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Bulacan - The Philippines’ heart and soul
Source: Manila Bulletin
Author: Jaser A. Marasigan
Date: 0000-00-00
A melting pot of the past and the present, the old and the new, the countryside and the urbane.

Bulacan’s history, tradition, culture, and its people live and breathe Filipino.

The province of Bulacan, which was founded in 1578, holds a special place in Philippine history. Descendants of Bulakenyos were refugees from Bagumbayan during the British occupation of Manila from 1762 to 1764, strengthening the Tagalog identity of the province. Many historical events during the Filipino’s fight for freedom from the Spaniards happened in Bulacan -- the Biak na Bato Pact in 1897, which signified the first phase of the Philippine Revolution and the Malolos Congress in 1898, where leaders of Philippine independence drafted the Constitution of the First Philippine Republic at Barasoain Church.

Malolos City Hall

Heroes and Artists

Bulacan is home to many patriots and revolutionary heroes, notably Marcelo H. del Pilar and his brother Gregorio del Pilar.

It is not just a cradle of noble heroes, it is also home of the country’s most talented individuals in the field of arts, music and literature tracing back from the Spanish regime up to this day. Aside from literary giants Francisco Balagtas and Jose Corazon de Jesus who is popularly known by his pen name Huseng Batute, Bulacan is the only province with an admirably large concentration of National Artists including Amado Hernandez and Virgilio Almario for literature; Francisco Santiago and Antonino Buenaventura for music; Honarata dela Rama for theater; and Jose Joya for visual arts. Some of their works are showcased at Malolos City’s Hiyas ng Bulacan Museum.

Bella Santos and one of her products
Doing its share in preserving Filipino musical culture through the lifting sounds of bamboo, Bulacan’s Pangkat Kawayan is a unique orchestra that draws music from unconventional bamboo instruments. The band is composed of musically-talented students under the baton of 74-year-old maestro Ato Magat.

The band’s musical instruments are made of bamboo in various sizes, shapes and designs. Ato, the only living founder of the band, claims that he designed most of the instruments himself. Their repertoire ranges from folksongs to some light classics, to modern and pop music. Presently, the band has about 30 members, including some of his sons and grandsons, whom he hopes will continue his legacy.

Arts and Crafts

The Bulakenyos produce highly refined arts and crafts like the cut pastillas wrappers in San

A member of Pangkat Kawayan
Miguel, exquisite jewelry from Meycauayan, and singkaban bamboo arches that adorn churches and streets during fiestas.

In the town of Plaridel, mother and daughter Bella Santos and Katrina Otadoy started their bamboo craft business in 2005. Bella says that no part of the bamboo goes to waste as it can be made into anything, from furniture, to towel holders, wine and candle holders, trays, picture frames and other decorative and religious items. They are also exporting about 4,000 barbecue sticks to Italy monthly.

Meanwhile, 23-year-old Marlyn Cayabyab said her family has been into the business of making bamboo huts for as long as she remembers. These huts for sale are seen lined up along the road, which are popularly used in resorts and even home gardens. She said that the huts ranges from P15,000 to P25,000, depending on the size.

Perhaps the most traditional and oldest use of bamboo in Bulacan is in making "singkaban". Francisco Eligio, considered as the expert in the said craft, has been doing this for more than 40 years now. His arches have already adorned many town fiestas as well as other celebrations abroad, usually whenever a Philippine delegation is sent to international expositions and exhibits.

Bamboo souvenirs
Aside from singkaban, Francisco and his workers also make bamboo decors for Santacruzans and parades. Just recently, they started making Christmas trees and lanterns, all made from bamboo.

Singkaban Festival

A festival of arts and culture in honor of the patron saint of the province, Our Lady of Victory, "Singkaban Festival" showcases the traditional arts of "Balagtasan", folk dances and "kundiman" amidst a display of Singkaban arches. The festival is held in conjunction with the "Linggo ng Bulakan" celebration every second week of September.

The Kawayan Festival is the highlight of this year’s Singkaban, which has the theme "Bagong Bulakenyo: maka-Diyos, makatao at makakalikasan, mapagmahal sa pamilya, tapat sa bayan, hinutok ng panahon tulad ng Kawayan". The bamboo is a metaphor for the "Bagong Bulakenyo".

The province’s remarkable brand of artistry has drawn huge followers through the festival’s spectrum of activities depicting arts and culture at its best.

[ Barasoain Church ]

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