My First International Trip: HONG KONG

This year, I decided to be serious on the idea of being scared, but pursuing what it is that scares me anyways. And first on my list was going on my first international trip. I’ve been around my country for the last few years, and though I planned on a holiday abroad, I never get around to it until this year. I imagined it would be very stressful, or expensive or overrated. But these are what I learned and hopefully, they will help you too:

Do’s for your first international trip:

Set your trip objective. We travel for different reasons – pleasure, exploration, self-discovery, business. But whatever it is that you hope to achieve, be clear about it and stick to it. This will give direction to the places, food and people you may want to get in contact with once you reach your destination. This will also influence the cost and/or duration of your trip and many other important decisions you’ll have to make even before booking your flight.

Check airport and immigration rules and requirements. Do you have all the necessary IDs or travel documents for the place you’re going to visit? Are there any special documents you need to secure? How heavy should your luggage be? Do you even need a luggage, or will a backpack do? Can you bring food/drinks while on the airport premises? How do you pack toiletries so you can clear the gates? About how many hours should you check yourself in so you’re considered “on-time” for your flight?

Do you research. I can’t stress this enough. Not just because you need to know the basic greetings but because you got to have a general idea about the place you’re going to. So create a checklist:

  1. Weather: what clothes is most appropriate for the activities that you want to do?
  2. Usual modes of transport: How do you go from point A to B?
  3. Food: which would you try and which would you skip on?
  4. Language: do they know your language? Are they able to communicate in English? Can you speak their language?
  5. Customs: you never want to rile up the locals when you’re in their territory. Please check what they consider rude and what they consider as acceptable behavior.
  6. Currency: do you need to exchange your money for theirs, or is it already acceptable?
  7. Help lines: because you’ll never know what may happen.

Bring a map. Install an app, or get one from the airport. It’s important that you have a general idea of how big the place is or how far you are from the location you’re going to. Also, it will save you a lot of hassle and anxiety in case you missed your stop.

Get online access. Oh well, this may not apply to remote and far off holiday places that are totally off the grid. But who will go on those places in their first international trip? Just saying online access is important so you can check most things – maps, reviews, more information. This’ll definitely make your trip safer and more convenient.

Never assume. Be a smart and responsible traveler. Know about the place as much as you can. It’ll be the only way you can maximize the experience while you’re visiting. Just because the place has low crime rate, doesn’t mean there aren’t any bad people around. So be sure to keep yourself safe. Also, only eat at places you deem clean and credible. If possible, never eat something that’s not prepared in front of you.

Enjoy. Take in the scenery Reflect on the differences. Appreciate the local culture. Stop converting costs of every little thing in your head. Keep the judgments to yourself because as of the moment, they’ll only relevant to you. You may only be visiting once, so make each moment count. Make them memorable.

Of course, I never followed these tips to a T. I only realized them in hindsight. And it caused me a lot of stress. My tolerance for anything foreign is extremely low so you can just imagine what this trip did to me. I’m just so glad it turned out to be very wonderful and fulfilling.

WHY HONG KONG?

I read somewhere that this city is a good start for anyone who’s taking their first international trip. And they couldn’t be more correct.

First, Hong Kong prides itself as a modern city – lively commerce, towering skyscrapers, multilingual citizens, and efficient transportation systems. This means you’ll find bits and pieces of the country you came from and you’ll only have a bit of difficulty adjusting to the new environment.

Second, the cost is reasonable for everything – accommodation, food, fares, tours, shopping items. You’ll really get the value of the item you paid for, as long as you’re smart about it.

Lastly and most importantly, it provides the contrast, that difference you may be looking for when you think about exploring a foreign place with a culture other than your own. Hong Kong can give you a glimpse of everything – tradition vs progress, natural vs man-made, ambition vs humility. This city for a lack of better term, is a gateway to the rest of the world.

SO WHAT’S IN HONG KONG?

Ships, ports and container vans. You’ll be greeted by this sight the moment you land. Hong Kong is a natural port. And this exact feature is what makes it an ideal trading post, it’s the key to Hong Kong’s success.

High-rises, lots and lots of ‘em. Whether you’re staying in the city or in their “country” side, you’ll always see these concrete sentinels looking over the cityscape. And as believers of feng shui, the buildings are erected in the most auspicious place as possible. To attract good fortune, buildings must face south (towards the water), in front of the mountains.

Locals believe that water signifies money. Mountains are where the dragons sleep. So to face the source of wealth and be backed by a strong entity would mean very good fortune. That’s why buildings cluster at Victoria Harbor and Stanley Ho’s mansions sit atop the Kowloon Island.

Government Housing Units

Of course, not everybody in the city can afford to buy a place in such prime locations. Locals can never extend the land, so they have no choice but to build vertically. It’s true for the countryside as well. It’s pretty normal to see buildings with 50 floors. The guide says the usual housing floor area is about 32sqm, for a family with 5 members. The monthly rent on the average is HKD10,000 with government housing 30% less than that. Living cost in the city is pretty high, so some locals voluntarily quit their jobs to qualify for government housing. And then they will just switch jobs after that.

Fast-paced everything. At the bus, the guide told us Hong Kong is not the place you go to for relaxation. You got to be on the go every time. There’s so much to see and so much to do. Restaurants will serve your food in under 3 minutes. You can never be waiting for the train for 5 minutes. The queue at the theme parks is 30 minutes tops. Or maybe we visited on the weekday. But nevertheless, everything, everyone seems to be rushing on. It fills me with longing for time. The city is on the same timezone as my country, but it felt like the city’s clocks are made of something else, something that makes them tick faster.

