Tuesday, 12 October 2021

Quarantined Korean Drama Life: My Mom Discovers "Stairway To Heaven"

A year ago, at the height of the enhanced community quarantine, my mom discovered the Korean drama, My Golden Life on Philippine television (read blog here). Lucky for her, KBS, the Korean broadcaster that produced the drama, has a Youtube account which contains all the episodes with English subtitles. She was able to binge-watch all the 52 episodes!😱

("Stairway to Heaven" poster 
featuring the cast of the drama)

This year, she's watching another Korean drama, Stairway to Heaven, an old drama that aired in 2003. My mom is 18 years late. 😜

How did she discover Stairway to Heaven when it's not even shown on the local channels? It's on a digital channel included in GMA Affordabox! She was able to win one by just watching the One Western Visayas newscast every afternoon!πŸ˜‚

On GMA Affordabox's Channel 3 - Heart of Asia, several Korean dramas dubbed in Pilipino are being shown, most of which must have been watched by Korean drama fans in the Philippines, including my friends whom I call the Seoul drama queens (read blog here)

These 'Seoul drama queens' visited Korea every year before the pandemic to discover the Korean culture and explore the locations where their favorite Korean dramas were filmed. My mom would surely benefit from their knowledge of Korean dramas, from plots to the difficult names of actors and actresses, and of course, the film locations.

But for now, I'll let my mom enjoy the dubbed episodes of Stairway to Heaven over Channel 3 of the GMA Affordabox. Then, maybe later I'll ask for her reactions and write about it for Korea.net, like the piece I did about her on My Golden Life (read here).

So, thanks to One Western Visayas and GMA Affordabox for the thrill and amusement my mom gets every time there's a 'kilig' moment between Cholo (the character of Kwon Sang-woo) and Jodi (the character of Choi Ji-woo, who has a statue at Nami Island with Bae Yong-joon, read blog here)

These days when we have to avoid going to crowded places even when we're vaccinated, entertaining ourselves with what's on TV can be one way to avoid stress, or even depression. 

And watching Korean dramas dubbed in Pilipino and aired over Channel 3 of GMA Affordabox can be a source of such fun and entertainment. 😊

(My mom in front of the Lotte World Tower
 in Seoul, Korea. I told her the Lotte World 
Adventure where the some scenes were 
filmed was just across the street.😊)

Friday, 17 September 2021

"Teaching Dokdo to the World" (Participation Prize at the 2021 Understanding Korea Essay Competition)

Ever since I first read an online article about Dokdo, my fascination about it grew. That's why when someone invited me to an organized trip to Ulleungdo and Dokdo many years ago, I immediately signed up. It was an autumn day that I would never forget as a Filipino living in Seoul.

Fascinating Dokdo
Joining other foreign travelers from the sea port of Donghae in the Gangwon Province to Ulleungdo, we navigated about 147 kilometers over two hours through calm waters and occasional high waves. But from Ulleungdo, our ferry ride to Dokdo was even rougher as big waves lifted our ferry up and down for the next hour and a half covering about 87 kilometers, which made us all wonder if this was a kind of huge welcome for us to the famous island.

On that final leg of our journey to Dokdo, I was seated next to my friends Johan from Austria and Brenda from Canada. We talked about Korea and exchanged stories about we knew about Dokdo, a perfect discussion about the island that we were about to visit, including our realization that we were about to count ourselves as fortunate to have ever been to Dokdo.

For me, the high waves and the ferry boat's riding up and down those huge waves did not bother me at all as I have been riding passenger ferries as well as small boats all my life in the Philippines that happen to have more than seven thousand islands. This was a fun journey across the seas for me.

Beautiful Dokdo
Minutes before we docked, I could see Dokdo's silhouette through the misty window of the ferry boat.  And when the doors opened after we arrived, a draft of fresh sea air blew in giving me and my fellow passengers, who were all queuing by the exit, an experience of the nature surrounding Dokdo even before we set foot outside.

I remembered the emotions that my friends and I felt. Seeing the huge, tall rocks that comprise Dokdo, I initially felt incredulous, forcing myself to believe that I was now on the island that I only saw on photographs online. All the hours of tiring bus and ferry rides from Seoul to Donghae, then Donghae to Ulleungdo, and then finally to Dokdo seemed to have evaporated with the mist that covered the ferryboat's windows.

