Fun Taiwan!

Have you noticed how everyone seems to be heading to Taiwan?

Well, thanks to the visa-free entry for Filipinos which started in November 2017 and was extended to July next year, a lot of Pinoys, myself included, took this chance to visit the country (a shout out to my friend who practically planned for everything!).

We stayed in Taipei in an ultra chic and modern hostel, the Taiwan Youth Hostel conveniently located near the train station. This made it so easy to go around the city; considering, too, that they have a very efficient transport system like any other highly developed country. Plus it’s worth mentioning that Taiwan is PWD and pedestrian friendly. There are also bikes which you could rent, with corresponding bike lanes. Makes you want to cry when you compare everything to the Philippines.

We availed of day trip tour packages (book through klook or kkday) which led us to usual touristy places – the Rainbow Village and Gaomei Wetlands in Taichung, the Yehliu Geopark featuring rock formations, Shifen Village, and Jiufen.

It was nice to learn about the history of the Rainbow Village, how former soldier Huang Yung-Fu painted houses to save them from demolition.

Seeing people release sky lanterns along old train tracks at Shifen was amusing but I was a bit concerned about pollution. Well, at least there’s an effort to make this cultural activity a more environment-friendly one.

Riding one of the fastest elevators in the world to get to the top of Taipei 101 may be overrated. But it was still quite an experience to have a bird’s eye view of the whole of Taipei.

If you’re into cultural performances, catch a show at Taipei EYE for authentic traditional performing arts.

But the best part for me is the variety of Taiwanese cuisine you can try and enjoy for a reasonable price. There’s beef noodle soup, tofu (not the stinky one for me, please), dumplings, pineapple cake, bubble tea, and the list just goes on.

It’s no wonder why so many people are wanting to go to Taiwan which has so much to offer – the scenery, the food, the people. It sure is fun in Taiwan.

 

 

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Anyeong, Korea!

 

 

Back in 2005, as part of a cultural exchange program, I was able to set foot on Korea for the first time. Since then, I’ve been wanting to go back to the land of oppas and k-pop.

The problem is, for most if not all of my travels, they’re organized by someone else. I don’t initiate it myself. They plan everything, book the flight tickets and all, and I simply tag along. Imagine my surprise when out of nowhere, I got invited to participate in the Organic Foundation Course. And the venue was in Korea! I mean how awesome, right? Talk about the universe conspiring to give you what you earnestly hope for.

If not for this opportunity, I wouldn’t have had the chance to go to the countryside, to the beautiful Goesan County, and experience its fresh air, catch a glimpse of cherry blossoms, and eat tasty organic food.

Of course, I was able to explore a bit more of the capital, Seoul. I went to the usual touristy places – Insadong, Namdaemun Market, Gyeongbukgung Palace, and Cheonggyecheon Stream. It’s so convenient to go around with the city’s efficient transport system.

I climbed 291 steps to marvel at the nightscape of Seoul from Haneul Park located on top of a hill which used to be a landfill.

I also went to a jimjilbang or a bathhouse. It was very relaxing. You have to know that in jimjilbangs, you must be completely naked, but this didn’t faze me at all. To be honest, it actually felt liberating, no pun intended.

Kamsamnida to my Korean friends who were the best babysitters, kkk (hahaha in Korean). Thank you for touring me around and stuffing me with all these amazing Korean dishes which you should try – bulgogi, haejangguk (amusingly, known as a hangover soup), kimchi jjigae (kimchi stew), mul naengmyeon (noodles in ice soup), tteokbokki (spicy rice cakes), and dak galbi (spicy chicken stir fry).

Now I should decide where to go next and hope for the universe to once again conspire to bring me there.

January in Photos

Challenged myself to take at least one photo each day. It wasn’t as easy as I thought it would be. There would be days where I was uninspired or there was just nothing to take a photo of. But what I liked about this self-imposed challenge is I became more observant and I started looking at things around me with fresh eyes.

Here’s my random line-up. 1. New Year fireworks 2. expanse of rice field 3. office table 4. a man in the dark 5. plate of Pad Thai 6. line of motorcycles 7. a looking-away selfie 8. an old couple holding hands 9. Makati buildings 10. colleagues 11. view from the side mirror 12. grapes 13. Greenpeace wall 14. protest art 15. signage 16. an empty park 17. vintage windows and ceiling 18. elevator ceiling lights 19. foliage 20. the sky through a wired fence 21. early morning view from my window 22. Philippine map 23. BGC street art 24. fluorescent lamp 25. brainstorming notes 26. traffic 27. leaves bathed in the rain 28. billboard 29. pedestrians waiting 30. wall art 31. the night sky and a dot of moon

 

Art, culture and all that jazz

Yesterday was a very cultured day for me.

I got to attend Pierre de Vallombreuse’s talk on his photo exhibition, The Valley, that features Palawan’s indigenous group, Tau’t Batu, in black and white prints. Pierre shared his personal story of how his feet led him to Palawan 18 times, totaling to almost four years.

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Developing a close relationship with the Tau’t Batu, Pierre was able to capture special moments, some unexpected, that tell the story of this group of people that is able to maintain its unique cultural identity while integrating to modern society.

I asked Pierre for a tip for someone like me who is not a photographer but would want to create stories through pictures. His simple answer, to the amusement of everyone, take a photography class. Okay, let me add that to the growing list of things I want to learn.

One line that I really liked from his talk was when he said, “Each picture is not a statement, it’s a question mark.” Indeed, as I left the National Museum I asked myself, “How can cultural identity thrive in this modern world?” I also belong to an indigenous group but I can barely see any trace of Cordilleran in me.

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Ichiro Kataoka, a benshi. (Photo from Japan Foundation)

From the photo exhibit, I traveled through Manila traffic (of course!) and headed to Shangri-La Plaza for the screening of the Japanese film, “Dragnet Girl” which is part of the 11th International Silent Film Festival. The film is a love story of a gangster couple but what made it even more interesting is the live musical score by the Celso Espejo Rondalla and the presence of Ichiro Kataoka, a benshi or a silent film narrator.

The black and white film with English subtitles, the string accompaniment, and the animated voice of the benshi were a treat to all senses making this a one of a kind experience.

It’s amazing how there are numerous opportunities where one can appreciate art in all forms here in Manila. And a lot of these events are for free!

Speaking of art forms, let me add dance to my “to-learn list” as I’m a frustrated dancer. Last Sunday, I watched “KoryoLab 2017,” a showcase of the works of six dance choreographers. Two of the pieces had the issue of EJK as its theme and I found the performances powerful and emotional. Like Pierre’s photos being not statements but questions, the dance performances were certainly more than statements but evoked questions on relationships, life, and social issues.

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“Postcard” choreographed by Russ Ligtas. (Photo by Marveen Lozano)

From photos, to films, to dance, to this piece of writing. We all love telling stories. And we share them the best way we can.