Clean transports. I never saw anyone eat at trains or in the bus. Some people can drink in the ferry. But this strict rule really has a good effect. The train’s cleanliness is maintained. And you can never offend anyone with the smell of your food.

Affluent market. Resulting from the city being an important trading hub, locals can be very affluent and sport lavish lifestyle. International high end brands for anything have presence in Hong Kong, some of them even have multiple shops. Most people just commute but when you see someone using a personal vehicle, you can bet that it’s someone who’s rich.

City Streets
This one is taken along Hai Phong and Canton Rd. High end cars and clothes shop are pretty common sights.

Hong Kong does not levy import taxes. So you can definitely buy branded items at discounted price, whether they be clothes, bags, shoes or gadgets. Most people visit Hong Kong just to shop. And those who have long layovers take advantage of the time to go to the shopping districts.

Hard working people. Due to high living costs, it’s very easy to be homeless in cities like Hong Kong. I never saw such a hardworking bunch, even people 65 years old and above are working. Mostly I see them on stations and airports, helping/greeting visitors. I reckon it’ll be usual for people to hold down two jobs.

Most older people I see works like this. Minor roles, but necessary. I can’t believe how hardworking they are.

WHICH PLACES TO VISIT?

I went to Hong Kong for vacation, and I hoped it would be a relaxing one. That’s how my brain works around vacation – chill, relaxing time. So you can only imagine my disappointment when I heard what the tour guide said in the bus. But that didn’t mean I had a lousy time.

DISNEYLAND

It’s the happiest place on earth. Enough said.

No, really. We were just in time for the parade. And my heart keeps doing somersaults in the air the whole time. The music, the colors, the dance, everything… It was as if I was caught in this awesome feel-good movie that could never end. Of course it had to end. But it’s an experience of a lifetime.

VICTORIA HARBOUR

It’s exactly like the images you see when you type Hong Kong on google. Though the sky is overcast and there’s a bit of smog, everything looks pretty serene. The water and the air are as fresh as they can get. It’s a lovely January morning that day, and the sun nor the cold doesn’t hurt much. We walked along the Avenue of Stars, got to trace the hands of celebrities and got sold on overpriced photo of us in front of the harbor. Oh well.

JUMBO FLOATING PALACE AND ABERDEEN PORT

It’s old and it looks so dilapidated. Maybe because we’ve been during daytime. I reckon the night and lights will do wonder for the place. The guide said the food is expensive, though the taste may be lacking. Maybe it’s true.

Jumbo Floating Palace
Every other action-packed, Asian movie you’ve seen. Nah… But this is the largest floating restaurant in the world for real.

Also, we toured around the port for small fishing boats. The guide adds that there are people who live in their boats. But I hardly see any people, besides those busy with their nets. In times way back, some people who live in Aberdeen are called Egg Families. They only know fishing, and because it’s the only thing they can sell to have money, the families raise chickens for the eggs. And the eggs they offer to the government. It’s a fast fading lifestyle that could be gone for the next 20 years, the guide said. Due to higher literacy rates, people choose to live and work in the cities. And unless it’s a great family business, the fishermen would go, and leave this life behind.

Aberdeen Port
This is where Hong Kong began. This little fishing village dubbed as Aberdeen, found at the south of Hong Kong.

TIAN TAN BUDDHA AND PO LIN MONASTERY

I’m so glad we went to see the giant buddha. This is actually the most relaxing part of the trip. To get there, one can ride the cable car or take the bus. The cable car is much preferable. It gives you this amazing view of Lantau Island. We cross a bit of the sea, then over the mountains and finally the Buddha comes into view.

It’s a bit of climb to get to where the Buddha sits. I’m really glad we made the trip in January. I can only imagine how hot it could be during the summer months and you have to climb 268 steps. Some people make wishes as they climb, some offers their prayers in the monastery below.

There are 268 steps to reach Tian Tan Buddha. That’s quite a climb, but I think that’s perfect time for reflection and wishes.

I cannot describe in words how I feel about the journey to the Buddha. I’m a Christian, and I got so much respect for every people’s beliefs. When I was making that journey, I felt like a pilgrim onto a path of accomplishing a mission. From a far the Buddha looks so serene. It’s like a beacon, inviting me to come and rest my weariness. It’s not until I’m halfway up the stairs that I realized its eyes aren’t actually closed. They’re open and they seem to ask me, “What do you want? What do you want to say?” And I was humbled, to be in a presence of something figuratively and literally bigger than me. And though there were many people around, it feels that I’m there alone, with this being and the muses around.

As I make my way down, I couldn’t help but reflect on that encounter. Whether it’s real or imagined, I decided it’s one important moment in my life. And I went 712 miles just to experience it.

SIDE TRIP TO MACAU

Observation Deck Macau Tower
Everyday, do something that reminds you you’re still alive.

Oh wow, this one definitely turned the vacation into a mixed bag for me. I expected the trip to be a bit expensive, but I never expected to be lost in such a small city. Chinese people love gambling. There’re only the horse race track and football games in Hong Kong, so when locals want to gamble, they head to Macau.

Charms and Wishes
If we hang our wishes higher, would they be answered faster?These are charms found in the Observation Deck of Macau Tower. Each color signifies an aspect of life. Pink is for love, green is for health, etc.

The view in the Observation Deck is thrilling, hands down. I couldn’t even get to cross the floor so I can lean over the wall. I’m so afraid of heights. But to see such small clusters of islands, and be amazed of how extravagant and capricious people’s lifestyle can be, is pretty cool. We would’ve wanted to stay in the island a bit more, but we want to catch the last train in Hong Kong. So on our need to immediately go back, we missed our stop and never got to the ferry terminal before it’s almost too late.

