Friday, 30 March 2018

Washing Of The Feet: A Lesson In Humility

Growing up as a Catholic, I was taught to observe the Holy Week with solemnity. During my growing up years, Maundy Thursday and Good Friday were the quietest of days as there were no TV shows on air and radio programs were limited to airing the 'Pasyon'.  

What my mother played on her cassette player during those years were her recorded religious songs like the 'Our Father' and the 'Ave Maria' sung by Mario Lanza. These recorded songs were played on the religious float, or the pasos, during the religious processions on Maundy Thursday and Good Friday to accompany the praying parishioners.

But when I left for Korea, I rarely spent the Holy Week back home to observe the Lenten rites. This year, however, was different. I was home and had the time to watch them all again.

In the afternoon of Maundy Thursday, during the Holy Mass, the unique Lenten rites like the washing of the feet and the transfer of the Most Blessed Sacrament were observed. Our parish priest performed the Catholic tradition of the washing the feet of the 12 laymen who portrayed the 12 apostles. 

He knelt in front of each apostle, took a basin with water, and washed both of their feet. He then wiped them off with a towel.

This tradition is more than just religion. It is a lesson about humanity; a lesson in humility.

According to the Bible, after the Passover meal, Jesus individually washed the feet of his apostles, who questioned him why he was doing so. In the ancient times, the feet were probably the dirtiest part of the anatomy as they only wore sandals. The dirt, dust, and probably a few skin problems made the feet a filthy pair, especially if you were walking around villages and desserts without washing.

And doing so - the holding, washing, and wiping of someone else's feet, especially those of your followers were not only a symbolic gesture to show that by being a leader, one has to serve first. 

But that lesson is probably best for politicians and government officials who think that their position of power allows them to exploit and abuse their offices, cheat and steal whatever and however they can, and make us all believe they are squeaky clean, genuine civil servants. 

Aside from this kind of people, we have our neighborhood characters whose main agendum every day is to brag about their phantom wealth, their bogus achievements, or hypocritical charities. Now, these people are probably the scariest kind because, unlike politicians and government officials, their hypocrisy, self-praise, and posturing are not co-terminus with any term of office! Ha-ha-ha!

And we all know one or two of this kind, I'm sure.

It's sad, but this is humanity. It's part of being human. Well, since washing their feet in a basin of water won't definitely change their character, drowning them in one is probably a good idea. Ha-ha-ha! Kidding!

So, what to do about this people? Praying for them is one; ignoring them is another. We badly need to choose our leaders as well as our neighbors. :-)

Friday, 9 March 2018

Discovering Dongdaemun After Dark!

The Dongdaemun Shopping District in Seoul is one of the most popular areas to visit. Why? Shopping! Of course!

Although the Myeongdong alleys offer various cosmetic shops, fashion outlets, and a food alley, these are mostly for those who wanted convenience as these are all located in one location.

The Dongdaemun shopping malls, on the other hand, are mostly scattered around the Dongdaemun Design Plaza and are on different buildings. But what Myeongdong does not offer, Dongdaemun does! Shopping till morning!

Yes, while some shops and markets in Dongdaemun are open during daytime, the shopping really comes alive after dark!
               (Therese and friends discovering 
                      Dongdaemun after dark)

So, when my friend Therese, a former Seoulite, came to Korea for a quick visit last week, I told her I’d tour her around Dongdaemun. I had toured friends around Itaewon and at the Dongdaemun bag market at night before. So, this would be another fun night tour!

After their dinner in the nearby Namsan area, Therese, who’s from Oregon, brought along her other friends: Gail from Toronto, Yuna from New York City, Isabel from Paris, Jane from Shanghai, and Mitsuka from Tokyo!

Going to Dongdaemun, we simply boarded the blue bus from the Beotigogae area, where they had dinner, had a short bus ride, and got off at Gwanghuidong Bus Stop, one stop before the Dongdaemun Culture and History Park bus stop.
                    (Waiting for the blue bus!)

Here was our Dongdaemun tour trail:

Said to have been constructed in 1396 during the fifth year of King Taejo, Gwanghuimun is a gate which served as one of the eight gates of the old city. This was destroyed during the Imjin War of the 16th century. In 1975, restoration of the gate was done.
                    (Gwanghuimun after dark)

Since Gwanghuimun is hidden away on a quiet corner among shops, ordinary tourists to Dongdaemun are usually not able to spot this historical gate. But that night, I made sure Therese and her friends were able to discover this ancient gate.

LED white flowers of Dongdaemun Design Plaza
From Gwanghuimun, we made our way to the Dongdaemun Design Plaza (DDP). I told them that this site was an old baseball stadium but is now a unique space for designers and artists, where they can sell, market, and exhibit their designs and creations. DDP was designed by the late Zaha Hadid, a world-renowned architect.
          (The ladies at the LED flower garden)

But unfortunately, it was late when we got to DDP. So, we moved around the DDP and discovered the unique, white LED flowers scattered around the landscape.  A few years back, these 20,000 LED white flowers were ‘planted’ at the southeastern corner of DDP, but they have since been re-planted on a different side.

The ladies joined other tourists and visitors posing next to the thousands of white flowers that lighted up the garden landscape behind the DDP.

Dongdaemun Night Shopping!
And as I told them, the shopping came alive after dark! From the outside, you’d see these brightly lit buildings with colorful neon signs and unique names. But inside, it was a controlled chaos of sorts where local and international shoppers swarmed around shops selling clothes and accessories fashionistas would kill for.

These shops are mostly owned and run by the Korean designers themselves, and most floors of the buildings are all populated by these fashion shops.
         (Inside a Dongdaemun shopping mall)

Outside the buildings, we noticed delivery men gathered and hauled huge plastic packages that were probably meant for online customers.

Cheonggye Stream
It was almost midnight when we capped our Dongdaemun night tour with a visit to Cheonggye Stream, which was right next to the shopping district.

We made our way down the stream for more photos. We were surprised that, even though it was late, there were a lot of people walking through the stream to exercise or walk their way home towards the eastern side of the city.
                (Isabel and Therese dropped by 
                      the Cheonggye Stream)

Yes, shopping is not the only night tour Dongdaemun offers. If you’re in Dongdaemun, make sure you don’t limit your visit to the shopping arcades and malls. There’s the Gwanghuimun, the Dongdaemun Design Plaza, and the Cheonggye Stream!

Therese and her friends had fun discovering Dongdaemun after dark. You should, too!