Vattanac Golf Resort Associates celebrate Pchum Ben Festival

In September, Associates at Vattanac Golf Resort, in Phnom Penh Cambodia have been celebrating the Buddhist festival of Pchum Ben. General Manager, Chris Geraghty gave us his insight into the experience.

Pchum Ben is a 15-day long ceremony and is a time where Cambodian people honour their ancestors up to seven generations back. During the 15-days, people will visit the local Pagoda (Buddhist Temple) alongside their family members to make offerings of food to Buddhist Monks with the intention to placate the spirits of their dead ancestors.

Vattanac Golf Resort team at a local pagoda for Pchum Ben celebrations
Associates from Vattanac Golf Resort during Pchum Ben

Wearing the traditional outfit of white shirt, black trousers and Khmer scarf (Khro’ma), 36 of us from Vattanac Golf Resort visited the Srae Ampil Pagoda, in a village on the outskirts of Phnom Penh. We intentionally chose this pagoda because of its somewhat rural location, feeling that our donations will be more impactful. Foods were sacrificed to the Monks whom are believed to be the mediators between our world and the spiritual world. The food donated is for the spirits of dead ancestors which is transferred to them by the Monks. At this time we, collectively, received our blessings inside the Pagoda. Following this, we made charitable donations to the ley-men or volunteers of the Pagoda who support the community in and around the village.

The final step of the day was performing a rice ceremony which is the gesture of placing rice inside bowls which are kept outside the Pagoda. It is believed that the spirits whom committed sins during their lifetimes cannot enter the Pagoda to enjoy the food being sacrificed, so this act is to ensure those spirits do not go hungry and are appeased, not wishing harm on their living descendants. Alongside this rice giving, the placing donations in sand cleanses one from sin as a form of penance.

A major theme of the whole visit from start to finish was the giving of small amounts of money. Be it to local children whom take care of shoes outside the Pagoda while people pray inside, to the charity boxes placed inside and outside full of small denomination notes. It was an incredibly humbling experience for all of us to see the generosity of people giving to those less fortunate than them, knowing that those whom are giving may be struggle to make ends meet themselves. To see the difference these small donations make to people’s lives and to see the reactions to a donation of 500 Riels (approx. 12 US-cents) was an incredibly humbling experience which gave each of us there a newfound appreciation for what is important.

I have been fortunate enough to work with Troon in three different regions of the world; North Africa, The Arabian Gulf, and now South East Asia. The most profound piece of information I have learned through this time, having the opportunity to experience different religions, cultures, and ways of life, is that it is of the utmost importance to allow ourselves to view the world from differing viewpoints and absorb as much as we can from those viewpoints. It is my subjective, yet firm opinion that the fundamental, underlying messages, and significant activities across all cultures contain identical themes: gathering alongside one’s peers, spending quality time with family, and giving to those less fortunate. It is through embracing these commonalities that we can appreciate what makes us all the same wherever we are in the world.

An enormous thank-you to Vattanac Golf Resort and all of our team who were involved with organizing this wonderful learning experience.