Prayer Pyramid

Magelang, Central Java, Indonesia

September 21, 2010

The Stupas of Borobudur Over the Kedu Plains of Java

What’s a prayer but a human attempt to tap into the spiritual realm. In Asian thought, this realm is both at the center of the universe and the innermost sanctum of the soul. Nature demonstrates this pattern in the heliocentric solar system, the inner core of the earth, and the cellular nucleus. Spirituality is not just an act of reaching up but of reaching in. Most Eastern religious monuments, from ziggurat to stupa, physically depict this centripetal connection. Borobudur, a grayish-brown bump of volcanic stone on the green plains of Central Java, perfectly embodies this philosophy. Indonesian archaeologist, Soekmono, regarded as the guardian of Borobudur, called this 9th century temple “a prayer in stone.”

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Bats in the Belfry

Pakil and Kalayaan, Laguna, the Philippines

June 26, 2010

Filipinos had a penchant for turning piety into a party. Just as the sight of Filipinos mugging for the TV cameras during a natural calamity, it was not surprising how a supposedly solemn celebration of Our Lady of Sorrows had turned into an annual street-dancing extravaganza called Turumba. I had not seen the festivities first hand, but I could very well imagine the glistening costumes and borderline sacrilegious gyrations. Catholicism in the Philippines was not all penance, it sometimes lapsed into a street party.

Our Lady of Sorrows, Our Lady of Turumba in Pakil Church

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