“Don’t let this go to waste,” she said. “This is my life.” “I grew up with this,” my Nanay Luz said. I told her, “Okay, mommy.
We will continue your work.” I am Natty Castro Ocampo. Pabalat artist from San Miguel, Bulacan. Pabalat is a type of candy wrapping art. This is an art form known in San Miguel and Malolos that was commonly done by women, when they have nothing to do in the afternoon. In Malolos, they do not use any pattern or template. They fold the Japanese paper and freely cut shapes, unlike here in San Miguel, we use patterns or padron before we cut the Pabalat. The pastillas from Bulacan is
unlike other kinds of pastillas because it uses fresh carabao milk and a small amount of sugar. It takes a long time to boil it in a pan, until it thickens. I can say that Pabalat is a dying art form because it is no longer being practiced. It is also not taught in schools anymore, while others have no patience to do it. My Nanay Luz told me that while we were growing up, my mother did not focus too much on Pabalat. When she was widowed, she eventually accepted numerous Pabalat orders. This was one of her means of livelihood when she needed to support the family, after our dad passed away. I learned how to make Pabalat when my mother, I think, she was 88 years old then. I started to practice Pabalat when I was 52 years old. But my work would always get rejected. So, I did not stop until my work was clean. My mother’s designs, her inspirations back then, led her to her first pattern, the nipa hut. The nipa hut is a representation of Filipinos. Because weren’t nipa huts our houses back then? It was our traditional house. She was also inspired by farmers na “nag-babayo” or pounding the rice grains. Also, women who were dressed in Maria Clara. Her other designs were plants and flowers. If she sees anything beautiful, or nature that’s beautiful to look at, she can make a sketch of it. Whenever I cut the Pabalat, this is one way for me to keep her memories alive. That’s why… we might never surpass her skills— —but to just be at par with her work, that would be enough for us.