Tag Archives: Heritage

Cambodia: Beauty & Brutality

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!

2_Fotor
Chilling inside Angkor Wat
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 Cities3_Fotor

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!

4_FotorSeeing 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.

6_Fotor_FotorWas 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

8_Fotor_FotorThere’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.

9_FotorBut 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.

12_Fotor
ditches where mutilated bodies were dumped
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.

11_FotorChildren, 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.

13_Fotor
careful not to step on human bones and tattered clothes
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

10_FotorIt’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?

1_Fotor_FotorWe 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.

The next step, though, is a whole lot tougher.

Advertisements

On Cynthia Alexander and Guerrilla Tears

A guerrilla tear trailed down my cheek reminding me that great music can be overwhelming, specially live.

From raindrops and goodbyes to welcoming the ecstatic pains of motherhood

From the beauty of the present to our forgotten respect for this world

From strolling past a sleeping lake to mind-tripping and cyclical bike rides

Cynthia Alexander has written powerful music, piercing through my metal-plated armor.

I’m still clutching at the emotions stirred by tonight’s conspiracy… Hence the blogpost (which I may just post tomorrow, a day late).

Thank goodness for music, my favorite time-travel machine, taking me back to electric experiences like tonight.

HUGE sigh.

MyJaninay finding herself in Cynthia Alexander’s June 16, 2012 gig at Conspiracy.

A special thank you to Pochoy for taking me. I hear and feel so much more with you.

Cynthia Alexander in Conspiracy, 16 June 2012
“This is more than intimate,” she said.
Conspiracy was packed, inside and out. Everyone enjoying Cynthia’s pleasant company and exquisite music.
“Amoy High School!”
Cynthia’s brother, Joey Ayala, came in through the window armed with funny quips.
“Dumaan Ako” performed by the talented siblings
My keyhole view of Cynthia Alexander… before I decided to stand up. 😉

Ilocos Trippin’ 2012

Sooo… I don’t really have much mind or much time to write some flamboyant entertaining post on my Ilocos Adventure. But I did work on this video so I hope you enjoy! Who knows, I might go back to this post… Pick it up, edit, swirl and twirl it into a magnificent piece on how Ilocos is the cradle of Northern Luzon’s culture and history.

But for now, why not just experience it for yourself? All the information you need is right here.

Good job, Philippines!

Ilocos Trippin’ Basics

I went from Manila to Vigan. Stayed overnight. Traveled to Laoag, then Pagudpud. I left Manila late Friday night and got back Monday morning.

I suggest you stay an extra day in Pagudpud to enjoy the beach but go when it’s a bit warmer. Nowadays, with the weather going haywire thanks to our wasteful ways, I’m not sure when that’ll be. This year, early March is pretty HOT.

I suggest you follow the same route, but ALSO visit Bangui Windmills and Cape Bojeador Light House on the way to Pagudpud from Laoag. I wasn’t traveling with a group and didn’t want to splurge on a van from Vigan to Pagudpud so I took a bus and couldn’t make pitstops.

Okie dokes! Here’s the skeletal information with my side comments.

Manila to Vigan

How To Get There

Bus Companies

  • I rode a Partas Deluxe Bus from the Cubao station for Php720/person. Pretty spacious and comfortable.
  • 8-9 hours on the road
  • No toilet
  • Bring a jacket! It’s fuh-reezing! Though that’s just me. I don’t fare well in the cold. Hehe!
  • Best call the bus companies for their daily bus schedule and rates. Those fluctuate. 😉

Partas (Cubao) – (+63.2) 727.8278 / 725 1740

Partas (Pasay) – (+63.2) 851.4025 / 410 1307

Florida (Cubao) – (+63.2) 781 5894

Florida (Pasay) – (+63.2) 912 5354

Maria De Leon (Sampaloc, Manila) – (+63.2) 731-4907

Farinas (Sampaloc, Manila) – (+63.2) 731.4507

Where To Stay

  • I stayed in Grandpa’s Inn and I am completely satisfied! They have a great restaurant, a coffee shop, and the place is so quaint and antique-y! I will definitely stay there again.
  • I got the fan room with 2 twin beds and a restroom for just Php980/night!
  • Vigan is very small so anywhere you stay will be close to everything else. No need to stress about that.
  • Here are some places I recommend. Best to call or SMS in advance for questions and reservations.
  • Grandpa’s Inn would be more than happy to help you get a van to tour Laoag, the lighthouse, windmills, and take you to Pagudpud. Just call them up and ask for the rates and schedule! I’m pretty sure the other hotels would be able to do that as well.

Grandpa’s Inn – (+63.917) 580.2118 – Website

Villa Angela Heritage House – (+63.2) 425.6473 / (+63.919) 315.6122 / (+63.927) 894.0610 – Website

Hotel Salcedo de Vigan – (+63.917) 856.4588 / (+63.917) 990.6675 – Website

Vigan Plaza Hotel –  (+63.2) 246.1501 / (+63.77) 722.1527 / 632.0317 – Website

How To Get Around

  • A tricycle will take you anywhere around the city. Php30 should get you to your hotel from the bus station. And that’s for 2 people already!
  • WALK. It’s a tiny city and you see more by walking. Grab a free map from your hotel and explore
  • KALESA or horse-drawn carriage. The kalesa drivers know all the tourist spots (museums, churches, bell tower, pot-making, gardens, zoo, etc.) so just hop on one from off the street and ask him where he can take you! It’s Php150/hour (Rates may change so ask the front desk of your hotel.). Prepare to pay around Php500. There are a lot of places to see! Reserve the whole afternoon for exploring!
  • Feel free to give an extra tip if you can spare the cash. 😉

Where To Go

  • Don’t forget to ask for a map at the front desk of your hotel. All the sites should be on there as well and you can plot out your own route based on where you’re coming from and where you want to end up. 🙂
  • The places are free but they ask for donations. I’d give Php20 per museum just to help them maintain it. 😉
  • Below are the sites you can walk to, fosho’

Calle Crisologo – Cobblestone streets, sound of hooves clonkity clonking, ancestral homes… It’s a beautiful walk that’ll take you back to the Spanish era. Here you’ll find loads of shops where you can buy local woven products like blankets, robes, bags, etc. Furniture, too!