TurboJet Ferry
Macau’s just over an hour away from Hong Kong on this ferry. Recently, a bridge between the two cities have been opened. I’ll never know how the two modes compare so don’t ask me.

I remember that I honestly wanted to cry when the city bus kept on coming down the streets that I absolutely didn’t know. There weren’t any English signs. It’s night time. And I was so hungry. But good thing my sister decided that we get off at the last stop. From there, we asked a police officer and they directed us to ride another bus going back to the city that would pass through the ferry terminal.  When we came home, I checked Google how deep into the city we’ve come. And I was really relieved to know that we were able to take that bus going back. We were so close to crossing the border to China. Yeah, we were spectacularly lost at that time.

Oh, all’s well that ends well.

PASALUBONG TIP

We were ripped off by the guide more than a couple of times. So please, be smart on your travels. If you want to go for best value, visit Best Mart 360. These are for chocolates and local treats. They have several stores throughout the islands. For souvenirs, you can go to the Ladies Market. Remember, it’s rude to haggle if you don’t have the intention to buy. And the vendors can really be scary. As for myself, I got some ceramics and bookmarks from a Ngong Ping souvenir store.

BestMart 360
Ladies Market must be good for quirky or novel souvenirs, but this store is perfect for local food takeaways.

My first international trip is really a mixed bag, but it made everything more memorable. I’ll make sure to be smarter in my next travels abroad. I look forward to them. I hope what I shared is helpful.

As always, thanks for dropping by!

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Review: Kafka on the Shore by Haruki Murakami

Kafka on the Shore Hoshino and the Cats

It’s been over five years that I’ve last read Kafka on the Shore by Haruki Murakami. I remember then tagging it as coming-of-age – about teenagers who’re lost, confused, angry and irrational.  Most of the time, these characters rely on their guts. They always believe the world is out to get them. More often than not, they meet characters who’ll help them shape who they’re going to be at the end of the story. Whether it will be for their better or worse, it’s up to them and the readers to decide.

Kafka on the Shore: The Second Time is the Charm

Kafka on the Shore -- The Boy Named Crow

This story is exciting, kind of like an adventure to the unknown. Both are true in varying degrees for Kafka and Nakata – the lead characters.

It’s a journey that starts from being lost, to finding a safe place and losing it again. The important thing is to keep going until your role is fulfilled.

Rereading the story reminded me of details that I’ve forgotten, meanings I’ve missed and lessons that are very nice to reflect on once again. I used to favor Kafka a lot before, but I’m torn between Oshima and Hoshino right now. These are two peripheral characters who’s influence and help are vital to the lead characters. I also like the contrast between Oshima’s self-acquired knowledge and Hoshino’s willful ignorance.  

I didn’t change my mind about this being a coming-of-age story though. But I deeply appreciate Nakata’s role on how the story unfolds. His charm and mystery made the diluted world in the story bearable.

Much importantly, the story’s underlying themes of emptiness, separation, and memories give a good kind of hurt that will make you want to revisit it time and again.

Haruki Murakami

Haruki Murakami is one of most brilliant contemporary writers that we have. Or I don’t know, some identify his works as post-modern. I love his fantastic style, but more importantly, I admire him for how he weaves his themes – powerful, seamless and the uncanny ability to catch you off guard. Like details on a cloth that you’ll only see upon closer inspection or when light hits it at a different angle.

Murakami’s imagined worlds are wonderful to visit sometimes, but a place where you don’t want to stay for long, because more often than not, they’re depressing and confusing.

What makes his stories unique is their knack in blending fantasy and pragmatism, the way he balances the make-believe and real-life worlds. The way he creates a character that speaks to cats but also cooks like any other person puts a vivid contrast in the imagination. I wouldn’t say he’s as great as Tolkien in terms of world-building skills, but I’ll take Murakami’s colors and nuances anytime.

I definitely agree with the author when he says that this story can have different meanings as there are different types of readers out there. Kafka on the Shore is not like some statement novel that opens your eyes to a radical idea, not something that will rally a group of people because they agree on the one, same thing even without further consultation. It has an inward take, a subjective take, a defining characteristic of Japanese literature like In a Grove, where truth or meaning is relevant.

I highly recommend that you read this wonderful story. It’s like an introduction to Murakami’s works. Check out Kafka on the Shore in Amazon.

Just Released

Or if you’ve been a long time fan, Murakami just released another book, Killing Commendatore. Quite sensational from what I’ve heard because of indecency. Oh well, I don’t know how indecent it is. Murakami seems to live for the details. It’s the same relish that he shows when writing about food or sex – basic, primal, and at times, mechanical.

As always, thanks for dropping by!


Featured Photo by Hannah Troupe

Inset by Saúl Venegas

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Top 100 Brands in the Philippines 2018

Top 100 Brands in the Philippines 2018

Campaign Asia- Pacific’s Top 1000 Brands has released the top 100 brands in the Philippines this 2018! In collaboration with Nielsen, this research claims to be the most comprehensive in terms of consumer brand perception. The study explores consumers’ attitudes in 14 specific market, with 400 respondents from Philippines. It includes 15 major brand categories and 81 sub-categories.The respondents were given these following questions:

Question 1:

“When you think of the following category, which is the best brand that comes to your mind? By best, we mean the one that you trust the most or the one that has the best reputation in this category.”

Question 2:

“Apart from the best brand that you entered, which brand do you consider to be the second best brand in the category?”

Top 100 Brands in the Philippines in 2018

Philippines Top 100 Brands 2018. Image from Campaign Asia Pacific Page. No copyright infringement intended.
Philippines Top 100 Brands in 2018. Image from Campaign Asia-Pacific Page. No copyright infringement intended.

