To Indonesia, With Love

Monday, September 26, 2016

borobudur sunrise

Wonderful Indonesia,

You are never going to be my last, but wherever I go, wherever my feet take me, I will always be proud and honored that you were my first. 

Everything was unexpected; unlikely, in fact. The opportunity to come and meet you had arrived like an episode of snow in a country that had known only rain and sun all its life. It was both confusing and exciting; hard to believe, yet I badly wanted to believe it. And soon, I came to find that it was real, and the sheer realness of it all painted everything with the colors of dreams coming true. It sounds like a cliche, but you are a dream come true. And more than anything, I'm hopeful that you will stand as the first in the series of better things. 

Indonesia, my first impression of you was this: You are eerily like my Philippines.

My country's Manila is a twin to your Jakarta – from the traffic, down to the street vendors peddling quail eggs. I know had I stayed a day or two more, I would have seen how one is unlike the other, so forgive me if I'd been quick to judge. See, even Bandung's chilly weather and feel were reminiscent of Tagaytay, and Baguio. The outlet stores reminded me of Sta. Rosa, and Subic. But then you offered me a taste of your varied and rich culture, and I found myself indubitably swept off my feet. 
bamboo village indonesia
Bamboo Village in Bandung
If in Bandung I was off my feet, Yogyakarta took me to flight. "Jogja" had shown me the Indonesia that I was looking for: grand and artful on the outside, quaint and unassuming on the inside. This city brings a kind of magic to beginnings and endings, a certain brand of calm to a country perpetually churning in a maelstrom of multiculturalism.
pottery at warung kopi
Trying my hands at pottery Warung Kopi Borobudur
I'd felt my mind opening up a little bit more by just mulling over the sparkling aquamarine waters that surround the island of Lombok. Here, Indonesia, you've proven that you understand how vital tourism is in preserving heritage and sustaining communities.
gili trawangan indonesia
Contemplative in Gili Trawangan in Lombok
In Labuan Bajo, tears had been shed, not out of grief, but out of utter joy. The things I'd seen and felt here reaffirm my faith in the Universe and a Higher Power. Tell me, Indonesia, how can I marvel at your grandeur and not believe in God?

Of course, experiences are made by people, and the friendships and connections that prospered while in your embrace are sure to transcend time and distance. If companions make or break a trip, all I can say is my 12-day journey across your folds was veritably made. Moments spent eating noodles, learning curses in another language, giving out piso for ChocNut, discovering the National Treasure that is Chitato, sharing inside jokes, and all the conversations about love and life, these are the true highlights of this trip. I am fortunate to have met souls who made it so difficult to say goodbye. And for this, more than anything else, I am grateful. 
labuan bajo padar island
Taking in the view along the trail up Padar Island in Labuan Bajo
Don't be surprised, then, my dear Indonesia, when I say you have left me not only with inspiration, but also values. In spite (and, perhaps, because) of all your oxymorons and ironies, your contrasts and your blurred lines, you are secured in your sense of self. Bhineka Tunggal Ika, you proclaim. Diversity in Unity; Many Yet One – this is what I love most about you. You know who you are and what you stand for, and yet you don't force this identity unto others. You are incredibly, amazingly, accepting. And in a world torn by fanaticism, this makes all the difference.

Never relent, Indonesia. You are, in every sense of the word, wonderful. 

Unabashedly in love with you,

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