give you an idea of the jiggling, shaking and attendant noise of the mill!


I am struck, as always, by the friendliness of the people who allow us to wander in and take the time to show us around the mill.  I can’t imagine an American factory so casually letting visitors wander around its clanking machinery.

I have commented in a previous post, “Pump Boat”, on the physical strength of people far smaller than I.  How many times a day will a worker hoist a 50 kilo (110 pound) bag onto his head and carry it into the mill?  These people have very hard jobs, and they work very hard, yet the man above can flash us a very bright smile.