Exactly a year ago, a friend I’ve met in Pai, Thailand asked what it is I want the most in life. I was sharing to him a link of the documentary The Secret (a.k.a Law of Attraction). He inquired what it is about and I answered with huge enthusiasm that it reveals how to get what you truly want in life, actually backed up science. He then asked me, “What is it you want in life?” It was a simple question yet it was quite shocking on my nerves. I felt like I was confronted with a question so immense and possible at the same time it became scary. I hesitated for a few seconds and typed in my reply, “I want to pass the program I’m applying for coz I wanna study again. And visit Myanmar.” Both came true. The first one is another story. The second one happened on April of this year.
Before stepping into the Golden Land, the question of why Myanmar was a dream destination didn’t escape me. I would give common reasons that the fascination sprang because of how its culture was intact and raw. Both men and women wear longyi (a Burmese clothing wrapped around the waist and extended down to the feet), as well as thanaka (cream applied on the face for cosmetics and sunscreen purposes); the buildings are old, some are to the brink of dilapidation; the Burmese are the most kind-hearted people I’ve encountered. Its government recently and slowly opened its doors to tourism. People have become more curious than ever about the Burmese way of life – their personal, political, social and economic struggles and growth as a country and as individuals. Something about them is new to us and something about us is new to them. Or maybe we are just finding out the gaps were never really there and we resemble one another. But what I couldn’t utter in spoken words was that I was drawn to it because of a photo of hot-air balloons slowly rising above the glorious structures of temples scattered all over the copper colored plains and is even made more alive by the green crowns of trees and plants. The whole is covered in mist. It was divine. That, I confess, is the reason why I wanted to visit Myanmar. When I thought about it before, I deemed it shallow, not enough. Right now, I feel like having no explicable and logical reason has become the deepest reason for traveling to a destination, more so for living life. I like to read, I like to ask questions and answer them with positivity, I like to interrogate whys and hows, yet in the end I feel like I have not known a single certainty. Life is galaxical mysterious and it is perfect.
But then again, I need not ask nor really know. I need not ponder on the mystical mist enveloping the world. I witnessed this and the illusionary complexities of life fell away. My friends and I were left with this scenery as we were sitting beside one another, quiet, and swallowed by the total beauty quite larger than our “selves”, if there ever was one.
We explored Yangon, Inle and Mandalay for a couple of days and met a few fun friends along the trip. The last stop in backpacking Burma was Bagan. This was the personal highlight. On the day of our arrival, we rented electric bicycles, woke up at dawn, and rode along the path of semi-darkness. I was unsure of my driving skills yet I persistently drove to the seemingly endless direction where a strategic spot is located in order to catch the rising sun over the majestic seedbed of temples. Mind over matter. I was observing myself and the vehicle and trying to ease into driving. I was driving. I was in full alert. I was pulsing with the sand and trees beside the narrow, cemented road and along the curves and among the passing faces and the vehicles driven by foreigners and locals alike.
Matthias, Simon and Maggie were ahead of the group. Reina and I were approaching behind. In a few minutes of being on the road, as we encountered the first curve not so far from the hostel, I suddenly lost Reina. I couldn’t spot her behind. I stopped and waited for her to appear. The others returned to check out what caused the delay. We waited again. It felt like an unusually long time for her to catch up so we decided to split the group into two. As we were finally moving to our separate agenda, she came heading towards us with interspersed sand on her legs. She told us that as she was turning to the first curve, she lost control of the bike and plunged to the side of the road and scraped her knee on the sand. When she finally was able to stand and drive again, she headed to the wrong direction and ultimately lost us. She went back to the main road and drove straight until she finally reached the spot where we were waiting. We asked her if she was still game to drive or if she wanted to hop on another bike. With bravery and fear blending together in her spoken words, she said she was game. We settled into the original plan and resumed the drive to the temples. We were nearing the place where Maggie was leading us. She motioned for us to turn right which meant the sandy road. The temple was 300 meters away when Reina toppled over again. This time, all of us witnessed what happened. I couldn’t help laughing and feeling worried at the same time. This time, we could see her scratches bleeding and mixing with the sand of the Golden Land. Good thing Matthias had a medical kit and we immediately tended to her wound. After cleaning and applying ointment and a thin strip of bandage, the five of us climbed up one of the 4,000 temples and rested our bodies after the adventurous ride.
We also met Pyi Sone, an intelligent and talented Burmese kid who was already friends with Matthias during his previous visits to the temples. He showed us his bills of money collected from travelers of different nationalities. We wanted to give him our Philippine peso bills but he rejected us as he had acquired them already. This boy was funny and, can I just say one more time, intelligent. He conversed with us in English without difficulty. He also kept teasing Maggie and Matthias as they were perched like lovebirds on the slope of the temple. Really intelligent.
We took our cameras out and readied to inhale the view before us. The sun was rising and the mist was already thinning when we arrived. A number of hot-air balloons were awaking with the early morning and ascending one by one in the panorama. I was silently thinking to myself, this was my dream. And it gently and naturally manifested into the present time. All I could give to the moment was my attention and swelling gratitude.
We climbed down the temple and walked around the area to look for a street-side restaurant and eat breakfast. Vendors, novices and monks, temples, horses and dogs, bicycles and carriages, and travelers adorn the early morning golden pavements of Old Bagan.
