Thursday, May 31, 2007

All alone in the Red Square

9:45 p.m. May 30 (Wednesday)

Finally, I was able to go to the Red Square, the Kremlin. Alone and via the metro. I just have to do it. One has to conquer the unknown.

The Asia-Pacific delegates had their meeting this afternoon after lunch. We introduced ourselves made our country reports. I appealed for help for our projects and support for our activities in the Philippines, especially in our work for the safety of journalists.

Everybody voiced their support. Australia, through Chris Warren, the outgoing IFJ president, promised to continue the support his union started especially on the Safety Office we've established. Serenade of Hong Kong made a motion to raise a Congress resolution to support the struggle of Filipino journalists. Alan from Australia was tasked to formulate the resolution that would be presented to the body tomorrow. The same motion was seconded by Heru of Indonesia and supported by Nurela of Malaysia. Japan, India, Nepal, Cambodia also issued statements of concern on the situation of the media in the Philippines.

We then discussed the elections, which will be held tomorrow. We agreed to support Japan, Malaysia, India and South Korea in the executive committee while I was nominated as reserve adviser for Southeast Asia. All the delegates from the region agreed to support each other to have a bigger voice in the international community.

Like in any other big international organizations, politics rules in the IFJ. There's a lot of lobbying and negotiations and campaigning for each country's issues. It's good that I have been exposed to international politics early via the World Conference on Human rights in 1983 and the regional meetings and conferences I attended in the past. Well, Filipinos are experts when it comes to politics. One will just have to look at what's going on back home. Ha, ha, ha.

After the meeting and the filing of our certificates of candidacy, people just went on their own to enjoy their free time. The Cambodian joined the Indonesia to have dinner out with Indonesian Embassy people. I called up Mr. Atienza of the Philippine Embassy but he said he's busy and had no time to meet. He invited me to visit the embassy, I said I might do it on Friday.

Serenade said he would be going out with a Russian journalist and she wanted me to tag along. The Russian looked for an English map and brought me to the metro. He said if I survived the Philippine I could survive Moscow. Despite Serenade's protest I went alone. I had to. The Russian was right. The joy of a journey is really in the discovering on one's own something that's truly alien.

And there's nothing more alien to me than going out to Moscow on my own using the metro without. You know it's really hard. There are no English signs. Everything is on Russian, even the street signs. It was just crazy. I tried to ask for directions, but nobody speaks English. And do you know that all Russian metro stations are different from each other? And they're really old, as in many of them dates back to the 1800s. With the drumming of my heart, I came out from one station that led me to the historic Metropole Hotel just in front of the Bolshoi Theater, which is unfortunately under renovation. I saw ancient red walls and I thought those were the "Red Square." I was wrong, but I was nearer. I followed the pack of tourists, many of them locals and some Germans, and voila, I was inside the Red Square. I recognized it immediately of course. What with all the movies and all the Ludlum novels I read since I was a kid.

Lesson No. 1: Read and read a lot even books and novels that pretentious people describe as trash. Your readings will help you a lot especially during unexpected moments.

I bought a can of Sprite, lighted a stick of Marlboro and entered the Red Square while fending off street hawkers who insisted that I buy those rabbit caps that many of us who love Cold War movies saw Russians wear. I spent two hours in the square, took a lot of pictures and started my adventure back in the metro. I survived and came out of a station almost two kilometers from the hotel. I had to walk inside a park I saw to make a shortcut. I bought a bottle of water, which I later found out was "sparkling water" (It's like drinking a tasteless 7-Up). When I reached the hotel, some delegates told me my walk in the park at past 9 o'clock in the evening was crazy. They said muggings, especially in parks, have become rampant lately with all the drunk teenagers around. (Ousted Thai prime minister Thaksin was robbed US$20,000 last week in the middle of Moscow. He was walking alone, maybe enjoying the freedom he has while vacationing here in Russia.)

After tomorrow's meetings and elections, I'll try to discover more of Russia.

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