For someone who has been exposed to all sort of news as a journ student, and for someone who is trying to be an expert regarding Philippine diplomacy and global politics, I have gotten used to associating words and meanings to systems of governments and to certain groups of people. Say for example, people who work for and with the government.
From my vantage point, I have seen them defined and limited by these common descriptions. Trends, surveys and papers dictate that our institutions continue to be stuck on doing the same right things wrong, and wrong things right. I favored none, but I believed what I saw, heard and read. To which I largely blame my usual pensiveness and cynicism.
The universe, however, has its own way of surprising us. One day, we just wake up and realize that there is indeed a different depth and dimension to these people, administrations and issues unfolding in our society, even. That surprise for me was this internship, the close encounters I have had with #TeamBamAquino.
Of the many valuable lessons this experience has given me, the virtues of optimism and patience are the ones that I will treasure the most. Optimism because my “officemates” showed me that there are still people in the government who selflessly want to work on having and seeing a better country than the one we all inherited. Patience because as in Project Wasak, the many times I have watched Senator Bam exemplify it on the floor and in life in general, good things don’t come in easy.
It has been weeks, but there’s no easy way to move on from this great experience.
I wrote a story in Angkor Wat.
One that was penned with my heart, and once done writing, sealed in a safety box in my mind.
In the story, I wrote about seeing faces. Lots and lots of them. In the streets, in the corners, in the walls, in the paintings, in the hands of a lover, in the smiles of strangers.
Some faces had voices. And some of these voices wondered where I came from, how long have I been traveling, where was I heading next and sometimes, if I had a dollar to spare them. I learned to answer with laughter and with a language that was different from my own. “Same same” means the same, “no have” means nothing, “picture” means please stop.
There was a love note for that moment between when the sun was at its highest, and the rain at its strongest. I am a tropical child so used to warmth and daylight, to strong gusts of wind and rain. But, it was only in the midst of that temporary gloom that I saw the beauty and grandeur that lived within the temple’s soul.
Strange, but it is all meaningful to me.
Perhaps, there was a secret prayer, too.
Gratitude for when there is silence for retrospection, humility after receiving, and safety in change and movement Gratitude for believers, non-believers, and crossroads.
I wrote a story in the most beautiful place I have ever been.
It has been more than a month since. I am happy to have come back home to tell you about it.
Phnom Penh was more of a stop over, not quite the destination.
There are countless stories, in words and in photograph. But I look at these photos, and all the words seem to disappear.
“The Cambodian genocide of 1975-1979, in which approximately 1.7 million people lost their lives (21% of the country’s population), was one of the worst human tragedies of the last century. As in the Ottoman Empire during the Armenian genocide, in Nazi Germany, and more recently in East Timor, Guatemala, Yugoslavia, and Rwanda, the Khmer Rouge regime headed by Pol Pot combined extremist ideology with ethnic animosity and a diabolical disregard for human life to produce repression, misery, and murder on a massive scale.” (From: The CGP, 1994-2013)
Here’s a bit of a breather from my Indochina travel series. I also have not decided on what kind of color treatment to employ next (Clue: Temple Run) so this post is not really uncalled for.
Went to Vigan with Tita Tina for lunch yesterday and then went back home almost right after.
Yes, we “casually” travelled the two-hour distance between Laoag and Vigan just to satiate our appetites. We couldn’t think of anything closer to home that has the ability to excite our palates so we settled not for convenience.
No need for guessing where we went because *tanaaan*
The history and art enthusiast that I am went seventh heaven and back upon reaching the lobby.
After a little peak of the hotel’s artistry, we were led to the Comedor where Cafe Luna is..
..and where these paintings are on display.
The cafe offers selection of authentic Ilocano, Spanish and fusion cuisines. We were pretty much sure what we went to Vigan for so ordering came easy despite the array of delectable choices.
While not part of our original checklist, we fell love at first sight with these babies. You know what they say, there’s always room for dessert.
Now, since it takes sometime to prepare our order, just because it demands to not because of service issues, Tita Tina and I went on a little exploring.
If you wonder, they have attentive and polite service crew. Tita Tina also noted how most of them are still young and must have probably undergone proper yet rigorous training.
Wasn’t able to take a photo of the pool but how do you like this view?
There’s a grand staircase leading to it which moonlights as a go-to photo-op spot. #BestInAvail
Later on, I was told that this 3D art featuring some of Vigan’s best was internationally commissioned.
And that the most expensive rooms have porcelain bathtubs. Amazing, but not quite surprising given that Hotel Luna is a competitor in the luxury heritage hotel market.
Naaks (pretend) foreigner in her own land, haha.
Two seconds after, the sun came out and the wind started blowing off my hair. #CouldNotCatchABreak
Makabalik na ngang Comodor, lol.
Started with this native Sinanglao, a specialty soup made with beef innards and meat.
It’s not as bad as I make it sound or look. I’m absolutely not a picky eater, but I am conscious with the food I eat and this one just makes the cut! Ergo, trust me, hihi.
Then we moved on to the star of the afternoon.. Paella.
