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.

#Bangkok and the God of Modernity

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Bangkok is where I first encountered the God of Modernity. It’s an effigy that offers its past for the sake of the future.

The city thrives with a sense of ironic juxtaposition: a bustling metropolis commercialized by remnants of history. I cross not only the spiritual abyss but a roadside and couple of tuktuks.

IMG_9638My trip last November 2012 made evident my fascination with how progress and preservation can co-exist. I’m both amazed and afraid of this symbiotic relationship.

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Here is a curator who encloses Buddha behind velvet ropes.

IMG_1708It is where visitors kneel down, not to pray, but to take pictures with SLR cameras and iPhones.

I see monks quietly passing by, donning white earphones that drape across their orange robes.

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Around me is a metropolis residing at the footsteps of the temple with roadside altars that are conveniently placed by street corners and shopping malls.

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I know that everything has a tradeoff: What do we give up in order to move forward? Conversely, how do we hold on without feeling backwards? Overall, how do we retain authenticity in the end?

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What was once a remote Chinese trading port has flourished into a flytrap of tourists seeking for escape and adventure. Back then it was the merchant who commoditized the city. Now, it is I, the traveler who brokers experience. I reform history with my iPhone.

Part 1 of my Bangkok Series. Photos by Maica Facundo

Coming soon: Life update

How to learn

To say that the last month and a half has been crazy is an understatement.The work has been challenging, hence I’ve been learning a lot.

Its really been a test of my optimistic and proactive capabilities. How many times can I smile and remind myself that it’s OK. I’m entitled to being human (at least for your first job. Hah.) that I can do this and most importantly over come it (and I have.) Note to self: First jobs are about earning your dues and learning the process to everything, especially when it’s out of your comfort zone.

My first taste of digital strategy and first biopic/ writeup for the creds deck!

Not only is work the culprit of my lack of entries but…

… my trip to Malacca, Malaysia AND…

to Bangkok, Thailand over the last two weekends are to blame too.

On the upside, it means that I have some upcoming wanderlust + digital for dummies stories!

Also, I’ve become a contributor for two sites which I’ll talk about in separate entries but I’m quite excited! It’s an outlet for two things I love: travel and social empowerment.

Stay tuned ;-)