Letting go and lighting the way at the Yipeng Lantern Festival

SAMSUNG CSC Over time we become attached to people and places, beliefs and burdens, things and trepidations because they become our markers for meaning. A point of reference for us to gauge who we are.

But what happens when we evolve? Do our attachments hold us back or enable us to grow? Letting go is one of the hardest things to learn. 

This was how I felt after releasing 1 out of 3,000 paper lanterns, which lit the sky on fire when I went to the Yi Peng Lantern Festival in Chiang Mai last year. What started out as something to check off my bucket list became an exercise in letting go. Yipeng5It all happened so fast.

My journey to Chiang Mai started as a spur of the moment decision. I’ve always wanted to attend the Lantern Festival, but I wasn’t available for the international festival date. Luckily my sister who was already in Thailand messaged me the local date, which was happening only a few days away!

After some internal debate about the cost I ended up booking anyway just one day before my departure. And even though buying 4 airplane tickets for a 2 day trip and sleeping overnight at the airport might not be practical, I knew that once-in-a-life-time experiences never are.

Afterwards, every moment leading up to the festival was about waiting.

We waited underneath our makeshift tent of scarves, in the scorching sun, for more than 6 hours. SAMSUNG CSCSAMSUNG CSCSAMSUNG CSC We waited until the procession of monks indicated the start of the ceremony. Yipeng3 Even when the speakers blasted, “Do not light your lantern until we give the signal,” we waited some more.

Our patience was growing thin so we passed time by chanting along with the monks while shifting our weight between kneeling positions. Then finally the loudspeaker blasted the signal. We could finally spark our lanterns. SAMSUNG CSC I was so engrossed in the moment of trying to light my lantern that I almost forgot to look up at the sky. But when I did I was speechless yet overcome with awe and rapture. YiPeng One-by-one the lanterns floated into horizon, like messengers of goodwill delivering our wishes to the universe above; a surreal sea of floating lanterns; a sky burning at the seams with positive energy. I felt so alive witnessing gratitude and hope multiplied by the thousands of wishes floating in the sky.Yipeng4 Me? Well, I held onto my lantern long enough to channel all the people and places, beliefs and burdens, things and trepidations that no longer mattered to me into the fire. Yipeng2 Then I let go not only of my lantern but also of all the parts of my life that don’t serve me anymore. Because I realised that if we don’t let go, hope will never be free to light the way. And if I didn’t let go, I wouldn’t have felt so alive.

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Blue graduation

I expected to cry at graduation, but I didn’t.

I had this notion that walking down the aisle in my blue toga, clutching my diploma, shaking Fr. Jett’s hand, smiling at the camera, and singing my alma matter would feel overwhelmingly surreal, but it didn’t. My heart didn’t beat faster. No adrenaline rushed through my veins. My feet kind of hurt from wearing my new 3-inch heels though. I was flushed, but from all the humidity and heat.

I talked to some friends after and they felt the same way about graduation. Thankfully, I’m not alone! It felt like any other day, but with great make up and awesome blow dried hair.

Although, I did enjoy throwing my fake diploma (for this reason you get your real one afterwards fyi) up in the air and shouting “WOOOOO I’M A GRADUAAATE,” hugging and congratulating everyone afterwards. I felt happy to be with my family. We were complete for the occasion.

But four years ago, at my high school graduation, I remember our superintendent Mr. Brown telling batch ’08 that this day was special because it was the last time we would all be together, in one place, at one time.

It’s true. As we grow up our friendships become less circumstantial and more by choice. We’re no longer walking among common ground –Katipunan, MVP, JSEC, classmates, terror professors, etc. It takes more effort to see your friends; to have something in common with your friends. You don’t have the luxury to hang out with everybody and the reckless realization is that you won’t want to.  So, you become picky, with your time and with your friends. Well, at least that’s what I’ve heard. Lately, that’s what I’ve been experiencing myself.

I guess that’s what makes graduation feel bitter sweet. We worked hard to achieve this milestone and we’re proud that we have. We have every right to. We did this not only for ourselves, but for our parents who worked tirelessly to put us through school.

But we also risk not being able to see our friends as much, or the crush we hope to run into the hallway again. We risk putting all that hard work to waste as we try to figure out what we want to do with the rest of our lives.

I didn’t cry at my graduation. When I told my older sister that I felt normal afterwards she just laughed. She told me that she didn’t feel overwhelmed when she had her blue graduation years ago  either.

Maybe I’ve been spending so much time outside of school lately that graduating feels like it really didn’t change anything (except my employment status haha!) Maybe in truth, I graduated a long time ago.

Anyways below are some great commencement speeches from three different people and pictures from graduation itself!

Jay Jaboneta: On being men and women for others “There are no accidents in life”

David Foster Wallace: This is water “There are these two young fish swimming along, and they happen to meet an older fish swimming the other way, who nods at them and says, “Morning, boys, how’s the water?” And the two young fish swim on for a bit, and then eventually one of them looks over at the other and goes, “What the hell is water?”” (One of the most important lessons I learned on my first day of philosophy class)

Conan O Brien: Darthmouth Speech “Work hard, be kind, and amazing things will happen.” (Truth)

Facundo sisters are complete because Ate Pia flew in from Singapore for my graduation! Yehey. When she posted this she said, “Baby sister graduates from college today.” Little sister not so little anymore!

Swapping graduation pics! Kevin and I aka “sexy beasts”

I was almost late for graduation. That’s my toga in the plastic. But it’s never too late to get a picture with the hottest president ever — Idge. Someone I look up to a lot.

Lauren and Bernice — two of my lovely ACOMM EB ladies who I have gotten to know so much better this year. Maybe a little too much (Hi Berns)

Arbie and I will be friends for a long time. :)

Looking for your teachers after graduation for a photo op is like trying to find Waldo in the world. Luckily, I was able to catch Doc. G, my favorite philosophy teacher ever!

Graduated! With Ate Maica. For once I am taller than she is with my heels.

Congratulations to my parents! They’re done as well. They have successfully put three girls through highschool and college!

It was a logistical nightmare as thousands of families were stranded in the rain and without cars because of the delayed shuttle system.

I had to wait an extra one hour before I got to eat THIS. Delicious lambchops at Mamou! As my sisters would say, I love my meat.

During dinner Pops told me that since I’m done with college now we can be “friends.” But in truth, we always really were :)

Sweet graduation surprise from Mamou! Free red velvet cupcake!

Grabbed drinks at Draft after with some close friends and we headed to Republiq after. 

Mej and I — we’re growing old. Not pictured is lena :(