Lost and Found in Brunei Darussalam

Victor Frankl once said, "Those who have a "why" to live, can bear with almost any "how". I always remember this quote whenever I am faced with difficulties. As long as I breathe, I will seize the moment of my life.
"I literally stood in a couple of minutes because I was so stunned to move."

As a solo female traveler, it was challenging in my part to get from one place to another without being discriminated. Yes. I experienced discouragement with the locals and even with Filipinos I met. 

"Why are you traveling alone?" , "How can you afford this expensive lifestyle?" Some comments gotten personal like, "You are wasting money"  or "You are rich". Despite the fact that I also worked hard to achieve my dreams, it boiled down to one question: "Why am I traveling?"

Ever since I was a child, I always wondered about the vastness of our planet and the people. 
"What it feels like living in a different country?"
"Will I be able to learn their language?"
"How do people practice their religion in another place?"

Because of these questions, I resorted to traveling - to discover these things for myself. 

The "Why" and "How" in Brunei Darussalam
I had been away from the Philippines for nine days. Going around Sabah was no longer foreign for me. I got along with its pace. I was lucky to accompany a family to Brunei Consulate in Malaysia. They were thankful for my help in the consulate that they invited me to come with them in Brunei. Of course, I accepted it with glee. 

It took us almost four hours to reach Brunei by car. Brunei Darussalam is an enclave. A country enclosed by another country. Its majestic structure, its water village and its wilderness emblazoned my will to be there and discover the place itself. The infrastructures were worth mentioning. I saw no litters along the streets, and buildings. Their transport system was organized. From that moment on, I fell in love with Brunei Darussalam. 

Day 1: I Wore a Wedding Dress
The family toured me around its capital, Bandar Seri Begawan. High-end cars, jewelry stores, and shopping malls were common in Brunei. 

I had the chance to visit a boutique that specialized in Muslim wedding gowns and accessories. The kind owner allowed me to choose a certain style and color of the wedding gown and had it worn.  The Muslim-Malay Wedding dress hugged my body as if it was really intended for me. 

A flashback on our way to Brunei...
I was amazed how we managed to cross the border through a water taxi. From Sabah, I was told that the easiest route  to Brunei was to ride a speedboat in Temburong River. It passed by a jungle with brownish water and exited to a water village. It was one-of-a-kind ride! 

Day 2: The Grandest Masjid I Ever Saw in My Life, Yet! 
I had grown weary on my second day. One, I miss my family and two; I wanted to wander somewhere exciting. I asked the family that I would be walking around the city. They were worried about me being lost but I pursued my plan to see other great stuff in Brunei. 

I indeed got lost both literally and figuratively. 
I was lost in translation. I was lost in time. 

I found the grandest masjid I ever saw in my life. The Masjid Hassanal Bolkiah was plated with gold. Its lights reflect a majestic respect to Allah. The Islam religion stood out in the country. Its masjid was a symbol of Allah's greatness. 

I stood at the structure for a long time. I allowed myself to be engulfed by its grandiosity. I couldn't say more but be awed by its architecture and Brunei's culture. 

Day 3: A Malay Wedding with a Twist
I volunteered myself to be part of a wedding ceremony. I had heard about Muslim's three-day celebration but I never witnessed it myself. Since opportunity came to me on my third stay in Brunei, I embraced it wholeheartedly. That time, it came with a twist. I would be a replacement of a waitress who was sick. 

I served for 5 hours in that Malay Wedding. I couldn't understand Bahasa that much. So, I followed everything what other waiters and waitresses did without saying a word. The celebration was unique for a Catholic like me. Nonetheless, the experience was irreplaceable. I indulged. I was contented. 

Bidding Adieu! 
I left Brunei Darussalam with a cheerful heart. I knew I couldn't stay in the place but my experience was one of the most memorable events in my life. Apart from being lost, I found my heart's content and my sole purpose. I had answered my "why" no matter how challenging my "how". 

So, I wanted to leave this question for you to ponder: "How did you achieve your heart's greatest desire?"
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About Marie Angelique Villamor

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