Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Manila Sunsets - Beautyful!

Much has been said about the spectacular sunsets of Manila but not many of the city's residents get to see it. I, myself, rarely had the experience of witnessing sunsets in Manila since I went to university. Just like everybody else, I got caught up in the hustle and bustle of growing up into adulthood and almost always was indoors when nature's spectacle unfolded.

As a small child, I had a lot of opportunity to spend early evenings along the boulevard by the bay when my family lived a few blocks away and I recall seeing fiery sunsets with the mountains of Bataan framing the entire canvas. What made it even more interesting was the clear outline of the cross atop Mt. Samat that could be clearly seen in the distance.
Manila sunset framed by the mountains of Bataan in the distance.
 Sunsets have been associated with dispositive notions such as "sunset of one's life" or, "sunset industry;" all indicating situations of decline. Manila's sunsets are of such spectacular beauty that they are uplifting to the spirit and exhibit the omnipotent power of nature; it evokes very strong emotions and feelings of wonderment as it unfolds before one's eyes.

Rediscovering Manila sunsets, it now holds for me a far different meaning. It signals a celebration of wonderful times and a promise of even greater things in the future; it seems that a Greater Power is capping a great day with such blazing glory just like we mortals mark success with a grand celebration.

The magnificence of Manila's sunsets also makes me think why Mother Nature has chosen Manila as a place for such an amazing show every single opportunity it has. We have been rewarded with such beauty and yet, we hardly ever notice it while trudging on with the drudgery of life.

It will be worthwhile to take a pause and bask in the wonderful glow of the sunsets on display in Nature's Manila canvas. For once, allow yourselves to be assaulted and be enraptured by its beauty!


Sunsets I've seen elsewhere...
Phrom Thep Cape, Phuket - looking out west over the Andaman Sea
Wat Suan Dok, Chiang Mai - plane taking off from Chiang Mai International Airport silhouetted by the setting sun
Sathon Pier, Chao Phraya River, Bangkok
Airport Ferry Jetty, Velana International Airport, Male, Maldives - sunset over the Indian Ocean
River Seine, Paris - Notre Dame Cathedral in silhouette

Beauty in a Bowl 2 - Udon

I have a certain predilection for noodles, whether in soup or dry. And as you would have guessed, my photo book would have pictures of different noodle dishes and I found this irresistably beautiful bowl of udon I had at a Japanese joint in Bangkok.

The way this bowl of udon noodles in a shoyu based soup was composed is of striking beauty!

Udon is very different from ramen; the noodles are heavier, chewier, and more filling. The textures are also very different and udon can be eaten hot or cold. Generally, popular udon dishes have very mild soups or dressings but still these dishes are as delectable and enjoyable as any good noodle dish one can have. The Japanese, however, have a thousand and one ways to prepare udon dishes and the flavors range from the very mild to really strong.

This interesting documentary on udon provides a ton of information.

Beauty in a Bowl - Ramen

One of my favorite things to eat is ramen; mainly for its exquisite flavor and the symphony of tastes and textures that harmonize into something very pleasing to the palate. Every so often, I would crave for a bowl of hot ramen and would go to a ramen shop and generally walk away satiated. Until I again crave for another ramen fix.

In recent times, I picked up the habit of "photo before meals" just like the hordes of people doing the same at most eating places. I was browsing through my photo files and realized that ramen are things of beauty - Beauty in a Bowl.

My interest piqued, I yearned to learn more about ramen. I found this great video that provides quite a load of information on ramen noodle soup. It is of interest that the Japanese put a lot of effort into making a simple bowl of noodles into a thing of beauty!

Lyfe, indeed, is beautyful!

Life is Beautiful

One of the most memorable films I watched at the turn of the century is the comedy-drama "Life is Beautiful" (La Vita e Bella); a film written and directed by Roberto Benigni who also played the lead role Guido Orifice.

The movie mainly tells the story of Guido and his son Giosue of their experience in a concentration camp during the Second World War. Being Jews; Guido, Giosue, together with Guido's uncle Eliseo were incarcerated, not for any crime, but for being what they were. As was usual, on arrival at the camp, older people and children were executed as they were of no use as slave labor; Eliseo died at the gas chambers, Giosue, on the other hand, was spared because he hated taking showers and hid when the children were ordered to the showers.

Guido made it appear to Giosue that they were taking part in a contest where kids who hid from the guards, kept quiet, did not complain of hunger and so on would win points. The first one to earn a thousand points would win a tank as a prize. All of the rules that Guido contrived were designed to hide Giosue and spare him from certain death.

As the war wound down, the Allied forces advanced to the camp and there was general mayhem. Guido told Giosue to hide inside a metal box telling him to stay in there and only get out once everybody had left, further telling him that it would be the final test of the game and that if he did that, he would win the tank. Guido then sought out his wife Dora but was confronted by a guard who decided to execute him; as Guido was being led to execution, he passed by where Giosue was hiding and Guido winked at Giosue who was watching the scene from a small opening. Giosue winked back to signal that he understood that he had to keep quiet and stay in the box until everyone had left. Guido, meanwhile, was executed out of sight of Giosue but the shot could be heard.

After an interminable amount of time and everything had quieted down, Giosue emerged from the box right as the first Allied tank was entering the camp. Giosue was overjoyed and thought that the tank was his prize for doing exactly as his father had told him.

The movie is heart-wrenching, especially at the end when an adult Giosue reflected on the events with a full understanding of what his father did at that time. Guido tried his best to shield Giosue from the horror of the events surrounding them during the darkest hour of the great war that engulfed the world.

Confronted about the movie's seeming flippant take of the Holocaust; Benigni replied "to laugh and to cry comes from the same point of the soul, no? I'm a storyteller: the crux of the matter is to reach beauty, poetry, it doesn't matter if that is comedy or tragedy. They're the same if you reach the beauty."

There are those who choose to wallow in their victimhood and in the process fail to see the humanity of the character of Guido who wanted to insulate his innocent son from the horrors of the events unfolding in their midst. That, I think, is worth reflecting on. Meanwhile, the search for a beautyful lyfe is worth pursuing.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

La Vita e Bella!

Life is beautyful! In this seemingly contradicted paranoid world, the great mass of people plod through their lives without taking notice of the beauty of lyfe. Lyfe is so full of..Lyfe!