Thorns and Thistles



The Pili Nut of Bicol, Philippines: “In a nutshell, it’s perfect!”

I. About the Product (Pili)

The Pili Nut has the flavor of pumpkin seed when raw, and takes on an entirely different identity when roasted. It is soft yet crisp, with an easy crunch that surprisingly melts in your mouth, making it a favorite snack food among Filipinos. The same delighted acceptance is true even in other countries that have already obtained the nut as an imported staple.

Raw Pili Fruit

Harvested Mature Pili Fruits

With global tastes now putting a premium on much healthier edibles, and with the insistent clamor for new snacking alternatives, the world market is more than ready to welcome the Pili Nut among its gamut of highly-valued food products.

II. About the Philippines and the Bicol Region

The Philippines is a 100-million-strong agri-marine nation enjoying the manifold gifts of its archipelagic ecosystems. Given this richness and diversity of natural resources, the Filipino foodscape is characterized by very unique yet abundantly available products and delicacies, a number of which are not found elsewhere in the planet.

The Pili Nut can be spotted in bushes across tropical Asia and other Pacific islands, but the ones grown in the Bicol Region, southeastern end of the Philippine island of Luzon, are acknowledged as the best-tasting yet. And why ever not; the region is where the best variables for growing Pili converge. This part of the country’s climate, soil and strategic location combine to lend the best conducive environment for the pili to grow well.

Home to at least five active volcanoes – one of which is the perfect-coned and world-admired Mayon Volcano – Bicol’s land is a fecund mix of volcanic soil and generous rainfall. That typhoons regularly pass through the region does not even pose a problem to Bicolano Pili growers, as the Pili Tree is known as a “stress tree”, that is, the more it is shaken and beaten by storms, the more it blooms and bears better fruit.

The Philippines is the only country capable of the commercial production and processing of Pili-based food and by-products, with Bicol supplying 80% of the total output volume.

III. About the Pili industry

Most Pili farmers attest to the fact that the Pili is a low-maintenance crop. It only needs pruning from time to time, requiring minimal fertilizers, or even none at all. Native species that grow as tall as coconut trees would yield its first fruits after five years; grafted trees, shorter therefore safer for barefooted harvesters who climb them, start bearing fruit in three years.

The Pili Kernel inside Shell/ Pulp

The Pili Nut

Workers in the industry are predominantly female (58%); they handle the cleaning, cooking, and packing stages in processing Pili Nuts. The male workers (42%) are mainly in charge of harvest, delivery, and de-shelling, the last being an anecdote in itself.

De-shelling a Pili Nut is an epic case of Man versus Machine, where Man refreshingly wins. Pili deshelling machines are not quite successful as they do crush the extremely hard, bony shell, but unfortunately tend to crush the precious kernel as well, in statistics too high for commercial viability.

Retrieving a perfect Pili kernel requires precision only human hands can deliver; this is easily due to the centuries-old tradition of Pili-cracking, enough practice to beat any machine. The Bicolanos call the process pagtilad – cracking the tough nut using a bolo, with unbelievably rhythmic, graceful and accurate whacking. A paratilad expert could easily slice through the thick, hardwood-esque Pili shells, and finish 100 kilograms in a day’s work.

Manual deshelling: Faster than Machine nut-cracker

Cooking Pili Nut Kernels

The Pili Nut and its by-products have a steadily growing market in the United States, Middle East, Hongkong and China. The Philippines also exports Pili products to countries such as Japan, Germany, France, Great Britain, and in Hawaii.

IV. Applications of Pili Nut

The pulp of the Pili fruit is eaten as a vegetable. Blanched in hot water for about three minutes, it is perfect for salads, or simply dipped in fish sauce for that tangy kick.

But the most important part of the Pili Nut is its kernel. With its testa stripped off, it is a slender, yellowish-white core. The kernel is the raw material used in various recipes.

Cooked Pili Kernels

Enjoying a significant share of the foreign food market are Pili sweets, pastries, and exotically-flavoured variants. Some examples are

· Crispy Pili, with a very thin sugar coat
· Honey-glazed Pili
· Pili with Sea salt
· Plain roasted Pili
· Mazapan de Pili, tarts, cakes, etc.

The kernel and the pulp are excellent sources of oil, used for baking, cooking or cuisine.The Pili tree sap, known around the world as the Manila Elemi, has a cool, zesty scent that is favoured for perfumes and aromatherapy oils.

The tree’s wood, meanwhile, is carved as furniture or home décor.

And the legendary hard shell, formerly only used as fuel, is now being transformed into nature-inspired fashion accessories, such as necklaces, earrings and bracelets.

Here and Now

Remember, I came, because the gnawing
loneliness is there and will not be lost
until the music is sung, until the poem
is heard, until the silence is understood …
until you come to me again.”
– fr. Beyond Forgetting, Rolando Carbonell

There you are while I am here. So very far, and yet, so near.


day and night
at twilight collide
shades of bright
hues of dark.

past and future
today collide
yesterday’s memories
tomorrow’s dreams.

and there you are
while I am here
so very far
and yet, so near.

sometime somewhere

you and I will collide
then kiss and hug
but how I wish it’s

here and now!

– we are between here and now.

(c) 2007 Chito L. Aguilar

Day and night at twilight collide.

Shades of bright kiss hues of dark.

