Ten years ago, I landed on the dusty tarmac of the old Siem Reap International Airport (it actually looked more like a dingy warehouse then) and arrived in this kingdom – a bright-eyed 27 year old who transplanted himself from the cacophony of Manila with two huge suitcases about to start life anew in a place he has only known through five hours worth of Google searches and Flickr feeds.
I have just gotten married at that time and immediately decided to chart new territories just because of an email I have answered from Sarah Moya and Rachelle Estabillo-Canones out of fun and curiosity about working as a graphic designer for Angkor Century Hotel – an email which was not originally intended for my inbox.
I started my journey with barely $100 in my pocket not knowing what lies ahead. I left my wife back in the Philippines with the original intention of using Cambodia as a stepping stone somewhere: probably Australia or the US, Canada or the UK… wherever, but not here.
But then the unthinkable happened. Cambodia opened its arms to me and I embraced it back. I looked beyond its tourist layer and discovered its people, its harsh realities and its bright potential. Here, nobody asked me if I can do it. The only question people ask here is “Are you willing to do it?”
After a year working in the hotel, I met Narisara Murray and John McDermott who became my first design clients for their new gallery. They then introduced me to Martin Dishman of Linga Bar who hosted my first solo exhibition. The team of the soon to be opened Hotel de la Paix found me and asked me for my first brand management design work.
That ultimately led to me quitting my job to put up Spoolworks Design Studio which gave me opportunities to work on projects with Raffles, the Aman Resorts, the Orient Express and even local hotels.
I was able to save up and bought my own DSLR camera and was given incredible opportunities to be a photographer for sheikhs, queens, princesses, presidents, prime ministers and Hollywood celebrities. I did my first full interior design work for apartments, hotels and restaurants. I was able to even explore further afield by doing a landscape and environment design work for Brad and Angelina’s Maddox Jolie-Pitt Foundation with my mom.
But the journey didn’t stop there. Here, I was able to also discover an entrepreneurial spirit that I never thought I had. I opened our first shop called The One Shop at the lobby of the One Hotel which eventually led me to open Poetry with our friend Don Protasio, ArtDeli with Jam Jam, the 1961 Gallery and Hotel, Artillery Café in Phnom Penh, ArtDeli 2, the Ministry of Art, Potions and Metaphors with Ciarán Dionco and Leon Franco Dionco and even the rebirth of 1961 as a Coworking and Art Space with Kurt Xu and Philippe Ceulen.
Then there were art exhibitions here and in Phnom Penh that paved way for shows in Beijing, New York and back home. We were able to put up a traveling art festival called the Angkor Art Explo and even the Northern Kingdoms Poetry Festival.
Now, I am working as a general manager for a gorgeous new boutique hotel, Mane – all of these because Cambodia opened these doors for someone like me. All I did was answer that email and all because I met some amazing people and friends who made this journey such a joy.
Ten years later, I gaze back and imagine these incredible blessings. But more importantly, the most precious gift I ever have is having an amazing wife Faith Famoso Ramos, becoming the father of Freedom Ramos and coming home each day smothered with love by a pack of poodles and pugs. We don’t have much but we have enough of joy and happiness to make us stay and search for new beginnings on every bend.
So thank you Cambodia, for 10 amazing years of discoveries and dreams. They really ought to change your name to CAN-BODIA, because with you, everything is possible.
Friends, Students, Colleagues Give Tributes to Rev. Dr. Edwin I. Lariza
DZ, wife of Rev. Lariza, shared her recollection of their conversation the day after his confinement to the hospital in late February.
TRANSLATION: Mamsing (or Mama), let’s make a stand on what we talked about that I will rest now… let’s be firm on it Mamsing.. I assured him that we will stand together. We were gripping each other”s hand tightly by his hospital bed a day after he was admitted. I told him ok Popsing (or Papa) sleep for now – you always tell me – Rest if you must but don’t quit…We will stand pa and I wont quit FOR YOU..our battle cry – PADAYON (Continue)… We embraced each other…He told me to never leave the ministry -NETS (he conceptualized the ministry and gave the name) and the MSPM, should be continued. I thought it was just because he will have a vacation with me in Negros…Papa your visions will never die… I COMMIT TO PURSUE IT..
