It is peak season for travel in Bali, where Europeans come in swarms. The wife and I have been coming here intermittently for the past 26 years, at different months of the year. The locals may complain about traffic, but certainly the tourists and travelers are much welcome in boosting their livelihood, and the economy not just of the island but of Indonesia.
Bali has been able to build a much bigger international airport in Denpasar, its capital. As a Filipino, one can only salivate at such development. There has been a lot of intrigue about who, what, and where our gateways should be - resulting in paralysis. Never mind the press releases from Cavite, Pampanga, and Bulacan.
A friend living in Canada has asked what it is in Bali that makes it more attractive than the Philippines to wanderers. To me, not the beaches nor the snorkeling nor the deep-sea diving. Ahh, we have a surfeit of those. Palawan alone can offer much more.
Not the bars where most Aussies love to converge and souse themselves senseless. Not the mountain trails where, at every turn, you might find sacred temples and spots. Would it be their cuisine? I always look forward to its babi guling, roast pork with a twist of spicy relish and crackling side dish. I have gone too old for such sin. Besides, Balinese food is much more than their version of lechon.
To the wife and I, it is the vibes, so calm and restorative. It could be their culture, their non-Christian religiosity and what we perceive as art or craftsmanship. It could be in in the wonders they do with stone, wood, textile, bamboo, and coconut leaves. A country like Bhutan might be horrified at how Bali has allowed itself to be invaded by the modern, destructive world, but it has remained intact, with numerous countries now adapting Balinese architecture, furnishings, decors, and such.
Indonesia might be predominantly Muslim, but Bali is mostly Hindu, amalgamated Hindu. There are temples almost everywhere, in homes and in public places, small and big. The mother temple is on Mt. Agung, an active volcano. Drive further and you will have a view like that in Tagaytay looking at Taal Lake or Santorini, Greece looking at the sea.
The Balinese are gentle almost diffident, serene and gracious. It might be because they are truly prayerful, surrendering to greater forces. Statues of their gods are almost everywhere, some draped in checkered cloth or protected by parasols. You can never miss a Balinese offering flowers or lighting an incense, not just in the temples but outside of their homes, their shops, schools, in their cars.
Once, we chanced upon the Balinese observance of Nyepi, or a day of stillness. For 24 hours, they feel and try to commune with the earth. They abide by four rules: no light and fire, no travelling, no entertainment, and no work. There should be complete silence. It is like the world catching its breath. Can you imagine Noypis observing Nyepi? They seek loud entertainment and travel galore on Good Fridays.