WALK OF FAITH – A BUDDHIST MONK AND A RIVER IN AGONY

My feet is my only carriage
And so I’ve got to push on through

Bob Marley

In 2004 I had my first Alay-Lakad in Antipolo. I can still remember how abruptly it happened. I just received a call from a friend and the next thing I know I was walking on the streets going to Antipolo Cathedral. More than a decade has passed and here I go abruptly pondering about it again – I will walk once more the path to Antipolo.

Years have passed and I’ve become a different man since then. My intention of going to Antipolo Cathedral the first time was all just for the heck of it. This time it’s more personal, more heartfelt and I expect it to be more divine.

So before the actual day of Alay-Lakad occur, I practiced one day walking from Buendia to JP Rizal then back home in Pasig. All in all it was just about an 8 kilometer walk. I have grown fond of walking from time to time since traffic in the metro has worsened. I usually walk from Ortigas to our home which is only a 3 kilometer walk. Eventually, I have turned my feet as a means of transportation.

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Runrio: Go-natural 2012 – I finished 75% among all participants at the 21km run. I was an average runner.

My agenda going to JP Rizal (Makati City Hall) was due to my apprehension a couple of weeks back in which my driver’s license was confiscated because of illegal parking in Ayala Makati. But the real story lies from the reflections I received during this walk. The first came when a man looking like a monk approached me in. At first I thought he was curious that I was also wearing mala beads. He suddenly tapped his singing bowl (a type of bell used by monks for meditation and relaxation) and he made me wear a cheap Catholic rosary. He tapped my forehead a couple of times uttering words I couldn’t understand to which I assumed were Buddhist prayers. This is where things got a little awkward. He made me look inside his bowl and there I saw, among all the bracelets on top, a hundred peso bill. I tried to comprehend what he was trying to say and his gestures made me realize that the rosary he gave me cost a hundred peso. I thought to myself are you kidding me?? So he caught me off guard and I gave him a hundred peso bill with my head shaking and a smile regardless.

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The catholic bracelet that the Thai Monk gave me

That night I talked to my guide regarding the matter and he told me that the man is probably not a fraud and that he could be a Thai monk basing from the uniform he wore. This gave me a sigh of relief knowing that well at least I wasn’t scammed. Coincidentally or should I say miraculously, my guide also met the Thai monk the day after. He knew what will transpire so he gave the monk a hundred bill even before the monk could execute his ritual to him. But the monk insisted on giving him a mala bracelet and a red silk bracelet which costed 400 pesos combined. Whew. So regardless my guide gave the monk all the money being asked. But for him, he told me that everything was just a reflection on how you see things unfolding right in your eyes. I thought “oh my I just got robbed” but my guide believed what he wanted to believe. That experience beheld a learning that is for ours to seek. And the next day after that, a trending news on social media circulated that a group of monk are allegedly harassing students in Vito Cruz. I was left to judge the experience based on how I see it. And as my guide told me that it was a reflection of how an individual perceives it, my perception about my experience with the monk MOVED me.

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The next day, my guide took a photo of the monk walking in Ortigas

How did it move me? I started noticing the surroundings. I had an increase in my sensitivity after that monk incident. And as I passed by Rizal Riverwalk in Guadalupe I couldn’t help but feel appalled. It was dirty. So what’s new? That’s the problem. We are so used to it that we simply don’t care at all.  I took time savoring the moment of walking along the sides of the river the words that could describe the river condition just came in negatively. Despair. Despair. Rot. Rot. Decay. Decay. I pity not the human race but to the species who depend their lives on that river. I saw birds hanging around a long line of electrical post and I wondered if they think like humans they would be laughing at us. They would probably think how stupid these creatures are. Which we are. And we should not be proud of it. We should have at least evolved into something better but we aren’t. Not yet. We are already the reflection of what this society looks like – junk.

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Organic, synthetic, any kind of waste can be seen in Pasig River

From this, I came up with a concept of a show that focuses more on the idea of death. I suddenly became fascinated to visit abandoned places. I want to document and unravel the stories of places that were vacated. It came from my observation that most TV shows are always after something new or something that will eventually become a fad so I wanted a show that would talk about the end of something.

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This area was called Barangay Buwayang Bato because during the Spanish era there used to be a very large rock that shaped like a crocodile. Legend has it that once, a man passed by here in the middle of the night and the rock became a giant living crocodile. In his horror he prayed and converted to Christianity. It could be a ploy by the Spanish friars to convert Filipinos to Christianity but either way its a good story.

As I got home my energy got renewed with all the musings I got from simply walking around the city. I needed it so badly and though it may look simple it is truly effective. And as I anticipate the coming of Good Friday I am awaiting for another message and another calling.

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This area in Sumilang Pasig has been abandoned since the first time I saw it in around 1992 and this has been like this ever since. I am very curious to see whats inside.

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