Hanging On to Heaven

Hangzhou, China

February 18, 2012

When I thought of Chinese landscape paintings, an image of a body of water framed by distant mountains came to mind. A bridge cast a perfect reflection on its mirror surface. A solitary boat rippled its glassy calmness. Drooping willows kissed its shore. Pagodas pierced through the mist. Such rustic delicacy had been recreated by the ink and brush of Chinese artists since the dynasties.

West Lake (Xī Hú) in Hangzhou, Zhejiang Province, China
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The Elephant is Out of the Room

Singapore, Singapore

November 21 – 25, 2011

Who let the elephants out? It seemed that a herd of pachyderms with body art had stampeded all over Singapore – on the sidewalk, at the park, in malls and museums – and had petrified in place. My family and I were delighted to see so many “ele-friends” during our five-day stay in the city.

My sister playing tug-of-trunk with Timeless Chic by Asawin Saeto

The ubiquitous elephant sculptures were, in fact, participating artworks in the two-month Elephant Parade, a touring art exhibition aimed at raising public awareness about the conservation of the endangered Asian elephant. The exhibition was inspired by Mosha, a baby elephant who had lost a leg to a landmine blast. I had heard of her story on Animal Planet years before. Catching this exhibition on its first Asian stop was the next best thing to visiting Mosha in Chiangmai, Thailand.

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Water on Maars

San Pablo City, Laguna, the Philippines

August 29, 2011

There was more to the Seven Lakes of San Pablo City than met the eye. Who would think that this city of bustling commerce and idyllic inns sat on a volcanic field? The Philippines had been called the Pearl of the Orient, but this Pearl adorned the Ring of Fire. Much of its picturesque topography had been molded by volcanic activity. It was easy to forget that fact, especially in this part of Laguna. After all, it had been more than 700 years since the last eruption of the San Pablo Volcanic Field. Its craters, also known as maars, had since filled with water and were now disguised as placid lakes.

Granny and Grandson at Lake Sampaloc, Laguna
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The Church in Red

Magdalena, Laguna, the Philippines

November 12, 2011

The Sta. Maria Magdalena Church is a shrine to a saint and a hero – St. Mary Magdalene and General Emilio Jacinto. Separated by centuries and geography, they are two vastly disparate figures in history. Yet their legacies are inextricably bound together in this church in the town of Magdalena, Laguna.

Bloodstained Shrine Dedicated to Emilio Jacinto in Magdalena Church

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