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

8) What’s in Basilan?

January 22, 2013: “Is there someone waiting for you at the pier?” a smiling passenger asked. The question, however innocent, sounded strangely foreboding. We were on a ferry en route to Basilan –the fabled hometown of the terrorist group, the Abu Sayyaf – where (the locals joked) an “extended holiday” could easily cost a million dollars. Thankfully our contact met us at the dock. With a hint of dread lingering in my mind, my companions and I set out to explore this notorious isle.



The capital, Isabela, felt just like any other Mindanao town. At the market, porters looked at my cameras with suspicion at first, but then later lined up to have their Facebook pics taken. A laughing burkha-clad lady served us coffee at a carinderia. Further inland (past the army checkpoints), we photographed local kids at a waterfall, and rubber harvesters on the job. My last taste of Basilan was at a pristine beach called Malamawi, where we kicked back on bamboo benches with a squad of Marines. No gunfire, no kidnappers – this was just a day well-spent.


7) Malacca at Dawn

May 18, 2013: The problem with the heritage city of Melaka was that it became too busy at times. Sure, it’s got those lovingly preserved buildings along its narrow walkways, but all too often the nostalgia was lost in the massive crush of weekend visitors. I had an idea though: go out early to shoot these streets, after the night markets have packed up and all those funny tourists have gone to bed.



The neighborhood was quiet at 4AM, with only haze keeping me company as I sauntered down the avenues. Jonker street was deserted, with nothing at all – neither cars nor people – on the pavement. The antique shophouses basked in the warm light of streetlamps. Chinese lanterns adorned their facades, the paper spheres adding hints of red to the timeless scene before me. An old man on a rusty bike pedaled by, and I was brought back in time. There it was; the Malacca of old, no longer obscured.

 Want to know more about Melaka? Check out my article, A Malacca Memoir

Posted By Lester V Ledesma

... glows at dusk, after maghrib prayers:



Posted By Lester V Ledesma

It's the eve of Hari Raya Puasa and you've got 2 hours left to enjoy the goodies at the Geylang Serai Ramadan bazar. If you haven't done so, do it! DO IT NOW!!!!





Posted By Lester V Ledesma
Ramadan ends at midnight today:

Serai Mkt

Last chance to eat all those delectable, mostly deep-fried post-fasting goodies at the Geylang Serai pasar malam!

Posted By Lester V Ledesma

At midnight, right behind my apartment block, the Hell God and his followers were getting busy. It was the last night of the 7th lunar month, when spirits from hell were said to go back to their fiery home after roaming the earth for weeks. There were candles, incense, and huge piles of “hell money”. More importantly there was a tang ki – a spirit communicator whose job that night was to be possessed by the man himself. He (or the Hell God) smoke Marlboros and drank Cognac offered by devotees, and then he got to work, closing those less-than-pearly portals for yet another year.


Nice photos, interesting event – here's a more detailed account.

That night I dreamed that the tang ki greeted me outside a taoist temple. As he led me inside, I noticed a Chinese-style gravestone on the wall. My name was written on it.


Two similar schools, two vastly different teaching philosophies. While one stands firmly rooted in the present, the other lives in a world of its own. Save for its traditional uniforms, Singapore's Madrasah Wak Tanjong is no different from any other school. On weekdays here, students as young as ten fill their minds with Math, Science and Computing, along with Islamic subjects that are characteristic of the Madrasah curriculum. At Malaysia's Madrasah PKTM, on the other hand, pupils live in dormitories devoid of radios, TV's or mobile phones. The only instruction they get is from one teacher, their only reference is the koran.


How will these kids face the outside world, you ask? It depends on the world they enter after they leave their school.


I've done Angkor many times before, but rarely during my five previous visits has that feeling of “been there, done that” ever accompanied me. On my sixth visit last November, the ancient city of the Khmers gave me yet another reason to return here – on a mountain bike. From the bustling town of Siem Reap, I cycled 17 kilometers through the Cambodian countryside.


Without a roaring motorbike engine underneath, one feels connected to the land. My guide and I passed herds of schoolkids and water buffalos sauntering down dirt roads lined with villages, temples, paddies - even an archaeological dig – as we made our way to the little-known ruins of Prasat Prei Monti, to the east of Siem Reap. This was Angkor at its best; just the land and its people – and not a tourist in sight.



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