An Island, Not A Dance

The islands of Nusa Tenggara stretch out due east from Java like beads on a string: Bali, Lombok, Sumbawa, Flores, Alor. The names exotic and evocative. My progress through to the tip of Sumbawa was relatively quick and, for the first time in quite a while, I was no longer the only white person in the bus. All were heading from Bali, via the Gilis (a cluster of islands off Lombok that have become a party favourite), to the port of Labuanbajo on the tip of Flores, from where there are many tours to the islands of Komodo national park. The trans-Sumbawa buses connect to daily ferries linking Sape to ‘Bajo. But to the south, lies an island that many people bypass. Sumba’s attractions are not as obvious as those of Java, Bali or Sulawesi. For Indonesians c is best known for its horses. Not because they are particularly special, but because Sumba, with its drier climate and semi-savannah landscape, is the only place in the archipelago that is suited to them. For us foreigners who have seen horses before and think they are rather humdrum. Instead, thanks to being a generally poor island with few useful resources, the Sumbanese were pretty much left to their own devices throughout the colonial period, an attitude that didn’t really change much with Indonesia’s independence 65 years ago, so tribal traditions are stronger here than almost anywhere else in the archipelago.

International Film #1: The Thieves (South Korea)

The first addition of a column I’ll continue on through my travels and when I settle for awhile (eventually). I cannot say that I am either a film buff nor a critic, but I can counter by saying that I have viewed hundreds of films from various eras and countries and know what I like and not so much. Thus my reviews may be a bit biased, but a critique should be subjective, no? Let’s just leave it at that. My first installment finds me in the Kowloon area in Hong Kong in the Broadway Cinematheque Theater 2. -JGrez

Which Bali Do You Want?

“Have you been to Bali yet?” is the question that I’ve been asked by almost every single Indonesian I’ve met in the 3 months I’ve been here. Although Indonesia is a vast country comprising over 17,000 islands, 300 ethnic groups and 742 different languages, I am white and ergo I must be going to Bali. If any foreigner has heard about Indonesia it is invariably about Bali. For many Australians it is their equivalent to the Spanish Costas for sun-starved northern Europeans, and their way of holidaying there is not at all dissimilar. Yes, I was planning to go to Bali I would reply, but also Sulawesi, Ambon, Flores, Sumatra and Java. There is more to Indonesia than just one island. Bali’s overwhelming presence on the tourist trail through Indonesia made me resent it even before I had set foot on it. I was sure I wouldn’t like it and wasn’t planning on staying long.

Rain on…Manila

MANILA – 2 week long rains led to the worst floods the capital city of the Philippines has seen in 50 years and the unfortunate deaths of nine people. Only in the past three days have the flood waters really opened up leading to school and major business closing including the Philippine Stock Exchange.

Although all of the major metropolitan Manila suffered from the rain none as much as those in Quenzo City where landslides lead to the deaths of nine family members in a shanty house. The rubble has leveled most of the make-shift housing and left hundreds to thousands more homeless to some current estimates.

Born To Die

Some say that the most important event in the (pre-)history of mankind was the discovery of fire and how to control it. I would say that equally important, if not more so, was the day Man came to understand his own mortality and it scared the bejeezus out of Him. The former gave him tools, but the latter gave him purpose. Ever since then Man has been trying everything in his power to escape his fate. The most obvious manifestation of this is religion. In its myriad guises, and its various messages about ethics, lessons on how to properly sacrifice animals, what clothes to wear, and whether you can marry your first cousin the one constant seems to be a reassuring narrative of some sort of life after death, whether it be reincarnation, a hall for warriors full of wenches serving mead, or some abstract heaven. Follow us, the religions say, and we will ensure that the curse of mortality doesn’t befall you. Even Buddhism, which is seen by many to be a philosophy rather than a religion, has incorporates the idea of reincarnation.

 

20 years after fallout Mt. Pinatubo resurrects from Ashes

June 15, 1991 marked the day of the second largest terrestrial eruption of the 20th century. The location: Mt. Pinatubo, Luzon, Philippines. Amongst the Cabusilan Mountains stands Pinatubo 1,485 m (4,872 ft) above sea-level, but before this grand act of nature it stood nearly 300 meters more at 1,745 m (5,725 ft). Pinatubo’s violence devastated the surround area shooting volcanic debris and ash some 500 m into the atmosphere. Nearly 1000 natives lost their lives sadly because of the fallout, however nearly 60,000 Aeta people were saved because of proper seismic readings, predictions and evacuation to surrounding areas including Manila.

A Celebration of Harvest: Pahiyas Festival Lukban, PH

Lukban, Philippines – Dry season has come to the main Philippine island of the Luzon and with it celebrations in thanksgiving for harvest, family and life. In particular, the town of Lukban hosts “Pahiyas” or the citywide San Isidro harvest festival. Located 26 Km northwest of Lucena City or 160 Km southeast of Manila, Lukban’s nearest attraction is Mt. Banahaw (2,158m). However the town is bustles as a hub for livestock trade and local production of native handcrafts. These products are sold locally as well as exported worldwide. But really Lukban’s breadbasket is harvest time with the bountiful crops grown from rainy season into the dry. Pahiyas rejoices this plenty.

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