About 5 years ago, I made a conscious effort to read some books about belief systems I wasn’t immersed in having been molded, like many of us Filipinos, by two Catholic (but, thankfully, relatively liberal) institutions.
It was a lone voyage to the unknown to take from unexplored wisdom and piece together my own Weltanschauung and way of life based on knowledge, logic, and love.
I decided I wanted to be kind and mindful of my means of expression, not take other’s negative words or actions personally, withhold judgment and lean towards understanding and compassion…
Regretfully, I feel I’ve forgotten this, for one reason or another.
But as these values and this way of being leap back from the shadows into the foreground of my mind’s stage, I’m becoming more tolerant, more positive, more content, and on the road to my true self again.
I’m remembering that HOW you are is more meaningful than WHO you are and much more significant than WHAT you are.
This is something I will refuse to forget from hereon.
I am thankful for the wonderful people around me that teach me love, care, openness, compassion, and patience.I am thankful for all the opportunities that have come my way and all that I’ve learned in seizing them.
I am thankful for the people that have pushed me to become better, have believed in my potential, and have helped sharpen this dull pencil.
I am not thankful for a world where persecution, discrimination, bigotry, and hate exists.
I am not thankful for the genocide and murder that persists.
I am not thankful for poverty, war, injustice, greed, selfishness, inhumanity…
I will, however, forever be thankful for the chance to do something about it, however puny my contribution may be.
I heaved a sigh of relief and breathed in some hope for humanity when I heard of this movement within the Muslim community seeking to clarify and establish, with scholastic authority, their sacred books.
These books wield power from a corresponding god or prophet, so we can only imagine how much influence it has on a person.😐
Ensuring they are interpreted to foster love, tolerance, and peace seems the most practical path, right?
Only their believers can do that. (It’s not like they’d listen to a heathen.) And believers in Catholicism and Christianity have done it pretty successfully. (Not completely, but still an improvement!)
Lasting change comes from within.
Oftentimes, it is external pressures that force transformation. But it won’t happen unless the entity wills it.
This holds true for congregations, nations, organizations, and people like me.☺️
Cheers to constant progression and to a world at peace and in love!❤️
One thing I find personally disturbing about the attacks in Paris is that… I’m not shocked.
I’m sad. I’m concerned. I’m outraged. But I’m not shocked.Am I alone in feeling this?
I didn’t expect it to happen… But when I learn of so much injustice and unnecessary loss of life all over the world, then realize that the injustice and murder is perpetrated and perpetuated by the human race, acts of terrorism lose their shock value – at least for people like me who aren’t directly affected by it.
With the global society’s desensitization, there is pressure on ‘terrorists’ to get creative and level up their performance. The escalation of violence and cruelty goes on and on and on…
I’m still hopeful that there is an end to this. That enemies will sit down together and say, “This isn’t working for anyone,” and come to a resolution.
Problem is, it IS working for some people. It’s working out wonderfully for people on top amassing wealth and power at the expense of human lives and human suffering. And they will fight tooth and nail to maintain this status quo.
Caught this video at just the right time and sharing it for anyone who was ever freaked out by the question “What do you want to be?” or “What do you do?”.
It can be frustrating not feeling particularly talented at a specific thing. For someone that has jumped from one career to the next, doing pretty well (If I do say so myself) then leaving before diving in too deep, I’ve realized my passion, more than anything else, is learning. And now, I’m guessing, I’m one sort of ‘multipotentialite’!
But even with a label, I’m not completely pacified. I’m thinking there are multi ‘multipotentialites’ doing and accomplishing so much more than me. My utmost respect for experts and specialists may have inhibited me from pushing through with so many ideas, thinking I couldn’t possibly get things done right without the necessary training/knowledge/skills…
I do realize the tidbits of insight I bring to the table, though. Perhaps I just need to find a specialist partner? Or maybe I should throw caution to the wind, embrace every unknown, and just go for it.
I was a pretty quiet kid, quite unsure of myself and very much content with fading into the background.
So before this day ends, I would like to thank the teachers that noticed this wallflower and urged me out of my hiding place.
From teachers in Poveda and ADMU to mentors in my many careers, a wave of gratitude goes out to you!
To my friends who have chosen teaching as a vocation, you are neon lights of inspiration.
“Buhay ay langit sa piling mo.”
The line gives me chills not because it’s true…
(In reality, inconsiderate motorists, inattentive pedestrians, litterbugs, people rushing into an elevator before letting people out, and other daily frustrations remind me how far we are from Utopia.)
That line hits me because it presents me with a dream that, in moments, I believe to be attainable.
