Prepping for cremation

“As the royal cremation completes the most glorious reign the Thai people have ever known, we are saying goodbye to a great king whose final departure will take with it a collective part of us, the Thai people.” ~ Thitinan Pongsudhirak, Chulalongkorn University

King Bhumibol Aduljadej, 1927-2016

King Bhumibol Adulyadej, the world’s longest-serving monarch will be laid to rest on Thursday, October 26th, a year and thirteen days after his death on October 13th last year.

Final preparations have begun as early as the beginning of October. It is a five-day public event. Building of the crematorium, procession rehearsals, arrivals of heads of states and representatives of countries who are attending the funeral ceremony have kept the capital in solemn motion.

On the day the king died I picked up the phone to tell my son who was based in the Philippines that time. He was quiet after I broke the news. Unlike the usual things he pitches after pleasantries are exchanged like “Mom, buy me this; Mom, buy me that…” he breathed a quiet, “oh.” I like to think that was His Majesty’s philosophy of self-sufficiency economy working wonders on a Thai subject – offshore.

King Bhumibol plays the piano; Queen Sirikit looks on

Thursday, 26 October, 12:19PM. I sit alone in my apartment watching the funeral alternately on TV and social media. These are things I would want to remember from this day –

i    He played the piano and that appeals to me

ii   The cremation pyre has been built for over a year. It represents a sacred mountain, Mt Meru and the area around it represents heaven. Surrounding the pyre is an element that depicts the King’s life’s work: water.

iii  Out of around 4000 royal projects, 3000 were water-related

iv  Holy water in a conch shell is poured over the chariot by a high priest before all the craftsmen set to work.

v   Prapasok Ratmai, head sculptor emphasizes perfection in their work

vi  “We pay attention to every step of the process.” ~ PR

vii  Sacred animals are placed on the first platform. Horses to the west, elephants to the north, lions to the east (Dharma teaching) and cows to the south (abundance)

viii  At the moment, funeral procession is going on. It starts from the Grand Palace where the King’s body lay in state since last year

ix  The king’s coffin has depiction of garuda, a mythical creature believed to carry his spirit to the heavens. The royal urn is placed in a chariot which, along with the king’s body is taken to the pyre for cremation among the pagodas

x    King Bhumibol presented himself as a caring monarch

xi   He built his prestige by connecting with his subjects in a way they understood and grew to love

xii  “His legacy is a highly personalized monarchy”

xiii  A popular king no doubt. He held a demigod status but “is this love the people are showing genuine?” asks a BBC reporter of Narisa Changkrabongsri, a relative of the king

As an expat for twenty years, I echo Narisa’s answer: yes.

Thursday 13  / ABC Wednesday  /  Our World Tuesday


Once upon an October dream
of pages and fall
of teas and maple
of cheese-laced Olenna tongue and
golden petrichor

Photo Credit: Chaotic Bookshelf
Photo Credit: The Chaotic Bookshelf

October. How I love the month!

Before I wax dreamy though, I would like to take note of something remarkable out there which happened over the weekend in my home country (Philippines): Omar Maute and Isnilon Hapilon are dead. Gone. Killed by government forces. Finished! Maute and Hapilon are top leaders of an ISIS-linked militant group, some of FBI’s most wanted terrorists.

There I said it. I may like sweet dreams a lot (who doesn’t) and would prefer to dwell more in them if not for daybreak, but I am also aware that many present day events are nothing but sweet and they affect us one way or another. Life. Living it is as real as nightmares and dreams. Now back to October and what I love about it –

i-ii   Oatumn. I don’t care that I live in the tropics, obviously. I am in love with the season. That’s that. Looking at autumn scenes is a joy to me. While I am not where the season is happening, I make do with photos taken in October.

Fall in the tropics

iii-iv   October is the opal month of the year. It is the month of glory, of ripeness.  It is the picture-month. ~ Henry Ward Beecher

Strawberry cheese cake to accompany going over three dozen abstracts before publication.

v-vi   October is crisp days and cool nights, a time to curl up around the dancing flames and sink into a good book. ~ John Sinor

Acmonan. Photo Credit: Gary Buenaventura

vii-viii   October is a symphony of permanence and change. ~ Bonaro W. Overstreet

Roadside Farm, Saraburi

ix-x   Sweet October, fill with praise, Rich and glowing as thy days, Every poet’s heartfelt lays. ~ Caroline May

October fruits

xi-xii   The sweet calm sunshine of October, now Warms the low spot; upon it’s grassy mould. The purple oak-leaf falls, the birchen bough Drops its bright spoil like arrow-heads of gold. ~ W.B. Yeats

