Yeung Taw Dahling

Okay, okay… so I’ve not posted for a long time… same as usual, busy-busy juggling two part-time jobs … this post has been saved in my draft folder for a long time so here I’m posting this, more pix than texts. This was during pre-R days when Pinay-pie and I, along with his precocious son troop to the markets every weekend.

Picture speaks a thousand words. More pix in my other blog to be posted soon. Enjoy.

Starring:

Sreisaat (left) and Pinay-pie. Biking to lose unwanted fats.

Also starring:

Agent Jk (left) with sidekicks Max and Angus.

Where we went:

Psah Boeungkengkang (Boeungkengkang Market)

Fresh fruits, anyone?

Psah Tuol Tumpong, aka, Russian Market


Tourist stuffs like traditional wood carvings and scarves, are among the many things sold inside Psah Tuol Tumpong.


One of the many reasons why people troop to Psah Tuol Tumpong, popularly known as the Russian Market, is the jewelry shops. Precious and semi-precious stones of all sizes and colors compete for buyer’s (tourists and locals alike) attention. Also not to be missed are the cloths and cheap clothes (jeans, shirts) from factories, and the best-sellers of them all– pirated CDs, VCDs and DVDs– at prices less than the price of a burger. Sorry, could not take pics of the CD/VCD/DVD stalls. Patience is a virtue when negotiating for the price. Don’t forget to say okun charan, khnyom maowing pael khraoy tiet (thank you, I’ll come back next time) and smile afterwards. Is a good interaction with the locals. Psah Tuol Tumpong is called the Russian Market because in the 80s many Russians in the country shopped here.


Ahhh, food. Our favorite kiwtiw/mie cut seller. After long hours of haggling and going around the market, we reward ourselves with a bowl of mie cut, sort of pansit bijon (noodles) but with a special concoction of vinegar-sugar-and-spices-sauce topped with green collards, parsley, mint and ground peanuts. Spice it up with pepper and add fresh ground chilli. Mmmmm. Oh, and som teuk kreut ma keow (a glass of fresh orange juice). Chhngan nah (yummy)!

Burp, burp. Try it.

Hostage Crisis in Siem Reap!

The whole country was in terrible shock yesterday.

At around 8:30am, four men dressed in civilian clothing seized an international school in Siem Reap province and took dozens of kindergarten students and five teachers hostage, killing a two-year old Canadian boy.

The gunmen demanded a ransom of $1,000, B40 rocket launchers, AK-47 rifles, hand grenades and a minivan to drive them to the border town of Poipet. A ransom of $30,000 and a minivan was handed over to the gunmen at 1:30pm, except for the weapons. As the men boarded into the minibus with about 10 foreign and Cambodian children and a female foreign teacher, military police took over and stormed the vehicle, and grabbed the hostage-takers.

The stand off lasted 6 hours. Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen said that the attack was not organized by Al Qaida, Jemaah Islamiya “or (any) other group, but this is a kind of crime separate from terrorism”.
The Prime Minister added that the hostage-takers were bandits rather than terrorists.

(Cambodia Daily)

**
We got to hear about this only at noon time yesterday. There are several Filipino teachers in that school and I was relieved to hear that they are all ok, although still a bit shaken. Sobra. There were no live television coverages nor radio broadcasts at all. Kung sa Pilipinas nangyari ito, nag-aagawan na ng pwesto ang ABS-CBN at GMA. Ganun din sa radyo. Bubugbugin nila ang manonood ng sunod-sunod na live reports ang ere. Dito wala man lang kaingay-ingay. Sa Yahoonews ko na nga nalaman ang nangyari, kaya tawag agad ako kay Ate A. Si Ate A ay teacher sa BISPP na sister school ng hinostage na school sa Siem Reap. Nalaman ko kay Ate A na pangalawang trahedya na pala ito na nangyari sa school nila. Two days ago kasi namatayan sila ng isang teacher dito sa Phnom Penh.