The list is dominated by global Consumer Electronics and Household and Personal Care brands. I’m a little bit surprised that only one brand from the food category made it to the top 10. And with Nike as the top apparel brand to boot. Well, that furthers Filipinos shift to an active and hopefully, healthier lifestyle.

It’s just sad that local brands are way further down. We got BDO and BPI in the 17th and 18th place respectively. And from the Food Category, we got Magnolia at 24th and Lucky Me at the 29th place. Jollibee’s at 41st while it’s rival, foreign brand McDo’s at 55th place. There’s also a dedicated page about the strongest home-grown brands in the Philippines and there they cited Jollibee at the top. A bit confusing when you see the actual rank, to be honest.

Philippines’ page also contains information about demographics, spending behavior, average income disposal, FMCG growth, consumer confidence index, etc.

As per United Nations 2017 Population Prospects there’s about 105 million Filipinos, dominated by 0 -14 years of age which consists 32%. This is followed by Gen Y, or those that are 20 to 34 years old at 25%. It’s important to note though that in terms of direct buying power, you want to bet with Gen Y and Gen X markets (age range: 20 to 49 years old) as they consist 44.7% of the population combined. And this market is what would actually back the demand or the influence on consumption from the younger ones because of their purchasing power.

It’s really nice to know that behind Food and Education, Filipinos are now more into Savings and Investment. And contrary to what many of us believe, only 3.2% of the respondents spend on pleasure travel or vacation. This is much lower than the ones who enjoy dining out at 6%.

Reports are also in for Australia, China, Hong Kong, Japan, and Singapore. And we’re about to see the drill down on the following markets in the next few weeks: India, Indonesia, Korea, Malaysia, New Zealand, Taiwan, Thailand and Vietnam.

I strongly recommend you visit Campaign Asia-Pacific’s 1000 Top Brands because it would also allow you to compare brands per year and by APAC market or category. You can also pit brands against each other. It’s really a marketer’s and advertiser’s haven. Happy exploring!

P.S. Congratulations Samsung! And Apple, keep up! Though what I really want to say is, we Filipinos should love our own products more. It’ll be nice if the top 10 are all home-growns.

P.P.S. Of course, as in any other research, please take the result with a pinch of salt, because if there’s only 400 respondents from the Philippines and there’s already 105M of us, that means, the sample isn’t even 1% of the population, hardly a solid representation of the country.

As always, thanks for dropping by!


I used Canva to create the Featured Image

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What I Feel About Dying

When I think about dying, I’m always pulled back to that time when I was in a hospital waiting for my Uncle’s dialysis session to finish.

I was seated on a cold, battered hospital bench. And as it was a public hospital, I remember the lights are so much dimmer than it should be. Huddled around me were exhausted people, waiting on their relatives to get better. We only got the humid air going around, so many of them were holding fans or anything that may resemble it. Some of them laid slumped on the floor, trying to get a bit of sleep.

I remembered being so tired that day. Going around from the laboratories to seeking additional financial help from the hospital’s social welfare section. All I really wanted to do that moment was go home, wash all the dirt away and sleep like the dead.

And just as that thought popped, I saw this gurney pushed by two people. When they pass, I saw that on the gurney was a tiny body fully covered with white cloth. They’re going to the elevators. Straight to the hospital’s morgue.

Up until that time, I was convinced that I’m not afraid of dying. Death, after all is natural. As all people are born, all of them must die. But at that moment, I felt anger. And shame. Then guilt. And finally, I became afraid.

Dying made me feel anger

I was angry because it’s not fair.

That was a child. A dead child that cannot be older than ten years old. I looked back from when I was ten and that’s when I started to appreciate a lot of things – family, friends, school, teacher, even learning because finally, division’s making sense.

I was also ten when I realized that going over the school’s fence to cut class just so you can watch a betamax movie in your classmate’s house was pretty awesome. What I marked as an exciting start of my life was an end to that child on the gurney. It was so unfair.

What I Think About Dying

I felt like a good farmer put a sapling in well-lit place. Watered it good. And waited for the perfect moment when the leaves are fresh and tender just so he can smash it with his foot. That’s how senseless it is. Or like how I wasn’t able to get that division is multiple subtraction, just like what my Maths teacher said when I was ten.

If this world is what Darwin made it up to be, are the whiners the stronger ones? Because most people get to do that while others are dying. It’s unfair how people complain about living while others didn’t even have the chance to live. Or kept fighting for it but didn’t win, didn’t survive.

Dying made me feel ashamed and guilty

Shame swiftly came after. How dare I complain that I’m still able to do all these? What am I doing wasting this life for something so trivial as whining. I can always get some rest and then have a go on the next thing that I’d like to do because I’m alive. But that kid right there on the gurney? Not anymore.

I can’t help but think, did the kid knows he’s about to die? Was he able to do all that he can do with the time he’s left with? It also made me ask myself, “Am I doing anything worthy with my life?” Because I know I’m guilty of wasting so much time.

In that moment, in that place, people are fighting to live. They’re undergoing daunting treatments. They’re taking their chance at life. And there I was, a pathetic, ingrateful vermin, wanting to sleep off my mine.

Dying made me fear mortality and embrace life

And then I feared mortality. I know everything will end, but how? When? I was seized by this strong yearning to live. To get on whatever I was putting off. I thought about all the things that I’d like to do, all the places I’d like to see, all the people that I long to meet… All these things that life can still offer and that I can still grab on to – I want to reach out to them, I want to live my life in full.

In my mind, I thought, I know how valuable life is. But it’s only then have I learned how to cherish it. That instance when the gurney passed shocked me, scarred me for the rest of my life. But it humbled me as well. It’s a valuable lesson that I learned that night. And maybe by writing this, I just want to pass it on.

