Apr 16, 2013

Who Would Have Thought?

I was browsing my Facebook album earlier when I saw a picture I posted last November 18. 

The good thing about my birthday is that it falls on summer and often on Holy Week so we don't have classes / work and we get to go on a long holiday outside the metro. I can recall almost all my birthday cause they're quite memorable, especially the last few years.

I celebrated it on the mountains with my family,

Overnight in the country club in Tagaytay with my closest friends,

Waited for the sunrise in Boracay beach with my college friends,

And just last year, on an isolated island with the family again.

Who would have thought that my status message / wish last November will come true? I spent it alone in Cambodia, stayed in a South-of-France-looking hotel as observed by Kevin, 

Explored the ancient ruins of Angkor,

Had some really good insights about myself and life in general,

Got lost and wished I can just stay there (even longer).

So how do I top that next year? Haha! Maybe Europe. Hopefully! (Fingers crossed)

Apr 15, 2013

Step Out of Border, Vietnam

Several weeks ago, my co-volunteers and I were invited to promote cultural exchanges to college students in Ho Chi Minh City. The name of the event can't be more appropriate - Step Out of Border - of your country and your comfort zone. By joining internships or volunteering in community development programs (like what I do), you can spend at least 6 weeks in a foreign country to learn about their culture and more importantly, learn more about yourself. 

We shared with them interesting things about our countries through performances, mini lectures and through food. Other countries include Holland, Russia, Germany, China. For the first time in my life, I had to sing in front of a major crowd! And I think I broke the stereotype that all Filipinos are good singers. Haha!

So what did I tell them about the Philippines? Following the queue from the Dept.of Tourism's ad campaigns, I told them all things fun about the Philippines - from my point of view - meaning parties, fashion, adventures and (staying true to Manila Kid) the people.

I think everybody had an awesome time. I hope to see one of student from the crowd to visit and volunteer in the Philippines one day! :D

Apr 13, 2013

Thoughts from Cambodia

“I’ll tell you a secret. Something they don’t teach you in your temple.

The Gods envy us.

They envy us because we’re mortal, 

because any moment might be our last.

Everything is more beautiful because we’re doomed.

You will never be lovelier than you are now.

We will never be here again." - Achilles, Troy

I went to Cambodia to pray. The day when I visited Angkor Wat was the same day as my birthday so it was the perfect time to think things through. Rather than arising from logic, this thinking was much fueled by emotions resulting from a place haunted with ironies. You may call it reflection, though I'd avoid the word less run the risk of sounding sentimental. Praying will sound more apt as I'd like to think that there is divinity involved.

I felt the desperation of the Khmer empire to build a lasting legacy. Was it founded on the fear of being forgotten? Angkor Wat was a display of this civilization's power - and even at it's grandest, it still fell ill to the test of times. Yes, the stone temples may continue to stand and it's beauty only improved by the mystery shrouding it, but life has been sucked dry and what remains are skeletons of their traditions and beliefs. It only shows how little we really are in space and time - a spec of dust or a spark in this whole creation. Yet how often do we think too highly of ourselves?

Then I  wondered if the institutions we have now - specifically religions, no matter how solid and true they claim to be - can still exist after a hundred years. We can see the influence of Catholicism and Islam today, but for how long? Egyptian, Greek and Roman religions served as truths millenniums ago, and now we call them myths. What does religions' contingent state tell us? I'd like to think that at the core of these religions are universal truths that are similar, if not related, with one another; values, beliefs and weaknesses that spans across generations and geographic borders that it might only come from a greater being (Western thinking) or from within ourselves and our shared humanity {Eastern thinking).

This time I was able to relate more to the Eastern thought because of the aspirations, fears, hopes and evils that unite us with even people who lived thousands of years ago, from the other side of the world. It's more relatable and comprehensible than Western ideology. Maybe that link we share with the rest of humanity is what drives us to do good towards others, to trust that our brothers won't irrationally hurt us or to believe that there is truth out there and we need to find it. That sense of unity in the face of decay maybe the reason why Achilles audaciously exclaimed that the Gods envy us. Instead of living off for ourselves, and doing anything we want (since we'll all die anyway), most of us decided to follow one's innate goodness, to be more loving instead.

And if ever there is a God, he's more likely to dwell within each one of us; he's someone or something who is bigger than the institutions created by men. A good question to ask right now is where does religion play in this train of thought? Since we have this insight of a being greater than human creation, can't we all just be spiritual?

I remember the question that my Philo teacher posed during my final oral exam with him, "is religion a mutually accepted delusion?" If I can answer him now, I'd still stick with my same affirmative answer. But it's a necessary mutually accepted creation of man in response to our weaknesses so we can fully comprehend that great being together as communities. As with the Khmer people of Angkor, religion serves as a communal response for us to sustain this innate goodness, and in turn, we are called for a personal response guided by the wisdom from the religions, but directed towards a more universal understanding and cooperation with each person.

Cooperation. Action. "Kapag nasabi na ang lahat ng masasabi, ang pinakamahalaga ay hindi masasabi. Magagawa lamang." - Padre Ferriols. 

Apr 5, 2013

Free As a Bird

I was having lunch with Danielle, a co-intern from Holland, when she started sharing her experiences on backpacking. It's an activity that is not often practiced in the Philippines or even generally around Asia. Maybe the majority of us aren't built for these kinds of adventure - where you withdraw yourself from "civilization" and jump out of your comfort zone, into the wild. Or maybe because we have different priorities, like getting a job at once after graduating.

After finishing her degree in college, Danielle started her backpacking trip in Quatar then went to Nepal before staying here in Vietnam. She told me how she barely knew anyone in the countries that she visited, and how fun it was to meet new people on the way. She even crossed paths with some backpackers more than once, all of them surprisingly taking the same route and hostels. 

This is a great feat for a very beautiful, Victoria's Secret level girl. I thought she was very sheltered, but through her stories, I was inspired to backpack on my own. But I guess the first thing I need to learn is how to pack light. Goodbye 20 kg maximum luggage limit!

Free as a bird. You can go anywhere you want without the extra weight of itineraries or tour groups. You leave when you like, eat what you want and set which direction you want to take.

On Saturday, I'll be on a 12 hour long bus ride to Siem Reap to see Angkor Wat. Well you can say that it'll be my first backpacking trip since I'll only carry one backpack while the rest of my stuff will stay first in Vietnam.

I'm also going there cause I want to celebrate my birthday in a place where no one knows that I just turned a year older, when no one knows me at all. Commemorating your birth goes to back to its roots when you were just a clean slate. I think it's more natural and liberating that way. Just for a change.