Thursday, November 16, 2017

Reviving an Old Religious Tradition in San Pablo

The Image of Our Lady of the Most Holy Rosary being brought our of the church for a procession
October 7 is the Feast of Our Lady of the Holy Rosary. In late afternoon of that day, the city of San Pablo in Laguna, which is known for its seven lakes, held a solemn procession, starting at the eighteenth-century Saint Paul the First Hermit Cathedral. The city though celebrates its feast day on January 15, honoring  Saint Paul the First Hermit, its patron saint after which it is named.
                The procession, participated in mostly by students of San Pablo's schools, was spearheaded by Don Conrado "Ado" Escudero, owner of the Villa Escudero, a sprawling hacienda that has plantations, a popular resort and recently real-estate developments. His sister, Consuelo, served as hermana mayor. The Escuderos are devout Catholics. Their family museum, which is a popular destination inside the plantation resort, houses numerous old images of saints and the Virgin. An impressive statue of Our Lady of the Most Holy Rosary inside San Pablo church is originally owned by Don Ado's mother, Rosario Adap Escudero.
                "My mother left us an image, which is something to behold. Not only it is beautiful, it is precious because it is made of silver, gold and ivory. It is something we can be proud of," Don Ado related. "Years and years ago, the original image of Our Lady of the Holy Rosary was brought to Manila from San Pablo. The image was brought out every year, every October, so they requested my mother to have one made so that they could continue the tradition, because, you known, San Pablo is one of the oldest mission churches in the country. Nowadays, the young generation's preoccupation is not really embdded with religious instruction. And we want to continue (the tradition)." 
                He then asked the bishop if they can continue the tradition of celebrating the Feast of Our Lady of the Holy Rosary, and the response was enthusiastic. He was told though that the people, especially the younger people, might not be interested, but Don Ado did not mind and persuaded them to let him do what he wanted to do. The image, after some time, again was brought out of the church last year.
                "It was a successful event," he said. Thus, he did it again this year, calling the procession as "peace rally," responding to the current time of uncertainty and violence.
                The eighty-six-year-old Don Ado is known for keeping old traditions, and Villa Escudero is the crowning glory of his efforts, where visitors are afforded an old hacienda way of living and enjoying.
                The hacienda is about a thousand hectares, Don Ado said, and it traverses the city of San Pablo and the town of Tiaong in Quezon. It was founded in the 1880s by Don Placido Escudero and his wife Dona Claudia Marasigan, originally planted with sugar cane. Their son Don Arsenio Escudero turned to coconuts in the early 1900s. He is said to be an agro-industrialist, who built the country's first working hydroelectric plant, which is now an attraction at the hacienda. His children, including Don Ado, opened the hacienda to the public in 1981.
                Villa Escudero Plantations and Resort is known for its carabao-drawn carriages that bring visitors around. The structures reflect traditional architecture designs and used native materials. The food, overseen by its current executive chef Cocoy Ventura, is Filipino. One can feast on a buffet by the dam, behind the hydroelectric plant, where the water cascades from a reservoire and flows through your feet while you eat. This feasting on the stream and by the waterfall has become a signature Villa Escudero experience. There are also regular performances of Filipino folk songs and dances.
                Villa Escudero is an iconic destination of Laguna and Quezon, said Rebecca V. Labit, regional director of the Department of Tourism. And about 800 people visits it every day.  Indeed, that Saturday the hacienda-resort buzzed with visitors, families enjoying the weekend, bakadas on excursions and Filipinos bringing their foreigner guests to experience an idyllic Filipino setting. 

Our Lady of the Most Holy Rosary of San Pablo, originally owned by the Escuderos

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Taiwan in Six Cities and Six Days, Travel Note 2: Entering the Dragon of Lotus Pond in Zuoying, Kaohsiung

