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

Working the Well. Vigan, Philippines.


Midnight Candy Crush. Sapa, Vietnam.


Monk at the Station. Ayutthaya, Thailand.


Morning Market. Ayutthaya, Thailand.


Posted By Lester V Ledesma

I'm not really used to having myself get splashed all over a newspaper front page, but it's nice to get the chance to tell some stories I've never told :


You can read the entire web version in the Manila Bulletin online :)

Posted By Lester V Ledesma
It's amusing how simply browsing through one's photo files can bring a flood of memories from the past twelve months. I'm fortunate to be in a line of work that constantly rewards me with new experiences. Some of these happen off the beaten path, others well within the domain of the cushy comfy. Like in previous years, 2009 brims with some truly unforgettable memories - there's so many of them in my head now that it takes effort to try to remember them all.

So I'll start small and just list down my ten best experiences of 2009:

#10 - The Ramadan Market at Tanjung Pinang

Ramadan Market

During the holy month of Ramadan, Muslims fast and spend their days in quiet contemplation, avoiding temptations to the soul as much as they can. In Tanjung Pinang, Bintan Island - as in the rest of Indonesia - restaurants hang black yards of cloth in front of their windows to keep appetites at bay. Radio stations go off the air, and the vibe throughout the town is one of quiet religiosity. However, all this changes after sunset when the ramadan fast is broken. The normally quiet waterfront suddenly bustles with activity as street peddlers and food hawkers appear. The scent of grilled satay, boiled bakso mee, steamed siumai Bandung, and roti bakar mixes with the sound of foot-pedaled kiddie rides, portable speakers and the ubiquitous motorbikes. The atmosphere is carnival-like - and the food is delicious. Who would have thought the fasting month could be this fun?

#9 - Getting Caught in the Rain in Vigan

Vigan Rain

The clouds were ominous, yet the setting sun rendered the stormy skies in a lovely yellow tone. I figured I could get a few shots off under this light before scampering off to find shade from the oncoming rain. The water came early and in torrents, though, forcing me to hide under a tiny roof on a corner of Vigan's M. Crisologo street. Drenched from head to toe, camera included, I waited about an hour for the rain to stop. But I was far from miserable because the scene before me was truly magical. Just look at that!

Posted By Lester V Ledesma
It's the same old cobblestoned street, the same old homes, the same old church. Yet there is something different about the heritage city of Vigan these days. In what must be my seventh visit here, I arrived to find the place bustling with tourism-related commerce, even in the midst of the rainy low season.

M. Crisologo Street, the centre of the Kamestizoan district, where these homes have stood since the 1500's. Back in '98 when I first came here, these structures had crumbling facades with peeling plaster. Today many of them sport freshly restored faces. Souvenir shops and a few cafes' now inhabit most ground floors. There's even a t-shirt boutique store and a photography studio inside one house.
Vigan Rain

A store owner told me that Taiwanese tourists flock here on Mondays and Thursdays, and that they make a good money from the handicrafts that these foreigners buy. A local guide also told me about new government regulations concerning the restoration of antique Vigan homes - they now need to be faithful to the original designs, and approval from the heritage board is now required.

St. Paul's Metropolitan Cathedral looks as good as ever. During this Paulinian Catholic year, pilgrims to the church are rewarded with holy indulgences.
Vigan Kalesa

Ilocano garlic bunches await customers at the public market. My favorite commodity - hand- rolled binatis cigars - used to cost Php2.50 a piece. Now they go for 3 for Php10. There used to be loads of old ladies here smoking them with the burning end inside their mouths. Now the cigarillo of choice is La Campana filterless matamis.
Vigan Garlic

Business is good even for the lowly calesa driver. He's probably smiling because he's been ferrying tourists around all day. During low season! High season this coming December will surely bring in more money for these guys.
Vigan Kutsero

It's good to know this heritage city is finally getting the care and attention it deserves :)




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