Click this for more of the hostage story. There have been conflicting reports on the age of the boy who was killed, the number of hostage-takers, the number of students taken into the van and the time when the incident took place.

***
Bigla na naman akong natakot. Poverty has something to do with crimes and violence. Pag nagigipit talaga ang isang tao ay gagawin ang lahat. Napakarami na ngang street crimes na nangyayari dito e mula pa nung pagdating ko dito ng 2000. Dumarami ng dumarami ang naghihirap sa bansa. Para na ring Pinas. Parang feeling ko ay walang nangyayari dun sa mga ginagawa ng NGOs dito. Tulong ng tulong, hindi naman sumusulong. Utang ng utang sa ibang bansa at mga institutions, wala namang napupuntahan. Ang mahirap lalong naghihirap, di makaahon. Ang mayaman… well, mas lalong yumayaman. Ganito na nga ba talaga ang mangyayari sa mga developing countries?

Back!

Woohoo!
I’m back… with a new template free from Martijn ten Napel. Now how good is that? A few adjustments here and there and it’s going to be alright.

Well, it rained this week and everything has been watered and refreshed after weeks of 40C+ temperature. A metereologist from the Ministry of Water Resources and Metereology announced that the rainy season is underway. Thank God for the rain. Now the farmers are happy. Although rain did come, the Cambodia Daily reported that officials say that the rainfall is not enough to relieve the drought-stricken villagers as the country’s irrigation system is damaged and needs rebuilding. On the other hand canals and ponds constructed by the villagers are shallow and so very little rainwater has been stored. According to a Cambodia Daily report, provincial officials requested the Ministry to build more canals and dams in the province for more water storage but have yet to receive a reply.

***
Looking at things this week, I can say that I was very unproductive. Sitting in the room and in front of the computer, I feel that I have grown tired of my current job and needing a change. I have been working hard (advising a radio program and at the same time fundraising and managing grants) as I can be. But there’s this nagging thought in my mind that I’ve been missing out on something. I miss the old times when I get to go to the field every week because the time I spent on the Radio Project was reduced to only 25%, and the rest to fundraising and grant management. Fundraising and grant management was quite challenging at first, but two years later on, I am finding this task rather dull. Actually basi natak-an lang ko. But I know I’m still in the place where God wants me to be. There’s so much work to be done, so basi nagatinamad lang gid ako. Perhaps I am just being plain lazy.

It’s a long holiday here, today (Friday) and Monday next week declared as holiday in celebration of King Sihamoni’s birthday, his first as the King of the Royal Kingdom of Cambodia. Today as I was watching local tv channel, there was a celebration going on at the Royal Palace with the King receiving foreign dignitaries. Lots of gifts being exchanged there. The celebration started with prayers performed by the Buddhist monks. I couldn’t understand well what was said as my Khmer language proficiency is limited. Gawd, four years and still struggling with the language.

Early this morning (well I woke up earlier to have a chat with R and then went back to sleep after) I was awakened by a loud noise outside. For awhile the thought of battle tank rumbling across the street reminiscent of the late 90s coup in Phnom Penh crossed my mind. I guess I just have a very active imagination. In between this rumbling noise came a cymbal-like sounds coming from the street. Curiously, I got up, took a peep in the window and saw a long line of well-dressed people and a camera crew. Hoping to get a good view I went out to the veranda, unmindful that I’m still in pjs. It was a wedding entourage, the groom’s entourage to be specific, preparing to go in (sort of) a procession to the bride’s house where the ceremony will be held. With the groom (the one shaded by a fancy, yellow umbrella) was this long line of family and friends, carrying trays of fruits, gifts and other offerings to the bride’s family.

A Cambodian wedding procession
The groom, his parents, and his gift-toting entourage are making their way to the bride's house.
A Cambodian wedding procession
The groom, his parents, and his gift-toting entourage are making their way to the bride's house.
A Cambodian wedding procession
The groom, his parents, and his gift-toting entourage are making their way to the bride's house.