We ate a delicious plate of local dish of noodles mixed with coconut, coffee, and coconut water. What I can’t forget about our morning conversation was when Matthias narrated his 10-day immersion on Vipassana meditation which he had done three times already. After his immersions, he was able to continue practicing meditation for one hour everyday. This struck me as I honestly find it difficult in sticking to a meditation habit. He said he is deeply happy in life. I was grateful for his realizations especially when he said that one can be happy with people present in our lives, but we can also be equally happy being alone. I felt a soft stirring inside me as I was silently pondering on the exchange of more than mere words. Choosing happiness is always available to us, whenever and wherever we are. We just have to boldly decide and listen to what our inner, the truest of them all, call for us to become.
It was an incredibly good morning.
At noontime, we headed to a restaurant called The Moon and met for lunch a new set of friends – Stella, Michelle, and Christian. The April weather was a sizzling 40 degrees Celsius. As a child born from the tropics, it was the hottest weather I ever encountered. And yes, we were still driving our electric bikes under the active blaring of heat and light from the sun.
After devouring cold drinks and vegetarian dishes, we went back to the hostel to rest. We agreed to meet later in the afternoon to catch the sunset.
This time, I deemed the drive longer. I thought it would be easier. But it felt like an inner hurricane, swirling every bit of alertness and caution along the journey. I was the last one among the group as Reina decided to ride with Michelle. Simon and Stella were fast, they were nowhere in sight. The weather was hell-ish and I sensed my body experiencing fatigue. In the middle of the brief expedition, my concentration faltered and I swerved sideways to the sand and littered unconsciously my phone and sunglasses from my backpack. The Burmese, unsurprisingly, showed their sheer kindness. A pack of boys approached and asked how I was. I smilingly responded I was okay and they helped me gather my things. I thanked them and quickly drove again to catch up with the others. They waited for me. This time, we all drove together with rather smaller gaps in distance. This time, the route we took was more difficult than expected as we traversed sandy and bumpy roads. It was a challenge. My body and mind was set on not falling over again. If you were to ask me what the measure of success is as of now, I would definitely answer persisting and surrendering to that courageous journey.
Finally, we found a temple where we could settle in. The sun was still high up so we decided to circle the holy place and take pictures in all possible angles. When we were satisfied, we held our cameras and phones down. We sipped our freshly bought cans of Coke and sat side by side. It was an eternity of serenity. If you were to ask me if I have ever been in love, I would say yes. No human voices emerged. There was only the faint sound of trucks and motorcycles moving in the vast plains. I could make out the tiny bodies of people across nearby temples also trying to find a good spot to view such widespread spectacle. My body sure had ached from all the driving and the falling, and the concentration in between. But this, I can say, with no hint of proving to anyone, that it was worth it. It was an exploration that was adventurous without trying to be.
Two months after the backpacking trip to Myanmar, I eagerly joined a contest related to writing and traveling and submitted an article of my love for travel and narrated stories of how each and every movement towards had led and has been leading to movement within me. Part of the story was a peek into my travel plans:
For the next six months, I plan (without plans) to trek Batad Rice Terraces, splash wildly in Boracay once more, get tattooed by Whang-od in Kalinga Province, explore Hongkong with my handsome brothers, join (and hopefully win) the 7-day Cambodia holiday giveaway by Trisha Velarmino of P.S. I’m On My Way blog, take formal swimming lessons and swim “officially” in the sea of I-don’t-know-yet-where, save up on hostel dreams, and in between, take pictures regularly that make people get in touch with everyday art, and communicate regularly my echoes of the Universe.
My friend and I were enamored with the beauty and majesty of the northern mountains and rice terraces in Batad. I was traveling with her for the first time, and actually inspired her to travel more. The weekend after my birthday, I spent one night inside our accommodation dancing and drinking and playing cards with my high school friends while the strong rain and wind were raging outside in Boracay island. Bliss filled the room and the entire island. A week after that, I trekked to Buscalan village and got blessed by a Kalinga traditional tattoo straight from Apo Whang-od’s masterful hands and heart. All this happened in the month of June. Sadly, I haven’t won the giveaway. I wasn’t able to explore Hongkong with my brothers but my relationship with them has flourished than before. I haven’t took formal swimming lessons yet. Instead of the ocean, the mountains invited me. I did a major climb recently in Benguet and reached the peaks of Mt. Pack, Mt. Purgatory and Mt. Komkompol. We gave an attempt on making the hostel dream happen. However, it didn’t come through this year, but I still feel it lingering. On when it will take shape, I do not know. And by the way, I wasn’t selected to be one of the winners in the contest I joined, yet amazingly this blog was born. Art of Movement effortlessly became the space where I regularly communicate echoes and create art. The Universe is impressively a good communicator and wildly generous and weirdly present everywhere.
Ralph Waldo Emerson curated in a simple statement,
Once you make a decision, the Universe conspires to make it happen.
I have made decisions, plentiful of them. Some are half-hearted and stained with fear, yet some are like the smooth flowing and unstoppable singing of the river. I’ve declared it all to the Universe, each day of dancing to the rhythm of the mystery is one move towards the dream. The dream is always a dream even if you are already living it, even if you had lived it in the past, and even if you will be living it in the future. The only difference is in making that decision and feeling the desire flow in your blood. The moment you listen and say yes wholeheartedly, then that will be the sign for your dreams to manifest, for you to truly live the dream everyday.
And as I write this, I commit to emptying myself along with the descent and disappearance of the sun on the horizon. I whisper to the moon and conjure both tiny and immense beautiful dreams.
So what is it you want in life?