Islam on My Mind (ProPinoy.net)

I have always been fascinated with Islam, this richly colorful and grossly misunderstood religion and culture that has formed a large part of our history and identity as a nation.

Growing up, I often found myself wondering about the veiled women that I would see on TV and in the streets, and our yayas’ and neighbors’ derogatory remarks about “the Muslims”, wondering what was so bad about this group of people that they (and “the Bombays”) were often used to scare us into obedience. When I would see images of mosques and Islamic architecture on TV and in the encyclopedias that kept me company as a child (yes, kids—we had those at home), I would stare at them in awe, thinking about the kind of work that went into them and the architectural genius that it took to create such intricate details. Shifting my attention between Islam and Buddhism, I would ask my mom why kids couldn’t choose their religions and had even asked, ever so innocently, if it were possible to choose my own religion once I was grown up. (In fairness to my mother’s open-mindedness, she didn’t panic when I asked that question and even said “yes” in response.)

I didn’t end up converting to Islam, but the fascination continued on to adulthood. In university, where I had minored in Hispanic Studies, I often found myself daydreaming about Granada, Andalusia, and the Alhambra, telling myself that I would someday visit these enchanting places. To this day, I am enamored of the rhythm and the seemingly rich textures of the Arabic language, enjoying Persian and Arabic music as much as I enjoyflamenco (which was also rooted in the Moorish and gypsy cultures), and wanting, in all earnestness, to learn more about this culture that we in urban Philippines (and many parts of the Westernized world) know so little about.

The Alhambra in Granada, Spain | Image by jamesdale10 (www.Flickr.com'HappyTellus.com), under the Creative Commons 2.0 License (By 2.0)
The Alhambra in Granada, Spain | Image by jamesdale10 (www.Flickr.com’HappyTellus.com), under the Creative Commons 2.0 License (By 2.0)

This is an excerpt only. To read the full article, visit ProPinoy.net HERE.

Lost (and Found) in Prague (ProPinoy.net)

And on to your left we have the coffin of King Ferdinand V of Bohemia…”

Our tour guide’s voice drowned in my head as I fumbled with the controls of my borrowed camera. The room that kept King Ferdinand’s coffin was dark, and I wanted to get a good-enough photograph using the camera that I had started using only the day before that. A click here, a snap there—I turned around to ask my classmate, Eva, a question about using the camera in low light…

… And then they were gone.

All of them.

I was in the middle of St. Vitus Cathedal, in Prague’s historic Hradčany Square, with what looked like hundreds—even thousands—of Sunday tourists, and I couldn’t find our tour guide or any of my classmates.  It was my second day in a country whose language I did not speak and whose signs I could not decipher, and I was lost.

Prague Castle, Hradcany Square, Prague, Czech Republic (Photo by Niña Terol-Zialcita)
Prague Castle, Hradcany Square, Prague, Czech Republic (Photo by Niña Terol-Zialcita)

This is an excerpt only. To read the full article, visit the ProPinoy.net website HERE.