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Bacolod City, Philippines Friday, November 8, 2019
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Sol Y Sombra
with Rinaldo G. Remitio

A peek at Busan

Rock & Refuge

I know a lot more people visit Seoul, the capital of South Korea than Busan. Olympic Games had been played there and much of tours offered printed in newspaper focus on Seoul and environs.

So why are we here, about to land on the second biggest city of South Korea? Plenty of reasons, it turns out.

But first, a word about Koreans. One wit has said that Koreans make Japanese appear lazy by comparison. These guys seem to pulsate with energy and pizazz, and maybe that’s the reason why the giant maker of electronic items, Samsung, is Korean.

But we have only about 5 hours of daylight in this city, part of a country which is a curious mixture of the past and the present, where “modern high-rise towers dwarf ancient Buddhist temples”.

While debarking someone suggested going to the U.N. Cemetery which draws a lot of tourists, especially those who remember the tragic Korean War. Busan was a site of fierce struggle between North Korea (backed by China) and the U.N. forces which lost about 11,000 soldiers, and medical assistants from 16 nations including the Philippines. So 11,000 bodies lie under the Korean sun, from a conflict that up to now, has not been completely resolved.

Rina, my daughter was hugely amused when I resisted going to a cemetery. Instead, we went to HaedungYonggungsa, the most beautiful site in Busan.

We could have gone to Beomeosa temple one of Korea’s largest, but what the heck, does size matter as far as temples go?

For we would have missed the magic of Yonggungsa shrine which was cited on a circle of crags, lashed by big waves. I remember two towering figures of Buddha (?) hugging the upper portions of the temple area.

Past the stone figures, there was a big pot in front of a Buddha statue, where you are challenged to throw in a coin. Of course, there were lots of coins thrown

Missing the pot, Nate tossed a coin which miserably fell a distance from the money pot. Maybe this has significance in that if the coins thrown hit the target. Buddha, or his spirit is gratified. Nate, be more accurate next time!

But I have to sympathize with FLR because we have to negotiate 108 steps to the entrance of Yonggungsa shrine (not to count the steps inside the temple walls). But even before you can reach the entrance you have to resist the thousands of items in the shops along the road to the shrine – Masks, lanterns, figurines, the works.

Going up the steps, one is amazed by number of people going up to the temple. Are they worshippers of Buddha? Or do they just hanker for a dramatic view of waves crashing against gigantic rocks?

Along the 108 steps up to entrance are stone statue of the horoscope – if you were born this year (and other related years) you’re in the year of the pig. You can take your picture beside the strong pig. And so forth – the horse, the rooster, dog, monkey, etc.

There were lots of people milling around the temple. But you have to remove your shoes if you come in, so I kept my shoes. In any event, you don’t have to go inside the temple, the site itself of Yonggungsa, is a temple with more power to touch the spirit. The trees that adorn the hillside, the waves crashing against the rocks whitening the waters, all these remind us that the whole world is, (or can be) a temple.

If the foregoing statement is correct, it behooves us to protect this planet. (Forget Trump).

We would have liked to tarry in the premises of Yonggungsa, but the sun was sinking and we had to go back to the Diamond Princess in the harbor. Travelling thru Busan in the dark reveals a spectacle of lights that defines the shape of the beach. There, twinkling in the shadows, the whole of Busan.

I’m not sure, but I think we passed thru the 24,000 ft. Gwangan Grand Bridge, the longest in Korean.

At last the port.

But before going up the Princess we espied a lighted cart selling a marvelous tasting dish whose name I don’t know. It was probably Goguigi, a popular Korean barbeque. Whatever it was, it was a fitting farewell dinner for us as we climbed the stairway of the ship.*

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