Friday, December 12, 2014

A LONG WALK FROM PLAZA SAN MARTIN (Part 2: Prabin and the Great Churches of Lima)

My friend Prabin Man Singh from Oxfam-Nepal have never been inside a Catholic church.

So I asked him that if he did not have any plans after the Lima People's March and a heavy carnivore lunch of pollos a la brasa, then perhaps he would want to join me in a walking tour of Lima's great churches.

We first got lost of course, before stumbling upon the Basilica of Nuestra Senora de la Merced --- an 18th century elaborate Spanish baroque [i.e. churrigueresque] church with more than 400 years of history and dedicated to the armed forces of Peru.

Lima is relatively safe.

The only thing to watch out are strangers intent on making a conversation which a passing man tried when he asked me about the time and then where I came from.

He was dismissed him with a wave as we continued walking to the Plaza de Armas and the grandeur of the Basilica Cathedral of Lima: the keeper of Francisco Pizarro's remains who helped build the first church in 1535, host to a trove of religious art and history, and adorned with 14 chapels of various saints.

Prabin wondered why people are buried in the church and I told him that's the old way when rich people can opt for a church burial to be nearer to God, and that we should also visit the catacombs of the Convento de San Francisco if he wants to see more old bones.

We did and barely in time for an English tour of the monastery where we were introduced to [1] a carved image of a crucified Christ that came from the Philippines, [2] paintings by the Spanish master Francisco de Zurbaran and of a Peruvian version of the Last Supper by Diego de la Punte, and [3] the catacombs and some of the remains of the 25,000 buried there until 1808.

The church and the convent was started to be built in 1673, and I would learn later from Wikipedia that the convent is in fact known for its collection of 25,000 antique manuscripts, and the next day that the lone Filipina woman in the tour is in fact Rep. Susan Yap of the Philippine delegation to COP 20.

Prabin ended his initiation to Spanish Colonial Church 101 in a souvenir shop where bought an assortment of apparels for the cold Nepalese winter. 

Mine were some alpaca shawls, souvenir t-shirts, and a Peruvian sweater for the wife.    

Thursday, December 11, 2014


I can't actually remember the last time I joined a march [i.e. mass action/mobilization].

Was that the one that ended at UP-Diliman, or that where I was photographed tying together the banners of LFS and MASP?

What I'm sure is I was single then with my trademark overused bristling toothbrush sticking from the back pocket of a torn and faded fake Levi's, tubao draped over a blazing batik shirt, threadbare mojo sandals, and no money to buy even a stick of Winston Red.

That was like ages ago.

Until the perks of a yellow badge finally brought me back to the streets where I learned more than what was taught us in the university.

The 5.5-kilometer People's March for Climate Justice took some 4 hours as a massive column of around 20,000 people from around the world got stuck at the Campo de Marte before traffic broke it into platoons that eventually regrouped on the approach to Plaza San Martin.

Lima have not seen such huge march in a long while.

Neither do I.

Without me knowing it, I have arrived at Lima's Historic Center...

Tuesday, December 09, 2014


Dear Pinky,

I miss you and those cold poorly lit rooms where negotiators fall to sleep, wake, fall to sleep, wake, and fall to sleep again.

Those late lunches and missed dinners seem just a fortnight ago last March in Bonn when the omen of your imminent leave was first made known, then in Bonn again last June where you were finally taken and I have to take refuge with Menique.

I tried taking you back last October for Bonn.

And again, with more effort, for Lima although I know the odds are not in my favor. 

Menique would have taken me back but I thought I go with Amarillo first and pray that the first week would be good to me.

I thank my Oxfam Family for making Week 1 happen.

Walls have been torn down and I am grateful, although it took awhile to adapt with Amarillo's preference for crowded computer tables, dead hours and early lunches, and the early trips back to the hotel which somehow inferred that this is a strange COP.

Strange, slow, boring, procedural, and even fetid.

So I thought that perhaps next year in Paris would actually be the better time to reunite with you as I thank Menique for again considering me, except that I would be so strung going badge-less and doing nothing in Week 2 since I can't really afford the $1K 3-day/2 nights tour to Machu Picchu and it's too early to visit them churches. 

I thank my Ateneo Family for making Week 2 happen. 

I am thankful to the door keeper who allowed me to watch in the CCTV Caballero Juan Hoiffmaister deliver a statement in behalf of the G77 and China.

I am thankful to a Fil-NZ colleague who also came for a Week 2 badge and kept me company for two hours.

And I am thankful to the UN guard who told me to leave because if not for that, then I could have never experienced the crunchy but delicate taste of Lima's Turrones.

In other words my dear Pinky, you are not worth the hassle with this kind of COP.

So I'll be seeing you next year, either as Kulay Rosas or Menique.

That I can promise you.

Truly yours,

El Hombre con el Distintivo Amarillo

PS: I am actually an Atenean by virtue of a certificate on Financing Local Development from the Ateneo School of Government in Rockwell. At least that's what the dean told us when we finished the course.