Meanwhile, Prof. Lariza’s former students posted these on FB:
More to come…
I thought I would see you next month in Iloilo. I thought you would hang on until we finished the book that you, Nestor and I have started. I thought we would hang out for lunch as promised the next time we see each other.
The last time we saw each other was at the CPU TV studio during my interview with Francis Neil Jalando-on. You waited for us and oh, how we all enjoyed lunch!
I never expected that today I have to bid you farewell without even saying hello one more time.
I am sorry I was not able to say goodbye to you my dear trusted friend, comrade and kindred soul. But is there a goodbye for people like you and I who shared visions of a better world and lived the meaning of protracted struggle?
Life goes on and so will the spirit of compassion and service to the people continue in many different forms even after you and I are gone.
Of course, I am crying my heart out. These tears are for those memories of political discussions over ginamus and pinamalhan punctuated by laughter; the kapit-bisig in protest rallies; and our own ways of looking after each other.
How could I forget those long walks to Fort San Pedro with Nestor Distor Bunda and Ella because wala kita inog-plete?
We bought food for two and then divided by four so we all could have equal shares kay kulang budget ta. Pirme lang kita wala kwarta kay gina-donate naton sweldo ta sa “the poor and the oppressed” pero kasadya gid sa aton nga “gang of four”.
We were young then and so full of dreams for an equitable, just and free society. And so my tears are also for those lost dreams and failed visions as well as for the enduring hope that made us continue our journey of faith and of love for justice.
You were a gentle soul. You tempered my impatience with calm words challenging me to empathy. When I am stubborn, you humbly showed me your vulnerability thus reminding me to be more compassionate than fierce.
Ang English ko, gina-hiligaynon mo. Mas nami gali pamati-an.
I shed tears of longing for our productive, healthy and respectful teamwork with Nestor and Ella in serving the people through various NGOs and community involvement. We believed that leadership is servanthood.
If only one is more committed to serving their respective communities as you and worked out their differences the way we did, all things are possible.
Because we were such a kindred spirit, we found ourselves advocating the same causes and sharing the same vision of empowering communities. This shared vision created a strong bond of friendship and comradeship that is as irreplaceable as our vision for a better world.
Yes, my friend, you rest in peace because you had offered your gift in full to the people you served. Your gift is for them to keep and cherish.
Rest in peace, my friend, for your loving memory and generous service would last beyond your lifetime and mine and our friends.
Rev. Edwin Lariza, writer, editor, adviser (Catalyzer, Central Echo, Centralite), BSSW and BTh graduate, outstanding social worker of the Philippines, professor, outreach director, pastor, president and president emeritus of Convention of Baptist Ministers Association, leader, organizer, supporter, blogger… finally rested early morning of 8 March 2015.
Those who know him had been praying and keeping in touch with his family. Expressions of sympathy and tribute began flooding the social media since his wife, DZ announced his passing.
We have posted some of them below:
Posted on Positively Centralian FB Page
SEE THE POSITIVELY CENTRALIANS FB PAGE FOR MORE POSTS…
Posted on Kun Ako Presidente sang CPU FB Page
SEE THE KUN AKO PRESIDENTE SANG CPU FB PAGE FOR MORE POSTS…
Other FB Walls
Rev. Lariza, the man who wore many feathered-hats had been known to us as a writer/editor since his Catalyzer and Central Echo days in late 80s. The legacy you left behind will speak and write for you now that you have parked your earthly pen.
GOODBYE FOR NOW, EDZIL A. RIZAL!
This conversation in one of the threads at Positively Centralians FB page reveals how alumni understand that giving to Central Philippine University is not only in the form of money. We have underscored the response of Lester Edwin J Ruiz, which captures the thoughts and sentiments of Positively Centralians.
