City of Lights

I’m in Paris now for the first time in six years. Six years ago, I had lived here for six months while studying abroad. Despite the turmoil and pain the city has been through the past year, it still retains its magic. For me, much of Paris’ charm comes not only from its aesthetic beauty, but from the art that runs through its veins.

My first day back in the city was spent visiting the Sacre Coeur, wandering the streets of Montmartre, and gaping in awe at the majestic buildings and trees that line Boulevard Haussmann by Opéra. Although I encountered a few shocks throughout the day – forgetting how curt some Parisians can be, seeing all the security by the Eiffel Tower that weren’t there six years ago, getting my bag checked before entering the Sacre Coeur – I also saw a few things that restored my faith in humanity.

What a beautiful way to start the morning. Looking out over all of Paris, with this man’s lovely, soothing harp tunes in the background. I wished for him to start playing “La Vie en Rose”, so I could pretend I was Amélie, but his presence alone was more than enough.

After visiting the Sacre Coeur, as I was walking south towards Opéra, I saw these signs by a store window that caught my eye.

Bocoray?? That sounds like Boracay, a popular beach destination in the Philippines! I thought. I took this photo to show my friend for a laugh. As I walked toward the store entrance, I noticed it was a jewelry store, so I walked in. The man behind the counter said “Bonjour”, and started speaking to me in English. I noticed his accent sounded Filipino, so I asked him if he was from the Philippines. He was. What were the chances?! We immediately connected solely on this fact (this is what we Filipinos do when we meet a fellow Pinoy). I also met his good friend who was visiting, who also used to live in Paris but now lives in the Philippines. I found out she lives very near where I work back in Manila! How funny. It was nice to be surrounded by people who reminded me of home, so I hung around and chatted with them for a while, before they had to close up shop as they were going out of town on vacation, as so many Parisians do in August. I said my goodbyes and told his friend that I would see her back in Manila, since we live/work near each other. Had I not decided to walk down to Opéra, had I not seen the “Bocoray” signs, had I not walked in at that very moment, I would have never browsed the store, gotten a few gems, and most importantly, met these lovely locals/fellow countrymen. They felt like a piece of home.

At Opéra, after doing a bit of window shopping, I sat down in front of the Opéra Garnier to listen to a street musician who was playing his guitar.

As I listened to him more, I realized he was more than just a street musician. He noticed a Chinese family watching him from the side, and asked the boy in the family to come up and sing a Chinese song with him – specifically “Yue Liang Dai Biao Wo De Xin” or “The Moon Represents My Heart”. He proceeded to ask the boy’s mother to come sing with him, and then asked various members of the audience to come up. In all, in the time I watched him perform, he asked a Brazilian girl, a Filipino guy, a Vietnamese guy, and a Korean girl to come up and sing while he played the guitar. They each either sang a song in their own language or a song of their choosing. It was incredible to see a street musician, whom most people would think of as just that, be able to bring together people from all over the world on a sidewalk in Paris. We all sang along and cheered on the guest singers after they performed. He was creating community, which I find can seem lacking in a city as busy and as large as Paris.

I am off to Cannes tonight for the weekend, then will have a few more days left in Paris after that. So grateful for the warm welcome I received, and faithful that this city is as full of light as ever.


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