This is obviously a well-to-do family. They have a camera crew. They have police escorts. And they have a long line of gift-toting entourage. And probably the wedding feast will last more than a day. I have been invited to attend weddings but never get to see the actual wedding ceremony as usually the couple invites guests (especially foreigners) to the wedding reception and not to the ceremony itself, so I can’t give you a description how it actually goes. But my officemates told me that the ceremony is composed of several rituals, like cutting the hair, exchanging of gifts and rings, etc, with monks chanting and in between, the traditional music. Now if only I can post audio clips here you would know what I’m talking about. Any help?

Meanwhile, two of my former officemates, Sokpheap and Bunthet, got married in February this year. The couple sent me an invitation but I was in the Philippines at that time. Wedding invitation cards in Cambodia are interesting as you can see below.

A Cambodian wedding invitation
Front cover, with the names of the groom and bride.
A Cambodian wedding invitation
Inside are the details of the wedding.
A Cambodian wedding invitation
The back cover, showing the map and directions to the place of reception.
The bride and groom
Sokpheap (r) and Bunthet (l). They met in the office. Such an interesting story that led to this couple's wedding.
The bride and groom
Time to cut the cake! The couple and their respective families.

Inside is the text in Khmer, and the English translation as well if the couple has invited expats. At the back is a map of the restaurant where the reception is to be held. Although their wedding is traditional, there were few Western touches added to the affair, for example, the cutting of wedding cake, the sipping of wine, etc. To the newly weds, it’s better to greet you late than never… to the bride, Sokpheap, and the groom, Bunthet… Congratulations! I wish you lots of happiness as you go through life together.

It’s not raining, mehn…!

Image hosted by Photobucket.comIt’s hot.
Blistering hot here.
A/Cs are running furiously. Night and day. Frequent power cuts too.
April is the hottest month in the country. Temperature averaging 39C.
So blistering hot.I take shower twice a day. I gulp gallons of water daily, and sweat like a pig.
Tempers flare up too. My temperature shoots up at the slightest provocation.

Enough.
This year’s drought is the worst ever in Cambodia.The National Committee for Disaster Management dubbed this year’s water shortage as “the worst plight” in 10 years. And yet, in a report from The Cambodia Daily, NCDM said that the government has no plan to relieve water shortage. No plans to provide water relief in drought-stricken areas.

In some areas, villagers were in greater need of water than food. And Cambodia Daily quoted NCDM’s first vice president as saying “the situation was not dire enough to warrant urgent action”. As in :o!

Apparently NCDM has not visited the parts that were hardest hit by drought because how could they say that? I feel guilty for having water available at home while a huge chunk of the population are further burdened by travelling several kilometers away from their villages to buy water. Not to mention the unscrupoulous businessmen taking advantage of the situation, selling water for the price of gold. Linshak na yan. There were also unconfirmed reports of villagers living near the Thai-border buying water from Thai villagers.

In the tourist town of Sihanoukville, there is already water rationing. However in Banteay Meanchey province, more than 300kms from the capital PP, the local government there took the matters into their own hands by sending firefighters to transport water in certain villages.

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In Kampong Speu province which is the hardest hit, I met this father and daughter, who travelled 10kilometers to this school by a rickety motorbike carrying 3plastic gallons. The father said they are happy that the school, the nearest area from their village, allowed them to get water for free. The school principal who was with us told us that this well is the only source of water of 4villages, and right now, the water level is alarmingly low. The principal was very concerned that this too, will dry up in no time as demand for water is increasing.

Water supply in PP is still okay though. But how could I enjoy my shower when more than half of the population have no water to drink, to cook food, to water their crops and animals…? Ahh, but that doesn’t mean I don’t have to shower as well. Just make sure I use the water efficiently. Like taking shower with a friend.;D Hah.

