Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Buddhism in Burma

Early morning around my hostel in Yangon, I saw young monks and old alike who were roaming the streets going house to house. They always walk on a single line. They were uniformly clad in their robes and holding pots to place the collected food and alms from the neighborhood. I heard that the monastery was just close by so they were always apparent in the community. These were some of the groups participated in the Saffron Revolution attributed to their robes’ color during the anti-government protests in 2007 against the fuel price increase as immediate cause.

Obviously with the presence of the pagodas in the country signifies the religiosity of the people and their adherence to the principles of Buddhism. The very landmark of the people’s faith is the majestic Shwedagon Pagoda where I witnessed people worship the images of Buddha. They pray solemnly with their hands clasped together and bow down. Some people hold and pray the rosary in their hands. I learned from a Catholic priest friend that all other rosaries of other faiths originated from Buddhism. I saw people who bath and pour water several times to an image of Buddha to bring luck in their lives.

I was amazed also that a multitude of young girls in robe and shaven heads was sitting side by side. They recited a prayer. They are novitiates to become nuns. Novice is called samaneri whereas a fully ordained Buddhist nun is called bhikkhuni. They are only fully ordained after reaching the age of 20. Samanera is the term for novice monk and fully ordained monk at age 20 to be called as bhikkhu. Both males and females follow the monastic discipline called Vinaya, a set of rules.

There is about 90% of total population of Myanmar affiliated to the Buddhism religion predominantly in Theraveda tradition. Collectively known as Sangha are the monks who are the venerated members of the Burmese society. The culture of the country is synonymous to Buddhism. Most of the events and festivals are related to their faith just like the water festival as a Burmese New Year celebration.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Myanmar completes ASEAN 10

I had to leave my hostel in Bangkok wee hours in the morning to catch up my flight at 7am to Yangon. I shared a taxi to airport with two of the guests who are also taking their early flights. It was a perfect timing to check in early. I met a lone Filipino passenger at the waiting area who was also bound for Yangon. He was LJ Pasion who will visit his mom, Ms Naida Pasion, director of an international NGO, whom I met when we arrived.

The Union of Myanmar or formerly called Burma is the largest country in terms of geographical area in the mainland Southeast Asia. It covers an area of 676, 578 sq. km. making it the 40th world’s largest country with a population of 50 million. It is ruled by a military junta. I would say that Myanmar completes my visit to all of the Association of Southeast Asian Nation 10 member countries. It does require a tourist an entry visa. I applied prior to my visit at the Burmese Embassy in Manila. Myanmar is the only country that requires visa among the ASEAN 10. They say that it was strict of people visiting the country but it was not obvious. I think only the journalists who are monitored because of some sensitive issues such as the long time detention of opposition politician Aung San Suu Kyi.

The capital of Myanmar is Naypyidaw but the largest city is Yangon, formerly called Rangoon. The name was taken from the combination of two words, yan and koun which means enemies and run out of respectively. We landed at the Yangon International Airport which seems to be a brand new one. It is a modern airport. From there, I saw some Burmese men who offer a very cheap accommodation. I went with them because they have a big bus and had many backpackers who went with them. Along the way, I have seen beautiful landmarks such as Karaweik at Kandawgyi Lake, colonial buildings and the Schwedagon Pagoda. I checked in at Motherland Inn and a breakfast was served for free.

My Burmese friends Ye, Kay and Su whom I met in an exchange program in Japan fetched me at the airport and took me for lunch. Nyen went with our group. We had a nice conversation over some traditional food. We went on a cruise afterwards to the Yangon River with all the seagulls flying over and fed them with bread. I did some shopping for souvenirs at the Bogyoke Market. They also shopped some souvenirs for me. We visited Yele Pagoda and their homes in Kyaaktan and Bahan townships meeting their families.

On the following day, I went on a photo walk however, it was stopped by a stomach problem. I stayed at the hostel for the whole morning because of diarrhea. Later, at lunch time, I had a luncheon meeting with the Filipino community who are mostly working for international organizations such as United Nations and Save the Children Foundation. I again tasted some Pinoy food.