As always thanks for dropping by!


Featured Image by Aron

Inset Photo by Gabby Orcutt

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Successfully Adulting or Not

Adulting v. to do the things an adult is expected to do. This includes holding a job, taking care of the bills, maybe starting a family, going for your dreams, etc. It used to be called growing up. But really, it’s all about getting your life together. 

If you’re anything like me, you’ll soon find that it’s not the easiest thing to do. So often have I wished for a ‘Skip Adulting for Today’ button. If I have one though, I doubt it’s still working because I may have broken it by now.

What Helps Me Through Adulting

So much has been said about adulting. But I still find myself looking for an adultier adult, because it can get seriously frustrating sometimes. The following may sound preachy, but what isn’t? So far, they’re pulling me through:

Patience

Man, do I need to be reminded of this time and again. I used to be a firm believer that now is as good as any time. But I learned that knowing the “right time” is also a form of intelligence.

If you’ll be able to wait willingly and hold out with a good attitude, the outcome may surprise you. This doesn’t just apply to timing. It’s also about interacting with people. Like, how you learn to respond with grace even though you’re this close to hitting, punching or stabbing someone.

Or when you’re so excited to get approval from the boss, but the boss isn’t in the best mood to listen. It can also be about enduring the leg work now for all the wisdom and experiences that it will give you further down your career. Patience, my dear, is inevitably tied to delayed gratification. And in most times, you’ll realize that the end gratifies greatly, indeed.

Discipline

Or doing the right thing, at the right way, all the time. It’s about doing the thing that needs to be done, even if you don’t want to do it. Going to work on Mondays is a perfect example.

In some cultures, discipline means creating an order within you. It helps you put first things first and avoid making excuses. That’s why to me, discipline means honoring your commitments, your deadlines, your promises. It’s the ultimate test on following-through.

Determination

The kind that answers the questions: How badly do you want something? How much are you willing to pay (sacrifice) for it? These questions also test the quality of your decision-making. How firm you are in your decision affects how determined you are to accomplish it. I’m far from mastering this determination thing. Because I usually change my mind about everything. As we all know, motivation doesn’t last. But determination helps you persists.

Gratitude

…for everything because being alive is enough reason to feel blessed. There are bad circumstances, sure. But these downsides help us appreciate this one life that we’re given. Failure teaches you lessons. Success teaches you humility. ‘You live, you learn’ as the song goes.

 

Final Thought:

Nobody can escape this period and it will make up most of our lives. Granted, adulting can really be scary and tough, but hey, I’m with you, we’re still here. We’re going to be okay. Afterall, all of us is still a work in progress.

As always, thanks for dropping by!

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Ukiyo-e and Woodblock Printing: Japanese Magnificent Works of Art

Woodblock printing is one of the oldest publishing techniques. It came to Japan in the 8th century, used primarily in producing existing Buddhist texts and books of Chinese origins. But it’s not until the Late Edo period (17th to 19th century) that woodblock printing achieved the height of its potential as an art technique through the original works of Japanese artists called ukiyo-e.

UKIYO-E PRODUCTION

It used to be that ukiyo-e is produced through a complex collaboration between the publisher, artist, engraver and printer. So it’s the norm for artists to work in a studio during those days. But as time progressed, there are those who chose to create their work from start to finish. This video is an interview with Takuji Hamanaka, showing the traditional technique for woodblock printing:

 

UKIYO-E: THEMES AND CHARACTERISTICS

Ukiyo-e literally means ‘pictures of the floating world’. Originally, ukiyo was a Buddhist term to express the impermanence of human life. However during the Edo period, it became synonymous to hedonistic pleasures of people who embraced them all the more for their ever changing nature. Also, people at this time enjoyed peace. People were able to read and enjoy leisure time. Ukiyo-e became the most sought-after art form among the commoners and became the most affordable, fastest medium of spreading fashion trends and information.

Ukiyo-e focused on the ordinary things in life. Images usually depict colored narratives and include animals, birds, landscapes and people from lower classes, like courtesans, sumo wrestlers or Kabuki actors. Generally, the artists use exaggerated foreshortening, asymmetry of design, imaginative cropping of figures and areas of flat (unshaded) color. 

What follows are some works found at Ukiyo-e.org .It’s a database of over 200,000 prints, grouped according to artists and the time period they were made. It compiled works from the Early Mid-1700’s to the present time.

UKIYO-E ARTISTS

KITAGAWA UTAMARO (1753- 1806)

He is best known for his idealized portrayal of women in his works. It’s said that no one before him has ever captured a woman’s beauty as deeply as he did. According to Dieter Wanczura, he had experimented with some new techniques to display the flesh tones of his woman portraits in a different and softer manner.