The Road to Chambok, Community-based Ecotourism At Work

Hi.
It’s Sunday today and yet I was on duty.
One prospective donor from USA is in town and so as the person in charge of grants and fundraising activities, I coordinated his visit to the project sites and “chaperoned” him together with A, the other expat Advisor.

It has been almost a year since I last visited the site, specifically Chambok Eco-tourism site. When I assumed advisory position, it was seldom that I go to the field as almost all of the time I was confined to my room, forever tapping the keyboards coming out only when donor reports and proposals are completed and only when there are outside office donor meetings. So today, I hauled off my pampered, fat behind for a whole day tour of the project site.

Kampong Speu province is popular among the locals for it houses the 35,000-hectare Kirirom National Park, one of Cambodia’s seven national parks. The park is known for its biodiversity and natural resources of national and global significance and is known for its unique native pine forests (photo, Mlup Baitong). The resource issues surrounding the Park have led to violent disputes between Park authorities and local people. This is where we are working for the past 6 years now, addressing natural resource management issues with villagers living along the borders of the national Park.

The national road number 2, which starts from Phnom Penh to Kampong Speu, and which stretches up to the beach city of Sihanoukville, was recently repaired and widened making the travel more convenient. However, I couldn’t imagine how many families living along this road have been forced out to give way to the road widening project. The government and its contractor must have provided compensation and resettlement benefits to the affected families because not much opposition has been reported or heard of. Or did I just miss this issue somehow? The commuting public, including our Kampong Speu field staff, are now complaining of the sudden fare hikes attributed to the toll fees collected by the contractor’s company. I digress.

One of Mlup Baitong’s projects addressing unsustainable resource use is the promotion of alternative, environment-friendly livelihoods through the Ecotourism project. This project aims to support sustainable livelihoods for rural villagers through ecotourism development. Chambok commune lies to the northern border of Kirirom National Park, which lies approximately 120 km southwest from Phnom Penh.

According to Mlup Baitong’s food security survey conducted in April 2003, there is high dependency on forest resources and 94% of the population are involved in forest resource extraction activities. The unsustainable harvesting of timber for fuelwood is leading to the rapid degradation of the forest resources both inside and outside the national park. Hunting of large mammals, some endangered, is also a significant problem. Some 93 percent of villagers grow crops, but production is low and the majority of food for a household requires purchasing. The forest is the main source of income for 57 percent of the population. Food insecurity is experienced by up to 70 percent of households in at least one month of the year. Some 20% are experiencing food shortages throughout the year and 63% were in debt at the time of the survey (April, 2003).

There are few options for rural people to improve their livelihoods, and low levels of education, particularly for women, combined with disintegration of the community and of many families as a result of past conflicts, makes it difficult for many people to overcome hardships.

The Chambok Community-based Ecotourism project has already been underway since 2002, and the site officially opened to the public in January 2003. The villagers participate directly in the project since the local elected Chambok Ecotourism Sub-Committee manages the day-to-day activities of the enterprise. Benefits accrue not only to the villagers who work at the site, but also to the village as a whole, since profits are kept in a Community Fund and spent according to the development needs in the village.

So we arrived about 11noon in Chambok, and since it was almost lunchtime we stopped at the house of the Community Forestry Committee Leader where our lunch, prepared by the women members of the Gender project, was waiting for us. The donor feasted on local fare – mixed vegetables, grilled fish and mango salad. This is one of the many unique offerings at the Ecotourism site, for visitors to sample a slice of the local fares and experience community life.

After lunch, we then headed to the Ecotourism site where we were greeted by trained local guides and some Ecotourism committee officers, including women’s group members, who were on (vending) duty on that day. There were lots of smiles and both visitors and locals exchanged satook (hands held in front of the chest, palms facing inward like in a prayer) and of Soksapbay and Chum riep soos and Hello, how are you, I’m fine, thank you greetings. I find the satook gesture very polite and the way the Khmers do it, they do it gracefully. These guides and committee officers received English language and guiding skills training and their capacities are continuously being built through training and coaching.

