Tag Archives: culture

Graveside Contemplations

While Mexico’s Day of the Dead festival (Dia de Los Muertos) includes a significant amount of crazy costumes, parades, parties, and street revelry, the primary focus for many is the late-night gathering of families at the graveside of loved-ones to reflect on those that have passed on. These cemetery gatherings themselves are often an odd mix of frivolity and solemnity.

Although in a broad sense it could at times feel like a bit party walking through the large cemetery gatherings (at one cemetery there was a stage set up with a live band playing), at a more intimate level it could also feel rather intrusive. Although not intended to be an occasion of mourning, but rather a time of celebration, one couldn’t help feeling that you were walking through people’s private gatherings. Some families preferred to be left alone, but many were quite welcoming. If you took the time to at least give them a smile you generally received one in return, and possibly even conversation or mezcal.

Conditions for photography were difficult. It was quite dark with candlelight often being the only source of light. The intimacy of the occasion also required a high level of respect and courtesy (sadly ignored by some photographers). Most folks didn’t mind being photographed if you at least gave them a few moments of your time.

Remembrance - Oaxaca, Mexico

Remembrance – Oaxaca, Mexico

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Posted in Cultural, Mexico, Travel Also tagged , |

Washing by the River

Today’s Photo

This is from the Thaipusam Festival at Batu Caves in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. At the festival, tens of thousands of devotees of the Hindu faith come to pay homage to Lord Murugan. Prior to climbing 272 steps up to the Temple Caves, the worshipers will wash themselves near the Sungei Batu (Rocky River). The festival is known for the devotees who pierce themselves with skewers and fish hooks as acts of penance.

Later this year I am scheduled to have a photo essay on the Thaipusam Festival published in SE Asia Backpacker magazine.

Washing

Washing - Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

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Posted in Black and White, Cultural, Malaysia, Travel Also tagged , , |

At Attention

Today’s Photo

Every day at sundown (I assume anyway… so much for research) a group of Taiwanese soldiers marches out in front of the Chiang Kai-shek Memorial to perform a flag ceremony. The ceremony includes a generous portion of stomping feet, thrashing of rifles, and stiff-lipped, pinched faces as the flag is brought down and folded up for the day.

At Attention

At Attention - Taipei

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Posted in Cultural, Photography, Taiwan Also tagged , , , |

Taiwanese Folk Opera

On one of my last days in Taiwan, I was invited by Taiwan-based photographer Craig Ferguson to join him photographing a traditional Taiwanese folk opera at the Xiahai Temple in Taipei. Craig spent time over three days at the opera and posted a nice series of images a couple weeks ago over at his blog. At one point he was able to get backstage and so got a little bit different perspective on it than I did in the couple hours I spent there. He also has a much better description of what this is all about than I could ever give so I highly suggest you go check out his blog post, Koa-a-hi Song Drama.

Here’s a few images from my afternoon at the opera.

Taiwanese Folk Opera

Taiwanese Folk Opera - Taipei

Taiwanese Folk Opera

Taiwanese Folk Opera - Taipei

Taiwanese Folk Opera

Taiwanese Folk Opera - Taipei

Taiwanese Folk Opera

Taiwanese Folk Opera - Taipei

Taiwanese Folk Opera

Taiwanese Folk Opera - Taipei

Taiwanese Folk Opera

Taiwanese Folk Opera - Taipei

Opera Audience

Folk Opera Audience - Taipei

Opera Audience

Folk Opera Audience - Taipei

Opera Audience

Folk Opera Audience - Taipei

Meters and Switches

Backstage Equipment - Taipei

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Posted in Cultural, Photography, Taiwan, Travel Also tagged , , , |

Puerto Galera – A Portrait

In some respects, Puerto Galera is similar to many other beach and dive resort towns around the Philippines and SE Asia. Boatloads of Westerners ply the girlie bars lining the beaches while locals and Filipinos from the city lounge around the beach or go swimming in their clothes (yes, that’s what many of them do). Puerto Galera differs in a sense because it’s made up of three communities, each with a distinct personality: Sabang, White Beach, and Puerto Galera proper. Sabang and White Beach are both approximately 6 km from Puerto Galera. Where you decide to stay depends on the type of experience you are looking for.