The highlight of my Yangon trip was my visit to Shwedagon Pagoda. It was so amazing sight. I discovered so much things about Buddhism when I met and talked to some monks in the area. It was another great experience and I think its worthy for another visit because of more exciting spots.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Back to Bangkok

On my fifth time visit to Bangkok in Thailand, I went on a transit for which I am bound for Myanmar and a visit to Chiang Mai in the northern part of the country. I was alarmed at first with the Red Shirt protest issue however my trip went smoothly.

Bangkok is the capital and the primary city of Thailand, a country with a constitutional monarchy headed by the longest reigning King Bhumibol Adulyadej. The country’s former name is Siam and it is the world’s 50th largest country in terms of total area. It covers an area of 513,000 sq.km. Metro Bangkok has an area of 7, 761.50 sq. km.

Bangkok has the world’s longest place name with 168 letters. Krung Thep Mahanakon Anom Rattanakosin Mahinthara Ayuthaya Mahadilok phop Nopphrat Ratchathani Burirom Udomratchaniwet Mahasathan Anom Piman Awatan Sathit Sakkathattiya Witsanukam Prasit. This poetic name is abbreviated as Krung Thep meaning City of Angels. This is the full meaning of the long name: “the city of angels, the great city, the eternal jewel city, the impregnabe city or God Indra, the grand capital of the world endowed with nine precious gems, the happy city, abounding in an enormous Royal Palace that resembles the heavenly adobe where reigns the reincarnated god, a city given by Indra and built by Vishukarn.”

I checked in at a hostel called Discover where on a Friday, the owner usually hosts a party for the backpackers. It was a barbeque party where I met some of the Westerner guests. Prior to this, I spent my day going around downtown. I learned to go on my own this time. I have tried all modes of transportation that includes the MRT, tuktuk, motor taxi, boat & bus. I rode a government issued tuktuk which can take you to the landmarks in the downtown for about 30bahts only.

I visited a sacred temple called Wat Sitaram. It is located at Pomprapsattruphai District. The images of Buddha are pretty amazing here. I have seen the white Buddha and several stupas. I was taken by the tuktuk driver to the jewelry stores. I checked it but did not stay that long. I have crossed the Chao Phraya River by boat. From a distance one can see the beautiful Rama VIII bridge against the sunset background. At the station, I have seen few people buy food and feed the school of fish at the river. It was so amazing to watch them feed. The pigeons compete with the fish for the feeds.

The highlight of my visit to the city was seeing Wat Po. It is the Temple of the Reclining Buddha located at Phra Nakhon District just adjacent to the Grand Temple. The temple is the birthplace of the popular traditional Thai massage. It is home of the more than one thousand Buddha images. The reclining Buddha is gold plated with a measurement of 46 meters long and 15 meters high. It has mother of pearls on his eyes.

To cap my day, I treated myself with some Thai noodles and the papaya salad. This was just another great adventure.

13 Days in China on Manila Bulletin

The article, 13 Days in China was published in the Education section of the Manila Bulletin national newspaper on August 27, 2010. Here's the clip:

A Feature on Smile Magazine

I was featured on Smile, the inflight magazine of Cebu Pacific Airlines for the August 2010 issue. I was already featured before in the April-May 2007 issue in the same section of Local Life for Laoag Destination. Here are the clips:

Monday, August 23, 2010

Boklan Art

Boklan is derived from the Ilocano word Kabobokelan which literally means "where bounties of seeds are." This art is a symbol for the abundance, steadiness and hope of the Bigueños, a tribute for the bountiful harvest. The value meaning of this art is not just the image of the farmer and his carabao but also of his farm products including the seeds that make up a healthy community. This art showcases the unique spirit of support and cooperation among the stakeholders in community building through the arts.

We went to Nueva Segovia St and I have seen several groups of people busy designing and pasting the seeds on their canvas. They depicted a scene of happy people with the various landmarks and symbols of Vigan in their art designs. They made use of different kinds of seeds with different colors. Some of them were the yellow corn, black and white beans, green mongo, and red bugayong seeds. They painstakingly arranged and pasted every single seed in the board with white glue.

They started early in the morning and completed them late afternoon. These artworks really took time. They paraded the artworks at the city and were judged individually which one is the best.