The sun was at its hottest, around 38-39C on a noon time. However this did not deter the donor from going on to see what’s in the site, much to my chagrin. Haha. From the entrance gate it is more than 2km hike up to the waterfalls passing through a choice of trails. The group decided to ride an ox-cart (photo, Mlup Baitong) for about 10,000 riels return trip ($2.50) with Sy, the local guide, in command, while I chose to go ride one of the bikes that was for rent. For only 5,000 riels ($1.25), one can use the bicycle up to sawa (as long as you want).


Along the way, we passed by the area where the Visitor Information Center is being constructed. Because of funding problems, the construction was delayed. But thanks to generous support from donors, the Visitor Center is slowly taking shape. We found Touch Morn, the head of the Ecotourism committee monitoring the construction activities. Touch Morn is one of the many locals who are aware of the environmental threats that logging and charcoal production (the primary source of income in that area) and is leading his community in protecting their tuntien tomachit and pakrithan, or natural resources and environment.

Since its opening in early 2003, more than 10,000 combined foreign and local tourists visited the ecotourism site in Chambok. The site, one of the country’s first, provided an alternative source of income to the villagers, from ticket sales, oxcart rides, bicycle rentals, parking, vending and toilet fees and small donations. The site offers a spectacular waterfall, bat cave, bird-watching, traditional dance and music performance by the schoolchildren, and a walk through nature trails. The project now employs more than 50 local people working at the site and receiving wages from the community fund. The project also benefited members of the Women’s Project from the income generated from selling produce at the ecotourism site.
– Mlup Baitong Report

While on the hike trail passing through thick and arid forest, bamboo forest mostly, Sy and Touch Morn would stop upon spotting a bird that makes a funny sound, a vine that is used for making baskets, a tree which leaves and bark have medicinal values, and plants and some insects that were eaten by the locals when food was scarce during the dark days of Pol Pot regime. We also passed by a spirit house where locals pray for protection, an ordained tree (tree that has been wrapped by saffron robe and blessed by a monk), some animal tracks. Where before not a sighting was observed, locals told us that they occasionally hear of the sound of damrey (elephants) and find a’ek roboh damrey (elephant dung), and see a pair of chluk, or deer, in the forest recently. It’s a good sign that wildlife is coming back now.

We reached the waterfall area, but it was dry. Drought has been a major problem in the country and Kampong Speu is one of the provinces in the country that has been experiencing extended drought period. The lack of seasonal rain dried up not only land and crops and plants of the villagers, but also the waterfall that is the main attraction in the site and source of drinking water for most of the villagers. However, Touch Morn and Sy are optimistic that there will be rain soon and the waterfall will have water. There were a few visitors, but Touch Morn said they are expecting droves of visitors come Khmer New Year (in a week’s time).

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Drought aside, it’s amazing to see the progress at the site. The once shy local guides can now carry a hearty conversation, even nijiey lieng (bantering) with the foreigners. The women vendors now talk with confidence, and have now expanded their ‘business’ from merely selling fruits and rice cakes and souvenir items, to bicycle and umbrella rentals, to food preparation and catering. To the adventurous type, the guides offer a hike through the jungle bringing you up to the source of the waterfalls amidst the thick forest covers and steep slopes. An overnight camping is also possible, either visitors bring their own tents, or avail of the home-stay program in the community, with accommodation for an over-night stay up to a few days. Weekend visitors are likely to see schoolchildren performing traditional dance and music.

Since business ventures and activities have expanded and diversified, revenues support village development projects such as regular weekly forest patrols, building simple infrastructures like nature trails, toilet and changing rooms for site visitors, which are decided by an elected village committee, which is also in charge of management of site, and meets at least once a month to discuss various issues.