Sabang Sunset

Restaurants line the beach in Sabang - Sabang, Puerto Galera.

The main dive centers seemed to be collected around Sabang and the adjacent Big La Laguna and Small La Laguna. Diving can be done from the other locations as well, but Sabang is ground zero. Hotels, resorts, and guesthouses are available for every budget. Most of these are clustered in a long arcing strip adjacent to the narrow, almost non-existent beach with many over-priced restaurants and bars essentially right at the waters edge. Of course, over-priced is relative; by Western standards the food is still a bargain, but by Filipino standards it’s expensive. We didn’t spend much time in Sabang because it wasn’t really our cup of tea.

Restaurant Lamps

Restaurant lamps - Sabang, Puerto Galera.

Moon Over White Beach

The moon hangs over White Beach Resort - White Beach, Puerto Galera.


San Miguel

Cases of empty San Miguel beer bottles - Puerto Galera.

Sabang is obviously no stranger to nightlife but the more ‘interesting’ establishments we saw were located in White Beach. White Beach had the feel of a mini Phuket, complete with the requisite girlie bars and tattoo parlors. We never managed to get to it, but apparently several nights a week there is a fire dancing show on the beach followed by a lady boy show. Now that’s entertainment! You’re probably out of luck if you are looking for a ping pong show, though.

White Beach

Sunset beach activity - White Beach, Puerto Galera.

White Beach is also the place to be if you want to actually spend time on the beach and have a decent place to swim. During the day the beach is crowded with sunbathers and volleyball players and kids splashing in the water. If you’re looking for something a bit quieter, a short easy hike around a rocky headland at the west end of the beach will bring you to Aninuan and Talipanan beaches. They’re just as nice as White Beach but without as many people. The further westward you go along the beach, the more you’ll have the beach to yourself, and maybe a few locals.

Muelle Pier

A boat tied to the pier at sunset - Puerto Galera.

For a more laidback experience and possibly a better opportunity to interact with the locals, staying in Puerto Galera town proper is probably a better option. Primarily centered around and between Muelle Pier and the public market, the street is lined with little businesses selling household items, as well as other useful things like bootleg DVDs and lottery tickets. A few small gringo bars and restaurants are located around the pier but most of the food outlets cater to locals. At lunch time during the week, you’ll be fighting through mobs of uniformed school kids to order a meal.
School Morning

Boys are lined up outside school in the morning - Puerto Galera.

Morning Pledge

A girl recites the national anthem before school - Puerto Galera.


There’s much to do in Puerto Galera, which means port of galleons in Spanish. As one of the few typhoon-safe harbors in the Philippines, it is still popular with yachters. Although most of the diving shops are located in Sabang, there is some diving and snorkeling available out of Puerto Galera. And if you’re looking to get out and do some hiking or walking, there are several waterfalls in the area. Tamaraw Falls is right on the main road about 9 km out of town and requires only a jeepney or tricycle ride. Near White Beach, Aninuan Falls and Talipanan Falls require some hiking to get to.
Boat Shaping

A man prepares a boat hull for a new boat - Puerto Galera.

Aninuan River

Aninuan River - Puerto Galera.

Your choices for places to stay in Puerto Galera town are more limited than in Sabang or White Beach. Near the pier there are only two or three choices, including Badladz Adventures Resort where we stayed. There are a few more options on the road at the east end of town heading toward Calipanan as well as a little further out on the road to Sabang.
Portrait of a Fisherman

Portrait of a local fisherman - Puerto Galera.

Although we didn’t care much for the vibe around Sabang or White Beach and therefore didn’t spend much time in either place, overall we did enjoy our month stay in Puerto Galera and there’s something there for everyone.

Dried Fish

Dried fish at a market - Puerto Galera.

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Posted in Cultural, Philippines, Photography Also tagged , , , |