Myanmar’s Mockingjay

Recently, news came out that Filipinos may now enjoy visa-free entry to Myanmar. An evident renouncement of reistance and a silver lining to a true democratic future of a nation (Yeah, what do we know about democracy? We are filipinos for god’s sake)

Early this year, I was lucky to be there and witness the phase of free Myanmar as it slowly squeeze-out of their cocoon. Shy and aloof, the general populace of the city still finds it uncomfortable talking to outsiders.

So we tried our best to look like them.

In an attempt to blend in the crowd, we slipped inside our Longyis and smothered thanaka on our cheeks. We pulled-off the looks of awkward Burmese scalawags, like we slapped each other with muddy flip flops for fun. Thanaka is indeed an art that requires basic make-up skills that even the girls in our group is obviously lacking.

myanmar_postcard child_fliptravels

We sifted through the hanging shirts along Bogyoke, constantly looking at people who might be eyeing me with suspicion. There was no one, and all the other tourists were burying their faces in other stalls as I was. The vendor, a young girl of maybe early teens, was overly eager to sell her merchandise. “These are the best-sellers,” she said, bringing out more sizes that obviously won’t fit me.

But one thing was common in all the pancake-selling kitsch; Aung  San Suu Kyi’s face, altered by National League for Democracy logo, was silk-screen printed on almost everything I saw on the sidewalk. I never imagined seeing this in Myanmar, most especially in Yangon, the seat of the recently dissolved military junta.


The Lady

As we cruised along the streets of Myanmar, there was an unseen heaviness exacerbated by the heat. Even as Moe Hitler recounted the events that led to the country’s reform, I cannot deny that his memories bled. But I had to ask how things were, generally. He pulled out his wallet and showed me The Lady’s photo. To him, everything will be ok.

At quarter past noon, I called it quits and decided to look for a spot to sit and wait for the rest of the gang wrap-up their shopping spree.

I found myself with a circle of Burmese men who just finished lunch as manifested by oily remnants of their meals and the arbitrary toothpick sticking out their mouths. A guy started talking to me like an old comrade, but by the time I opened my mouth he realized that I am an outsider. He paused and froze in suspended animation.

We ended-up with silent exchange of reluctant looks like a typical Saturday night mistake, waiting for who will put their pants on first, only this time we are both fully clothed.

The awkwardness, my awkwardness, our awkwardness were only broken when I showed him the shirt with the face of “The lady” printed on it. His face lit up aglow. Their smiles can never feel more genuine, yet so held back. I feel like they can stretch their lips a bit farther to their ears.

Then it hit me!

Moe Hitler, the men in the parking lot and pretty much the whole country who witnessed the repression of the Military Junta, is holding on to something—the promise of a free nation.

It was like us Filipinos decades ago and our relationship with EDSA. When the national uprising was swelling and we had to look up to someone—a brave opposition, the beacon of hope, a personification of democracy. The Lady, Aung San Suu Kyi is the Katniss Everdeen of Myanmar’s Hunger Games.

Let us just hope and pray that her kids won’t grow up to be a screwed-up president and an obnoxious TV celebrity.


And although there are much worse games to play in the arena of democracy, Burma is finally taking off to open itself to the world. Real? or not real?



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  • lawstude

    December 8, 2013 at 5:35 am

    Real. My closest relationship with Myanmar was with a ref magnet that Dong gave me. Ayaw kasi magsama eh 🙂

  • flipntravels

    December 8, 2013 at 2:32 pm

    sama na kasi next time!!!

  • Dane

    December 10, 2013 at 8:54 am

    Myanmar has already coped up with all the ugliness that happened to them. They are standing up and welcoming the world to greater opportunities. Myanmar in the other hand is a good place. There are a lot of wonderful sceneries waiting to be discovered by the world. I hope it is true that Filipinos may now enjoy visa-free entry to Myanmar.

    Dane @ Panay Directory

  • flipntravels

    December 10, 2013 at 3:20 pm

    indeed it’s true 😉

  • Ardie Espiritu

    December 11, 2013 at 11:36 am

    Obnoxious TV Host? I disagree.

    Try SUPER Obnoxious haha. love the pictures Ron!

  • flipntravels

    December 11, 2013 at 2:39 pm

    hahahaha. salamat @ardieespiritu:disqus. I miss you!

  • Stella S., Cebu Beaches

    December 17, 2013 at 3:05 am

    Their reverence for Aung San Suu Kyi does sound close to home. And what great news indeed, knowing that we can now enjoy a visa-free entry to Myanmar. An interesting culture to explore. Thanks for sharing the good news!

  • flipntravels

    December 17, 2013 at 12:45 pm

    it is, and you’ll be surprised how they looked-up on filipinos in terms of people power

  • Toemailer .

    December 28, 2013 at 1:16 am

    We would love to post the top picture and an excerpt of your text at toemail if you do not mind?

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