Blog

Growing up in Bara

I never really thought much about growing up as a child in Bara. But looking back now, I would say that my childhood was a happy one. Me and my siblings didn’t have much back then. We rarely have new shoes and new clothes. My parents didn’t also buy toys for us, so we contented ourselves with creating our own toys and playing the local games with our playmates. I remember making a toy called pusil-pusil out of bamboo branches. Pusil-pusil means a toy gun in Masbateno. What we do with this toy is basically shoot each other using a wet paper as a bullet being squeezed into the barrels.

A DIY toy gun made of bamboo

A DIY toy gun made of bamboo

This memory got stuck in my head because while making it on my own, I hit my left index finger nail with a sharp bolo. The nail was damaged so it has to regrow. When I look at my left index finger nail now, I always remember this experience.

While I was growing up, I was a tomboy and most of my girl friends are. Maybe this is because we didn’t grow up with Barbie dolls and we would play with boys. In the local games, there is no distinction between a girl and a boy even though most of the games are more boy orientated games like tatsian, bug-oy, tumbang preso, chinese garter and many more. We would fight with boys, and boys consider us as equals. The gender lines are blur. Our childhood was full of games, play, friendship and laughter. We would play after the school and would play even during the night when the moon is so bright.

Games that we would normally play while we were growing up

Games that we would normally play while we were growing up

During summertime, our days are peppered with activities like climbing trees, swimming in the sea, hunting for wild fruits like guava, tino-tino and mango. We didn’t care much about the heat or how dangerous it is to walk through the tall grasses with the possibility of snake bites or climbing tall mango trees like little monkeys. We were as dark as charcoal and our bodies smell like a pungent vinegar after a day’s roaming. We were like free-range chicken and our parents won’t know where we are during the day. I, for one, would leave around 9 am and come back at 5 PM to roam around the village. My parents would have no idea where I am but they are not worried because I would be with my friends most of the time.

Those were the time of innocence and naivety. What concern us most are the snakes and whether the owner of mango trees that we would climb to get fruits would catch us. My parents and us were not concerned about the danger that the cities pose.

Ours is a childhood that lack material things but one full of experiences. I was not aware that my clothes are old and sometimes shabby. I did not care much that I only have Spartan flip-flops. Maybe I cared when after roaming the whole day and I pass by a store selling putok (a bread) and I can’t buy one because I won’t have any single coin in my pocket. So I would go back home to eat whatever is cooked by  my mother. Or maybe I was made aware that we didn’t have much money when during recess time, I didn’t have money to buy coke and chiz curls like other kids. But because of this, once we are given something, we would be so happy to have it such as if we have new clothes and a pair of shoes once the school begins. Or my mother buys us dresses and jeans to be used for Fiesta celebration.

We are grateful that we’ve been to places and have things that we can only dreamed of when were growing up in Bara today. But because of our upbringing in Bara, we became stronger, self-reliant, and contented of simple things no matter where we are. – Jessa

Gathering fresh coconuts

Another awesome experience I need to share is how Bara people gather coconuts from the tree. Majority of men in the village, at least those who grew up surrounded by coconut trees, are able to climb a coconut tree and pick or gather coconuts. There’s no training required to do this, but just be brave enough and strong enough to climb, hang on while taking the coconut (fruit) off the tree.

My guests had wanted to walk around the Sitios surrounding Bara so we walked from Bara Villagestay to Sitio Burabod. It was 2 hours before noon so we walked through the beach under the heat. We finally found Sitio Burabod and the people were just chatting and preparing for lunch. With my dry throat, I dreamed to have some fresh refreshments that will make my thirst disappear instantly. And luckily enough (that the world is so small), we met an ex-schoolmate from Sawmill who was willing to gather some fresh coconut for us. I had the chance to show my guests how to be creative when there’s no spoon available to get the young coconut meat out of the shell. And of course when there’s no glass or straw to drink the coconut juice, I had to show them the “girl scout” way. The 2-hour walk was rewarded with fresh refreshment, and meeting an ex-schoolmate was a plus.

“Hilot and Tampos” Traditional Healing

Mamay's garden used to have herbal plants

Mamay’s garden used to have herbal/medicinal plants

While browsing on the photos and videos we have taken during our last visit in Bara, one picture of our friend lying on our bed with the herbal leaves on his forehead caught my attention. They say a funny picture always catches attention first. I can’t help but laugh while looking at his photo but it made me realize that despite the advancement of medicine and modern technology, people in Bara still resort to the traditional way of healing/curing sickness.

My mother is considered as a “traditional healer” in Bara. I am so proud to say that I have never been hospitalized ever since I was a baby until this stage of my life. I remember as a kid being down in bed with fever and flu for few days. My mother used her magic way to cure us by picking the leaves or scraping the bark of her herbal plants from our garden. That leaf or bark concoction will remain at our forehead for days until the fever/flu disappears. It will be combined with a traditional body massage or “hilot” during the night until we fall asleep. She has never learnt it anywhere in the books, but as a mother of 8 children, she had to use her maternal instinct how to keep us safe and alive. Her magic hands also helped countless of people in Bara.