The silhouettes of the rocks that were right in front of me were like a vision from a beautiful dream. I breathed in the fresh sea air and had to remind that I was finally here in person - right on the island of Dokdo, an island so full of history and controversy that people forget how beautiful it really was.

Dokdo is comprised of about 89 islets, but the two main rocks, Dongdo and Seodo, could be seen as pointing to the heavens and colored green and brown. Green for the plants and shrubbery that covered its sides, and brown for the steep, sharp cliffs that seemed to have been molded by the carving tools of the gods. The whole area of Dokdo is more than 187 thousand square meters.

The sight was breathtaking. It was like from postcard. That day, Dokdo welcomed me with its beauty and magnificence.

Teaching Dokdo to the World
In order to strengthen its claim over Dokdo, Korea in general, and the Academy of Korean Studies in particular, should also feature in its textbooks, brochures and informative materials the following:

(1) The first names of the civilians living on the island as well as their way of life on Dokdo.

(2) The exact address of Dokdo - with special mention that it is part of North Gyeongsang Province

(3) The beauty of Dokdo and its surrounding rich seas.

Writing about the civilians who live on Dokdo and their way of life will give everyone a better understanding of the islets as well as an idea that since ordinary Korean people live there and occupy the place, South Korea has the sovereignty and full possession of Dokdo.

The readers around the world should know where these civilian residents in Dokdo came from. Who are they and why did they decide to live there? What do they do for a living? What food do they cook and eat in Dokdo? Do they have a garden? Do they have pet dogs? What are the names of their pets and their breed? What are their daily routines? How do they adjust to the weather and the changes in seasons? If they get sick, what do they do? Do they get mail from the Korean post office?

Other than the civilians, the world should also know about the Korean policemen who are assigned there as well as their experience of being posted on the island. What keeps these young policemen busy? What entertainment do they have? Do they have local television channels for Korean dramas and movies?

Also, by including the description of Dokdo as being part of the Ulleung County and the North Gyeongsang Province in the reading materials, this gives the readers and students a firm picture that it is part of Korea, even though it is far from the mainland.

And showcasing the flora and fauna of the islets, and the rich fishing grounds around them will give people an idea that the Dokdo islets are not just isolated rocks in the middle of the East Sea, but a place that is alive and inhabited by the Korean people, animals, and plants.

This information should be included in local and international textbooks, and on online portals and Korean websites written in different languages for international understanding and information.

This way, the controversy that follows Dokdo will be overshadowed by the personal stories of its residents, its natural beauty, and by its biological diversity and existence.

Dokdo in the 21st century
Since its earliest mention in historical records and maps about three centuries ago, Dokdo has seen historical and natural events that shaped human history.

And even though my visit to Dokdo was more than a decade ago, I still count myself today as one of the many fortunate foreigners who have set foot on the island and discovered its real story and natural beauty firsthand.

I still dream that I may be able to visit Dokdo again someday. And with these steps that I recommend to the Academy of Korean Studies, I hope that Dokdo will finally be able to shake off all the controversy that has accompanied it all this time.

I hope that the global recognition and respect will happen now in the 21st century. 😎

(My fellow travelers to Dokdo taking photos 
of the island during our departure)

* * * * *

I submitted this piece for the 2021 Understanding Korea Essay Writing Competition organized by the Academy of Korean Studies. It won a prize. 😍

Friday, 20 August 2021

Travelblog Philippines: The Chapel of The Angry Christ in Victorias City, Negros Occidental

It's real name is the Saint Joseph, The Worker Chapel. 

But because of its very unique altar, it is popularly called by tour guides, tourists, and travel magazines as The Chapel of The Angry Christ.

(The chapel's entrance faces east.)

(The chapel is airy as the sides can be opened with huge doors and the cross-breezes can blow through.)

Yes, that's what I thought as a young grade-schooler at the Saint Mary Mazarello School that was located 200 meters from this chapel. My earliest memory of the chapel was when our teacher would drag the whole class to go with her to pray Via Crucis, or the Stations of the Cross. This must have been in March of those years when the Lenten season started while there were still classes.

As our teacher was reciting her prayers while we hopped from one station to another, my eyes, on the other hand, wandered around the chapel and were mesmerized by the 'angry man' painting on the altar.

(An angry Jesus at the Last Judgement)

(The whole ceiling over the altar is full of artwork as well. When the celebrant priest looks up, he could see faces of damned soul in Purgatory. All the sides of those walls have been painted. Just like Michelangelo as he painted the Sistine Chapel, Alfonso Ossorio must have used scaffoldings but made of bamboos. 