This is truly an exposition of the bounties of land as well as the artistry of the locals.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Carabao Painting and Pasagad Dressing

Karbo Festival is a fusion of carabao art painting and boklan art in celebration. It is still a part of the Viva Vigan Binatbatan Festival of the Arts. The theme was Sining at Kulturang Bigueno tungo sa Magandang Turismo.

We went to Nueva Segovia St. and have seen the farmers and their carabaos. Most people were busy preparing for the karbo festival. Some are doing the boklan art while others were painting their carabaos with colorful designs. They use the waterbase paint so it would be easy to remove from the skin of the carabaos. Some of the carabaos were painted with designs of burnay or jars while others are with the leaves of the bigaa plant, landmarks of Vigan such as the cathedral, belltower, and others.

The pasagad or sleds have been decorated with longganisa, burnay, a miniature tobacco plantation with some tricks on the well, old photos, frames, abel iloco textile, calesa carriage and other products of Vigan.

The entries were paraded along the streets. They have to water the road so as to cool off the carabaos especially that they wear paints on their bodies. It made also the road slippery and one carabao got skidded. It was good that it was controlled.

Ramada and Tres de Mayo

Tres de Mayo is a centuries-old celebration in the Heritage City of Vigan. Of course it is being held every 3rd day of May. I have witnessed this for the first time when I attended the Binatbatan Festival where my friend Glenn accompanied me to check this event.

In the morning, we attended the Holy Mass in honor of Apo Lakay, the miraculous Santo Cristo of the Simbaan a Bassit. It was said that in 1882, a deadly cholera epidemic was ceased through the intercesion of Apo Lakay. Since then, the Biguenos celebrate this day as a religious fiesta in His honor. Up to this time, pilgrims attend masses at the Simbaan a Bassit. The mass was celebrated in front of the church with the decorated ramada.

Ramada is a shade or canopy that bear different kinds of fruits. They hang their agricultural produce such as bananas, corn, garlic, coconuts, vegetables and they also add oranges and pomelos. Every barangay put up one ramada and it used to be a competition for the best decorated.
We went around the town andwe have seen decorated ramadas at each barangay. Later in the afternoon, games were conducted for the children to play and enjoy. Traditional ramada games were played such as the popular breaking the pot.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Abel Iloco of Vigan

As a result of painstaking process of binatbatan where one has to beat the cotton pods with bamboo sticks until the seeds are separated from the fluff at the initial stage of weaving plus other important procedures, a beautiful textile called abel iloco or inabel is produced.
Justify FullGlenn, my local friend took me to Rowilda’s loom-weaving shop in barangay Camangaan in Vigan City to show me how they do the weaving. I was surprised to see a very old woman who has been preparing the yarn or thread to be used in the weaving. There were several looms I saw in the shop manned by men particularly who were busy weaving when we arrived.

Rowilda shop is owned by the Panela family with Dominico and Milagros couple. They named it after their only child’s name. Dominico started his loom weaving business in 1977 equipped with his acquired skill from his ancestors. It was stopped for lack of capital and revived it in 1989 when he came back from working abroad. He bought some of the textile weaving machines of his neighbors when they started to move and work abroad. Rowilda has eight weavers that include the couple.

I have learned that dyeing of the thread is very crucial in the textile weaving. The people in the industry used to go to Mangaldan in Pangasinan to have their yarn or thread dyed with black plum which is locally known as sagut. Nowadays, dyes are all synthetic and chemical-based. They order their thread or yarn from Manila and Dominico does the spinning of the yarn so as not to produced tangles, if not it will be wasted. They kept on experimenting new designs and new products.

Products from the inabel include blankets, bags, bed linens, camisa-chino, bath towels and robes, hand towels, place mats, table napkins, runners and fabric for clothing material. Abel is also used in a glamorous fashion.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Viva Vigan Binatbatan Festival of the Arts

After opening our photo exhibit at the Cultural Center in Vigan, I had the chance to witness for the first time the Binatbatan Festival held last May. It was such a colorful festival wherein a dance parade was showcased at the streets of Vigan down to the Heritage Village.