Sy-Quia Mansion – The Vigan residence of 6th president of the Philippines – Elpidio Quirino. If it’s open, there should be a tour guide to explain the history of the house, its furnishings, and the family.

Crisologo Museum – Residence of the Crisologo family turned into a museum

  • You can walk to the places below or take a kalesa already. If you’re up for it, I suggest you walk then hail a kalesa after to save on moolah. 🙂

Vigan Cathedral/St. Paul Metropolitan Cathedral

Archbishop’s Residence

Father Jose Burgos’ Residence

Plaza Burgos & Plaza Salcedo

  • It’s best to take a kalesa ride to these next places! It’s a great experience and these sites are far from the city and kalesas are more comfortable and more environment-friendly than tricycles! The horses are
  • The kalesa drivers know where to go and they know information about certain places, too. Feel free to be friendly and ask them questions. They may have some interesting stories to tell!

Bantay’s Bell Tower and St. Augustine Church – Get ready for some cardio up some stairs!

Pagburnayan – You can try to make a clay pot after you watch them. They make it look too easy! You can’t take the pot home with you, though. It is sun dried and takes about a week.

Hidden Garden – I could’ve skipped this, quite honestly.

Sunflower Farm – I’m sad I didn’t get to see the fields of sunflowers! Ask your kalesa driver if the sunflowers are in bloom.

Baluarte Mini Zoo – Pretty interesting considering it’s privately owned by Philippine politician Chavit Singson. There are tigers, ostriches, dears, small horses… Website!

What To Eat

Vigan Longganisa – A longganisa is a small but chubby salty sausage filled with goodness! Vigan is known for their version of the longganisa. Best to eat this for breakfast with garlic rice (called sinangag) and egg. Don’t forget to put a little vinegar (called suka; pinakurat is the type of strong suka they may have) for an extra kick! (I ate this as my free breakfast meal in Grandpa’s Inn!)

Ilocos Empanada – Ilocos has their own brand of empanadas. It’s deep fried and crunchy with egg, meats (preferably longganisa), and a bit of veggies inside. Again, don’t forget the suka! (Irene’s Empanada is really good. They have a nook in Calle Crisologo and another near Sy-Quia Mansion)

Bagnet – Ooh yeah! A delicious slab of fried pork both crunchy and tender! I love  this!!! With rice, of course. And best with a hint of this mixture – bagoong (fish sauce) and calamansi (our tad sweeter mini version of a lemon). You can eat this with the pinakbet as well, since pinakbet is made with bagoong. MM-MM-MMMMMM!!!

Pinakbet – Delish mix of veggies!!! Just try it! Ok. Now I’m hungry.

Vigan to Laoag

How To Get There

  • The front desk of your hotel can check everything for you whether you want to take the bus and need the schedule or get a van ready for you to tour all the way to Laoag and Pagudpud. I suggest you take the van. It’s more expensive but you can split the cost between a group.
  • Should you take the bus, you’ll need to hire a tricycle to tour Laoag.

Where To Eat

Saramsam

La Preciosa

Where To Go

  • To get around, you’ll need to hire a tricycle. They may try to charge you outrageous fees so be wary! We paid Php200 to get from the bus station to a restaurant for lunch and the following sites, then back to the bus station.

Sinking Bell Tower

St. William The Hermit Cathedral

Ilocos Norte Capitol

Tobacco Monopoly Abolition Monument – Right next to the capitol and near the Sinking Bell Tower

Museo Ilocos Norte

  • If only I had time to spare, I would’ve gone to the sites below. These are a bit farther so you’ll have to pay your tricycle driver more. I’ve searched online and Php500 should do it. Go on and try out your bargaining skills! But, again, if you took a van, this wouldn’t be a problem at all. 😉

Paoay Church – A UNESCO World Heritage Site

Malacanang of the North, Paoay

Bacarra Bell Tower

La Paz Sand Dunes

Laoag to Pagudpud

How To Get  There

  • Again, I must stress the ease and stress-less-ness (I know that isn’t a word) of hiring a van from Vigan. Because from Laoag I took a non-aircon bus to Pagudpud. *bow*
  • This is the time you can pass through Burgos to visit the Cape Bojeador Light House then the Bangui Windmills – both of which I missed out on. Instead, I experienced sweating onto my seat with my bag on my lap and getting squished to the window with a bunch of random people. Buttttt, you only pay Php60/person! So feel free to choose your adventure. :p
  • Once you reach Pagudpud, pass by the Florida “station”. There are quotation marks ‘coz it’s more like a simple restaurant area but you’ll see the buses outside. Just ask around. PURCHASE YOUR TICKET HOME ALREADY! Just so you’re sure you have a seat. 😉

How To Get Around

  • I’ll give you one guess.
  • Make sure to get the mobile number of your tricycle driver in case you need a ride!

Where To Stay

  • There were a few new resorts sprouting up so go and check online to find more resorts to stay in!
  • Don’t forget to ask the resort if they have free transfers from the bus area to the resort and back when it’s time to say bye-bye.

Villa Del MarWebsite

Hannah’s Website

Terra Rika Website

Where To Go

  • Uhhh… THE BEACH. There are island tours you can try, too. And feel free to take a tricycle to the main town or “bay an” to have some empanada and longganisa. YUM.

That’s about it. BAM!!!