Woodblock Printing and Ukiyo-e themindcatalog.com
Hitomoto of the Monji-ro, 1799
Vertical ôban; 38.4 x 25.1 cm (15 1/8 x 9 7/8 in.)
Woodblock print (nishiki-e); ink and color on paper
Source: Museum of Fine Arts Boston

 

Woodblock Printing and Ukiyo-e themindcatalog.com
Travellers on the Road at Miho no Matsubara, 1787-88
Vertical ôban diptych; 38 x 51 cm (14 15/16 x 20 1/16 in.)
Woodblock print (nishiki-e); ink and color on paper
Source: Museum of Fine Arts Boston

 

Woodblock Printing and Ukiyo-e themindcatalog.com
The Full Moon at the Time of the Imo Harvest, 8th month of 1789
9 1/4 x 14 3/4 in. (23.5 x 37.5 cm)
Polychrome woodblock print; ink and color on paper
Source: Metropolitan Museum of Art

 

KITAO MASAYOSHI (1764 – 1824)

Ukiyo-e and Woodblock Pringing themindcatalog.com
The Sixth Month (Rokugatsu), from the series Women’s Customs: Flower Viewing Parties, 1790
Vertical chûban; 25.7 x 19 cm (10 1/8 x 7 1/2 in.)
Woodblock print (nishiki-e); ink and color on paper
Source: Museum of Fine Arts Boston

 

No.4, Pulling Rice Seedlings from the Seedling Bed from the Series Women Farming
Vertical chûban; 22.4 x 16 cm (8 13/16 x 6 5/16 in.)
Woodblock print (nishiki-e); ink and color on paper
Source: Museum of Fine Arts Boston

UTAGAWA HIROSHIGE (1797 – 1858)

He’s dubbed as “the artist of rain, snow and mist”. His most popular series is the Fifty Three Stations of the Tokaido, which catapulted him to contemporary success.

Birds and Irises in Rain
Originally in Edo period. This one was recarved edition made in c.1930s.
Source: Ukiyo-e.org and Artelino Japanese Prints

 

Nihonbashi: Daimyo Procession Setting Out, Fifty Three Stations of the Tokaido Road, also known as the First Tokaido or Great Tokaido, 1833 – 34
Horizontal ôban; 22.9 x 35.3 cm (9 x 13 7/8 in.)
Woodblock print (nishiki-e); ink and color on paper
Source: Museum of Fine Arts Boston

 

Boshu Yasuda no Kaigan/ Fuji Sanjurokkei, 1858
Rural landscape. Fuji from Yasuda Beach in Awa province
Woodblock print; Nishiki-e on paper
Source: British Museum

 

Hakone; Kosui ca 1833 -34
Source: Ukiyo-e.org and Japanese website
KEISAI EISEN (1790 – 1848)

He’s notable for his works that feature bijin (beautiful women).

Woman Opening an Umbrella, Edo Period
Vertical ôban, upright diptych; 71.4 x 23.8 cm (28 1/8 x 9 3/8 in.)
Woodblock print (nishiki-e)
Ink and color on paper
Source: Museum of Fine Arts Boston

 

Autumn Moon At Mount Atago, from the series of Eight Views of Edo, 1843 – 47
Horizontal ôban; 24 x 35.9 cm (9 7/16 x 14 1/8 in.)
Woodblock print (nishiki-e); ink and color on paper
Source: Museum of Fine Arts Boston

 

Toda River Crossing, 1835 – 1838
Horizontal ôban; 23.6 x 36.3 cm (9 5/16 x 14 5/16 in.)
Woodblock print (nishiki-e); ink and color on paper
Source: Museum of Fine Arts Boston

KATSUSHIKA HOKUSAI (1760 – 1849)

He’s the greatest master of Japanese landscape woodblock prints. His best work is the series, 36 Views of Mount Fuji.

Self Portrait as a Fisherman, 1835
21.3 x 18.43 cm
Color woodblock print with metallic pigments
Source: Art Institute of Chicago

Among his works, this my favorite. There is that serene contentment on the face of the subject though we know there is much to be desired from being a lowly fisherman. And this mood seemed to be reinforced by the gentle flow of the water in the background.

Fuji from Kanaya on the Tokaido, 1830 – 1832
25 x 37.1 cm (image); 26.3 x 38 cm (sheet)
Color Woodcut Reproduction
Source: Legion of Honor, Fine Arts Museum of San Francisco

 

Umezawa Manor in Sagami Province 1830 – 31
Horizontal ôban; 25.2 x 37.7 cm (9 15/16 x 14 13/16 in.)
Woodblock print (nishiki-e); ink and color on paper
Source: Museum of Fine Arts Boston

 

Kajikazawa in Kai Province (Kôshû Kajikazawa), 1830 – 31
Horizontal ôban; 26 x 38.5 cm (10 1/4 x 15 3/16 in.)
Woodblock print (nishiki-e); ink and color on paper
Source: Museum of Fine Arts Boston

And of course, his work that made him immortal:

Under the Wave Off Kanagawa, 1830 – 32
Color woodblock print; oban
25.4 x 37.6 cm (10 x 14 3/4 in.)
Source: Art Institute of Chicago

WORKS OF CONTEMPORARY UKIYO-E ARTISTS

Here we can see how the technology has progressed and how Western artistic styles influenced the modern woodblock prints.

Yoshimoto Masao
Fuji From Lake Ashi, c 1952
Woodblock
Source: Japanese Artist Open Database
Morozumi Osamu b. 1948
Rice Field in Hakuba Village – Japan, 1995
Source: Ukiyo-e.org and Artelino

 

Paul Binnie
A Great Mirror of the Actors of the Heisei Period: Bando Tamasaburo as the Heron Maiden
oban tate-e 16 7/8 by 12 1/4 in., 43 by 31 cm
Source: Scholten

 

Two Cats
Inagaki Tomoo (1902 – 1980)
6” x 4”, Woodblock
Source: Japan Art Online Database

 

Crouching Woman, 20th Century
44.5 x 35.7 cm, Color Woodcut
Source: Legion of Honor, Fine Arts Museum of San Francisco

I hope you find this collection interesting. Complement this article with Japanese byobu art we featured previously. May this deepen your appreciation of Asian art.

As always, thanks so much for dropping by!


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All the Bright Places: Thoughts and Reviews

All the Bright Places

It’s been awhile since I picked up a young adult work of fiction. I was expecting Jennifer Niven’s All the Bright Places to move along the same cheesy story lines. The ones that follows the plot of boy meets girl, boy loses girl, but boy still wins girl at the end.

