This online shoebox contains random pictures, notes, whatever. I've been a professional writer-photographer for so many years now. It's a damn good excuse to carry a camera around.

Posted By Lester V Ledesma

4) The Heartbeat of Iloilo

January 27, 2013: Fourteen years after I last covered the Dinagyang Festival, I got the chance to see it one more time. Taken from my article on Smile Magazine:

 “The warriors groove in unison to the mighty drumbeats. They shake and they bake - one step to the left, one step to the right, they raise their shields and brandish their spears. But all this is just a warm-up, for as the tom-toms pound out a more frenzied rhythm the atis stretch their hands outward to do their own version of.... bump n’ grind! The crowd roars out its approval. I howl out mine. “


“Thirteen tribes later my ears are numb from all the merry mayhem that had just occurred. As I think about this weekend I realize that Dinagyang is more than just a display of mindless revelry. To me it now represents the unique character of the Ilonggo people - artistic, fun loving, deeply religious and sometimes crazy. This was really a weekend to remember. When next year comes, you’ll see me back in Iloilo. “

“No, I won’t be watching the revelers. I’ll be one of them!”

 Read the rest of this story here.

3)The River Wild

August 5, 2013: On assignment for Smile Magazine:

“You've saved the best for your last day in Cagayan de Oro. Rise and shine early and get ready for an action-packed morning. You are again heading to the boonies to try out this region's signature attraction – white water rafting. “



“The course takes you through a 12-kilometer stretch dotted with over a dozen class II and III rapids (class I is easy, class 6 is suicidal). Each gurgling, foaming obstacle has its own challenges; Makabundol Rapids has a rock wall on one side that needs to be paddled against, while The Rodeo is so chaotic you'll have to hold on to stay aboard. And don't even think about chatting up your guide when you tackle the “I'm Busy” Rapids. There's also The Twister, so named because you all have to paddle through it standing up – making everyone look like dancers on a boat!”

“By the end of it all (that's a good 4 hours later), you'll be tired and wet – and yes, once again exhilarated by this adrenaline-pumping excursion. Not many weekends can compare to the one you just had. A weekend in Cagayan de Oro, you realize, is never enough.”

To find out what else a weekend in Cagayan de Oro can bring, take a look at my article on the CDO Gold Rush.

Posted By Lester V Ledesma
#6 - Rap Bua Festival, Samut Prakan

Colorful floats on water. Throngs of shouting, cheering people. Sounds like the usual fluvial parade. But this is Thailand, and there is nothing unusual about the way they do things here. Held near the end of the Buddhist rain retreat season, the Rap Bua is a taste of good old Thai Buddhist tradition mixed with Disney-style pomp and pageantry.

It's also off the tourist-beaten path - despite its location right under the nose of Bangkok's Savarnabhumi Airport - as I found out last October. Arriving in Thailand just as festival got underway, my companion and I hailed a cab and sped off, luggage and all, to the district of Bang Phli. We got there right in time for the fluvial parade, but by then the riverside was clogged with people waiting to see the main event.

Here's where Amazing Thailand justifies its nickname. Upon seeing these foreigners with their big cameras and bulging backpacks, the locals graciously made way. Chairs were given for us to stand on, and before we knew it we were right at the water's edge, standing a head above the crowd. And it got even better. The excitement was palpable when the floats appeared, and everyone bowed in unison at the sight of their object of devotion: the Luang Pho Tho, a centuries-old statue of the Buddha. Lotus buds were thrown in the air as the sacred image floated by, and there we were, firing away with a camera in one hand and a bunch of round, pink flowers in the other (the locals pressed them in our hands while we were busy shooting).

This was one of the precious few occasions when photographers weren't just observing. Our coverage, of course, ended not with a click, but with a toss and a prayer.

#5 - The Dolphins of Ozamiz


If you think dolphins are fascinating, try swimming with them at the MOAP dolphin conservation center, just outside Ozamiz City.

You don't know what the term "fish out of water" means until you get in there with these creatures of the deep. They approach you in pairs, hurtling just beneath the surface like dark gray torpedoes. Then they check you out, circling you while studying you with those big, black eyes. Welcome to their world. Dare to duck your head underwater and you'll almost certainly find yourself face-to-face with one. That unblinking look. That distinctive dolphin smile. That strange flicker of recognition borne from being distant cousins in the same mammalian family. There's a consciousness behind that dolphin face, and it's staring right back at you.

#4 - Shibuya Crossing, Tokyo


This was where they shot that climactic scene from "Lost in Translation", and believe me it looks just like in the movie. When the traffic light says "go", Shibuya's main traffic junction literally swarms with people crossing what must be Tokyo's busiest, glitziest intersection. But the main attraction isn't just this sea of black-suited salarymen, anime-haired youngsters and Gucci-toting sailormoon schoolgirls - it's the whole Sony-branded, Japanese-flavored futuristic scenery replete with huge video walls, screaming Kanji neon and piped-in video game music from speakers unseen. You want to experience modern Tokyo in twenty seconds? Go cross this street.

Posted By Lester V Ledesma
Humans and monkeys in varying degrees of affection:

Monkey Love

There seems to be more pet monkeys than pet dogs in the Mindanao countryside :P




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