Man About Town

Man About Town

The Filipino community in Siem Reap is in mourning over the death of well-known piano player extraordinaire Carlitos Calaguian, who literally died on the job on Wednesday night, November 30, at Raffles Grand Hotel d'Angkor.

Carlitos, or Carlos as he was known in Siem Reap, had been playing piano at the Conservatory at Raffles for about five years, since 2006, and was something of an institution.

His younger brother, Virgilio, is also a Siem resident and co-owner of the Cockatoo Nature Resort. Virgilio, shocked by the sudden passing of his beloved brother, isn’t 100 per cent sure of the circumstances surrounding his brother's death, but according to The Philippine Star, “…he had just finished playing a set..., retired to his usual table, asked for a glass of water, and reportedly said he felt so tired. Some minutes later he was found with his head resting on his arm, as if he’d fallen asleep. Turned out he was gone.

“On his last visit here, medical tests showed he had a heart condition. His daughter Mingwee had pleaded for him to pass up on the rest of his contract in Siem Reap. But Carlitos loved to play, and do gigs in exotic places.”

A wake was held for Carlitos in Siem Reap, while his body was sent to Phnom Penh to await clearance to be sent back to the Philippines for a Catholic burial.

A great example of why some Phnom Penh-based NGOs shouldn’t write about Siem Reap is contained in a new book, Swimming in Uncharted Waters: Reports from Cambodia (AnyPress), by Gina Wijers.

Wijers' book is thankfully mostly about her time in Phnom Penh, but she does take time out, over about seven pages, to trash Siem Reap and descends into writing mostly crap.

For example, she writes, “The bitter story of Angkor Watt (sic) is that it actually is no longer in possession of the Cambodian government. A few years ago, and for a very affordable price, it was sold to Sokimex, a friendly Chinese oil company, by His Excellency President Hun Sen in order to balance the national budget.”

In this brief passage, errors compound errors. For starters Hun Sen is Prime Minister, not president.

Sokimex is not a Chinese oil company, friendly or otherwise. It is Cambodian-owned, and one of Cambodia’s largest companies. It was founded by Sok Kong, who was born in Prey Veng, of Vietnamese parents. The most ludicrous comment Wijer makes is that Angkor Wat was sold to what she claims is a Chinese company.

Nationalist pride about the temples is so great that any attempt to self off Angkor Wat to foreign interests would probably result in riots and bloodshed in the street.

Sokimex in fact does not own even one speck of dust at the temples. It does however own a concession to manage ticket sales to the Angkor temple complex and there is some controversy about this.


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