I’ve been experiencing problems with blog.com ever since I made the mistake of signing up for their blogging services. While I abhor duplicate copies of any kind, I can’t help copying the entire article here (I’m compelled, for archiving purposes). After all the stressful events in my life, I never really expected I’d actually win something at an international event. I’m glad I did, though. :)

“On ne voit bien qu’avec le cœur. L’essentiel est invisible pour les yeux.” (“One sees clearly only with the heart. What is essential is invisible to the eye.”) Those words keep echoing in my head as I type this article. In Antoine de Saint-Exupéry’s The Little Prince, a fox uttered those lines to the little prince during his stay here on Earth, and never would I have dreamt of those lines (from a children’s book, no less!) being as powerful, meaningful and relevant as they are right now.

Right now is Midnight, and in Siem Reap, I am writing this article after a long, fruitful day of travel, camaraderie, and knowledge explosion. Meeting people from all walks of life has always been a pleasure for me back in Manila—the place I call home—but seeing another nation’s history inspires me to see the entire world all the more. I traveled 1,891 kilometers and spent almost a month’s worth of salary to attend the third BlogFest.Asia event, and despite all that, I can’t help smiling at the fact that I am now in Cambodia!

Safe Landing
Safe Landing: At the Siem Reap International Airport

About seven years ago, I was a college student who was never really interested in traveling. I was already happy and content with my own little world, rarely ever stepping a foot outside Metro Manila. My life then was pretty monotonous: I only had to go to school in the morning, and be back home by mid-afternoon. I would go places around the Metro from time to time, but it never involved boarding an airplane!

A few years and round trip flights later, I became addicted to traveling. Just thinking about the different people in the world—tiny specks of dust compared to the vastness of the universe—made me thirsty for adventure. Quenching it was the goal, and I was sure it would take a lifetime.

But after just a few days, I’m not so sure anymore. After seeing the curiously familiar yet strange surroundings of Siem Reap, the feelings of contentment (or comfort?) I felt back when I was little came creeping back. Even with the language I don’t understand and the alphabet I can’t decipher, Siem Reap is just as beautiful as any province I’ve been to in the Philippines. I felt right at home, especially upon noticing how welcoming and respectful the locals are.

Cambodians using their most common forms of transportation
Cambodians using their most common forms of transportation.

Everyone is so relaxed, it made me feel at ease right away. For someone used to city living (me), everyday in Siem Reap is like a lazy Sunday where people bike around the block and nobody’s in any hurry to go anywhere. And everyone, regardless of status, is always smiling and eager to help a stranger. In fact, the first person to greet and smile upon me at the airport was a tuktuk driver!

A parked tuktuk
A parked tuktuk

I realized right away that these locals are so used to foreign travelers that they have grown accustomed to the foreigners’ presence everyday. Each square kilometer of the city capital is already full of people from different ethnicities and nationalities. And it was already obvious why hordes of people from different lands visit this quaint city in northwestern Cambodia. Siem Reap is the home to the majestic Angkor Wat, and the great temple is just as magnificent and strangely alluring as it sounds.

After a day in the Angkor Archaelogical Park, I can now say that I have nothing but sincere admiration for Cambodia and its people. Although the temples are mere remnants of kingdoms past, the nation’s love for its history persists, and that kind of love—that nationalism—fills an empty space in my heart and makes me think that my own country can learn a thing or two from the temples.

Within the walls of Angkor Wat

Within the walls of Angkor Wat

At first glance, I mistakenly thought that the temples, especially Angkor Wat, are just parts of the Cambodian heritage—just the way the late president Marcos’s edifices near Manila Bay are. I figured that the temples are simply ancient ruins signifying the awesome power (and megalomania) of those once hailed as kings. That’s it. Oh, how I was dead wrong!

Now I believe that, after seeing how hardworking, respectful and laid-back the people of Siem Reap are, there is something more than the giant edifices in Siem Reap.

 Detailed craftsmanship at Ta Prohm

Detailed craftsmanship at Ta Prohm (aka the Angelina Jolie Temple)

For instance, each block of sandstone used in the construction of the temples tells me that, without really saying anything, there were kings whom everyone respected and admired. There were artisans skilled at turning blocks of rock into spellbinding art. The temples, it seems, symbolize unity and respect among the Khmer, and not just the kings’ ever-reaching power!

I feel that nothing but love and admiration can goad people to build—and to preserve—these gigantic temples. Clearly, love and loyalty are traits the people of Siem Reap must have been known for, even thousands of years ago. And I feel that they should still be known for those traits even today.

I’ve only been here for less than three days, but I have already seen and felt what the fox was teaching the little prince. (It’s like I am the little prince in this instance, and Siem Reap is the little fox!) Indeed, I can see clearly only with the heart, and what is essential is invisible to the eye.
Me at Ta Prohm

Me at Ta Prohm

From the bottom of my heart, I thank Siem Reap for the life lesson and the endless hours of fun.
Trip sponsored by BlogFest

Trip sponsored by BlogFest.Asia 2012