The first thing that comes to mind when I hear the word Bulacan is pastillas de leche, those sugar-dusted pillows of carabao’s milk casually wrapped in white. As a child of the North, I routinely, quietly wished for them each time my mom and dad were out traveling.
Exploring Bulacan with the FoodPrints food travelogue show was more than a wish come true. Once there, it was the seemingly dying Filipino traditions that I wanted more to digest. One of them is the art of pabalat ng pastillas de leche, the endangered art of wrapping milk candies with billowy colorful paper cut outs.
We met Nanay Luz Ocampo, an octegenarian who has made a mark in pastillas paper wrapper design and cutting. Hers are done in elaborate Filipino motifs, handcrafted laser cut-like patterns from the mind, inspired by her environs in San Miguel. Her artistry that started as a hobby when she was 12 years old was recognized by the Cultural Center of the Philippines, in books and in art and culture exhibits such as the University of Santo Tomas Likhang Bayan.
Skilfully cut tails in a kaleidoscope of colors add to a more festive spirit, making a conversation-worthy material. If they seem familiar, the elongated paper artworks have an uncanny resemblance to Chinese tomb decorations.
Daughter Naty tries to follow her footsteps. She traces her mother’s stencils on layers of papel de Hapon ((Japanese paper) and uses a pair of sharp point tip scissors to cut out holes. To sustain the fading craftsmanship, occasionally, they put to use the mastery to lecture in Bulacan and in other parts of the country.
Among Nanay Luz’s prized possessions are photographs of her art by prominent artist Jaime Zobel (top frame in photo below).
Another story of mother Luz’s meticulous artistry is fruit carving she developed as a teen during WWII. In the same vein as she snips out shapes in paper, making intricate designs on fruits such as dayap or suha requires a profusion of love and serenity.
Mrs. Luz Ocampo 83 Inang Wika St., Malolos, Bulacan, Philippines (044) 791 5657
Photographed by Blauearth © Blauearth™ All Rights Reserved 2009-2014