Today's equivalent of the all-seeing eye is probablythe city-wide CCTV system.πŸ˜€)

Although he was 'angry' and intimidating, as a kid, I was not at all scared because of the colors. As you can see in the photos, the painter used a lot of reds, oranges and yellows which to me made the painting less scary.

This painting is a masterpiece of Alfonso Ossorio, the son of the owners of Victorias Milling Company (VMC), then Asia's biggest sugar central. Located inside the VMC compound in Victorias City in Negros Occidental, Philippines, this chapel has, over the decades, became more and more popular to tourists mainly because of the painting.

(The Last Supper mosaic; above it is "The Descent of the Holy Spirit on Mary and the Apostles". 
Take note of the apostles's shirts. Very Uniqlo.πŸ˜ƒ)

While the painting was done by Alfonso Ossorio, the whole chapel was designed by a Czech architect, Antonin Raymond. The mosaic art on the walls of the church was by Belgian artist, Adelaide de Bethune. The Station of the Cross and wooden statues inside the chapel were made by local artist, Benjamin Valenciano, who Filipinized Mary and Joseph by giving them dark skin color and dressed them in local attires. Another local artist, Arcadio Anore made the brass plates at the pulpit and baptistry following the designs of de Buthene.

(I would love to climb up the belfry one day.)

As a kid, I never got to really appreciate the amazing artistry inside and outside this chapel. It's only now that I am appreciating the artistry, talent, and hard work that all went to create this masterpiece of a place of worship.

Even at the back of the chapel where mosaics of the Descent of the Holy Spirit on Mary of the Apostles and The Last Supper were created, one can see that the figures were made from brown pieces, although what caught my attention were the long-sleeved shirts of the apostles. With their plain silhouettes and simple colors, they reminded of the Uniqlo shirts. πŸ˜‚

(How do I get to the belfry?πŸ˜ƒ)

(A sundial stands next to the Chapel. It's a carabao where a worker holding a long sugarcane stands. The sugarcane is the marker, while the carabao and the worker represent the sugarcane industry.)

The chapel construction was started in the late 1940s and was purposely oriented towards the east so that the sun could bathe the altar with light through a glass ceiling. Alfonso Ossorio (August 2, 1916 - December 5, 1990) on was a friend of Jackson Pollack.


(The marker of the sundial bearing the names of the Don Bosco students who designed, welded and created it.)

(The carabao sundial of Victorias)

Currently, entrance into the VMC compound is restricted and there are no masses held inside the Saint Joseph, the Worker chapel. 

I hope someday I'd be able to visit again and be mesmerized by the artistry of the Angry Christ, although I would also like to climb the belfry and experience seeing the view of the compound from up there. πŸ˜€

Monday, 28 June 2021

Finally, I'm Vaccinated! Can We Travel Now?

I remember it was in April 2020 when, at the height of all those lockdowns, strict community quarantines, and the mandatory quarantine passes, questions as to when vaccines against Covid-19 would be made available for everyone were all in everyone's mind.

But even with all the so-called experts and incompetent government officials talking on TV and online bragging about procuring vaccines for the country when we all knew that billions of people all over the world had to fall in line behind rich countries just to get the vaccine, I was still positive that, someday, I'd get my chance at those vaccines, too.

                    (My first dose in May 2021. 

                        Thanks to Nurse TimπŸ™)

Well, thankfully, the Philippine government distributed the Sinovac vaccines among the provinces and the local governments, and our local city health department was smart enough to spread the word that anyone who registered online could get the vaccine. And that's what my family did: we registered online, got called, and got vaccinated.

I already have both doses of Sinovac. First one was in May, and the second one in June. It has been three weeks since, and I'm grateful that I have never experienced any Covid-19 symptons, which I credit in part to my strict adherence to protocols and my habit of just being clean, hygienic and sanitary all the time.

(My second dose in June 2021)

So, now that I have been fully vaccinated, when do we get to travel again? πŸ˜€

Monday, 17 May 2021

Aton Ini Community Pantry (This Is Our Community Pantry)

The news about 'community pantry' that was set up by Ms. Ana Patricia Non in Quezon City, Philippines, went viral because it was organized by a lone, private individual whose main objective was to help out her neighbors during these difficult times.