I forgot the exact name of this dish, but it’s the one with mixed chicken and seafood (You don’t saaay!) in it. There’s an option to have just one of the two, so we gave up the chicken. If this isn’t for you, maybe Paella Negra (the one with squid meat and ink) or Paella Ilocano (the one with bagnet and longganisa) will work better. BTW, they ship the saffron (the ingredient used for coloring) all the way from India.
A word of caution though, this thing can get really spicy, as did our order. It might help to ask them not to put too much Ilocano pepper unless you can’t be bothered with the need to separate them from your plate, as we did.
If love at first sight was this good, I wouldn’t mind having it the next time I fall in love. #Word
Crisp meringue on the top most part, then it gets softer as you reach its bottom. Brazo de Mercedes has been changed for me 5ever.
After the two-hour lunch (well, #Sloweaters and #BestInStorytelling), we went to see the exhibit upstairs.
The 1883 “The Mandolin Player” (La Mandolinera) by Juan Luna.
Arturo Luz’s “Palitana” and Malang’s “Two Women.”
Eduardo Castillo’s “The Winnowers” (foreground left); and newly installed Ben Cab originals, both sculpture and painting.
Last but not the definitely not the least, “Shawl of Innocents” by Araceli Limcaco Dans.
Now to Đồng Khởi Street, the commercial heart of the city and where memories of the French colonial period stand still. It has been thrice renamed in the past, marking significant changes in Saigon’s history.
As the center of life and glamour during the French colonization, the street was called Rue Catinat. Then, it was dubbed as the Tu Do or Freedom Street after the first Indochina War. In 1975, when the communists took over South Vietnam, it was finally given the name Đồng Khởi, which translate as Total Revolution in English.
Such is also the fate of the Independence Palace (Dinh Độc Lập), also known as the Reunification Palace (Dinh Thống Nhất). Its name and purpose has followed the torrential waves of history.
Greeted by these cuties before entering the palace.
I want one of this in my future home please. #RandomSharing #EasilyDistracted
The palace’s construction commenced on July 1, 1962 and was fully completed by 1966.
Built in the former site of the Norodom Palace, headquarters of Japanese officials during the World War II, it boasts of expansive rooms including diplomatic chambers and reception halls that could accommodate up to 800 guests.
The Conference Hall.
The Independence Hall served as General Nguyễn Văn Thiệu’s home for about eight years. This was his suite and at the far end is his bedroom. I am particularly curious as to how the giant tusks made him feel. #Spooky
The Cabinet Room.
I know what you’re thinking, where the heck is the cabinet here? Hoho
View from the roof top.
Can never get over of Saigon’s lush and verdant green sceneries. (Tagged under: City planning done right.)
“Skin as white as ivory, lips as red as ruby..” Yii, Snow White.
Meanwhile in my universe: “Skin as dark as ebony..” Aminin mo, cinonsider mo talaga siya, haha.
Regular bungisngis, poise less me.. which surprises people from online who meet me in real life. I tell you, my writing tone is more somber than my personality. And, I’m not even that somber to begin with. #Telling
Maxi dresses were particularly helpful because of the ease and comfort it provided to me. The length was also appropriate for temples that required strict dress code, even more when worn with my favorite scarf. Packing wise, it’s light weight and requires little luggage space. #TravelHacks
Saigon Notre Dame Cathedral (Nhà thờ Đức Bà Sài Gòn), seen from a different angle. I believe it’s as charming as its main facade. Also, makes me want to travel to Europe soon. #ThinkingAloud
Adjacent to the cathedral is Saigon’s Central Post Office (Bưu Điện), where I missed not the chance of sending some postcards.
A friend of mine got me into the old school correspondence earlier this year, and I couldn’t be more thankful for it. I get too much kilig from writing, sending and receiving letters and postcards in my pigeon hole.
Inside is this stunning ceilling!
Wouldn’t mind walking to the post office to drop my mails every week if it were this pretty. The ones in QC just fail in comparison.
Diamond Plaza which is surrounded by luxury brands such as Louis Vuitton, Hermes and Burberry. Aptly named, me thinks.
Saigon Opera House (Nhà hát lớn Thành phố Hồ Chí Minh).
You can see my friends from this photo. Had to get to the other side of the street to get a good view of the opera house.. which was the case most of the time. #Photography #LongDistanceRelationship
Such a well preserved beauty..
but wait until you see it at night.
#DreamSequence after grabbing coffee at L’Usine.
Another fail moment following our War Remnants Museum experience: We stayed for hours inside the cafe, leeching free wifi and all, not knowing that just a floor above us was an art gallery. We only noticed the sign on our way out for dinner. It also didn’t help that the cafe owner was actually cute, lol. (Tagged under: Why, universe, why?)
Then, dinner at Pho Hoa Pasteur. It was recommended to us by our Art Studies professor, whose reviews in art, food, and movies we respect so much.
Tell me I’m not the only one suffering from that random noodle. Huhu, wut u du dur nudul? #TheOC
The next day, we took a trip to Cu Chi province supposedly to see the tunnels. But the universe planned something else for us. We ended up navigating streets and locating buses to no avail. After much thought, patience and hours spent, we resolved to forego it for now as we were already scheduled for Cambodia that same afternoon.
So yes, next time we return, it will be for Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh’s Cu Chi Tunnels. Can’t wait to go back already!