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Country > Philippines > Mountain Province > Sagada
Date > 2008 > Sep
Activity > Print Media

Print Media

Burning Man on Manila Bulletin Online Sep 5, 2008

Burning Man on Manila Bulletin Online


Location Google Map: Sagada, Mountain Province, Philippines

Yonina ChanYonina Philippines
I met Yonina Chan, a Manila Bulletin Online correspondent, while she was in Sagada. In our conversation, I talked about my odyssey in Burning Man 5 years ago in Nevada, USA. She found it interesting and asked if I'd like to write a story for Manila Bulletin Online. I said Sure!

Below is an HTML version of what came out in print.

Burning Man on Manila Bulletin Online

by Gigit Sulit

Living on the Charity of my Benevolent Universe
I'm not a spring chicken anymore. My peers have become established in their careers, contributing nicely into their nest egg, balancing a maturing family and a stable career, and living life within the white picket fences in the 'burbs.

I, on the other hand, having lived in other cultures, came back to the Philippines on my backpack with no money, no stable career, no permanent address, and living life on the open road one day at a time, by choice...and I wouldn't have it any other way. I've had the most exhilarating adventures money can't buy. The things I could ever long for in life, I already have. The things I don't need, I've already unshackled myself from. I'm at my happiest now, enjoying the freedom to do what I want to do, be what I want to be and go where I want to go. While I have come close to being hungry living in a cardboard box, that hasn't happened. In fact, I've managed to eat well and eat good. Opportunities come my way with almost no effort on my part. If I want something, I just need to wish for it. It's as if an unseen hand is looking after my well being.

Burning Man
I have often been asked what led me to subscribe to this nomadic lifestyle. Without a doubt, the genesis of this journey stems from Burning Man. It's hard to put it in a box, but it's a counter culture event that happens once a year and lasts for 7 days in the interior of the Nevada desert, where an effigy of a man is burned. Like-minded individuals gather and interact with everyone in ways unlike the default world - giving and sharing (vs taking) being the order of the day, money not changing hands (although you might like to offer your butt for an affectionate spanking in return for kindness received...seriously!), and hugging being a currency of choice (free hug anyone?).

Burning Man on Manila Bulletin Online
with Toronto Burners, Natalie and Naomi

A City from Nowhere
From a no-man's land, the empty dried-up lake bed (playa) becomes the 3rd most populated city in all of Nevada as 35,000 revelers descend upon the playa for a week of radical self-expression and self-reliance. It might seem like another wild party on the surface, but it's a rare glimpse into an alternate reality - one of detachment and faith into a horizon far broader than what's visible. The non-stop beat of playa-music from all directions, the dazzling lights that adorned the city, outof-this-world theme camps, the outrageous art cars, the 24/7 parties, revelry, debauchery and the unfettered freedom of self-expression, even the unrelenting dust storm all came down to a mindblowing sensory overload that galvanized the Burners into a collective tribe, one looking out for the other, each a link in the human chain, each an integral part of a bigger whole.

Burning Man on Manila Bulletin Online
A raging dust storm

Burning Man on Manila Bulletin Online
A pirate ship artcar - the more outrageous, the better

The Playa
The playa denizens come from all over the world and set up camp within a designated 2-mile radius. Most camps are themed and offer something unique and special to the community at no cost, except perhaps an affectionate butt-spanking. Some decorate their transport vehicle into an art piece (called art cars) and ferry people across the playa. It's not unusual to come across people running around the playa naked or outrageously costumed. It's ok to walk into other people's camp and make friends - you're actually expected to behave that way. At Burning Man, there are no spectators; everyone is a participant. Be prepared to interact and be interacted upon.

Burning Man on Manila Bulletin Online
Parthenon-inspired camp

The Litmus Test
The most vault-solid relationships are put to the litmus test as people begin to realize what they really want from life and their partner. Corollarily, relationships are spawned and human connection explored in ways that push the boundaries of intimacy.

