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Dec 28, 2016
Originally published January 5, 2013
In December 2012, I returned to the Philippines to attend a funeral. We landed in Manila, a bustling city, overcrowded for sure, polluted, filthy, with traffic often at a standstill. When the traffic does flow, no one seems to abide by the rules. Jeepneys, tricycles, cars, buses, trucks, motorcycles–even a farmer puling a long wheelbarrow–aggressively play “chicken” on the road in order to inch ahead.
It was my first visit in 20 years. Although it is where I was born and where I spent the first 15 years of my life, I had returned only one other time before.
We spent most of our time in Pangasinan province, four hours north of Manila. Four days of somber activities at the funeral home, the family home, the capitol building, the church, and finally, the burial site – with mass services at each – left me and my siblings yearning for a breath of fresh air.
After the funeral, we headed to nearby Bonuan Beach. One of the many beaches we enjoyed as kids–and no doubt took for granted at the time–is still unspoiled in many ways, and deserted, a refreshing respite in this populous and raucous country. Only the crashing waves and gentle breezes could be heard.
I took photos not only to capture this beautiful paradise set against the backdrop of the setting sun, but also to use as future reference for one of my beach seascape paintings. It’s mesmerizing to watch the breaking waves. Water flows quietly forward as it gathers volume, then dumps its load in a giant spray, all the while spreading delicate, lacy foam trails everywhere. As bittersweet as the visit was, it was also good in many ways. It gave me a chance to reconnect with loved ones, and honor my roots. It’s perhaps poignant that a death in the family has inspired a renewal of sorts, and the birth of this blog which has been long in coming.
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