Tuesday, March 26, 2013

'Oliba' Bulusan's 'palm' of choice for the Palm Sunday Celebration

Not a palm but a Cycad, 'oliba' in Bulusan

I agree with the observation of a town mate friend that in Bulusan the 'palaspas' of choice is still the Bulusan's traditional 'oliba'. It is a plant of the Cycad family that is usually cultivated in Bulusan's backyard gardens mainly for this 'hosana' purpose rather than that of a landscaping feature although it is an equally attractive landscaping plant.

The 'oliba' leaves are brought to the church for blessings during the Domingo de Ramos or Palm Sunday, simply referred to as 'Osana' in Bulusan. Not just one but two but usually more. The palaspas in our observation was a recent development for Bulusanons probably influenced by other neighboring regions and Manila. This is easily adaptable to Bulusan since palaspas making is actually another form of weaving. Bulusanon weavers are naturally inclined to any kind of palm weaving craft--that includes the palaspas.

It is folk tradition in Bulusan that the blessing of the 'oliba' leaves does not end with the Domingo de Ramos occasion. These leaves which were ceremoniously blessed by the priest during the 'Osana' celebrations will be carried on to be assimilated in their daily living for the whole year and be replaced by a new one in next year's Palm Sunday and the next in an unending cycle.The blessed oliba leaves come in handy in activities such as house construction, farming and fishing to ensure blessings and abundant harvests. These are also indispensable materials for the 'parabolong' (local healers) in 'tuob' and 'santigwar' rituals.

In the wikipedia article, the palm fronds uses by the Filipinos were likewise noted:

"Children dressed as angels sometimes sing the Osana ("Hosanna") whilst strewing flowers about." 
"Once blessed, the palaspas are taken home by the faithful and placed on altars, or hung beside, on, or above doorways and windows. Although the true purpose of this custom is to welcome Christ, many Filipinos hold the fronds to be apotropaic, able to banish evil spirits, avert lightning, and prevent fires."

The Bulusanons also hold on to this folk belief that started probably at the onset of Catholicism in the town 385 year old paroquia. In fact, almost all Catholic homes in Bulusan have one or two or more 'oliba' leaves the whole year round attesting to the popularity of this folk belief.

Photographs by Alma P. Gamil
Bulusan, Sorsogon, Philippines

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