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.
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?
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.
I found myself well beyond my shire and on an adventure I wasn’t quite fit for. For a lethargic couch potato with a bad knee, the quest to the crater lake of Mount Pinatubo was daunting.
The confidence boost came from the knowledge that elder folk and kids would be joining the trek. I could keep up with them naman siguro… right? Haha!
Bottom line is, I made it! So you can, too. In fact, you don’t feel the incline until the final stretch to the crater. And since you’ll be so focused on finding a trustworthy spot to place your next step, time dashes by.
The trip begins early from the jump-off point with a bumpy hour on a 4×4 to the foot of the volcano. The trek to the crater takes around 2 hours. The most challenging section of the trip for me would be the staircase of, maybe, 200 steps to get to the lake.
But oh, what a magnificent sight – still waters floating within the crater of a sleeping volcano! it’s the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow; the treasure under the spot marked “X”; the pièce de résistance!
The sights along the trail are also awe-inspiring, should you take the time to look up and around. Mountains of ash with remnants of mini landslides. Boulders and rocks and stones and pebbles. Cold streams – wide and tiny. Sulfur stains. Local tribespeople with smiling faces and genuine greetings… To think, this is the same volcano that gave us the second largest eruption in the 20th century.
The stillness of the crater lake, the calm sound of gentle streams, the permanent placement of boulders and smoothed stones, the delicate hills of dust… The beauty you find along the Pinatubo trail is a testament to the catastrophic Mount Pinatubo eruption in 1991.
While trekking, naturally, you’ll be looking down and ahead most of the way. But do not forget to peel your eyes from the path and appreciate the glory of nature – sheer and brutal beauty. Step into the shot and take lots of photos and videos. Enjoy the scenery. Horror gifted us with this serenity.
If you’re looking to go on your own Mount Pinatubo adventure, there are lots of tour providers from Manila. We used Allan Bognot, who also owns a pension house at the jump-off point.
Just some tips:
Doing the trek early in the morning was great! It got quite chilly (this was end-December).
Use sunscreen. Your trek back which will be around noon to 2pm and you’ll feel the sun much more then. I heard it’s extra hot on any other time of year!
Eat a big breakfast and bring snacks (my tummy was grumbling on the trek back).
Use comfortable shoes that you don’t mind getting water and sand in. Hiking shoes would be best.
I submitted an entry to the Do Good Get Dirty Campaign. Now, I’ll just have to wait and see if I win a trip! There are 2 days left to join so if you want to get your hands dirty for a cause in Puerto Prinsesa, Dumaguete, or Mt. Matutum in Mindanao, visit www.dogoodgetdirty.com and submit an entry!
It’s more than just a travel opportunity.
It’s the first time I’m seeing a promo and giveaway where the prize includes immersion and volunteering. I’m interested to know how many people join in to travel for a cause.
Whenever our country goes through a disaster like Ondoy or Haiyan, we find loads of people donating relief goods, packing them, and sending them via volunteered trucks to relief areas. We can pat ourselves on the back for that.
But I wonder about the rest of the year.
If you think about it… suffering, poverty, and environmental degradation doesn’t end a week, months, even years after a calamity. Every day, there are people and places that need helping hands. Will suffering ever end?
What is it that will get us to step out of our bubble, speak out, and help out? This is a question I ask myself constantly. (And if you have an answer, I’d be happy to read it on the comment box.)
It’s so easy to get trapped in a daily routine and our never-ending to-do list.
But the world needs us to look up and see if what we do is making a positive or a negative impact. It really is just one or the other.
My goal is for the tasks on my to-do list to be things that will improve the world and people’s lives. I don’t want to live any other way.
I’d be interested to see how many others feel the same. How many would see volunteering as an opportunity – a prize and not a hassle? How many others would join a contest for the chance to do good and get dirty?
Some members of mi familia are heading to Dubai for a vacation. My mom asked me for a list of things to do... Thought it might help you, too. (Hello, Mama!)
Also check out for my post on travel tips (I scattered food photos there!). I also posted an opinion/reflection-type piece, if that interests thee.
Abu Dhabi Tour: Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque
If there is one thing to see in Abu Dhabi, it would have to be the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque. I was in awe of this structure! If you have the time, there’s a whole Abu Dhabi tour you can do. Check out “Others” below for more Abu Dhabi sights… But the mosque is the one I highly recommend! Go during sunset. ❤
Experience being right smack in the middle of the desert with non-flying carpets, camels, henna, and belly dancers! Getting there is a treat, too… Unless you’re not the type who would like riding a 4×4 vehicle up and down sand dunes. The food wasn’t great. But the experience was! Just beware of this guy with a falcon. Taking a photo with his bird will cost you! :p
The Dubai Mall, The Dubai Fountain, & The Burj Khalifa
Save an evening for these giants – the largest mall, the largest dancing fountain, and the tallest building! They’re all in one area. How crazy is that? You can stand in a spot and see all 3. Haha! Have dinner in one of the restaurants in Souk Al Bahar overlooking it all… And go and have your flavored shisha!
These two are right next to each other. Bastakiya is a restored neighborhood of past pearl traders from Bastak, Iran. It’s a wonderful peek into Dubai’s history, before all the glitz! If you enjoy learning about a country’s history, I suggest going through the Dubai Museum then making your way to the Sheikh Mohammed Centre for Cultural Learning for a free tour of Bastakiya. Check out the website and give them a call for the schedules. There are little quirky shops where you can get interesting souvenirs! And right on the perimeter is a nice tea place (Arabian Tea House Restaurant & Café) and the camel burger restaurant (Local House Restaurant). Ask around about the Spice and Gold Souks! They’re around the area. I’m sure you’ll take some pretty and colorful photos there.