Burning Man on Manila Bulletin Online
Thunderdome-inspired camp

Burning Man Denizens
People carry small tokens of appreciation or render acts of kindness as a way of giving back. When was the last time a complete stranger offered to wash your feet, massage lotion into it and put socks to keep the moisture in? In the default world, it's probably the consumate act of humility. But in the playa, you're just being a good neighbor - no biggie. You could be marinating in the desert heat and someone gives you cold beer and a hug.

Burning Man on Manila Bulletin Online
Center Camp - the chill hub of the playa

No Social Crutch
Having come alone, not knowing anyone, but open to anything that came my way, I ventured into the farthest reaches of the playa, drifting from camp to camp, connecting with any and all Burners I crossed paths with. At many different metaphorical levels, I soaked-in the vibe, the love and the energy. I partied with them from sundown to sunrise, slept in their camps, broke bread with them and helped out with the chores. The spirit of the Man was alive in me.

Burning Man on Manila Bulletin Online
the Temple was engulfed in flames

The Rude Awakening
I was a phoenix rising out of my ash as I was reduced to tears on the 7th day, witnessing the camps being dismantled, knowing that this surreal experience was coming to an end. I would have to return to the default world. At that time, I didn't know what changes would await me except that I wasn't going back to my old life.

Burning Man on Manila Bulletin Online
as The Man burned

Back to the Default World
My journey back was characterized by one of renewed optimism that there is something better out there...that life's bounty will be revealed to me as I stay real in keeping that faith. Unafraid and confident in my resolve, I walked away from things I realized I didn't need - an 8-to-5 job, relationships based on dependencies, a 'homebase', a future, money in excess of my meager needs, etc. Ironically, instead of feeling destitute, I felt empowered. I realized a lot of the things we hold paramount are mere illusions...that things we think we need are actually baggage that weigh us down. My newfound wealth lay in my mobility - to take off on the fly, to wander into other people's lives and spaces, and to allow them to shape mine. Being open to change, hungry to experience new things and relentlessly pursuing 'things I still don't know about', I'm a sponge as I soak-in all that comes my way, mindful of lessons gleaned from everyday revealing its secrets, one day at a time.

Burning Man on Manila Bulletin Online
playa denizens

Staying with the Flow
Proverbial paths were cleared for me in no uncertain terms as I latched myself on to what I now call "The Flow" - the undulating energy of the collective whole to which I see myself a part of. With The Flow, doors open up. Good things happen like a fairy tale. With hardly any effort and expense, The Flow has taken me on a people-path across North America, backpacking into Europe, savoring the cuisines of South East Asia and now in my 'Inang Bayan', the Philippines where I challenge myself summiting it's many peaks.

Burning Man on Manila Bulletin Online
the wildest party on the planet raged when The Man was gone

Life in Sagada
Upon my visit to Sagada, a remote mountain hamlet 12 hours north of Manila, I was once again enchanted by the place and lured to stay a tad longer than a passing tourist. Not questioning the ‘why's', I gave up my teaching job in UP, packed up, and moved up north where I ended up staying for 2 years.

Burning Man on Manila Bulletin Online
Sagada is a quaint mountain village isolated from the rest of the Philippines

Burning Man on Manila Bulletin Online
life in Sagada was pure adrenaline with my mountain bike

Life on the Open Road
With no place to stay in Manila, I saw myself crashing into friends houses as I looked for temporary shelter. I'm not choosy - just grateful to what's on my table. I've crashed in plush houses in rich people's homes, I've curled up in wet tents and I've lodged in roach-infested urban hole-in-the-walls. I've eaten haute cuisine prepared by the best chefs and I've eaten maggots as's all good as I anticipate the coming day, curious to what life has in store for me.

Burning Man on Manila Bulletin Online
life on the open road

--- Gigit (TheLoneRider)
YOGA by Gigit Yoga by Gigit | Learn English Learn English | Travel like a Nomad Nomad Travel Buddy | Donation Bank Donation Bank for TheLoneRider

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