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

6) Praying with Pain

 

March 29, 2013: I’ve photographed it many times, but this ritual has never failed to move me. There I was in the middle middle of a ricefield in the sweltering summer heat, watching as a fleet of faceless, shirtless men prepared to hurt themselves. This was Good Friday in Calumpit, Bulacan; a day when many residents of this town performed the age-old practice of self-flagellation.

06

 

Close to noon, the field became a sea of writhing bodies. Drops of blood filled the air, accompanied by the sickening crunch of wooden burillo whips hitting flesh. Some of the men lay on the ground and outstetched their arms to form bizarre human crosses. They, too, were whipped by fellow devotees. This army of penitents then marched off the paddies and into the main street. They headed to church - where God, grace and forgiveness awaited.


This event is truly spectacular, and the National Geographic’s photo-editors seem to agree – one of my penitensya photos made it to NatGeo’s Best of the Week.

 

5) The Nine Emperor Gods Festival

September 26, 2013: Taken from my article on CNN Travel:

“Come the ninth lunar month, while the rest of this island gets on with modern life, a little-known ritual unfolds in a corner of Singapore. The Nine Emperor Gods Festival may not be the biggest occasion in these parts, but it sure is met with almost fanatical devotion by members of the Jiu Wang Yeh Taoist sect. As its very name suggests, this pious party revolves around some heavyweight VIP's. The Nine Emperor Gods are said to be heavenly beings who possess great influence over earthly matters. History states the festival was long practiced in Southern China, before early Hokkien immigrants brought it over to colonial-era Singapore. “

05

“These days, little has changed in the way this event is observed. The center of the action is at the Kiu Ong Yiah Temple, along Upper Serangoon Road. Here amidst a carnival-like atmosphere of dragon dances and Chinese opera performances, devotees take turns carrying the “sedans” – shoulder-held shrines bearing an emperor god. The celebration reaches its peak on the ninth day of the ninth lunar month. Accompanied by cheering and furious drumbeats, the sedans are paraded around and swung vigorously to honor their godly occupants. This is revelry fit for nine kings, they say – with psychic rewards that are well worth the happy efforts.”
 
The 9EG is only one of the many unusual celebrations in multi-cultural Singapore. Check out other, similarly intense events here.


 
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. “
 

04

“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. “

 

03

“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

2) Back to Burma

 August 8, 2013: This land burned itself into my memory five years ago, when I first came here as a media guest. Myanmar was a heady blend of culture and beauty, the likes of which I had never seen. It was exotic and isolated, and in many ways untainted. Quite simply, I fell in love with this place.

02


It took me some time, but I finally made it back. With my pregnant wife in tow, I eagerly got reacquainted with “The Golden Land”.  Myanmar was just as I remembered it – hot and dusty, and brimming with character. At the capital Yangon, we explored the same gilded temples, bustling streets and crumbling colonial buildings I had photographed before. We fed pigeons for good karma at Sule Paya, and greeted sundown at the Shwedagon Pagoda. A few days later in nearby Bago, we shot long lines of Buddhist monks and visited more temples. And we feasted on mohinga, khao hswe and laphet htoke.

 While admittedly we couldn’t go too far and wide (the old-school infrastructure wasn’t the best for babymooning), this whiff of supremely picturesque Burma was intoxicating enough for me. This was but a fleeting trip compared to my epic journey in ’08.

 But dammit I missed this place - and I was just happy (so very happy) to be back :)

And I will be back again – oh, yes I will be – when my PhotoTreks photography tour goes to Myanmar this September. Visit the PhotoTreks website for more details!




1) Why I Became A Photographer



June 17, 2013: Nimalung, Central Bhutan. The colors bewildered. The sights overwhelmed. Not in a long while have I been this fired up about taking pictures. The balconies were packed with people. Monks in their scarlet robes mingled with country folks clad in native attire. Policemen in ceremonial dress watched by the sidelines. All eyes were on the courtyard below, where masked dancers were commemorating the annual tsechu, a four-day festival held in honor of the Buddhist saint, Padmasambhava.


01


My senses felt overloaded. There were simply too many things to cover. Panic threatened to set in. Amidst the humming dung chen horns, the spinning prayer wheels, the swirling dancers and the singing women, I struggled to keep my composure. “Remember your training. Think objectively. Shoot for a story”, I reminded myself. Eventually I found my rhythm and things fell into place. The story unfolded. Backstage and onstage, in the stands and at the village outside, my cameras documented this amazing display of Bhutanese culture.

Rarely do they come together, but on this day they were all here. The exotic, the picturesque, and the mind-blowing. The joy of discovery. To capture these all – that is why I became a photographer.

 


... and that is why I still am :) Can't wait to see what happens this year!


 
Posted By Lester V Ledesma

Singaporeans regard Tanjung Pinang, the capital of Bintan Island, as the gritty city that they need to get through on the way to a squeaky-clean beach resort. They're missing a lot.

 

 

 

TP04

 

Located two hours away by ferry, this city once hosted the Malay empire's seat of government, before the Dutch and the British arrived to dismember it.


TP05

Traditional culture remains strong; Locals at Penyengat Island (off the coast) indulge in a game of sepak takraw in front of the ancient Raya Mosque.

 

TP06

 

Sunset at Jalan Merdeka, where the seaside promenade becomes host to a bustling night food market.


TP07

 

Early morning finds rowboats ferrying folks from the nearby kampung air  - water villages on stilts - to shore.


TP08

A familiar scene anywhere: a kids runs after resident pigeons, this time at a local Buddhist temple serving the city's large Chinese population.

 

Just a two-hour ferry ride from Singapore, Tanjung Pinang is an easy getaway from the sterile, hectic Lion City.


 
Posted By Lester V Ledesma

The Nine Emperor Gods festivities ended in spectacular fashion yesterday with the traditional return of the deities back to the sea.

 

9EG Sendoff

 

Originally from China, this Taoist occasion has since disappeared from the mainland, and is now celebrated only by local Chinese in Singapore, Malaysia and Thailand.

 

9EGsendoff2

 

Festivities revolve around nine celestial deities - the Emperor Gods - who are said to preside over matters of life and death in all humans. Devotees believe they arrive from the sea at the start of the nine-day event, and are said to return the same way at the end.


9EGsendoff3

Interestingly enough, the Indians also have a similar event, which is held on the exact same dates as the 9EG. They call it the Navratri - it means "Nine Nights".


 


 
Google

User Profile
Lester V Led...
lledesma@sky...
Singapore

 
Category
 
Recent Entries
 
Archives
 
Visitors

You have 1348612 hits.