By establishing a community-based ecotourism in the country, there is an incentive for the community to sustainably manage the natural resources which are the main attraction to the site, and an alternative source of income is generated that will reduce dependence on natural resources extraction. Another important benefit is an increase in awareness of environmental issues among the community and the visitors who come to the site. There are very few places in Cambodia where people can go to gain an understanding of the nature and culture of the area.

So if any of you (granting that I have readers) are visiting Cambodia one of these days, the Angkor Wat in Siem Reap is not the only place to go. Please visit us at Chambok Ecotourism site. You will be helping not only the villagers, but also supporting the community’s initiative to protect their natural resources and environment. Touch Morn and local guide Sy will be glad to see you there. We hope to see you there. Soum chuop kinih pael kraoy.

Back in town!

Good to be back in Phnom Penh again!
After 4 days in Kompong Thom province, I’m back to my old routine. Indeed I was busy, working through our many end of year reports and proposals, on top of that, there are management and project meetings to attend to. When I got back, I received an email from Canada Fund reqùiring our project to undergo an environmental screening, a process that applicant-organizations should pass before funding applications can be reviewed by the committee for approval. The coordinator was apologetic for the added work (he should be, he’s supposed to fill in the forms and not me!), and for the deadline (which is today), but what can I do? It’s a requirement of the Canadian government and as if I could complain to the coordinator… gee, I have become a slave.*sigh*

I am also waìting in great anticipation to hear from EU. There has been no word yet, but I assume they would call us once a shortlist is made. Once we made the list… I would surely celebrate… in China… Ni hao ma, Shenzhen!! woohoo!!

In other news… here are tidbits of our trip to Kampong Thom.

Kompong Thom is at the halfway point between Siem Reap and Phnom Penh. Most travelers stop only briefly in this sleepy provincial town with stately colonial architectures scattered along the brown waters of Tonle Sen (River Sen).

Kampong Thom is the largest province in Cambodia in terms of area, consisting of districts, 81 communes and 737 villages and is home to five percent of Cambodia’s total population, and is one of the last provinces to be liberated from the influence of Khmer Rouge. It is also Cambodia’s largest rubber tree growing area.

Tonle Sen views
A five-headed naga statue by the bank of Tonle Sen.
Tonle Sen views
Early in the morning, single paddle-boat passed by as I took this photo.
Tonle Sen views
This is the view to my right.
The quiet roads of Kampong Thom.
Across the road, these two grannies were riding their bicycles quietly.
The quiet roads of Kampong Thom.
A political party sign can be seen to my left, where I'm standing.

Of course, some photos of our meeting venue and the local food that we were after all along, lol!

Take note.
A sign in our guesthouse rooms.
Meeting venue
The commune hall where we had our meeting.
Meeting venue
A sign of cooperation between two countries.
Local food!
Soup chhnang day, or claypot soup. It is delicious and the broth so tasty.
Local food!
These are what goes inside the claypot coup - beef, eggs, various herbs and veggies, noodles, and many others.
Local food!
Who's up for deep-fried spiders? Not me 🙂 Kim Kong, one of my colleagues, popped the fried spider in his mouth like a pop corn.

Happy Halloween!

pumpcp
Gracie, thanks for the e-card. Everyone, have a good time doing rounds of pangalag-kalag!!

November 1. Todos los Santos, Araw ng mga Patay, undas. We Pinoys remember our dead loved ones, offer a prayer and light candles in the cemetery.

In Cambodia, it’s called the Pchum Ben, or the commemoration of the spirits festival and this year it started on the first day of October.This annual commemoration of the dead is one of the most important events in the Khmer Buddhist calendar.It lasts 15 days and is divided into 2 parts. In the days leading up to the full moon of Bon PChum Ben or the first 14 days of this Buddhist festival are called Bon Dak Ben, or the offering of the food to the monks. Buddhists troop to their temples and make offerings in memory of their dead relatives. On the 15th day of the ceremony- the day of the full moon- is called Bon Pchum Ben, or the collection of the bens (offering),the temples come alive with music and celebrations in honor of the dead. In the countryside, an evening of dance is held inside the pagoda. If relatives of the departed do not make offerings, it is said that the dead will not be able to rest and haunt them in the forthcoming year.

