SKETCHES - Ana Marie Pamintuan (The Philippine Star) - March 19, 2014 - 12:00am

MEXICO CITY — Few people will admit it, but the still unexplained disappearance of a jetliner in this crowded planet is reviving their belief in UFOs.

Children aren’t the only ones who think Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 was either deliberately hijacked by extraterrestrials or got inadvertently sucked into a briefly opened gateway to another dimension.

Flying into this Mexican capital before dawn I scanned the dim horizon, hoping to spot flying objects with bizarre flight paths. No such luck.

The belief in extraterrestrials can be reinforced particularly in a country that still bears the magnificent ruins of a sophisticated ancient civilization with knowledge of the stars that seems even more advanced than ours.

On Monday, a holiday here as a birthday memorial for democratic reformist Benito Juarez, I visited Teotihuacan, home of the Pyramids of the Sun and Moon and the Temple of Quetzalcoatl. The Pyramid of the Sun is the third largest in the world, and Teotihuacan, developed a millennium ago, was the commercial and cultural hub of ancient Mesoamerica.

Strolling along the Avenue of the Dead, the awesome knowledge and skills (plus the rivers of Aztec blood brutally spilled in the construction, if ancient lore is accurate) that went into the construction of Teotihuacan can make a visitor feel as puny as the dust to which we all eventually return.

With all the advances in science and technology, we still don’t know whether the Aztecs on their own developed the knowhow to build their pyramids, used to worship their gods and as tombs, or if the architectural direction was provided by ET.

We don’t know who designed and directed the construction of the other pyramids either, whether in Egypt or Mesoamerica. No one knows who built Stonehenge thousands of years ago in England, or those monolithic faces on Easter Island that look like beacons to sky travelers. We don’t know exactly why the pyramids were built (they couldn’t have been simply for VIP burials), why they have similar shapes, and why they were abandoned by the builders.

There are also massive fields around the planet that scientists, studying aerial photos, think are astronomical or air navigation patterns.

There are still so many unexplained things and events in this world. Scientists still aren’t sure what happens to us when we sleep.

With Flight MH370 vanishing in the air like ships in the Bermuda Triangle, people turn to the heavens for an explanation, looking for flying saucers.

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The mystery of the Malaysian Airlines jetliner does not seem to have dampened air travel. My direct flight from Manila to Los Angeles was full, and so was the connecting flight to this city. The disappearance of the jetliner, however, is likely to affect business on Malaysia’s flag carrier.

Mexico City is teeming with tourists. On Monday there was a long, snaking line to climb the Pyramid of the Sun. Last Sunday there were long lines for the hop-on, hop-off bus tours, and almost every stop was crowded. Bars, taquerias and restaurants in the trendy La Colonia Condesa district were packed.

A giant mango, with green skin even when ripe, is sold on the sidewalks here as “Manila mango.” Juan Carlos Dominguez, corporate affairs director for Asia of Coca-Cola FEMSA, told me the mango could have been brought to this country from the Philippines during the Spanish-era galleon trade between Acapulco and Manila.

There are supposed to be about 200,000 Filipinos living in Mexico, although mostly outside this city, but Juan thinks the figure is smaller. I haven’t run into a Filipino resident here so far, and there are only a handful of East Asian visitors, which is striking for a popular travel destination.

Perhaps Asian tourists are worried about personal safety here. But Juan and Mexican Ambassador Julio Camarena Villaseñor stress that the days of drug-related violence in Mexico is over.

This must be especially true following the arrest of Mexico’s most wanted man, Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman of the Sinaloa cartel, last month by Mexican and US officials in Sinaloa state.

Ambassador Camarena, incidentally, is unhappy that Philippine lawmen keep mentioning Sinaloa and “Mexican” drug trafficking in connection with a raid in Lipa, Batangas last year when those arrested are Canadian citizens. Our law enforcers say the Sinaloa cartel has established a foothold in the Philippines, but the ambassador is worried about profiling.

Mexico City, where a local journalist friend told me the cartels used to display the decapitated heads of their enemies on stakes, seems peaceful enough these days.

The city’s jacaranda trees with their purple flowers are in full bloom. I’m not sure if the jacarandas planted along the eponymous street in Forbes Park (where the US ambassador’s residence is located) came from Mexico.

This is also bougainvillea season here. The brilliant colors provide a lovely accent to succulent gardens featuring maguey or agave, used to produce fiber for clothing, and the nopal cactus, eaten like a vegetable.

Considering our shared history, our ties with Mexico should be much stronger. Because of our common Spanish heritage, we share a lot of words and tastes for food and music. We even have similar physical features that some believe date back to prehistoric times.

The Mexicans brought back mango from the Philippines, and in turn gave us cacao for chocolate, tomato, avocado and even singkamas (jicama to the Mexicans).

And when we feel powerless in the face of unexplained tragedy, we, like the Aztecs, look to the heavens for help.





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