The Dragon and Tiger Pagodas on Lotus Pond
The Taiwan High Speed Rail stops at the foot of Mount Panping in Zuoying District, southern part of Kaohsiung City, Taiwan’s second largest city locate in the southwestern part.
Zuoying is a quiet, leafy suburban district, surrounded by mountains and facing the Taiwan Strait. It is known as a home to military personnel and their families, and their villages as well as a military veterans museum have become tourist attractions. But there are many other sites of interest such as heritage and archaeological sites, food stops, temples and shrines, and natural parks. The Zuoying Cultural Bus Tour, which starts at the train station, affords visitors a survey of the district’s cultural heritage.
 Near the train station is the man-made Lotus Pond or Lake, between Mount Guei or Turtle Mountain and Mount Panping or Half-Screen Mountain. We made a stop to visit the large pagodas.
            Lotus Pond, which often blooms with lotuses, thus the name, was completed in 1951. It became one of the sites of some World Games 2009 events such canoe polo, water skiing and dragon boat racing. Until now, many people enjoy water sports on the sprawling pond. But it is mostly a place for relaxation and contemplation. Parks and walkways fringed the pond. One side, especially along Liantan Road, is dotted with temples and restaurants.
            One is the elaborate Ciji Temple, dedicated to Bao Sheng Da Di, or the Emperor of Well-Being, a god of medicine in Chinese folk religion and Taoism popularly in Fujian in China and Taiwan. The temple is said to be originally built in 1719 at Feng Shan and then moved to Zuoying, renovating it in 1960. Another temple is the impressive Qiming Temple, built in 1909 and rebuilt in 1970s, dedicated to Guang Di.
            More popular to tourists are the pagodas and pavilions, rising from almost in the middle of the lake. Across Ciji Temple are the Dragon and Tiger Pagodas. They are actually extensions of the temple, built in 1976 under the orders of Bao Sheng himself, some believe.
The Dragon and Tiger Pagodas are two towers, one for the Tiger and the other Dragon. Built with traditional Chinese architectural elements, the seven-storey towers can be garish, with bright colors and folksy decorations. Zigzagging walkways lead you to them from the shore. Large statues of a tiger and a dragon stand at each tower. One is advised to enter the dragon’s mouth and exit at the lion’s mouth. This way, one turns bad luck into good luck.
            Inside the bodies of the mythical animals, the walls are painted with Buddhist and Taoist characters and scenes, such as China’s 24 most obedient sons, the twelve Magi, the Jade Emperor’s thirty palaces, Confucius, and scenes of heaven and hell. After passing through the dragon, one can go up the towers for a panoramic view of the lake and the mountains, and feel the breeze.
            About 700 meters north of the Dragon and Tiger Pagodas, the Spring and Autumn Pavilions, built in 1953, stand across Qiming Temple. The gaudy pavilions, dedicated to Guandi, the god of war, are two octagonal, four-storey pagodas with a giant dragon, with teal-colored scales and yellow fins, slithering at their feet. Atop the dragon is a statue of Guanyin, commonly known as the goddess of mercy. If local lore is to be believed, the dragon and the statue of Guanyin were later added. According to legend, Guanyin appeared among the clouds riding on a dragon, and believers commemorated the event by installing depictions of it between the pagodas.
One can also enter the dragon’s hollow body, its walls painted with scenes from Buddhist and Taoist stories and beliefs.
They can be interesting small journeys, entering the bodies of mythical animals and then climbing the towers with the landscape of water and mountains revealing itself to you as if you’re being formed or reformed and then birthed, near the clouds.

The high-speed rail station
Inside one of the coaches of the Taiwan High Speed Rail

Arriving at Taiwan High Speed Rail's Zuoying Station in Kaohsiung City
The man-made Lotus Pond in Zuoying

The view from the Dragon and Tiger Pagodas

The Spring and Autumn Pavilion

Inside the dragon of the Spring and Autumn Pavilion
The Qiming Court Temple facing the Lotus Pond
The Ciji Temple

Saturday, September 30, 2017

Taiwan in Six Cities and Six Days, Travel Note 1: Totally Taiwan

A part of the beautiful, sprawling metropolis that is Taipei
It is a small nation, a little island really. But its name has reverberated throughout my childhood and until today. Taiwan floats like a fallen fruit on China Sea in East Asia, gigantic China to its west and to its south numerous islands grouped as the Philippines. The nation is a giant in several ways—in manufacturing and in industrial economy—but it is more than that as I discovered in a few visits, learning its culture bit by bit and even most deliciously through its panoply of dishes, and contemplating on its beautiful landscapes.
            Taiwan is very Chinese, mostly Han, as much as it is also other cultures—Western and indigenous. It is very cosmopolitan as well as very rustic. It is very modern but also steeped in traditions.
            Many travelers enter Taiwan through its international airport in Taoyuan City in the northernmost part and travel about forty kilometres east to the capital Taipei. I love Taipei. As I approached the city on bus, I saw it from afar a sprawling cluster of gleaming buildings. I also saw its fringes and fingers crawling into the mountainsides and forests, not menacingly but almost tenderly as if to clasp them. At many points, the city meets and melds beautifully with forests and mountains. A clear river rushes into the city, silver like the glass buildings. In the city, I love the wide sidewalks and the tree-lined streets, and the food, both inventive and traditional, that makes the streets redolent. At night and in the markets, food is more attractive and beguiling than the shiniest toys or gadgets.
            From Taipei, we would go south to Kaohsiung City. Going around Taiwan is very convenient. We went on the Taiwan High Speed Rail that runs about 350 kilometers, traversing the running central region, from north to south. From Taipei, it takes only about an hour to go to Kaohsiung. There are views of fields and forests, and in between there are stations like airport terminals.
            From Kaohsiung, we made our way back to Taipei, stopping at major cities—Tainan, Taichung, New Taipei, Taoyuan—and visiting temples old and new, the night markets with its riot of colors and aromas, the restaurants that revealed to be gastronomic wonderlands, lakes as well as malls, and meeting friendly and interesting people. Every street had its story. The body ached but the spirit nourished. It will take a lifetime or two to know Taiwan, but we took in as much as we can, and the experiences we collected always bloom brightly in the gardens of our memories. 

