Jo and I stopped by Mahagandhayon Monastery in Amarapura, former royal capital, to watch monks line up for lunch. The experience was strangely calming. At 10:30 AM, the novices were being served what would be their last meal of the day. Hundreds, if not a thousand, of young monks, some still children, bearing black bowls formed snaking lines on the street under tall tamarind trees in utter silence. They were mostly oblivious to the handful of tourists like me at the sidewalk taking their photos.
We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans.
Even when I knew what to pray for. I had listed both thanksgiving and supplications on ripped paper prior to our visit to the Western Wall, Kotel in Hebrew, a place of prayer for both Jews and Christian pilgrims. Jewish people had always believed that divine presence resided at Mount Moriah upon which the Temple was built and eventually destroyed in 70 CE, the sole surviving section of which was this retaining wall. As God’s address, it had been considered the holiest site in Jerusalem.
Young people, I found, were not only the hope for the future but also of the past. Silay, home to some thirty ancestral houses accredited by the National Historical Commission of the Philippines, could stand a chance against unbridled development because her sons had enough respect for the tangible legacies their forefathers had left behind. Their inheritance, in other words. The number of preserved heritage houses in Silay likely exceeded more famous “museum cities” in the country, such as Vigan and Taal.
As a third generation Aniano in my family, I had ancestral legacy for my name. But I didn’t always appreciate this heritage from my father and grandfather. Even in the 70s, it was an unusual and antiquated name compared with all the Michaels and Anthonys in grade school. It got me bullied from day one’s roll call. When I hit high school, I masked it with a cool yet common nickname – AJ. But the etymology of my name intrigued me for much of the 50 years of my life. Why did my great grandparents christen their son Aniano? Dad had no explanation either.
This was a city tour like no other. There was none of the urban area suggested by the term. Touring Puerto Princesa, the capital city of Palawan, was more about roughing it, including but not limited to rock climbing, spelunking, beach bumming, heritage shopping, and exotic dining.
Casablanca was not Casablanca. The movie was not shot, nor could the story even be set in the city. Given the time and place in history, Tangier would have been a more plausible setting. Everything I knew about Casablanca was fake AF. To top it all, Tripadvisor reviews generally dismissed it as an unavoidable but unnecessary pit stop as travelers made a mad dash to Marrakesh and Fez. Casablanca was tabula rasa in more ways than one.
“Some places we stay in forever. Some places are mere stopovers. Just like Hong Kong.” That line opened Hello, Love, Goodbye, the Philippine movie that broke box office records of all time. Ki and I made our stop at Hong Kong the previous year. Much of the movie was shot in places we had visited. We should’ve been the movie’s location scouts. A location tour usually followed the success of a movie or TV show (think Sex & the City in NYC and The Sound of Music in Salzburg). Done the other way gave us a sense of deja vu while watching the movie.