My sleep was so deep. It felt like only a second passed since my eyes closed until the moment I woke up. My senses were getting accustomed to the living world when I wondered why my alarm didn’t go off. I reached for my watch and was shocked to see it was already 4:30pm! I jumped off the bed and grabbed my things like there’s no tomorrow. I asked Mime to fetch me at the hotel at 3:30pm for out afternoon expedition at the Central plains including a sunset at Pyathada Paya, but an hour had already passed. So much for the planned itinerary for the afternoon, I haven’t even had my lunch yet.
There is one temple in Bagan which is highly recommended by guides and people there, it is Ananda Pahto, and there are good reasons why – it’s one of the largest, finest and most importantly, the most-preserved temple in Bagan. Coming from the road on the north plain this was the main temple on the east, outside the walls of Old Bagan. It’s very popular so the presence of the vendor stands leading to the Pahto’s main entrance is expected. Beyond them I marvelled at the beautiful white-washed temple with a golden corn-like stupa glimmering at the mid-day sun.
“Where are you from?” asked a pagoda watchman at Upali Thein. “I’m from the Philippines!” I replied slightly exasperated already from answering this question just on the third day in Myanmar or is it because I haven’t slept yet. “Oh Philip-Pines!” most people would pronounce it with the last syllable sounding similar to a “Pine” Tree. I proceeded to admire the beautiful frescoes inside this small ordination hall then suddenly the watchman spoke “My friend, maybe you can help me change this money, I can’t use them here” I looked back and saw in his hand a few peso bills amounting to 850 pesos. Surprised, I asked “Where did you get those?”
First let me greet you all a blessed Christmas. It’s been a crazy year with a lot of highs and lows. But Christmas is here to remind us to count our blessings instead and see the world in a different perspective. I can’t say that things have all been good seeing the tragedy that happened to our brothers in Mindanao. But it shows that there is hope for humanity seeing the great outpour of support from people giving what little they can offer. This season, I revisit Simbang Gabi on some of the popular churches in Manila to capture a Filipino tradition.
Surprisingly, the endless stream of people didn’t bother me at all. My sight was fixated at the cone-shaped stupa piercing the sky. The afternoon light strikes its slab of gold layers making it shimmer magnificently under the sun. I am humbled by the towering presence of the Shwedagon Pagoda, the most sacred, the most ancient and the 2nd oldest Buddhist pagoda not only in Burma but all over the world. Surrounding the main stupa are numerous mini stupas, shrines, pavilions and prayer halls that it’s easy to get lost on the platform on a hill and be overwhelmed by the many details.
It’s surprising that most of us were already awake by 5am in the morning without even having to call everyone up. We were worried the night before that the constant bamboo-like clacking sound from the mountain frogs outside Bangaan Family Inn would keep us awake but it seems the frogs drifted to sleep as well. Or was it the amusing ghost stories that challenged to sleep? But ghostly presence or not, we were shooting trees from a hill far away as the soothing calmness of the morning in Bangaan unfolds.
I must admit, I’ve been putting off visiting Corregidor for years now. I’ve been to places far-off Manila yet I haven’t been able to set foot on this island which is basically an hour away by ferry. Maybe I wasn’t too convinced seeing island ruins bombarded during the Second World War or even the somewhat high price tag for a destination so near. But my perception changed when I finally got to visit the island. I think the place wasn’t marketed enough as Corregidor Island was more intriguing than I thought it would be.