Receiving area centerpiece, Wattana Apartment

xiii   October, baptize me with leaves! Swaddle me in corduroy and nurse me with split pea soup. October, tuck tiny candy bars in my pockets and carve my smile into a thousand pumpkins. O autumn! O teakettle! O grace! ~ Rainbow Rowell

Thursday 13  /  ABC Wednesday  /  Our World Tuesday


Novodevichy: necropolis of the famous Russian dead, and where interments are second only to those in the Kremlin in prominence. Inaugurated in 1898, it rose in significance in the 1930s when important Russians who were buried in medieval monasteries around Moscow were reburied in Novodevichiy during the Joseph Stalin era. After the fall of the Soviet Union, when the Kremlin Wall Necropolis was no longer used, Novodevichy became the place of rest for Russian notables in the arts and sciences, and of course, politics.

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Note: This is Novodevichy Cemetery in Moscow. It should not be confused with Novodevichy Cemetery in Saint Petersburg.

Novodevichy Convent. Right behind is the Novodevichy Cemetery

One thing that draws me to graveyards is the quiet. It is calming while the world outside goes on and on with its drama. Reading epithets wondering what those people were like in life is a fun mental exercise, if not spiritual or emotional. You do not know them, they do not know you, you are visiting, nobody is complaining. There is something mystical in a non-verbal, one-way acquaintance. And then there are the well-known names. You know them, or not, they still do not know you, no problem. They are free from signing autographs or giving interviews; you are free to stare at or take silly selfies with them all you want.

As a fan of literature I went to Novodevichiy for Anton Chekhov. Since Boris Yeltsin is right in front so conspicuous, it was nice taking a shot at his tombstone too.  Heck, I wouldn’t have minded dropping by Rasputin’s spot if he was there. With so limited time though and Novodevichiy rather massive with a guide who was not familiar with graveyard interiors, not that I blame her, I missed the following

Names in Novodevichiy

1   Nikita Khruschev (1894-1971) head of Soviet Union
2   Nadezhda Alliluyeva (1901-1932) wife of Joseph Stalin
and the Notable Nikolais
3   Nikolai Podgorny (1903 -1983) statesman during the Cold War
4   Nikolai Burdenko (1876-1946) neurosurgeon
5   Nikolai Gogol (1809 – 1852) dramatist, satirist
6   Nikolai Rubinstein (1835-1881) pianist and composer
7   Nikolai Zabolotsky (1903 -1958) poet
8   Nikolai Zelinskiy (1861 – 1953) chemist
9   Nikolai Ostrovsky (1904 -1936) writer
10 Nikolai Tikhonov (1905 – 1997) politician
11 Nikolai Bulganin (1895 – 1975) Minister of Defense
12 Nikolai Semashko (1874 – 1949) Soviet sports administrator
13 Nikolai Tomsky (1900 – 1984) sculptor

I would spend proper time with them if I visited Russia again.

Thursday 13  /  ABC Wednesday  /  Our World Tuesday

Moscow Moments

My moments in Moscow began when I inadvertently followed an interaction among members of an FB expat group regarding Russia’s national carrier.  The desire to see the place though began back in childhood. Like other parents, mine spent considerable time telling me stories. Later I was no longer content just being told of heroes from faraway lands. By adulthood I had to see evidence or at least come close to traces of their existence.

Curiosity + A love of History + Wanderlust = Moments of

~ excitement when a plane lands bringing you to a place for the first time

~ adrenaline for traveling alone, just you and your wits wondering about safety and whether your guide would show up, making sure Plan B is intact in case Plan A runs into problems

~ tongues. You hear yourself speaking a few words of the local language and the locals smile at you. Either your attempt is passable or they are just amused to hear you try

~ cold horror. A Dementor engulfs you at airport exit. The zero temperature.

~ mounting worry when the hotel does not accept any mode of payment except the one in your wallet that does not match, and it’s midnight!

~ relief at finding an ATM that spits out currency which determines whether you spend the night on a warm bed or an airport bench

~ joy in beholding a riot of colors; your favorite season happens to be trending while you are visiting

~ awe in finding yourself on the same spot where history-making events took place and historical figures once trod

~ contrast: on the very same ground stood the first man in space, marched a battalion oozing power and there you are taking a silly selfie

~ faux pas looking for the grave of a famous person and the news is he is still alive (I will be brave in a later post and tell it)

~ pride in having survived traveling solo without breaking a limb

~ regret that you could not stay longer to immerse in details. Note to self: next time apply for a longer visa

~ gratitude for childhood wishes that come true, for learning experiences, and this adventure we call Life.

ABC Wednesday / Thursday 13