So when our friend got sick after 2 hours of walking on the beach and the field under the hot sun, he didn’t manage to escape from my mother’s magic hands. Although I jokingly call it magic, this holistic approach works most of the time. As I can prove it, I’m still alive and kicking.

Mother knows best 😉

The birth of Bara Villagestay

Good morning sunshine

Good morning sunshine

The owner, Janice, had always wanted to do something with the few square meters of the land that she purchased back in her college years by saving her few months’ school allowance to own that piece of land.

The birth of Bara Villagestay originated from her last year’s visit to her village. Being away from her hometown to seek for a greener pasture overseas since year 2006, she and her siblings make it a point to visit their parents every year and re-unite with their relatives and old friends back home. The idea of building a traditional nipa hut on stilts which will serve as the first accommodation for guests visiting Bara was born.

A visit to the fishpond through the vast mangroves

This video originated from a surprise invitation of our ex-high school Math teacher during our village festival. I have lived at our hometown for 16 years, and yet I have never known that there’s such a vastness of mangroves that can be reached easily by motorboat just 10 minutes away from the main Looc river.

As this is my first video editing experience, it took me 5 hours to produce this video. It might be due to my inexperience and the simplicity of the software used. I now understand better the difficulties faced by videographers to produce a good video. It needs a lot of skill and dedication to work on one video.
I want to also give the credit to Stefan for capturing this footage and for patiently teaching me in editing this video. It is always an advantage to be ready with a camera with video to capture scenery such as this one. I hope you will enjoy the video!

 

The beautiful people of Bara

Kids meet up

Kids meet up

Electricity in the village is limited and a public generator runs only 5 hours a day and operates at night. There is no transportation in the village except for some bicycles and a few motorbikes. Walking is generally the means of transportation so be prepared for a wholesome fitness when visiting friends and families in the village.

The lack of comfort a modern world offers does not stop the people of Bara from being happy and warm people. Karaoke is available in most of the houses and everyone in the village loves to sing. People anticipate a yearly Bara fiesta where people wear their new clothes, prepare special foods at home for guests, and show off their cha-cha-cha skills at a place called “plaza” where everyone gathers once a year for 3 consecutive nights. The fiesta is full of local entertainment usually taking place from 15-18 of  January every year.

The Baranians (natives of Bara) are mostly Catholics and the yearly fiesta is being celebrated in honor of Bara’s Saint Patron, Nuestra Señora delos Remedios who is believed to have shown miracles and have saved lives during a very strong typhoon in Bara.

The origin of “Bara” name

Motorboat in action

Motorboat in action

During the World War II in 1942 under the Japanese occupation, a Japanese cargo ship took the wrong route causing the cargo ship to get stuck between Bara shore and Piña (another small island close to Bara). That gave the US airplane bombers the opportunity to hit the stuck ship. Several merchandise such as kitchen wares, electronic devices, fabrics, and the likes got lost with the sunken ship. The origin of the name “Bara” comes from the “stuck” ship of the Japanese soldiers that got sunk in the shallow waters. Bara means “stuck” in English.

The Making of the Bara Village

Bright sunlight entering the living room

The concept of the Villagestay is to build a self-sustainable traditional Filipino Nipa hut built on stilts. The challenge lay on the nature of the swampy land itself. Parts of the land have been dug to create a freshwater fishpond which will house freshwater fishes such as carp, catfish, and tilapia. Overlooking the nipa hut is another piece of a swamp land comprising of 2040m2 area. The original plan is to build a vegetable garden on the entire swamp land and a 1-meter wide channel had been dug on each side of the land which serves as irrigation and a tiny freshwater fishpond. The swamp land is now surrounded by a 1-meter water channel  that serves as a fishpond. Due to monsoon rains which last for 4 months every year, the swamp land is always full of water which gives way to a faster growth of unwanted weeds in the area. When the water dries up in summer, reclamation of the land will be done to make way for organic vegetable farm.

Shining in the morning sun

One challenge faced during the construction stage was the unavailability of the traditional materials such as bamboo, amacan (thinly weaved bamboo for interior/exterior walls), and wood as foundation due to the recent typhoon Haiyan that struck the southern Philippines. The lumbers used had to be bought and transported from the mountains of Leyte, which were restricted due to several illegal logging activities in the island. Several bamboo plants have been destroyed after the typhoon. Nevertheless, all the challenges faced during the construction of the Nipa Hut were overcome after all the painstaking efforts of friends and families who help built the house.

Geographical location and brief history

Low tide in Bara creates a vast empty space.

Low tide in Bara creates a vast empty space.

Bara is located in the province of Masbate which lies at the center of the Philippine archipelago between latitudes 11 degrees 43 minutes north and 21 degrees 36 minutes north, 123 degrees 9 minutes east and 124 degrees 15 minutes east. The province covers a total land area of 4,047.70 kilometers. Masbate is the biggest cattle raising province in the region. Its main economic activity is agriculture with copra, rice, corn, and tobacco as its main product. Fishing is also a major industry in the province. Mining is also one of the biggest sources of income in the province.