I may be wrong. But when watching the sunset from a clean beach, sitting atop a mountain, zooming past rice fields, swimming under waterfalls, floating on crystalline seas, slipping through majestic caves, or eating extra asim Sinigang with heaps of soft rice, I imagine this could be paradise.
Might we build heaven – with no poverty, suffering, or oppression, and with justice, peace, and prosperity – in these islands?
Can we build a country no Filipino would wish to escape from?
When I explain the meaning of my tat, I get reactions like, “Wow naman.” or “Nosebleed.” or “Deeeeeeeep!”, which is perfectly fine. Deep naman talaga. Haha.
But seeing people’s exaltation over the legalization of gay marriage across the United States validates my adoration for the symbols I permanently imprinted on my body.
There is tremendous and blatant inequality everywhere, whether it’s between sexes, sexual orientations, races, economic status, religions and beliefs… We are far from a world of equal opportunity for all – and humanity may never even get there.
Thank goodness for the people that never stop moving toward that aspiration.
I salute you. I stand with you. And today, I celebrate with you in this major milestone!
Then, when the rainbow is no longer in the foreground, I will look at my wrist and remember our personal and collective struggle to question existing norms and break the tricky barriers of inequality.
I found myself shuffling around Verona like an alert and happy zombie.
The setting for Romeo and Juliet’s tragic love affair was my second stop (after Venice) on my lone journey through Italy. For reasons unknown – maybe the cold, the nonstop walking, running around with my backpacker gear, tight boots, or all of the above – my bad knee swelled slightly bringing about sufficient discomfort a.k.a. pain.
Thinking, “But when am I ever gonna be back here?!” I pressed on and limped around for as long as I could before heading back to my cozy hostel Castelvecchio.
I remember arriving by train, unsure what to expect but giddy with excitement!
With my directions on hand and all my bags in tow, I walked from the train station, stopping by a convenience store to ask for directions.
It was definitely different from Venice – streets were wider and there were actual vehicles to look out for. I loved Venice but was tickled by Verona’s small-town charm.
Though my knee was uncooperative, I was super happy!
I walked around their mini coloseo – a teaser for my Roman excursion. Wandered around the delightful center where they had a food bazaar and a carousel set up for the Christmas season.
I remember ducking into smaller streets and finding the statue of Garibaldi. I sat on a bench by the statue for a bit. Then, with a stupid grin on my face, I inconspicuously stomped over the beds of bright and crunchy autumn leaves. Heehee!
I found my way to Casa di Giulietta and got caught trying to add my name on the hardened gum art… Sorry! But can you blame me for trying? This little lady was a long way away from home – in Europe for ze first time! Hehe.
I stared up at Juliet’s balcony then turned my attention to the padlocks on the gate. Without anyone to share a love-lock with (sayang, walang hottie!), I settled for a selfie with Juliet while clutching her boobie. (I swear; it’s a thing! Everyone does it!)
My favorite slice of Verona would have to be climbing up the Lamberti Tower! It’s the tallest tower in Verona, originally built as a means to watch over the city and, with the two bells installed, warn the community of fires and attacks from the neighboring Venetians. But even with this warning system, the city fell under the control of the Venetians. What we are now left with, though, is a stunning view of Verona and the Alps! (This got me EXTRA excited for my Bernina Express train and tour up the Swiss Alps from Milan – my next stop!)
I stayed up there for a while to take it all in (and rest my knee). I wish I could recall it more clearly in my mind… Despite the fog in my memory, remembering the moment up on the tower still gives me goose bumps. 🙂
Ok, ok. Time to hobble back down the Torre dei Lamberti and be greeted by the cutest Christmas bazaars.
I shuffled over to the Duomo to take some photos before heading back to my cozy home for the night.
Unfortunately, I didn’t get to see Castelvecchio, nor was I able to do much food tripping… Still, I had a clear, bright, and magical day in the city of Verona!
These were my thoughts as I left the charming Cambodia. I'll be writing a separate post for the sightseeing, food tripping, and travel tipping!
During my final hours in Cambodia, I found myself in awe of both its beauty and brutality.
My first impressions, along with a bit of my ignorance, were buried a wee bit deeper with each day in the country, particularly in the tourist driven city of Siem Reap.
I don’t think you can blame me for the rough start.. Stepping out of the airport to a herd of tuktuk drivers was taxing, even for a Filipina used to the chaos of Metro Manila. I am thankful for the airport taxi booth – the beacon of order amid the chaos!
Beyond the buzzing of the tuktuk drivers and the grumpy “customs” officers, everyone else seemed warm and genuinely friendly. And their country’s history… now, that is some story to tell!