But no.

It seems nobody wins at the end of this story. And sadly, it may be happening to someone you know right now.

I never expected the book to be about suicide – a topic that has become so prevalent this past years.

Growing up, I know the issue is real. As real as bullying or domestic violence or cancer. I think every one of us has some level of experience with the topics I mentioned. It may only be the names, places or situations that may be different.

The book is a bit too cruel. Imagine having to deal with deaths that took place within roughly a year of each other? How can you even begin to find the sense in learning to lean onto someone and then having that someone taken away forever?

But as painful as the story is, it also teaches you to hope, to reach out and to move on.

All the Bright Places to Hope For

Going someplace new and different doesn’t just change what’s outside. More importantly, it moves something within us. It allows our minds to open up to new perspectives, to increase our appreciation of what we have and long for the possibilities in the future. It develops our depth as a person and the relationship we have with the person whom we experience them with.

Just like how Violet’s and Finch’s project of wandering over Indiana allowed them to explore themselves, too.

All the Bright Places to Reach Out To

As with Dr. Seuss’ poems, we can’t always expect to win every time. There would be moments when we’ll fall and fail. When this happens, it’s so easy to fall in the trap of negative thinking, to feel like you’re lost and worthless. What the book never failed to show is that there are always, always people and groups who are ready to help you out. It may not be something you will immediately like. But know and remember that you’re not alone.

Sometimes, it can be disappointing that the people you expect help from are the same people turning you away. They may be in denial (like Finch’s family) or they may just be ignorant (like Roamer and his friends). But knowing this doesn’t make the pain any less or the confusion any clearer. I think the key is to never stop trying to reach out to anyone who you think may help you. There would always be other friends, other responsible adults, experts and organizations who’d be willing to hear you out.

There are several organizations that Niven listed in her book. Locally, here are some useful links and hotlines you may check out: Manila Lifeline Center  and  HOPELINE.

All the Bright Places to Move On To

Niven’s characters are about to graduate high school. Most of them have already submitted applications to different Universities in and out of Indiana. I like how Violet decided to finish the project she started with Finch. She may just be hoping for closure but I knew she was able to find more than that – peace and strength to move on. After all, she still has her own mountain to climb.

What I most like about the book is how Violet’s family is always ready to listen and at the end, all the tragedies have made them better and stronger.

Dealing with Death

Of course you never just get over with a loved one’s death. You just get used to it. And in between life and remembrance, we may find solace on the thoughts and memories they have shared with us. All those times we may never take back but may just give us the push to move on-wards with life.

You can get your own copy of Jennifer Niven’s All the Bright Places at National Bookstore or through Amazon.com.

Add to that Dr. Seuss’ Oh, the Places You’ll Go!

As always, thanks for dropping by!


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BATANGAS: YOUR GO-TO PLACE FOR QUICK GETAWAYS

WHY BATANGAS?

Batangas is our family’s go-to place for a quick weekend getaway ever since I can remember. My childhood memories are filled with blue skies and wide horizons, fresh, gusty wind and country rides. Batangas would always be a special place to me because of this and more.

There are a number of attractions on this place, most are family friendly but some can be exciting enough for a weekend getaway with friends or co-workers.

I like Batangas because it’s just two hours away from Manila. You can either take  Star Tollway or the Tagaytay route, either of which will give you a pleasant country ride. And there are so many types of public transportation and routes you can choose from so you’ll definitely find one that suits you best.

Also, Batangas is not so rural anymore so everything else is fairly convenient. Lodging and accommodations are decent enough. Not to mention the restaurants you can stop over along the way. They make the best lomi in this part of the country, by the way.

Here are the places that we’ve visited the past years. Hope you can also drop by these amazing places with your family:

LA VIRGINIA RESORT

La Virginia is an 8-ha property full of  pools and various structured attractions, all overlooking Taal Volcano. It’s a little bit difficult to get to, considering how many transfers you need to take when you’re commuting. Renting a vehicle would be a very good idea when going to this place. Its popular among the locals so asking for directions should be no problem.

The resort has several sections, each with a unique theme. The one where we stayed in is called Casas de las Flores which features flowers. We stayed at the Orchid, which can house up to 15 to 20 pax. It is also airconditioned and got at least 3 comfort rooms. There are TV, ref and griller. There’s also the Karaoke machine which you can use for an additional fee of P1,000.00.

La Virginia, Bronze Buddha Statue
The serenity of this giant bronze Buddha statue is further emphasize by the lush, green scenery from behind.
La Virginia, Pools and Cottages
The pool over at Casas delas Flores. This place must be so magical for children.
La Virginia, Concrete Hanging Bridge
Though most structures are made of concrete, the resort more than makes it up for the details and paints they put on each of the installation, like this hanging bridge right here.

One other section features a huge Buddha statue, with the green, lush woods as its background.  Then there’s a castle and Marvel superheroes. If you’re for something homegrown, there are accommodations designed after Ifugao houses.

La Virginia also has a hotel, an infinity pool and this concrete hanging bridge (if it’s your thing).

It’s a nice place to explore with the family, but be prepared with the steep slopes. They might really get your joints aching after a while.

But with a view this breathtaking, your trip would definitely be worth it.

View from La Virginia Resort, Batangas
Heart-stopping view of Taal. Isn’t it so perfect?

TALI BEACH

How about a staycation on one of ‘em huge townhouses? If you’re prepared to go the miles and hike up those steep slopes and trek down the beach front, then maybe a trip to Tali Beach may be good for you.