The islands of Masbate were formed out of volcanic rocks over one hundred years ago. The province is part of Sibuyan Sea Group of islands. The general surface configuration of the province ranges from slightly undulating to rolling and from hilly to mountainous.

Christianization began in Masbate in 1569. Colonial period started in 1569 when Captain Luis Enriquez de Guzman anchored in the shores of Masbate. Chinese traders visited Masbate and founded small settlements during the Shri-Vijayan and Madjapahit periods. The Americans came to Masbate in 1900 to extend their pacification campaign. The first Japanese elements arrived in Masbate in the dawn of January 7, 1942 from Legazpi. The Japanese occupation reduced Masbate to economic shambles. Economic activities were limited to fishing, buying/selling, or stealing. Barter transaction prevailed. In 1945, Masbate was re-colonized by the combined United States and Philippine Commonwealth forces with the recognized Masbateño guerilla units, which attacked Japanese Imperial forces beginning the battle of Masbate.

 

Welcome to our simple life at Bara Village

Bara Village offers you an authentic village experience and a complete digital detox. It is located in one of the most remote barangays in Masbate province. For centuries, the people in Bara lived in complete harmony, mainly depending on fishing, farming, and animal raising as a source of income. Bara has only a total of 1800 inhabitants, majority are Catholics. The dialects spoken are Masbateño (75%), Cebuano (5%), and Hiligaynon or Ilonggo (20%). Most of the people of Bara are able to speak and understand English.

The villagestay is situated in between the village primary and secondary schools. The neighborhood is composed of majority of teachers with their families from the nearby schools. It is also 10-minute walk from the main walking road situated on a beautiful green rice field.

A typical house called Nipa Hut

A typical house called Nipa Hut

The Story

The owner, Janice, have always wanted to do something with the few square meters of the land that she purchased back in her college years. It is connected to her parents’ house where she grow up and so she saved a few months school allowance to own that piece of land.

The birth of Bara Villagestay originated from the last year’s visit to her village. Being away from my hometown to seek for a greener pasture overseas since year 2006, she and her siblings make it a point to visit their parents and re-unite with our relatives and old friends back home. The idea of building a traditional nipa hut on stilts which will serve as the first accommodation for guests visiting Bara was born.

The history of “BARA” name

During the World War II in 1942 under the Japanese occupation, a Japanese cargo ship took the wrong route causing the cargo ship to get stuck between Bara shore and Piña (another small island close to Bara). That gave the US airplane bombers the opportunity to hit the stuck ship. Several merchandise such as kitchen wares, electronic devices, fabrics, and the likes got lost with the sunken ship. The origin of the name “Bara” comes from the “stuck” ship of the Japanese soldiers that got sunk in the shallow waters. Bara means “stuck” in English.

The Village and the People

Electricity in the village is limited and a public generator runs only 5 hours a day and operates at night. There is no transportation in the village except for some bicycles and a few motorbikes. Walking is generally the means of transportation so be prepared for a wholesome fitness when visiting friends and families in the village.

The lack of comfort a modern world offers does not stop the people of Bara from being happy and warm people. Karaoke is available in most of the houses and everyone in the village loves to sing. People anticipate a yearly Bara fiesta where people wear their new clothes, prepare special foods at home for guests, and show off their cha-cha-cha skills at a place called “plaza” where everyone gathers once a year for 3 consecutive nights. The fiesta is full of local entertainment usually taking place from 15-18 of  January every year.

The Baranians (natives of Bara) are mostly Catholics and the yearly fiesta is being celebrated in honor of Bara’s Saint Patron, Nuestra Señora delos Remedios who is believed to have shown miracles and have saved lives during a very strong typhoon in Bara.

Giving back to the community and developing awareness on eco-living

The lack of awareness on maintaining an earth-friendly community is one of the critical issues in the village. If nothing gets done soon, there is an immanent risk that beaches of Bara are slowly getting contaminated due to lack of sewage, toilet in every household, people throwing plastics and other wastes into the body of water. Majority of the families are depending on fishing as their source of income but due to the eventual destruction of the beach, less and less fishes and seafood are left in the sea.

Some of their aims are to serve as an example to people of Bara on how to be self-sustainable, start small-scale organic farming, to raise awareness on how to take care of our planet by showing the people the benefit of an eco-lifestyle, and to contribute to kids’ development of knowledge. Bara Village plans to “slowly” start the following with the help of the local officials and local schools.

  • Creation of a mini-library stocked with used books. This will encourage young and old people alike to read and further their knowledge.
  • Project “Clean your own beach” for those living in the coastal areas
  • Project “Compost Pile” for every family who does not have proper garbage disposal
  • Project “Recycling” and proper disposal of waste
  • Enforcement of the “clean and green” motto of Bara

Activities in and surrounding Bara

  • An option for wind and kite surfing during the monsoon season
  • Mountain biking / Horseback riding to the nearby hills and mountains
  • Boat trips to the amazing island nearby