As our taxi driver in Phnom Penh told us, quite insightfully, “It’s hard to explain our history because, in some ways, our civilization is very old. But because of the Khmer Rouge, we are also very young.”
The Beauty of the Khmer Empire’s Ancient Cities
Siem Reap is the jumping point to exploring the great number of ancient temples built by the Khmer Empire from the 800s to the 1200s CE.
I wish I had more time prior to the trip to read up on their ancient history, but even with the limited information on the Triposo app, I was easily moved by just being there.
Exploring the ancient cities of the Khmer Empire is, without a doubt, one of the most awesome things I’ve done in my life!
Seeing the sun rise then set from atop archaic stone constructs were magical moments! I would highly recommend this magnificent Cambodian adventure to anyone. (Add it to your bucket list!)
For some reason, my favorite temple was Bayon. I can’t quite explain why. But as I stared up at it from the outside, I was deeply moved, I may have teared.
Was it the craggy look? The fallen stones? The pillars? The non-existent ceilings and unveiled halls?
I’m not sure; but I loved it. It was the temple that ultimately made me feel like I was staring into the past.
The Brutal Khmer Rouge
There’s the lovely Siem Reap then there’s the grit, the poverty, the lakes filled with plastic garbage, markets with umbrellas coated with pale orange dust, rough roads for expressways, the beggars, the homeless, the hopeless…
All this I saw as I made my way, by bus, to the capital of Cambodia – Phnom Penh – to visit the killing fields.
Going on this journey and learning about the dark period in Cambodia’s history isn’t for everyone. Indeed, many tourists opt not to visit the more depressing sites, just as many would rather not read stories about the holocaust or the more recent cruelties under ISIS.
But if I was going to explore Cambodia, immerse myself in the culture, and attempt to realize its identity, I knew I had to learn the horrific story of the Khmer Rouge and its brutal murders.
The Cheong Ek Killing Field in Phnom Penh is only one of several killing fields across the country and is believed to be the largest.
The audio guide paints the gruesome picture… I let my imagination do the rest.
I imagined dark nights lit by fluorescent lamps with a number of areas, each with a crowd. Each crowd was split into two – young soldiers and shackled prisoners awaiting their gruesome execution.
Deafening revolutionary music masked most of the screams and howls as soldiers used whatever cheap tool they could find to hack at their victims. Bullets were too expensive; a wooden stick, bamboo chute, hammer, sickle, or hoe would have to do.
Children, babies were not spared. They were swung from their feet til their skull met the killing tree as mothers screamed helplessly and waited, even welcomed the end of their suffering.
Mauled bodies were tossed into ditches then poisoned with DDT to finish the half-assed executions and drown out the stench.
Around 17,000 people were murdered in Cheong Ek alone. And 3 million people died as a result of Pol Pot’s extremism and paranoia. Anyone with an education, anyone who would speak out, anyone who might defy the heinous rule of the Khmer Rouge – gone.
And there I was, walking atop their execution sites, trying not to step on pieces of human bone.
The Struggling Young Nation
It’s as if Cambodia’s evolution happened in reverse – from sophisticated water systems and magnificent buildings in Angkor to the inhumane genocide from 1975 to 79.
What’s left is a nation struggling to educate itself without intellectuals, struggling to rebuild without resources, and struggling to remember a culture lost to a repulsive regime.
Currently under a bogus democracy, only time will tell how Cambodia will get back on its feet.
But with such a rich history and incorruptible reminders of their ancient glory, I am hopeful to find a more prosperous and developed nation, should I ever have the chance to return.
My experience in Cheong Ek took my breath away. It took words away, too. I suppose it was a similar experience to the Bayon temple, except at the opposite end of the spectrum.
3 million people lost their lives for Pol Pot and the Khmer Rouge’s ideology of “agricultural socialism”. The entire nation suffered and continues to grieve because of an idea that cast aside humanity and basic rights.
How can people so easily resort to violence? How can people so easily forsake life?
Is it so easy to detach from other people’s suffering for as long as you’re ok, as Pol Pot and his generals were?
We have to stop and wonder, though, what did someone else have to lose for me to be in this position? What did someone give up so that I could enjoy a bar of chocolate? Did a child have to forego an education to harvest the cacao plant for my candy bar? What did someone have to go through to produce the jeans I wear? Did a woman have to work in a dusty, hot, stinky, cramped, disaster-waiting-to-happen factory?
While enjoying freedom – to speak, to be educated, to go on the internet, to choose what to clothes to wear, to decide who to marry and when… perhaps we should stop to think of the many people in the world do not have these basic joys.
There is so much injustice in this world, it’s overwhelming. But, I suppose, the first step to a better world is to acknowledge that these injustices exist.