There was this old Pinoy story about a man who was brought to the court for stealing a carabao. The man pleaded innocence saying he only stole a rope and — was not aware of a carabao at the other end.

Another version grew from this gag: A man asked the parish priest if it’s a sin to steal a rope. “Of course” replied the priest “it is a sin and you should return the rope.” The man was grateful saying he will surely return the rope. At least there’s no reason for him to return the carabao.

What is so special about this beast that makes rustlers out of men?

In Pulilan, I stumbled upon a convention of this — what we once called — kalakian. It was the feast of San Isidro Labrador, the farmers’ patron saint. Thanksgiving day of sort for another season of good harvest. The event is closely associated with the Carabao Festival, a tribute to the farm laborer’s partner on the fields where the main attraction of which is the “kneeling of the carabaos” as they pass by the town cathedral.

Hundreds of these beasts are huddled pre-ceremony in this shaded spot in Barrio Lumbac. They have come from neighboring territories and have walked for miles to grace the occasion.

I have never been in a large assembly of water buffaloes. The air is so countrified. And if I can’t keep my toes from carabao shit, I don’t really mind.

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Pulilan, Bulacan: Home to the kneeling carabaos.


I lost my way out of Lucban after the Pahiyas walk. One wrong turn led to a stretch of mistaken path. Off-track. Astray. All despite the non-complex setup of this humble little town.

I lost my cool as well. Nobody seemed to be able to give me a clearer direction. I lost my cool realizing I’m running out of phone loads, battery, and daylight. I lost my cool knowing friends are waiting for me somewhere and — without a doubt — are losing theirs too.

You know what they say about how a man’s character is defined by how he behaves when he doesn’t know what to do? Mine wasn’t so bad at all — mine was terrible! I felt agitated. I was dead-tired. I cursed and swore and walked around like a headless chicken. Did I fell under someone else’s spell or was I in the middle of that time of day when people think and act strangely.

Whatever happened to my audacious youth and all the wisdom of getting lost and taking risk. My diploma for adventurism must have fallen off the wall right this very moment.

And then, this elderly tricycle driver came along and — sensing my disorientation (and expletives) — quieted me down with just about the wisest words I ever needed to hear: Ang nangyayari sa ‘yo ay ikaw ay naririndi. Kailangan mong kumalma. (What is happening is you are falling to pieces. You really should keep it cool.)

The old man set me up to rendezvous with my buddies at the Kamay Ni Hesus or The Hand of Jesus where my distraught mind wouldn’t have thought of at all. (When in despair, it really pays to put your hand in the hand of the man from Galilee.)

And then he went off leaving me calm as a clam shell. I do believe in angels you know.

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Earlier on, I was having a ball with the Lucbanians on the not-so-complex streets of this small Quezon town.

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The old tricycle driver and my baffled mind. LOST IN LUCBAN by Elmer Nev Valenzuela_0000039


PAHIYAS is a woman’s charm — there is more far beneath than what is captured by the lens.

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Pahiyas is a celebration. In honor of farmers’ patron saint San Isidro de Labradore. An acknowledgement of a season’s good harvest.

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Pahiyas is a party! People trooped to this small Lucban town, far flung and middle-of-nowhere any which way you take.

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Pahiyas is an expression. All the trimmings are statements of Lucbanians’ creative skill and imagination.

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Pahiyas is gastronomy. You should eat ’til you’re sleepy here. And sleep ’til you’re hungry.

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Pahiyas is twenty-four-carat Pinoy hospitality. I’ve stopped by each castle along the way and made myself feel at home.

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Pahiyas is labor of love. “We have taken great pains for this and are happy for it” — a local declares while emptying a glass of lambanog.

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No question Pahiyas is lambanog. Locally made. Up to ninety-percent proof!


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Pahiyas is life. Unbelievable.

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Most of all, Pahiyas is experience. Don’t just take photos, live the moment.

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And most, most of all, Pahiyas was fascination I know.


We have waited all five years for the Fight of the Century to unfold. And when the big day came, I was busy walking around the streets of Lobo, in Batangas.