NB: Taiwan Expo 2017 is being held from September 29 to October 1, 2017, at SMX Convention Center Manila, Mall of Asia Complex, Pasay City, organized by the Taiwan Association in the Philippines, a social and civic group of Taiwanese businessmen in the Philippines led by its president Allan Lin and honorary president Seimo Huang, and Taiwan External Trade Development Council. 
Trips to Taiwan can be arranged by Jeron Travel and Tours ( with office at 727 VM Tower, Roxas Boulevard corner Airport Road, Pasay City. Call (+63 2) 854-1813. 

A floating garden on Sun Moon Lake
Delightful seafood at the Liuhe Night Market in Sinsing, Kaohsiung
Fields along the route of the high-speed rail
Qiming Court in Zuoying, Kaohsiung
The iconic Taipei 101 tower in Taipei, once the tallest structure in the world
The Tawain High Speed Rail arrives in Zuoying, Kaohsiung
Vibrant Xi Men Ding area in Taipei City

Thursday, September 28, 2017

Green Technology, Internet of Things and More from Taiwan

A view of Taipei City, Taiwan
Rapid industrialization and increase in human population in recent years have negatively impacted the environment. But with the advancement of technology, the campaign for environmental protection and conservation has also intensified, leading to an increased awareness. More and more businesses are committing to “greener” practices, leading to the emergence of “green” technology and industry, bringing about inventions and technological enhancements aim at minimizing harmful effects on the environment.
Taiwan, the East Asian country, has been known for many advances in technology, but the island nation has managed to retain much of its natural environment. Unknown to many, Taiwan has a robust green industry. Taiwan has made big strides in the development and use of “green” technology. Taiwanese companies have been devising systems and technologies on renewable energy, energy storage, energy savings, environmental protection, recycling, low-carbon transportation, wood-based biomass, green building, etc. Currently, Taiwan is a leading exporter of PV cells, light-emitting diodes (LEDs) and bicycles.
Nine of these Taiwanese companies are Neo Solar Power, Eterbright, Biomax Technology, Asia Pacific Fuel Cell Technologies, Everlight Electronics, Chang Hong Energy Technology, Spring Pool Glass, Multiply Energy and UWin Nanotech.
They were showcased by the Green Trade Project Office (GTPO), the international trade promotions arm of the Taiwan Ministry of Economic Affairs, in its Green Industry Company Visits from July 18 to 20 in Taipei to show how the country can provide environmental solutions.

Green Companies
Neo Solar Power (NSP) is one of Taiwan’s and the world’s leading solar cell and module manufacturer. The company is aiming to expand globally to become a vertically-integrated full service solar company. NSP currently makes solar cells, bifacial cells, mono-crystalline cells and multi-crystalline cells.
Eterbright Solar Corp. specializes in research, development and manufacturing of copper indium gallium selenide (CIGS) thin-film PV modules, and its products are widely used in roof-type solar energy systems and large-scale power plants. While its solar panels, which are touted to be durable and cadmium-free, are installed on roofs for home uses, Eterbright also presents innovative ideas such as a solar panel that doubles as a picnic table with an outlet for things such as an electric stove.
Biomax Technology is into agricultural products and services. It also produces biomass, a source of green energy which can be used in industrial boilers and household stoves.
Asia Pacific Fuel Cell Technologies is dedicated to the research and development of proton exchange membrane fuel cells and low pressure hydrogen storage systems, which can used for light vehicles such as scooters and golf carts.
Everlight Electronics manufactures LEDs and LED products such as lamps, lighting components, lighting modules, digital displays, opto-couplers and infrared components for various applications.
Chang Hong Energy Technology is a manufacturer of lithium iron phosphate oxide (LFPO) cell, the key component in power supply and energy storage system.
Spring Pool Glass Industrial Co. is Taiwan’s leading glass collecting and recycling company. Some of the glass they collected they make into green building materials such as the lightweight, fireproof and even soundproof blocks.
Multiply Energy Co. is dedicated to recycling used diapers as well as low-cost water filters.
UWin Nanotech is into reel-to-reel gold plating process design, nano-materials, eco-tech metal stripper, eco-tech equipment, electroplating additives, specialty chemicals, plating apparatuses and precious metal analysis.