This festival featured the binatbatan dance. This festival is a tribute to the Ilocanos of the Old. Binatbatan is an Ilocano dance that depicts the first step in the Abel Iloko weaving process. They use two 18-inch long bamboo sticks. The cotton pods have to beaten with these two bamboo sticks to separate the seeds from the fluff. Binatbatan is the beating process. That is why some other dancers hold their bamboo sticks and beat the floor of the streets to make a good beating sound while the rest dances.

The street dancing honors and gives tribute to the Abel Iloko, the traditional woven cloth of Vigan that has sustained its economy from the Pre-Spanish to the present.

After the street dancing, a dance showdown was held at Plaza Burgos where the various groups showed off their best. It was a competition among the dancing groups. The best group took home big cash from the organizers.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Last Stop to Guangzhou

After an overnight stay in Hanoi, I went back to Nanning and traveled for eight hours by bus. I alighted at the Landong Bus Station then I took my luggage which I deposited for a minimum fee. I took my dinner then hopped on to a bus bound for Guangzhou. I was surprised that it was a sleeper bus. It was a ten-hour trip and very thankful that I got some rest.

Upon arrival, I left my luggage at the deposit counter at the bus station so that I could go around town easily. Fortunately, the airport bus is just close to the central train station so no worries when I get back to pick up my luggage. Just across the street is the underground wholesale center where I did a little of shopping.

Guangzhou is the capital of Guangdong Province and it’s the third largest city in China with a population of more than 10 million. It is located north of the Pearl River. It covers an area of 7,434.4 square kilometers. This city also known as Canton and she will be hosting the 2010 Asian Games on October 2010. Guangzhou is a sister city of Manila.

I took the metro rail and trouped to the Beijing District. I shopped for some souvenir apparels from there. The prices were all so cheap and even negotiable. Aside from shopping I went to see the historical monuments such as the popular Dr Sun Yat-sen statue and the museum. I saw also the nice Guangdong Province Peoples government Building. I had difficulty of interacting with the locals because not too many people speak English but nevertheless I enjoyed my last stop to this city. I headed to the airport even it was raining hard. Then I flew back to Manila by late night.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Water Puppet Show

Since my friend An has watched this water puppetry several times, he sent me alone to Thang Long Water Puppet Theater located at Dihn Tien Hoang Street to watch this popular show in Hanoi. I bought the ticket at 40,000dong for the last show at 8pm. They also require payment for the use of personal camera at 15,000dong but I noticed that they were not that strict in inspecting the tickets for the camera.

It was about one hour show and a lot of foreigners watch this. It is a Vietnamese cultural experience and a folk art that was developed by rice farmers during the flooding of rice fields. They could not plant so they had so much free time to do this form of art. The villagers would entertain each other with this puppet play. This folk art could have died twenty years ago if not with the initiative of its government to revive it recently and eventually boosted the local tourism industry.

The puppets are made out of wood and then lacquered. Large rods are used to support the puppets underwater in a waist-deep pool which are manipulated and controlled by the puppeteers who are hidden behind the curtain. At the end of the show, puppeteers showed up for the audience to see.

The program started with the raising of the festival flag. First part was the show of dragon dance followed by a buffalo with a flute. There was the agriculture, catching frogs, rearing ducks and catching foxes, fishing, harvest festival, lion dance, phoenix dance, a depiction of the legend of the restored sword, children playing in water, boat racing, unicorns play with ball, fairy dance and the dance of four holy animals.

It was an amazing show. I did enjoy this water puppet performance that has been enhanced with the accompaniment of orchestra and narration in English.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

A Sidetrip to Hanoi

From Nanning, I rode on a bus from the terminal at Nanning International Tourism District Center just close to our hotel V High Class Hotel and took an eight-hour ride to Hanoi. It was a long trip but an enjoyable as I have seen beautiful sceneries along the way.

Hanoi is the capital and the largest city of Vietnam with a population of 6.5 million. It is located in the right bank of the Red River. It was founded in 1010 and will celebrate its 1000 years on October 2010. It is the most important political center of Vietnam. We all know that this country was colonized by France and occupied Hanoi in 1873 and passed to them 10 years later and it became the capital of French Indochina in 1902-1954.

Hanoi was named formerly as Thang Long which means Ascending Dragon which was claimed to have seen in the Red River. It also meant ascend and flourish. In 1831 its name was changed to Hanoi which means Between Rivers or River Interior. Hanoi is a sister city of Manila.