I have decided to skip the Pacman-Mayweather bout in exchange for a photowalk around this modest little town — and I think I’ve made the right move. ‘Cause as it turned out, it’s more fun having an eyeful of Lobo than waste time on the pay-per-snooze match. There’s more engaging sights I can find here than the number of times both fighters engaged themselves.

For instance the old houses; the animated Batangueños; a guitar — not the musical instrument; the pebbled beaches; and a hut in the middle of the street. No I don’t even need to mention the beaches here.



Lobo is the down under borough of Batangas. Sandwiched by the mountains, and confined by the Tayabas bay in the south. We made it to the Poblacion from Batangas City via 1-hour trip on a screamin’ jeepney through the twists and turns of Taysan-Lobo Road.

Crazy zigzag ride.

I got off to a festive sway of banderitas hovering above me. “It’s the feast of St. Michael Archangel. May 8, Friday. We’ll have fluvial procession..” An old lady’s welcome remarks. Did I beat Google Streetview here.


Lobo — being a quintessential Filipino town — is perfect for street photography: the public market is where the town plaza is, where the municipio is, where the town cathedral is and so on. All its hustle and bustles are gathered together in one belt so you can switch from one scenery to another, in just a single bounce.





Eyes glued on the tube. The Pacman era brought back the communal live-TV viewing. Here in Lobo Public Gym, I stumbled upon this ‘calm before the storm.’



“Gitara” — a wooden bar which serves as an added seat for an overloaded jeepney.



It seems the more I look around, the more attention I draw. The more unsettled I become. But that’s just all there is to be anxious about. People can gaze at what you do all day long but — do they really mind?





Street photography is not a whole new ballgame for the Batangueño I am sure. It’s just that for a coastal town like Lobo, they take it visitors will shoot on the beach, and not on the streets.


Beach is for beers, see.


There ought to be a river ride in one’s lifetime.

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My boatman, Edgar, is boss here today. He says I should have come a little earlier to witness how the sunrise turns everything to yellow.

You mean gold, I said.

Yellow, he presses.

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I told him how unfortunate the waters have turned black.

No it’s red, he says.

Red, alright.

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He spoke about how their catch have dwindled down in years. Squatter shanties and janitor fish.

We are losing the river, he said.

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He’s never wrong.


I don’t remember getting forgetful.

A small band of Lenten penitents appeared on the road as I sped along the foothills of Mount Asog. The file was led by a “Christ” bearing a bamboo cross — very atypical from the standard Pinoy Holy Week fashion — followed by a horde of equally strange looking disciples. I was about to pull over and capture the unusual spectacle when I realized I didn’t have the camera with me.

How could I be so remiss of something I always keep with me almost like an OCD.

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I owe it to the flagellants for calling my attention. Sagrada is more or less a 45-minute ride from Iriga town proper. Good thing I was barely into ten minutes of driving and can still afford to make a turn around for the camera sitting on a shelf. Otherwise, I’d be deep on the other side of the mountain kicking myself over over snapshots I would’ve missed.

Like, for instance, a close-up of enticing cookings we don’t always come across in mega Manila. The picadillos below are being prepared for the troop of able-bodied men who are to parade the Birhen Maria for the evening’s Santo Entierro procession. They do it for faith and they do it for free.

But they would need the energy coming only from the best Bicolano recipe which — as always — is washed down with a bottle of Ginebra San Miguel.

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I would’ve missed some images of Good Friday scenes. Sagrada is a humble village. Although most of the folks here don’t lived close to each other, they are in one way or another descended from some common clan. They are either toiling the grounds here for a living or finding work some place else.

Today is a pause from all their grinds.

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I would have no shots from the “tuntonan” tower.

Also a belfry, the tower is used during Patuntons — the occasion when the Risen Christ meets up with the Virgin Mary — where “angels,” suspended by a cable, are lowered through the tower’s octagonal gaps. A joyous atmosphere celebrated at dawn of Easter Sunday.

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Finally, I would’ve missed the final scintillating hours of the day not a lot of people adore: how the setting sun paints everything around.

Simply magical it blows my mind.

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