Tevika, my officemate, told me that in Buddhist beliefs, when a person dies he or she is not immediately reincarnated, but instead they go to a place somewhat similar to a purgatory. There is nothing to eat in that place, and so the souls of the dead are released during Pchum Ben for 15 days to go to earth in order to eat. And so, many people gather at the pagodas bringing loads of food for the dead. For the fanatics, they travel far and wide and offer food to seven different pagodas in seven days to appease the spirits and to earn merits for their next life.

I went to a pagoda before and saw how it was done. It has something like a fiesta-atmosphere to it, very similar to undas in Philippines. In the Philippines, the tombs are cleaned and adorned with flowers, here pagodas are decorated with banderitas. While masses are held in the cemeteries in the Philippines, Buddhist monks chant prayers over loudspeakers. Men, women and children dress to the nines and strut their wares in the cemetery, here locals, particularly the women, are dressed in their traditional costume. Instead of lighting candles, Cambodians light incense or joss sticks. Same-same, but there’s something a little different. It’s something new for me back in 2000. I feel sad now that a lot of religious groups have penetrated the country and have started converting the locals. I believe in diversity. Diversity of culture, religion, way of life… Otherwise, the world will just be one boring place.

P.S. Yes, the Cambodians believe in ghosts, monsters, etc., very much like us Filipinos. I wanted to watch the Halloween episode of MGB over TFC, but changed my mind. I live alone and I have a very active imagination. Mahirap na.

Long live King Norodom Sihamoni!

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Photo by BBC News/AP.

So there he was… wearing a crisp white uniform of sorts with gold embroidery and the traditional Khmer pants called phanoung (?), smiling tensely. Wearing not the royal slippers but black leather shoes… wearing not a crown but a golden phnov leaf tucked behind his ear for good luck…

Preah Karuna Preah Bat Samdech Preah Baromneath Norodom Sihamoni, the official title of the new reigning monarch, officially ascended to the Throne of the Kingdom of Cambodia, after a series of religious ceremonies which combined Brahmin and Buddhist rituals, spread across three days.

There were lots of people in Phnom Penh gathered in numbers in front of the Royal Palace and hoping to get a glimpse of the new king. I had the same idea too, but laziness overpowered me and the lure of the bed was so strong I could not resist. Well, after weeks of sleepless nights, who wouldn’t?

Anyway, so I was sat glued to my favorite seat in the house, munching a bag of chippy (thanks to my donor, Tita Cute, who brought lots of them from Pinas!), watching the live telecast. The crowning ceremony I believe started with a procession with the royal “carriage” carrying King Sihamoni through walkway lined with blooming flowers. There were There were also the royal alalays carrying umbrellas to protect the king from the sun’s harmful UVrays. Hah, and why not, the king has a schoolboy complexion complimenting his mestizo good looks.

The Buddhist monks and the King’s parents, former King Norodom Sihanouk and Queen Monineath, took turns in the traditional ritual of pouring water over King Sihamoni’s head. The water, I later learned, came all the way from Phnom Kulen mountains in Siem Reap province, which was believed to be a sacred mountain.

Prime Minister Hun Sen, Senate President Chea Sim and National Assembly President and the King’s half-brother Prince Norodom Ranariddh, plus other high-ranking government officials and more than 200 people representing the foreign embassies, NGOs llistened to his first speech as the country’s king. Outside thousands of Cambodians listened with bated breath through a massive loudspeaker that was installed days earlier.