This is my third time to visit Vietnam. The first two ones were in Ho Chi Mihn City in 2002 and 2007. When I learned that it’s possible to take a bus to Hanoi from China then I took the chance. I then requested for a double entry visa to China to be able to come back for my return flight.

I was fetched from the bus terminal by my local friend Nguyem Huu An. We worked together in a program in Japan in 2005. He was driving his motor scooter and rented one for me to take me to my hostel. It was the same scene in Ho Chi Minh that there were numerous motorcycles plying the streets. After checking in, he treated me for some snacks. We showed me around by taking me to the Hoan Kiem Lake and have seen the Turtle Tower in the middle of it. There were lots of tourists around.

Some old colonial buildings were preserved in the area. One prominent structure is the Hanoi Opera House which was built by the French colonists between 1901 and 1911. It is the replica of the Palais Garnier of Paris. He took me to St Joseph cathedral and the old library. He taught me how to pronounce Vietnamese words by considering the marks placed above the letter. According to him a word may have same spelling but has different meaning when pronounced. Later, he let me watch the popular puppet show.

He took me for a dinner with the popular Vietnamese beef noodles. We chilled out at the popular hang out place of the teenagers just close the cathedral. I was surprised to see many of them on side streets sitting and chatting over some drinks and sunflower seeds.

On the next day, I went around for some photo shoot spending time at the Temple of Literature. He took me for breakfast and sent me off to the hotel where the bus takes its passengers. We then bade goodbye.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Tea Culture in China

Tea culture refers to the procedure of the preparation of tea, the equipments used in making it and the occasions where tea is consumed. Tea ceremony in China really differs from that of Japan which I have experienced. There were two occasions where we were hosted tea ceremonies on our visit to China.

After a dinner reception, Mr. Chen, secretary general of the Department of Education of Laibin tendered us a tea party at his home. He has a tea table made of special wood where they bath this and rinse the teapot and the cups with hot water before using. It has a drainage tube. I have seen a tea pot made in a turtle form. The hosts prepared ginger tea which was poured into our tea cups and we put in some bits of round crackers. There were also rice cakes served with the tea.

The second one was during our tour of the Laibin Vocational and Technical School. After a superb lunch, we were taken to the tea room for some orientation and demonstration. We were served with jasmine tea.

I have learned something during our tea class that to express gratitude to the person who served the tea, the person may knock his bent index and middle fingers or any form of finger tapping on the table in case one can’t say thank you at that moment because of chatting. This custom is common in South China that originated from Qing Dynasty when Emperor Qian Long traveled through the empire. The servants were not allowed to reveal their master’s identity so one time at the restaurant, the emperor poured in tea to his cup and to the servant’s cup as well. Out of huge honor felt by the servant, he cannot kneel or kowtow so he just bent his fingers on the table.

Tea drinking is customary in several special circumstances such as paying respect to the elders, on family gathering, when making apology, in expressing gratitude to their elders in one’s wedding day, for connecting large families on wedding day and to pass on the tradition.

I have observed that Chinese people like drinking tea a lot. Every after meal they drink tea or hot water. Chinese tea is used in traditional Chinese medicine and Chinese cuisine which makes them really fit and healthy.

Traditional Games of China

On our visit to various schools in China, we were given time to play with the local students and teachers of the traditional games played in the country. One unique game is the bamboo dance which we played several times in various schools. It can be a dance as well as a sport. Bamboo pole dance is a team activity that employs the use of eight poles of 4meters each held by boys to rhythmically move and slide over the two 5meters poles that serve as pillow poles. The players jump and hop until they nip between the poles and eventually expelled from the game. The survivor or winner will be lifted up seated on the bamboo poles.

I have seen the throwing of the embroidered balls to shoot in a ball net atop the bamboo pole which is uniquely Chinese. These balls are basically red in color with some attached strings. This is a traditional game of the Zhuang nationalities in the Guangxi Autonomous Region. Originally it was a bronze weapon used in throwing during war and hunting and later became an embroidered bag thrown for entertainment. These balls are used during Spring Festival where boys and girls engaged in an antiphonal style of singing where their feelings were expressed through songs. A girl throws the ball to a boy whom she set her mind on. The boy should give a quick reaction. The boy ties a gift to the ball for the girl and if accepted means she agrees to the courting of the boy. What an amazing history behind this traditional game.

