Where is Your Place? Michael A. Bengwayan

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I believe in beauty. I believe in stones and water, air and soil, people and their future, their fate and their place. Everyone has places that matter, even if they’ve only been there once in their lives. There are places where we feel most alive, most like ourselves. They are places of inspiration.

When I was a kid, the knoll on a hill was the safest place, most life-giving place I knew. Or the pine forest of the Methodist Church beside Easter School/College. I vividly recall the sting of being left out by my classmates because I had no money to buy snacks. I would hide during recess and go back to the classroom when the bell rings to resume classes. When I failed to get an honor roll in high school, I hid here, eating my broken heart and sadness. What saved me on those days was my affinity for place. I would close my eyes tight and forget my classmates buying sweets, candies, rolls and receiving awards at the quadrangle. I would conjure up an image that I had no need for those. That what I need is just a place to hide.

Somehow I knew that visualizing this place of peace—the chief place I felt a sense of wholeness and completion—would ease the inevitable pain of not being wanted or separated from my friends. Where healthy visualization ends and escapism begins, I did not know then. I do know now. But I do know that my sense of place and my ability to honor that connection was a great gift, uncovered early and still a valued resource in life.

I have great affection for the place I was born and reared, Baguio City, if only the family of Henry Sy, the city mayor, understand, and the place I live now—La Trinidad and Tublay. I’ve been in several US, European, Asian and African places but my heart is where I feel most placed. This almost ironic considering I spent so much time in many places. But with all my traveling, there has not been a time when I wasn’t relieved to see the pine trees of Baguio, the winding Bued river. I love Baguio for all that it is—culturally rich, reasonably progressive, friendly and very real—and for all that it isn’t—too crowded, becoming dirty, too full of itself. I hate Baguio for its corrupt and greedy politicians and businessmen. I hate its pretenders. I hate what it is becoming into.

I love the past, the present and the future. They are so closely connected. There are people who care for what Baguio must be. There are people like me who look at Baguio as sacred place because it brings our spirit into harmony with life in our daily living. We want a place where our minds are clear and fully present to life, and the world around us, because our place is sacred. We want to help create the place we love by ritually changing and physically mending our abused environment. It is a means for us to focus our mind of anchoring and aligning the flow of spirit and force to our physical environment.

Because this is our foundation. This is our place beyond place.

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