Running to Stand Still / by John Javellana

I came to Bangkok with a full-blown coup stamped inside my mind. My penchant of being in a conflict situation, even as minute of a scale as this one, pushed me to get out of my shell and pursue it. I finally gave in to my urge of going out of my country with the hopes of experiencing something different from the wonted routines I had in Manila. So I finally decided to embark on my first trip to a foreign country by myself.

The first nights brought me to a high of how Thais do their protests. Everything was new to me. They were well-organized; free food and water for everybody. They virtually made the government house their home. Everybody bathed and slept there. The Thais were amazingly warm to the media. Not just the PAD but even the everyday Thai you would meet on the streets. The feeling of being there to witness and be part of something big in their history was something that was assimilated within me at first. Yes, they have done this a million times before, but it was their first time to be able to occupy the government house which was a reason why a lot of people invested to cover the volatile situation.

Camping out night after night at the government palace were followed by dyspeptic feelings of disappointment as every night went quiet. My initial presumptions of riots and unrest as a diurnal occasion in Bangkok disappeared with each quiet night that passed by. So I decided to shoot daily life inside the grounds instead. On my fifth day of traipsing around the camp until dawn, the waiting game struck me as one that is already futile. I finally acknowledged the fact that I went here with such audacity only to find myself not getting what I came for.

The painful realization of falling flat on my face and not getting what I expected drove me back to a day of solitude inside my hotel, enervated like never before. Everything from the expenses to the hasty decision started to rattle my head and began to sprung out emotions such as regret and even foolishness. It seemed as if all the lines were lost and everything was all drawn out. I found myself asking the same question that drove me to fly all the way here.. The same question I was hoping to quench with an answer -

What now?

From the clouding frustration, a clearer mindset was born. The acceptance that this event was not meant for me. I missed the whole thing by a day during my previous trip; ditched Phuket; compromised one or two things back home only to find out that it would never be the way I hoped it to be. It was humbling, but at the end of the day it was just a matter of detachment. There were other things to do in Bangkok rather than just wilt myself hoping to shoot any ruckus that might happen. So many stories, so many interesting things to photograph. But instead of picking up my camera and shoot everything and anything I could, I decided to switch off.

I went out to explore Bangkok not as a photographer firsthand, but as somebody who was having his first taste of life outside his country independently. I went to all the places I wanted to and was curious about, not with photographs in mind. I ate all the curry, pad thai and tom yam that I could; drank all the nai cha; met so many random people from different races and cultures at Khao San and Sukhumvit; finally went to the floating market and rode a freakin’ elephant at last. Yeah, all the things a tourist would do. And it was fun.

I realized that when one is traveling alone, one is not really traveling alone. You are accompanied by all your thoughts, dreams , fears, frustrations, fascinations - a magnitude of emotions which make their presence adamantly pronounced when you find yourself alone in unfamiliar territory. Photographically, I don’t think I achieved anything. But this certainly was a huge stepping stone for me in terms of traveling. It definitely opened my eyes, my mind and my heart to how life could be outside the confides of my own country. I may have jeopardized one or two things to make this trip, but getting in touch with one’s self is priceless. No regrets at all.