I was half-running and half-walking to get to
my next destination. Twenty minutes passed and I felt like I was circling the
city center. When I finally saw the marker, I sprinted towards the place. It
helped that I was wearing comfy Chucks. I am back at the quaint Casa Vallejo:
this time, to visit the Baguio Cinematheque.
I asked the first guy I saw at the entrance
if there’s a screening. He smiled and eagerly said yes. Show starts at 3:30 in
the afternoon. I glanced at my wrist watch—five more minutes before the show. I
thanked him and as soon as I entered the place, I saw uniformed men and women
inside. It was later that I realized it was a NAPOLCOM event in celebration of
the National Crime Prevention Week. The lights went out immediately to give way
to the screening of a documentary titled “Walking the Waking Journey.” So yeah,
I was technically gate-crashing and I pretended I did not mind.
After the show, I was even given snacks. Wow.
The director of the documentary entertained questions from the small audience.
I felt I had to ask a question—well for one, because I really wanted to
understand the show more, but second because I felt I owe it to the organizers
to at least be a participative gate crasher. There.
They introduced another documentary which
sounds good based on the intro given by the director and producer of the film.
But I decided it’s time to get back to the dorm and catch some rest. The gate
crashing thing has its limits.
You might be wondering what the documentary
was all about and what I thought about it, so here it is.
Walking the Waking Journey is a documentary
about a Tibetan monk’s journey across the bloody borders of Tibet, Nepal and
India to accompany a group of displaced Tibetan kids to their homeland. Lama
Tenzin, the monk, fetches young people from the mountainous province of Dolpo
in Tibet, brings them to his alternative school in India, equips them with the
necessary education, and after eight years, brings them back to their homeland
to reconnect with their roots.
It sounds simple, but the real challenge lies
on the fact that Lama Tenzin and these kids, the youngest is eight and the
eldest is thirteen, have to endure the dangers of travelling on foot—the harsh
weather, the rationed supply of food and water, the steep mountain trek and the
fact that these kids are undocumented, meaning they do not have passports. It
took them thirty days to get to their village from Nepal’s capital city,
Kathmandu. A week of riding buses and 4X4s in the muddy roads of the country’s
outskirts, while the rest of the journey was on foot in the steep mountains
overlooking the Everest.
It was a grueling journey—a kid suffered from
hypothermia, while the rest were finding it hard to breathe because the air is
thinning as the altitude increases. But their prayers worked and they reached
their village safe and sound. Part of the Tibetan tradition of welcoming their
guests is by touching each other’s foreheads and then they were served a cup of
butter tea. It was a heartwarming reunion. Some of the older kids were crying
because they saw their families again after a long time. The younger ones took
time to find their families—most of them were taken when they were still babies
so they do not have an image of who to look for. After a short stay, the kids
will have to go back to India and study again. All for the promised development
in their poor region. Their parents accompany them as far as the Tibet-India
border. They finally get their passports.
The documentary was filmed in 2001 and the
director shared during the open forum that the kids are about to enter college
this year. They are all told to go back and make a difference in their
homeland. They may or may not come back. It really depends on these kids. Of
course, they hope that the kids will come back and pay things forward. I hope
I asked the director how did Lama Tenzin’s
organization managed to transport the kids from Tibet to India given that they
are technically undocumented. He said that it was a total risk for Lama
Tenzin—he opted to smuggle the kids and travel under the radar of the
government. If they happen to get caught, the only thing he finds as a saving
grace would be the written consent coming from the kids’ parents and the good
will of their group. It was really difficult, especially for the children—they
were not recognized as Tibetans, or Nepalis or Indians. Their own governments,
because they are in porous borders, disown them. So when Lama Tenzin found the
opportunity, he really made it a point to get the kids their passports—they’re
now recognized as citizens of Nepal.
Reflecting on it, I felt that the situation
in the Philippines is more of a silver lining than it is a lost cause. A lot of
children especially those in far flung areas are deprived of formal education.
But given the stories that we hear from a lot of people in various media, and
the fact that their distance can be bridged when we craft a way, we find that
there is hope. These children will be rescued from the vicious cycle of poverty
and crime-doing because there are a lot of unnamed Lama Tenzins willing to help
them in the process.
It will always be a challenging journey but I
believe it can be done and conquered.
the Waking Journey is directed by Ferdinand Balanag, a Filipino. It was turned
into a documentary to share Lama Tenzin’s goal of educating displaced children
and inspire more people to help his cause.
Labels: 2013, advocacy, documentary, lama tenzin, lessons learned, local movie industry, movie review, tuesday, walkathon, walking the waking journey, work