I enjoyed so much skipping or jumping rope with several players coming inside the rope one by one. This was traditionally called “jumping one hundred threads” because the rope was made of several separate ropes out of the materials like grass, cotton or straw coated with wax. It can be played in single or groups. This has been played in China for more than 1, 500 years and is popular during Spring Festival.

Wooden shoe competition was a tough one if co-players don’t have good feet coordination. It was just easy if they follow and go together. Kicking the shuttlecock and aimed to shoot at a basket. This is called the shuttlecock game where it employs a flying object made out of feathers. The shuttlecock is familiar to us through badminton.

Crab back balloon was enjoyed by the students competing with each other where a couple inserts a balloon on a back to back position. Legging running race is a group game where their legs were tied side by side and race to get to the finish line.

While going around town, we have seen some other traditional games such as the mahjong and Chinese chess. The latter, also called Xiangqi is a two- player board game with simple disk pieces. This game is like a battle between two armies with the objective of capturing enemy’s “general” piece. The unique movement of pao or “cannon” piece is a rule that prohibits the generals from facing each other directly. The board features river and palace that prohibits the movement of some pieces. This is a common pastime in Chinese cities and that is why I saw locals often play this game on the streets.

Lastly, mahjong is a game for four players that entails skill, strategy and calculation and a certain degree of luck. This game employs the use of a set of some 152 tiles with Chinese characters and symbols. Each player starts with thirteen tiles then draws and discards tiles until player completes a legal hand using the 14th tile for form four groups and a pair. There are a lot of variations that a player can make. This game is popularly played as a gambling game.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Chinese Calligraphy

Calligraphy is the art of making beautiful or elegant handwriting. It is a type of visual art. A fine art of skilled penmanship. Some 500 years ago before the invention of the printing press, calligraphy was the way books were made. They were handwritten by a scribe working in a scriptorium. It was done on a quill and ink onto materials like parchment or vellum.

There are three main types of calligraphy namely: Western or Roman, Arabic and Chinese or Oriental.

In Asia or in the Orient, calligraphy has been practiced as a major aesthetic expression. Calligraphy was first used in China from the 5th century BC and it was considered equal or even superior to painting. It started with a simple seal script known as chancery script. The strokes vary in its widths and the edges and ends are sharp. When they perfected the brush in 1st century AD, stylization of chancery script was made possible into regular script.

Calligraphy is highly valued also in Japan same with that of China. It was practiced in 7th century AD and they invented the syllabic script which was based on Chinese characters.

We were taught another great form of art at No. 1 Middle School of Laibin in China that is calligraphy. We were given brushes, ink and paper to write on our names. The calligraphy teacher gave an orientation to us at first then followed by hands on. We wrote our names on it. It really takes artful strokes to create a masterpiece.

The teacher made one gift for me with a nice quote. She also gave me a huge brush as a souvenir. This is another experience that someone can keep. Its fun and very educational.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Bailian Pan Ge: A Chinese Ethnic Music

This song is a selection from Bailian. It’s an ethnic musical acted by the minorities of Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region. Bailian tells a romantic story of Bailian and Shangui. Pan Ge means singing in antiphonal style. An ensemble is divided into two or more groups performing alternately as separate groups and then in unison.

Generally, the form of Pan Ge is questions and answers. In this way, people of ethnic minorities show their hopes of life, their talent and even love and admiration to the opposite sex by way of singing.

We were fortunate that our team was given a short music class at No. 1 Middle School of Laibin. The music teacher was so good in singing. She even played the piano. It was so fun to be singing a local song with the Chinese people.

At the end of the class, two groups composed of boys and girls performed the Bailian Pan Ge with actions and alternately answers each other.This was truly entertaining. Immediately after they performed each one us were given the Chinese embroidered ball which is believed to give you luck in finding your special someone. This is also used in the traditional throwing game.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Song of Jasmine (Mo Li Hua)

Mo Li Hua is a popular Chinese folk song which means The Jasmine Flower. This song was composed during the period of Qianlong Emperor of the Qing Dynasty. Two versions were created with different lyrics and slightly different melody. The much well known one is from the Jiangsu Province and the other from Zhejiang Province.