The 'community pantry' was a table full of canned goods, noodles and other food items that one would see at a pantry at home. But this one was on the street, open to everyone who was in need of food. It was also open to everyone who would like to add food items to the 'pantry'.

(Rice and shine!)

(Kalamay para matam-is imo yuhum - Sugar so that your smile is sweet!)

(My egg is white!)

In April and May 2020, at the height of lockdowns in cities and towns in the Philippines, our parish, the Our Lady of Victory Parish in Victorias City, Philippines, went around the haciendas and rural areas of the city to give away rice, noodles and food items (read blog here)

The food items we gave away were from generous parishioners who shared their blessings. We received sacks of rice, noodles, canned foods, taochiam, bottled water, and other items. We then apportioned them in individual packs for easy transport and distribution.

(Arroz caldo for everyone!)

And just four months ago, in January 2021, when some of the barangays of Victorias City were inundated and families had to evacuate and seek shelter at public halls and covered courts (read blog here), we also gave away relief goods to families who lived near the river banks and whose livelihood and properties were damaged by the floods.

So, for us here, it was just 'normal' to organize a food drive. And since I have been part of these drives before, I simply shared a thought of organizing our own 'community pantry' with my fellow Bosconians and other friends.

Donations then started to arrive: cash donations from my fellow Bosconians and food items like rice, canned goods, noodles, taochiam, and eggs from certain anonymous donors.

('Nanay' with her 'balde' full of goods. We asked them to bring clean containers where they could put the food items as we did not pre-pack to avoid using single-use plastic.)

We then went to an impoverished neighborhood in Barangay 6 unannounced as we did not want people to gather in droves as we still needed to comply with social distancing protocols that were still in place.

We started around 8AM and we were able to finish around 10AM. My original objective was to share the goods with the families living near the creek which overflows during high tide but we were also able to share with rest of the neighborhood who later found out we were giving away goods. 

But when the rice was all given out, we decided to transfer to nearby location at Barangay 3 with the sugar and a few trays of eggs. There, we gave them all away.

After the weekday 'community pantry' at two locations, we went further to the rural areas where there were more families in need.

With the help of a team from the 79th Infantry Battalion of the Philippine Army, we transported six sacks of rice, one big container of pre-packed cooking oil, 20 trays of eggs, packs of vitamins, boxes of canned goods, 300 packs of noodles and taochiam, kilos of dried fish, and a sack of brown sugar.

Fr. Jess Ebro, the priest-in-charge of the Our Lady of Guadalupe at Barangay Estado in Victorias City welcomed us to his community and allowed us to hold the community pantry inside the church compound so as to control the queue. Fr. Jess also prepared a caldero of arroz caldo for everyone.

(Each person who lined up at our community pantry has his or her own story to tell. Maybe 'Tatay' has a sad one to tell. But with his hands full of food items to bring home, there was no sad story to tell that day.)

All the neighborhood residents who came to the community pantry were asked to bring their own containers for the rice and sugar. A 'lavador' could hold the rice, eggs, de latas and noodles, while a cup could hold the sugar. I decided not to repack or provide plastic bags in order to avoid using single-use plastic which could harm the environment of the barangay.

The men and women in uniform of the Philippine Army, together with Fr. Jess's church assistants, my sister and her friend, helped in the distribution and crowd control during the our community pantry. 

Although we would have wanted to leave the table open and let the people take what they needed, we had to make sure the distribution was orderly as we were not sure whether the local residents had any idea about the essence of the community pantry, although we prepared a tarpaulin where we also wrote some 'guidelines' that we copied from sign boards of other organized pantries.

One gesture though caught me by surprise. One lady, as she was about to leave with some food items, gave us two fifty-peso bills that she said she wanted to share. For a moment, I was speechless because I never expected such kind gesture. I guess I always have to remind myself to expect such generosity at the most unexpected places during unexpected moments. We added her donation to our fund.

So, thanks to all the kind donors who contributed to our 'community pantry' at Barangays 3, 6, and Estado, and to Fr. Jess and his assistants, and to the men and women of the 79th 'Masaligan' Infantry Battalion for the transportation and assistance.

Although it was hot, sunny and far, the distance and the inconvenience are not hindrances if one's goal is to share and alleviate in our little way the hardships our brothers and sisters are enduring during this difficult time. 😍

Wednesday, 21 April 2021

Bacolod City, Philippines: Fallen Trees And Government

(One of the 26 decades-old trees along the 
national highway in Bacolod City, Philippines, 
that was ordered cut down by government officials)
(Photo credit: Bombo Radyo Bacolod Facebook page)

I have always wondered why some local government officials in the Philippines think that cutting down trees was always the solution to solve a clearing problem. 