Please read the excerpts of the conversation below:
Dan Dorillo Well said Jeriel Gabilo Militar. Nothing wrong with posting what needs to be improved, but it would be best (and more mature) if we also offer suggestions how to improve things…. after all we all are supposed to be matured Centralian professionals who can make some difference in our alma mater . As one member has rightfully observed, there are some who appear to tear down things…. but there are some who also strive to build – the choice is ours…Ann Rico Jamandre
March 1 at 9:50pm · Edited · Like · 3
Alvi Cordero Dan and Jeriel…. indi bala maayo man nga guina pkita ang dpat obrAhon sng admin sng cpu, para mpa kaayo lng man nila….ano gd ang kinahnglan sini hw, PINTAHAN man lng liwat… maayo lng gani ky alumni lng nkakita, ti kng tourists abi?…kg guina pkita man bala ang front kg back view sng mahigko nga mga bldgs…
March 1 at 11:23pm · Like
Joy Todesca Dan and Jeriel daw claro man ang hambal sang PS followers nga front Lang a nG ginapintahan. Why not make it both sides . It is NOT immature to notice what needs to be noticed. If someone is tearing down CPU, those are people who refuse to see what is obvious. That’s my take. What people here seem to agree is that responsible people inside the campus are oblivious to the obvious. And again it’s not teAring down .
March 1 at 11:54pm · Like · 1
Dan Dorillo Has anyone asked kon pintahan man ang likod o indi? Kon ang sabat sang Admin indi – I’m with you.
Yesterday at 12:29am · Like
Dan Dorillo Jonan Castillon – ang balance nga pag present kon ga pamankot anay para factual kag current. Bago lang ko nag post nga ang CPUAAI may project nga ma improve da ang backstage – wala mo lang guro mabasa. Ga pasalamat gid kami sa mga alumni nga nag padala ila LOVE GIFT para sa ini nga project. Wala kami ga solicit diri….
Yesterday at 12:38am · Like
Alvi Cordero Dan, dpat pa gali ehmbal dri nga pintahan ang mga bldgs nga mahigko? Common sense lng ina….wash or repaint it!
Yesterday at 12:44am · Like
Dan Dorillo Basi may program man ni sila nga repainting – wala ta kabalo siguro nami man nga i verify anay.
Yesterday at 12:47am · Like · 1
Delicia Gaje St Denis HALLO !!! kon wala kamo na namian sang mga kalsada sa campus nga lubak lubakon, ti, pokpokon na lang kag himuon “cobbled stones” ang iya itsura. nami pa pamatian……
Yesterday at 12:55am · Like · 1
Dan Dorillo Nice suggestion Delicia Gaje St Denis very positive- daw sa Europe lang
Yesterday at 12:57am · Like
Joy Todesca Hi Dan ang repairs and repainting program ” nga basi waay ta kabalu” would have been better understood kun ginpublicize sang Admin. That’s I think are where all the hullabaloo comes from. We do have a PR dept and it would be prudent for them to bl
Yesterday at 1:13am · Like · 1
Joy Todesca … To broadcast these plans to quell all these murmurings and complaints
Yesterday at 1:14am · Like
Joy Todesca There is an Alumni Association headed by and still participated in by distinguished alum as like Perl Gillergan and ManNg May Vail. They would be excellent and reputable conduits of information . I think what happened is pamatyag sang iban daw waay gina sapak ang ila observations which I think are legit. They love and care about CPU passionately that’s why.
Yesterday at 1:20am · Like
Dan Dorillo Good points there Joy – at least you have suggestions which may eventually reach the persons concerned. We know that a number of well-meaning alumni have embarked on some positive actions to be part of the solution – all for the love of Central. For ex…See More
Yesterday at 2:04am · Like · 2
TellyDaday Valcarcel I concur with Dan Dorillo.
Yesterday at 2:10am · Like · 1