Past and future today collide.

Yesterday's memories hug tomorrow's dreams.

And there you are while I am here. So very far, and yet, so near.

Sometime somewhere, you and I will collide.

Then kiss and hug...

... but how I wish, it's here and now.


We come to know light by darkness.
Illumination though, is both inner and outer.
Inner radiance is brighter than outer brilliance.
Enlightenment is deepest coming from within.”
– Chito L. Aguilar

Light showers on our lives.

[a nonet*]

on our lives
bathing the sham
washing the charade
dousing the masquerade
in our shadows of pretense
till they flush into dark gutters
and dissolve in the limbo of farce.

fake and genuine
is repute.

false and true
is refute.)

– dispute
is between
repute and refute.

– illumination
is between
reflection and meditation.

(c) 2000 Chito L. Aguilar

*a verse form with nine (9) lines of 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, and 9 syllables respectively.

Artificial Light

Natural Light

Light from Top

Light from Back

Light of Backdrop

Light Outside

Light Inside

Light Reflected

Light from the Sun

Light from the Moon

Light from Lampshade

Light in the Night

Light in the City

Light Blue

Light Aesthetics

We come to know Light…

… by Darkness.

On the Keyboard


you are white
i am black
side by side
back to back

you are my self-image necessary
i am your alter-ego mandatory
in perfect contrast, we are one
in balanced symmetry, we are one

but me, you cannot be
my place, you cannot take
you, I cannot be
your place, I cannot take

you are my double, opposite
i am your shadow, requisite
you are fair, clean, conspicuous
i am dark, secretive, mysterious

and yet,

no word is typed
without You and Me!

– between you and me are words.
– between light and dark is delight.
– between ebony and ivory is mystery.

(c) 2008 Chito L. Aguilar

Hurry Up (Time Flies So Fast)

“But meanwhile it is flying,
irretrievable time is flying.”
– fr. Georgics, Virgil (70 – 19 BC), Roman poet



gather blooms while it is day
light shall not forever last
sense the softness in the hay
hurry up, Time flies so fast.

pick your flowers when in blush
before they droop, dry alas
sniff cool scent of petals flush
hurry up, Time flies so fast.

run the distance while you can
linger not ‘til shadows cast
fleeting Time waits for no man
hurry up, Time flies so fast.

ah, make the most out of Life
we live, then return to dust
so make haste to end all strife
hurry up, Time flies so fast!

© 2001 Chito L. Aguilar

Bamboo, revisited!

I was engrossed reading a book (trying to catch up on some chapters) on this lazy weekend, when my wife and granddaughter asked me to drive them to the mall.  Reluctantly, I obliged myself to do the requested task, thinking I need to buy a pair of sports socks anyway, so off we went.

The mall’s parking lot was full, so I was compelled to park my car by the bamboo grove just across the mall.  While inside the department store buying my stuff, I thought I heard my car alarm beep so I rushed outside to check the car.  It was false alarm, thank God!  I decided to go back to the mall where my wife and granddaughter were still shopping –

But then, the bamboo grove seemed to beckon… Instinctively, I reached for my camera in the car and found myself taking photos.

Wall Says All

I happen to pass by Ibalong Elementary School in Legazpi City (Philippines) yesterday. I noticed the freshly painted school fence and started clicking my camera…


I now begin the journey that will lead me
into the sunset of my life.”

– Ronald Reagan (1911 – 2004)
U.S. president and actor, November 5, 1994.
From letter to the American people
announcing he had Alzheimer’s disease.

Termite Meal

(When famished microbes upon the flesh feast
The mortal body is reduced to least.)

they march in tiptoe
mute army of queen unseen
they cast no shadow
silent soldiers unforeseen.

they work, noiseless fools
while all the clocks are ticking
they toil, with no tools
with razor-teeth wood picking.

i track their quiet trail
inside a wall immobile
i see a void pale
devoid of wood (empty), still.

my body deadens
like wood slowly eaten, gnawed
my mind bitten, ends
yes, ceased; by disease hollowed.

– between
fleas and disease
is the body.

– between
shallow and hollow
is the mind.

(c) 2006 Chito L. Aguilar

Raw Photographs

Random Photos amid the Shifting Shades of Life –

Raw is real. These images are raw, unedited…

Talisay Tree at St. Gregory Cathedral grounds, Albay, Philippines

There is beauty in the-raw-and-the-rough; as the rough stone hides a gem;
as a book is not judged by its cover. Yes, Life is made more meaningful

when we learn to see beyond the shifting shades across its various stages.

While waiting for my flight at San Francisco, California Airport, I took this photo...

Light and Lines

Voice of the Parish: Vice vs. Virtue

Vintage Sign: Remnant of the "Bicol Express" Train (Circa 1960s-'70s), Daraga, Albay, Philippines

I snapped this photo as the cable car turns around in San Francisco, CA.

As I was walking the streets of Macau, I found this view irresistible, so I took a shot.

Isle of Skye (Scotland) Sunset: One of the most memorable sunsets I have photographed

I was impressed by the landscaping of these flowers in New Jersey.

Stone and Marble: Rough and Smooth

Hongkong buildings seem to sprout from Camphor leaves in this photo I took in 2008.

Clouds, Sky and Tirangles

Termite Meal

Wood and Clay