Taiwan Expo 2017
These are some of the Taiwanese companies featured at the Green Technology Pavilion, organized by GTPO, at the Taiwan Expo 2017, from September 29 to October 1, 2017, at SMX Convention Center Manila, Mall of Asia Complex, Pasay City.
Spearheaded by the Taiwan Association in the Philippines, a social and civic group of Taiwanese businessmen in the Philippines led by its president Allan Lin and honorary president Seimo Huang, Taiwan Expo 2017 brings together well-known Taiwanese companies to introduce their latest products for the first time in the Philippines.
Organized by the Taiwan External Trade Development Council (Taitra), a non-profit trade promotion organization in Taiwan, the Taiwan Expo will have eight themed pavilions covering education, agriculture, tourism, culture, technology and green energy.
The Study in Taiwan Pavilion will showcase Taiwan’s top universities and their offerings, while Culture and Tourism aims to attract visitors with travel packages and tourism products. Health and Lifestyle will feature medical services, food and other lifestyle products, while Inno-Tech will include green technology. Agriculture Tech features the country’s advances in agriculture and fisheries, while City Marketing showcases Taiwan’s six metropolitan areas—Taipei, New Taipei, Taoyuan, Taichung, Tainan and Kaohsiung. General Support will have banks and insurance companies to entice potential investors in Taiwan, while the Taiwan Association Philippines will display Taiwanese investments in the Philippines.
Aside from the pavilions, there will be two forums—one on fishery and food packaging and another on the Internet of Things (IoT) solutions for everyday living.

The Internet of Things Forum
The Taiwan Internet of Things (IoT) Solutions for Smart Living Forum, on September 30, will be of great interest to many Filipinos. IoT is a huge network of things connected through the Internet, said to revolutionize businesses, governments, and consumers. Representatives from some of Taiwan’s tech brands will be speaking about their cutting-edge IoT solutions.
For example, Vivotek will showcase its latest stereo network camera, the SC8131, which generates data by tracking numbers of people and their flow paths. Business owners can leverage this information for operational decisions such as improving store layouts and product promotions. Another application refining smart retail is the Acer Being Signage. This aids retailers in the entire digital marketing process, from consultation to operation. It also provides software that uses a cloud-based video analytics solution for creating, delivering and monitoring digital campaigns.
Using mixed reality technology and calculation camera image positioning technology, Main Orthop aedic Biotechnology Co. Ltd. has created precursory medical glasses that enhance accuracy and shorten surgery time for the medical industry. They will talk about their hi-tech wearable glasses designed to enhance surgeons’ performance and simplify orthopedic procedures. This technology will become a key tool for significant advances in surgery.
The Ropali-Teco Corp. will highlight advances that provide access to electronic vehicles, and enhance user experience by customizing local tricycles and jeepneys with their safety, efficiency, and ecological features. The electronic vehicles utilize a 2.3 kilowatt electric motor and have a 20 percent  climbing capacity for sloping paths. This is a good start for public vehicles to decrease fuel consumption and create safer travel for passengers.

Trade Partners
Taiwan and the Philippines have been engaged in economic relationship for many years. The Philippines is Taiwan’s tenth biggest trade partner and the eighth biggest export market in 2016.
“We look forward to enhancing awareness and importance of the expo by carrying out a series of side activities including industry cooperation meetings, forums, cultural performances, etc. It is expected that the expo will be a significant platform to promote mutual beneficial partnerships,” Taitra stated.

The Taiwan Expo is one of the efforts of Taiwan’s current administration’s New Southbound Policy, aimed at building and strengthening bilateral ties with nations south of Taiwan, including the Philippines.

Spring Pool Glass Industrial Company's construction blocks made from recycled glass
Asia Pacific Fuel Cell Technologies' hydrogen generator
Chang Hong's portable solar power storage case
Eterbright Solar Corporation's solar panels that double as a table
Multiply Energy Company 's recycled diapers
Neo Solar Power's solar cells
UWin Nanotech's metal stripper
Acer will showcase its innovative solutions