Cordova pabuto

Cordova pabuto

This is a multimedia post Speak of Cebu and images of the Sto. Nino, the province’s patron, comes to mind. And so does the valiant Lapu-Lapu, sweet mangoes, the famous lechon, guitars and beaches. But it is more than that. Cebu is a special and beautiful place. It is also my home.

This is also the fourth and last Christmas feature for 2008. The previous three are Bibingka, puto bumbong and simbang gabi, Bright and colorful parols lighting the holidays and Divisoria Christmas shopping rush.

A "sawa" or boa so called because of its length. This firecracker is around 80 meters long and costs around P2,500.

A "sawa" or boa so called because of its length. This monster is around 80 meters long consisting of thousands of smaller firecrackers and costs around P2,500.

Cordova in Mactan Island is not only a good vantage point for scenic views of Cebu City but, foremost of all, it is the acknowledged pabuto or firecracker center of the province. The firecracker industry here has been running for around three decades already and every December, small scale makers start this seasonal endeavor.

The main manufacturing site is located in Barangay Babag 2 where makeshift shelters with plastic roofing are put up in open spaces behind houses along the road. Workers are mostly from this place but some are either contracted or come to work from other areas. It can be tedious and routinary with a different person doing a specific task. Their finished products are then sold to different vendors who sell these firecrackers along the highway in this municipality or across the rest of the province. Work ends on the last day of the year.

Check out the multimedia slideshow above consisting of 22 images with voice over.

Estan Cabigas is freelance photographer, blogger and writer based in Makati City, the Philippines. A true blue Cebuano, he makes stunning images and meaningful photo stories. His work has been published in local and international publications including National Geographic Magazine, Geo (Germany), Sunday Times Magazine (London) and other publications. He is also a peripatetic traveler and has traveled to all 81 Philippines provinces. I'm open for work, collaborations and inquiries, including hotel, restaurant and site features and reviews.


  1. Divisoria Christmas shopping rush | langyaw
    December 31, 2008 @ 18:32

    […] This is the third Christmas feature for 2008. The other three are Bibingka, puto bumbong and simbang gabi, Bright and colorful parols lighting the holidays and Cordova pabuto. […]

  2. Gibb
    December 31, 2008 @ 19:14

    Is it true that some firecrackers made in Cordova are packaged as “Made in Bulacan” to appeal to more buyers? As the latter is more marketable compared to the ones made in Cordova.

  3. estan
    December 31, 2008 @ 19:52

    Bai, I don’t have any information about that. It might be possible as they can charge more for it.

  4. Em
    December 31, 2008 @ 22:52

    That was a very nice mini documentary. I am pretty concerned about the way they make the paputok because they are not even wearing gloves or adopting any protective measures to ensure that their health will not be affected by the chemicals they are working on.

    thanks for sharing!

  5. estan
    January 1, 2009 @ 1:43

    Em, unfortunately, like most backyard industries here, health and safety isn’t really a priority. When I asked them about it, they said that they just wash it with water.

  6. Dennis
    January 2, 2009 @ 0:48

    The subject of your great photo looks so benign until I realize what it is! haven’t seen a pabuto in a long time, not here in new york or even in my native davao city where it’s bawal. Have a healthy new year!

  7. miss igorota
    January 2, 2009 @ 12:07

    what a colorful and explosive piece…the photos of the silvery hands from all the powder are especially remarkable.

    happy new year!

  8. Em
    January 2, 2009 @ 12:16

    It was scary, I grew up taking granted the effects of chemicals to ones health until my own father and uncle succumbed to work related cancers. They also took everything for granted themselves not knowing how painful it is for the ones they are leaving behind. But then I can’t blame them, they are just trying to earn a living. Hay, ours is such a complicated world. Sorry to be so emo Estan. Kasalanan ng mga pics mo… they look so real…hehe

  9. dong ho
    January 3, 2009 @ 3:00

    dati bumili din ako dyan. hehehe… sikat nga yan at murang mura ang paputok dyan.

  10. estan
    January 4, 2009 @ 21:35

    dennis, indeed, davao is banning firecrackers. when I was working there, it’s kind of a different new year celebration without the bangs and booms 🙂

    ms igorota, yep, its very interesting pero yun nga lang, it’s not really healthy.

    ems, well, life for many pinoys is overly complicated and hard. firecracker making are opportunities for them to make a quick buck in time for the holiday season pero what will be their future?

    dong, talaga? you’ve spent sometime in cebu?

  11. Ferdz
    January 4, 2009 @ 22:01

    You are really getting better at this Estan. Ayus ang documentation. kaw rin ba nag voice over?

    Happy new year! And have a blessed 2009!

  12. lagalog
    January 4, 2009 @ 22:53

    ei bai, a blessed new year to you!

    spent the new year in zamboanga and we got a surprise upon knowing that the firecrackers there are actually made in bulacan. it’s a welcome surprise din to know that those firecrackers are actually being manufactured in cebu. i just hope the precautions of manufacturing them are strictly adhered to, for the sake of the workers.

  13. estan
    January 4, 2009 @ 22:55

    thanx ferdz. i did the voice over 🙂

  14. estan
    January 4, 2009 @ 23:21

    bai ogs, musta!

    bulacan is the biggest firecracker manufacturing province in the country and no wonder, their products are found in many places. as for cordova, they’re found in open areas but my main concern is how will these workers be protected from the harmful fumes? they don’t wear any protection.

  15. Allan
    January 5, 2009 @ 12:58

    Happy New Year bro! Wish you all the best for 2009. Dami na ring gumagawa ng firecrackers sa amin sa South Cotabato, mostly mga taga-Bulacan din na nag migrate dun

  16. joy
    January 5, 2009 @ 17:28

    I didn’t realise that Bulacan had a rival in firecracker making! It should be interesting what happens next in the business.

    Thanks for visiting Norwich Daily Photo and leaving your comments. Have a great start to your first week in 2009!

    A Pinay In England
    Your Love Coach
    I, Woman

  17. lawstude
    January 6, 2009 @ 18:00

    yan pala equivalent ng bulacan dito sa luzon. bulacan is my neighboring province and we usually go there a week before new year to have our firecrackers. great job again on the docu estan and happy new year.

  18. dong ho
    January 7, 2009 @ 15:03

    five years ako dyan. hehehe…

  19. Fast, cheap cruise, why didn’t I try this before? | langyaw
    January 10, 2009 @ 10:51

    […] old and dilapated until I was forced by necessity when I visited Cordova doing research for my pabuto post. And oh boy, I was in for a surprise. Why didn’t I try this […]

  20. dodong flores
    January 10, 2009 @ 12:01

    I agree with Dr. Joy. didn’t have any idea Cordova could compete Bulacan. Excellent documentation here, Estan…

  21. Firecracker maker in Babag 2 | I AM A DOCUMENTARY PHOTOGRAPHER
    December 13, 2009 @ 17:50

    […] I made a multimedia slideshow consisting of 22 images last year and it is posted at my travel blog. […]

  22. Firecracker maker’s hand | Langyaw Travel Photography
    October 27, 2011 @ 0:17

    […] Check out the slideshow. Share Tweet […]

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