People are excited, and hopeful that the new king would lead them to a better and brighter future. The king is highly-revered in Cambodia. According to ancient Khmer beliefs, the king is the descendant from the heavens. To a poor country who has gone through a lot, the Cambodians still hold on to that belief and look up to their king, as he symbolizes hope, peace and stability in the country. And the new king promised:

“I will never live apart from the beloved people,” he said. “Every week, I will devote several days visiting our towns, our countryside and our provinces, and to serving you.” (The Cambodia Daily)

Hmmmm. Very little has been known about King Sihamoni before he was chosen as King. A a man known for his privacy, simplicity and love for the culture and the arts, King Sihamoni appears to be a reluctant royal leader but is hailed as the natural successor to his father.

And to quote The Cambodia Daily, after all these pompous rituals and celebration, King Norodom Sihamoni is now one of the small but elite group of monarchs in the world, who as retired King Norodom Sihanouk (the father) likes to point out, reign but do not govern.

Oh well.

King Sihanouk Abdicates!

Totoo, official na nga ang pag-abdicate ng hari. After so many attempts ay natuloy na rin. Kaya eto ngayon, nagsusunog ng kilay ang mga lawmakers para i-draft ang pinakahihintay na law (Throne Council Law) na nag-a-outline ng selection procedure ng papalit sa hari. Ipinag-uutos din ng batas na ito na sa loob ng 7 araw ay may bago o may napili nang papalit sa namatay o nag-abdicate na reigning na hari. It was hastily passed last Friday lang. Minamadali nga ito kasi kapag walang successor ang king, ay magiging ganap na republika ang Cambodiaa , na siya namang pabor sa kasalukuyang Prime Minister. Pag nagkataon ay magkakagulo na naman (katatapos lang na-solve yung gulo sa election, eto na naman. Kung sakaling maging republika ang Cambodia, ito ay lalabag sa unang chapter ng kanilang Constitution, na nagsasabing (sa wikang Ingles) “… Cambodia is a Kingdom with a King…” Maraming makakating dila ang nagpahayag ng kung ano-ano tungkol dito pero hintaying na lang daw muna ang mga susunod na kaganapan.

At ang 2 sa mga pinagpipilian ay … si Prince Ranariddh at si Prince Sihamoni. Meron pang ibang kandidato na myembro din ng Royal Family, pero silang 2 ang pinakamatunog. Pareho silang anak ng hari magkaiba lang ang nanay. Early on Prince Ranariddh has been telling the media that he’s not interested in becoming the king. Kasi mas type niyang maging pulitiko (siya’y kasalukuyang head ng royalist na FUNCINPEC Party at National Assembly President). Oo nga naman. Wala namang power ang hari e. Sa kabilang banda, walang gaanong impormasyon naman about Prince Sihamoni, except that he’s the former ambassador to UNESCO in Paris. Kumbaga hindi siya masyadong kilala ng tao, pero nakow, mas gwapo si Prince Sihamoni kesa kay Prince Ranariddh.

Dagdag pa ng hari, hindi daw siya uuwi sa Cambodia hangga’t wala pang bagong hari. Sa kasalukuyan ay nagpapagamot sa Beijing, China ang hari kasama ng reyna. Matagal na rin sila duon. Sino kaya sa dalawang prinsipe ang magiging bagong hari ng Cambodia– Ranariddh o Sihamoni? Bakit ganitong pagpapahalaga ang binibigay ng pamahalaan ng Cambodia sa mga royalty? Abangan ang susunod na kabanata…

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Ang sagwa pag tagalog ano? Been attempting to write a decent blog in Tagalog pero mukhang baluktot talaga ang wordings ko. Pasensha na po. Sa mga gustong bumasa tungkol sa Royal Family ng Cambodia, click lang kayo dito . At sa karagdagang impormasyon tungkol sa balitang ito, click naman kayo dito . Kung gusto niyo namang makilala ang hari ng Cambodia, punta ka dito .