The townhouse we rented costs around P40,000.00 but we’re like 50pax. It comes with everything – rooms, kitchen, spacious lawn, and a pool. So you can host a mini party with the family and arrange an island hopping tour the next morning.

 

Tali Beach Subdivision Townhouse
Well, we got to own the place for a day. That’s my sister at the steps. I can’t remember whose house this is, though. But thanks for the experience.
Tali Beach Subdivision
The place is really well-kept and strolling along this type of street can really be a joy.
Tali beachfront.
Tali beachfront.
Tali Beach Resort
Most men from the family tried to jump from this place. But the waters full of tagulabay.

MUNTING BUHANGIN

So we we’re on the lookout for a white sand beach nearby and this is the place we found. And since it’s also in that part of Batangas where roads just have to be so steep and winding, it would really take a skilled driver to get to and from the place. But of course, it’s Batangas – it can never disappoint. Just make sure that you’re up for a bit of a hike.

Accommodation is really good at this place and there are lots of activities you can engage in. The beach looks so nice and peaceful, too. Great place for little children to wade in.

 

Munting Buhangin Beach Camp, Island Hopping
My sisters having their “One Piece” moment at one of the islands we went to during our visit at Munting Buhangin.
Batangas waters, Munting Buhangin Beach Camp
This is what I love about Batangas waters in fair weather – smooth, calm and crystal.
Island Tour, Munting Buhangin Beach Camp
It’s a family day!

MATABUNGKAY

This place is where everything started. It’s like our very own family pilgrimage – driving back to Matabungkay every two years, spending time, sharing moments and reminiscing with the homies. I can’t remember any other place the whole, as in the whole, family go to whenever we want to hold an impromptu reunion.

My childhood vacations were spent on a balsa in the middle of the sea, eating salted eggs with tomatoes, playing with cousins or just staring out at the blue clear waters. I’m lucky if a little crab would pass by.

Matabungkay Beach
Matabungkay Beach
Sunset, Matabungkay Beach
Sunset, Matabungkay Beach

We just used to go for a day tour but when the family got bigger, everyone just wanted to stay a little longer, as if more time spent on this place would bring back some of those moments from long ago.  

I like the coast here and the mornings especially. You can see something like an atoll when the tide is low. My cousins and I would go the farthest point we can. Sometimes we come home with loads of pebbles and shells. Most little ones would bring with them fish and other slimy things they found on the shore.

So not only the places but the memories that were created on those places made Batangas one fine place for me. It would always be my go-to place for a quick weekend getaway!

As always, thanks for dropping by!


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Positive Affirmation and the Power of Words

Positive Affirmation

If you’re a fan of self-help books and personal development, you may be familiar with positive affirmation.

Positive affirmation is a statement that confirms something to be true. Repeating a positive word or phrase is a proven psychological self-help process especially for changing, adding or removing specific behaviors and habits¹. Jack Canfield, a success coach,  even outlined nine (9) guidelines on how to create effective affirmations on his book, The Success Principles: How to Get from Where You Are to Where You Want to Be. Other experts, like motivational author ²Louise Hay, actually has an audio-book that features positive affirmations.

BENEFITS OF POSITIVE AFFIRMATION

Various experts and studies support the effectiveness of adapting this concept in our daily lives. One website ³ cites the following benefits of positive affirmation:

  1. Strengthens muscles.  
  2. Increase physical and emotional energy levels.
  3. Brings to life a person’s capabilities, strengths, talents and skills.
  4. Penetrates a person’s subconscious, thus affecting one’s actions, behaviors and attitude.

A simple search of this term on the internet would give you hundreds and hundreds of stories of people who show affirmations really work. Of course, take everything with a pinch of salt. Positive affirmation should not be the be-all-and-end-all of your self-improvement journey. This should just form part of your action plan to achieving your goal of personal growth and success.

PERSONAL AFFIRMATIONS

I really believe that words have power on their own. This is why we should be very careful on what we say to ourselves and to others. Words, when said often enough, inspires belief which then may turn into action and reality.

The following are some of my personal affirmations. You may also create affirmations that are specific to your job or relationships. Hope you may find these useful:

Positive Affirmation

As always, thanks for dropping by!


Useful Links:

¹Definition

²Louise Hay’s  Free Audio Book

³Benefits of the Concept

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The Magic and Nostalgia that Are the Vinyl Records

I’ve never listened to a vinyl before. It’s only in old movies or retro-themed films that I get to listen to one. And even then, the audio would sound so smooth and flawless. I never knew how different the music sounds like coming from these records.

I discovered vinyl records aren’t perfect. Often there’d be that static noise in the background. You can even hear them crackle sometimes. They’re the audio equivalent of those silver screen movies – filled with vertical lines at one time or bursting with bright lights the next. They can be distracting but I guess, it’s part of their appeal.

It’s a totally new experience, something that definitely increased my appreciation for this particular medium. It’s not just the kind of music that’s on record, but the quality on which they were produced. Of course, they’re nothing like the audio we have now.

But at some point, the records made me long for a time I never knew. It’s poignant and mysterious and “old”. Old in a very, very good way – just like how memories of summer afternoons in childhood bring nostalgia or how Sunday morning rain can sometimes bring comfort and melancholy.

The Great 78 Project

A simple search on YouTube can give you a taste of vinyl experience. But the effort of Internet Archive with their Great 78 Project would surely cater to your curiosity. They’ve uploaded over 25,000 78s of wide genre. Most date back to 1939. It’s the aim of the project to preserve the cultural value of these records. They were digitized mainly for preservation, research and discovery.

I specially liked the following from the collections:

Somewhere Over the Rainbow:

La Vie En Rose:

Spellbound:

As always, thanks for dropping by!


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