This song was sung by a Chinese girl at the closing ceremony of the 2004 Summer Olympics in Athens to introduce the next site and also sang during the awarding ceremonies of the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games.

We were taught to sing this beautiful song in Guangxi and here’s the lyrics of it:

Hǎo yī duǒ měi lì di mò li huā
Hǎo yī duǒ měi lì di mò li huā
Fēn fāng měi lì mǎn zhī yā
Yòu xiāng yòu bái rén rén kuā
Ràng wǒ lái jiāng nǐ zhāi xià
Sòng gěi bié rén jiā
Mò li huā yā mò li huā

Here is the poetic translation of the song:

Flower of jasmine, so fair!
Flower of jasmine, so fair!
Budding and blooming here and there,
Pure and fragrant all declare.
Let me take you with tender care,
Your sweetness for all to share.
Jasmine fair, oh jasmine fair.

(The photo is taken from the flower gallery and video clip is from youtube.)

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Jiaozi: A Chinese Dumpling

We had a cooking session at the Laibin National Middle School in Guangxi where they taught us how to make the popular Chinese food jiaozi or dumpling. It is also called pot sticker. It should not be mistaken with wonton since jiaozi have thicker and chewier skin whereas wonton has a thinner skin and with different ingredients.

This is a traditional food that consists typically of a ground meat and vegetable filling wrapped in a thin rolled piece of dough and the edges are sealed by crimping. Water dumplings, steamed dumplings and shallow fried dumplings are the various types of dumplings.

When we arrived at the kitchen of the canteen, the materials are already ready. The teachers began to teach us how to make the dough. The filling was already done and what we did was to make the dough, rolled and cut to small pieces and put in the filling. The art of making jiaozi lies in the crimping or sealing and pressing the edges.

Here are the ingredients:

Flour, Water, Cabbage, Pork,
Seasonings (salt, soy sauce, pepper, sesame oil, chopped green onio and ginger)

Heres the procedure:

Grind the pork and mix it with the chopped cabbage and put in seasonings. Stir the mixture well. Second stage is to make the dough. Put the wheat flour in a bowl while pouring water little by little. Stir it well to make it sticky. Rest it for 20 minutes. Later cut it into small pieces. Press each piece with the palm of your hand slightly and roll it with rolling pin into a round piece.

Next stage is the folding of the dough to make Jiaozi. Hold a piece of dough in your left hand and put a filling in the central portion. Press the upper-central part of it firmly and make firm and nice lace from left to right around the fold edge. Lastly, cook the Jiaozi by boiling in a pot of water. Keep boiling for 10 minutes. After its done, you are ready to enjoy the delicious jiaozi.

Cooking was a lot of fun and everybody enjoyed it.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Ilocos Treasures: A Photographic Exhibition in Guangxi

As a photographer, I was so happy that my request for a photography exhibition in the region of Guangxi in China was approved. I asked Charly Zhang from the Foreign and Overseas Chinese Affairs Office that I will be showcasing some photos from Ilocos Region and he instantly said yes. But at first, he requested for a big size photos which are impractical to bring. I did not expect that this exhibit will materialize because I did not bring any materials except for my external hard drive until I met him upon our arrival in Guangzhou.

He was cleared about my intention to bring these photographs to the various schools in Guangxi so he approved of exhibiting my photos on a campus tour.

Yaoyao was instrumental in helping me with the exhibit because she forwarded the photograph files to the schools and were printed on tarpaulin. Upon our visit to these schools, exhibits were formally opened. Schools administrators, faculty and students were happy to see the photos from Ilocos.

I titled my photo exhibition as “Ilocos Treasures: A Photographic Journey.” This is a photo exhibition that showcased the Ilocano heritage, culture and tradition. I have shown also a slide show in some other schools.

On the last day in China, I was awarded a certificate of recognition for this exhibit by no less than the director of Foreign and Overseas Chinese Affairs Office of Laibin City Mr. Meng Zhie Jian.