Special Offertory, The Bounties of Bicol

By Peping Factora

LORD, we offer you our gratitude and love for the indigenous gifts ... gifts that have enhanced and enriched our lives as BICOLANOS ... that nave become part of our cultural heritage which we have learned to treasure and prepare for the next generation of Bicolanos, even here in our adopted country.

Our greatest legacy is the legacy of our faith ... for Peñafrancia is BICOLANDIA ... and BICOLANDIA is Peñafrancia. The MAYON VOLCANO, whose breathtaking beauty and grandeur have symbolized the loveliness, grace and dignity of Bicolandia.

 

All over the Philippines, we Bicolanos are known for a particular native food delicacy ... the very popular GULAY NA NATONG - Laing... a dish that is cooked in GUTA or GATA... milk extracted from the meat of the coconut with dahon nin natong or gabi leaves and spiced with hot chili.

From a tiny town, bordering an enchanted lake - Buhi, Camarines Sur, comes the smallest fish in the world called TABIOS, a natural wonder among the, species of the deep. Its diminutive size causes it be eaten by the thousands in one meal.

 

There is the BALAO, the versatile and dependable minutest shrimp, product of the seas and viand on the table. It is cooked and consumed as is or mixed with other dishes to enhance their flavor. With guta and sili, this dish has become the identity of our race- the BICOL EXPRESS.

From the slopes to the plains around Mount Mayon ... the soil fertilized by volcanic ash spewed out from its crater in thunderous ferocity, the ABACA plant has flourished by millions, making Bikol the premier producer of abaca fiber products, one of which is the rope reputed to be made of the strongest natural fiber in the world - known in the international markets as the MANILA HEMP or PHILIPPINE HEMP.

 

Again, only on the good earth of Bicolandia does the PILI tree thrive and from its branches comes the wonder fruit- the PILI nut - because not only the nut but also the layers of meat and shell are of value. The thin skin covers a hard fleshy fibrous substance which when boiled is transformed into a delicious dish called linantang pili. Protecting the nut is a hard shell which can be used as charcoal. The pili candy desserts including santan and various confectioners called buding, suspiros, mazapan and conserva.

 

The Bicolanos are a proud race with a sad history, yet we are a people who appreciate our natural gifts and talents of song, poetry and dance ... always carrying on with our lives with dignity and hope ... singing at harvest time ... laughing in the sunset ... the immortal song SARUNG BANGGUI strummed in the guitars by young men "as shadows deepen in the long hills."

 

We remember the PANTOMINA, that beautiful traditional folk dance that take center stage, usually performed by elders on occasions of family and community singing.

And who will ever forget the PASTORAS ... that colorful and delightful groups of dancers with their beautiful headdresses, lovely costumes and jingling tambourines, performing from house to house to the delight of crowds in the cities and towns of Bikol during fiestas and especially during the Christmas season.

The late Jose "Peping" Factora was one of the original founders of UBLA. He served in various leadership positions. This offering was read during one of the Penafrancia fiesta celebrations in Los Angeles.

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