You can also walk along the Dubai Creek and find yourself an abra (boat) to take you around. (You’ll learn how important the creek was to the development of the city at the museum.) You can actually have a lunch or dinner cruise along the creek on the bigger dhow boat. But the food is not great so I don’t recommend it. (A wonderful experience on a dhow would be a day trip to Oman! Jump off and swim in the salty Musandam sea; plus you may even see some dolphins!)
Save half a day or more for Bastakiya. Remember, the heat of the desert takes a toll on you! You may not be able to explore out in the sun as long as you usually do.
Atlantis, The Palm & Aquaventure
Atlantis is a hotel and entertainment complex located at the Palm. (Yes, the Palm is the iconic palm-shaped reclaimed area you see from ze sky.) One of its facilities is the Marine and Waterpark.
The waterpark is loads of fun with crazy tall and winding slides! Plus, it incorporated its marine park so some of the slides have you entering a tunnel surrounded by an aquarium. Pretty trippy! There is another waterpark in Dubai called Wild Wadi. I didn’t get to go to that one. But I was happy I chose Aquaventure instead.
Friday Brunch at “The Walk” Jumeirah Beach Residences
Work weeks in the Middle East start on Sunday and end on Thursday (Though I believe they used to only have 1 day off per week). Basically, their Friday is like our Saturday.
Anyway! A brunch tradition has started in Dubai and loads of hotels and restaurants offer Friday brunch buffets. You can even opt for bottomless champagne! I suggest looking for a place near the Jumeirah Beach Residences (JBR) so you see the shopping boardwalk and maybe hang around by the beach. (Yo, Filipinos! There’s a ChowKing somewhere here! HAHA!) Here’s a list of the top Friday Brunch spots in Dubai.
Burj Al Arab
The Burj Al Arab is the iconic 7-star hotel in Dubai designed to appear like a ship’s sail. It is also built on reclaimed land and connects to the mainland through a private bridge.
If the Burj Al Arab rates turn you off, you can enjoy the view of the iconic hotel instead! Look for Kite Beach or Burj Beach. Take time to catch the sunset. 🙂
Souk Madinat Jumeirah is an interesting mall near the Burj Al Arab area. There are also some restaurants and pubs.
Ski Dubai at Mall of Emirates has the indoor ski slope and other activities if you want to experience snow in the middle of the desert. If you end up in this mall, try out the restaurant “Al Hallab”. Good food!
In the Emirates, the sun reaches far into any form of shade. Sunglasses are so much more than an accessory (Seriously, you CANNOT leave home without it.). The slightest hint of rain is a freak occurrence. Water is more expensive than petrol. Black figures floating about mustn’t be stared at. And something grand, humongous, luxurious, and/or opulent greets you in every corner.
I found myself in a whole new world, with a new (fantastic?) point of view. This would be my first long project for work and I ended up spending a month in Dubai, occasionally driving to Abu Dhabi.
What to do? What to see? There’s the tallest building in the world right next to the largest shopping mall and the biggest fountain show (in the middle of the desert). There’s the indoor ski slope and a few crazy, big water parks to choose from (in the middle of the desert). There’s a desert safari with dune bashing and a cultural show (naturally, in the middle of the desert). And a bunch of other things to see and do in this land of infinite sand! (Watch out for my posts on travel tips and places to see in Dubai.)
I found myself drawn to the Bastakiya Quarter, a restored historic district. It’s next to the Dubai Museum and the Dubai Creek and is the only place I found teeming with history and character. Get lost in the alleyways and walk into art galleries or pretty courtyards. Stroll along the notable Khor Dubai and listen for the chants from surrounding mosques. Take shelter from the heat at the Arabian Tea House Restaurant & Café. And if you’d like to try something new, just next door is the Local House Restaurant that serves camel burgers!
Hands down, my most awe-inspiring moment was visiting the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque. I’m not certain I’ve ever seen anything so massive and so beautiful. I could’ve stared at the structures in my burka for hours. I will admit, though, that I was more impressed with the exterior than the lavish rugs and golden fixtures inside.
Here’s the thing about Dubai – it overflows with extravagance. Sports cars, palaces, gold and diamonds, designer brands… These are things that many aspire for. But from where I stand, there is no place for this level of excess in a world where over 1.4 billion people live in extreme poverty (living on less than $1.25 per day).
Another issue that bothered me was how many Filipinos work in Dubai. It was comforting for me, in a way. You walk around a mall and every store has a Pinoy employee. Hearing the Filipino language is not at all surprising. Plus, I sometimes get perks like better service or an extra refill of my drink just because I’m Pinay. But when I stop to think about it, I can’t help but be both sad and angry about the state of my country. A lot of Filipinos leave the Philippines not because they want to travel or experience what it’s like to live elsewhere. They leave because the so-called opportunities back home cannot provide them and their family a good life. They can do the same work abroad, and get better pay.
Overall, I’m glad I experienced Dubai for as long as I did. I got past the WOW factor. It gave me time to see through the mirage… Not that it was all bad! They’ve built beautiful and functional cities, a strong economy, and thriving businesses. I must also give credit to how they’ve managed to somewhat break out of the strict Islamic religion; somewhat allowing alcohol, pork, and for people (women) to dress as they please. While they still remain shackled to religious tradition, at least they don’t strictly impose these traditions on those of varying beliefs…
But could this be yet another mirage? That’s certainly a possibility. I’ve heard a number of stories that lead me to believe so.