On the second week of April 2021, photos of what was left of the trees that were cut down circulated around the social media accounts of the citizens of Bacolod City in the Philippines. 😒

The photos were of the 26 trees along Araneta Avenue, a main thoroughfare of the city. According to the local official of the Department of Public Works and Highways, they have been authorized to cut 35 trees that included 15 molave, 12 narra, seven mahogany, and a eucalyptus tree "to give way to ongoing projects". Of the 35, nine were saved.

(One of the 26 decades-old trees along the 
national highway in Bacolod City, Philippines, 
that was ordered cut down by government officials)(Photo credit: Bombo Radyo Bacolod Facebook page)

As expected, there is now a huge outcry from the local citizens because of this unthinkable mistake in judgement for which excuses may not be acceptable.😑

I googled "how to relocate a tree" and found a lot of ways to save a tree than just chopping it down for convenience. I wondered why the DPWH people didn't even bother using other options. It takes decades for those fallen trees to grow and to have those long, leafy branches that give shade to those who seek under it.

(Protesters stand beside the fallen trees along Araneta St., Bacolod City, Philippines)
(Photo credit: Bombo Radyo Bacolod Facebook page)

The local government officials in Bacolod City don't have to look that far to find ways to save those trees. Other cities simply let the trees become part of the sidewalk. 

In Seoul, South Korea, I stumbled upon this tree in the Gangnam District that preserved the tree by putting barricades around it, so that vehicles avoid crashing into it. The message is that the tree is more important than the traffic.

Why can't we do creative things like that?πŸ˜ͺ

(Seoul, Korea: a tree is preserved 
by putting barricades around it😊) 

In grade school, we were once taught a poem by Joyce Kilmer, Trees.

I think that I shall never see
A poem as lovely as a tree.

A tree whose hungry mouth is prest
Against the earth's sweet flowing breast;

A tree that looks at God all day,
And lifts her leafy arms to pray;

A tree that may in summer wear
A nest of robins in her hair;

Poems are made by fools like me,
But only God can make a tree.

                                        * * *

It's probably a good idea to let these local government officials memorize and understand this poem so that they can also appreciate trees. πŸ˜‹

Tuesday, 16 March 2021

Philippine History: 500 Years of Christianity And What?

(Pope Francis celebrating the mass for the 
500th year of Christianity in the Philippines 
at St. Peter's Basilica on March 14, 2021)

As my family was attending online the mass Pope Francis was celebrating to commemorate the 500th year anniversary of the arrival of Christianity in the Philippine archipelago, a thought came to mind.

On March 16, 1521, Ferdinand Magellan and his men landed in the group of islands that were later named Philippines, after a Spanish monarch. With him was a cross that he brought from Spain. Upon his arrival, he befriended and converted into Christianity one chieftain, his wife and the whole tribe.

And that's probably where Magellan's european arrogance got him into trouble. He thought, with all his shiny, sharp blades and spears, he and his men could overpower any of these local tribes he'd encounter in the islands.

He was wrong. Deadly wrong. A few weeks after he set foot in the islands, Magellan was dead on April 27, 1521, from poisoned spears of the men of the rival chieftain, Lapu-Lapu. Those 'inferior' weapons were probably made from bamboo and local wood. His men scurried away defeated and left without bothering to recover his body, some parts of which must have decorated Lapu-Lapu's front porch.

But Magellan's legacy lives on in the Philippines, having been recognized as the bearer of Christianity, and for the centuries that followed, Catholic friars from Spain came to convert more indios and spread the Catholic faith with some teaching the locals a few agricultural innovations.

That was 500 years ago today, and what have Christianity done for us?

Visits from from three popes, Paul IV, Saint John Paul II, and Pope Francis.

Two saints, San Lorenzo Ruiz and San Pedro Calungsod.

And based on what's happening around the country, it would probably need more generations to achieve the real way to live a life based on His teachings.

For me, those first 500 years gave me my faith and a character that was molded by lessons of virtues from my Catholic education, which will guide me until the end of my days. Unfortunately, I won't be able to see what the generations would be like at the end of the next 500. πŸ˜ƒ

So, if you're a Filipino, what have 500 years of Christianity done for you?😎