Note : This article was published on the first edition of LAWIG. On March 2021, LAWIG was re-launched underlining photography and design talents from the provinces of the Philippines.
The town of Pio Duran, also known as ‘Pioks’ or ‘Piox’ to some of its 45,000 natives, sits in the western part of Albay. Just like other Albayanos, the Pioduranons have multifarious and interesting traditions mostly related to farming, fishing, and the people’s faith. In my over 20 years of stay in Pio Duran, I have had a fair share of observations which have taught me respect, resilience, and rigor.
Sinsuro / Sensuro
Sinsuro/Sensuro is a concerted effort among fisherfolks of pulling a wide spread of fishnet enclosing the gipaw (school of fish) from a deeper part of the sea back to the shore. Folks of different age, body size, and gender are united in the course of this endeavor. In the town of Pio Duran, most especially in coastal barangays, sinsuro/sensuro is more than just a collective means of catching fish; it also builds strong ties among the members of the community.
Aurora or procession is common in Pio Duran especially during the celebration of the town or a certain barangay’s feast day. Under the leadership of the parish priest, young and old would join the procession to demonstrate their faith. While aurora is usually dedicated to the Virgin Mary, it could also be practiced in various ways by each barangay. One of which is perdon, Spanish for “forgive” or “to pardon,” where a procession of an image of the Sacred Heart of Jesus or the crucifix expresses the people’s act of communal contrition for the barangay’s sins. It is held in anticipation of a calamity, typhoon, floods, widespread diseases, and other natural and seemingly mysterious phenomenon.
Padungkal and Penitensya
Padungkal is Bikol for “tumble” or “to fall.” It is an act imitating the suffering of Jesus Christ on his way to Calvary, the hill where he was crucified. The ritual is otherwise known as “The Way of the Cross” and forms part of the traditional activities during Holy Week. One’s remorse is shown through penitensya by means of flagellation. The imitators of Christ in padungkal and penitensya wear long and curly hair pieces, walk around town bare-footed, and would usually wear a maroon or red robe with yellow or gold trimmings. They would each willfully carry a large, heavy wooden cross on their shoulders and then after two to three blocks they would purposely stumble on the road with a banig (abaca mat) catching their fall to protect their knees. The imitators and their followers would continue their travail until they reach the place set up as Calvary or a chapel, which is commonly situated in Barangay 5, Pio Duran.
Palilihion and Palûgsók
One of the beliefs which has great impact in the lives of Pioduranons is the palûgsók. While palilihion specifies the things a person should do to have an idyllic life, palûgsóks warn people about forthcoming misfortune. The term palûgsók originated from another Bikol word bûgsók or pabûgsók, which means inverted. It describes an ill omen that may befall on a person who does not follow conventions or traditions or on someone who has acted in contrast to the palilihion. Anyone who has seen, felt or experienced a palûgsók will have to perform or make a pangontra or pansubak to prevent ill fate such as grief, frustration, illness, accident, financial hardship or death. Some elders in the community have a pangontra or pansubak in the form of rituals, incantations, recitation of the orasyon, and pa-asó. In the most unpleasant cases, the intervention of the parabulong or albolario is needed.
The above are just a few examples of the customs of the people of Pio Duran. Many deeply rooted communal practices and belief systems of the local folks are most likely still unmapped, therefore, there are opportunities to further explore, record and preserve the traditions of the place and its people.
Soil and Ink Painting by Micah “Meeka” Hilotin, Words by Mike S. Boribor