Friday, May 4, 2018

The Angono Petroglyphs- Philippines Oldest Work of Art

This is where one can see the oldest work of art in the Philippines done 3000 years ago using stone tools. 

I visited this site on May 1, 2018 and what normally is a 2 to 3 hour ride from Manila to Angono-Binangonan in Rizal Province took me less than an hour, being a Labor Day holiday.  The Waze app I used was very accurate and I suggest using this because only 5% of the locals have knowledge of this place.  Ninety five percent of the visitors are out-of-townees. 

The site is on an elevated area, hilly, and located inside a subdivision which is privately owned.  There are no public transportation inside so one has to walk a few minutes from the entrance to the site.  If you have a private car, there is a parking area beside the tunnel entrance to the petroglyph. 

Its a 5-10 minute walk from the man-made tunnel entrance which was a little dark but cool.  There is a mini museum which use to house the artifacts like flake stone tools and obsidian flakes, but has been transferred to the National Museum in Manila.  There are 127 figures consisting of stylized human figures and several animals like lizards and turtles.  

Since President Rodrigo Duterte became president, he abolished the entrance fee, so everybody can enter free of charge. The site is well maintained with guards 24/7.  My only suggestion is that the actual petroglyph should be covered or housed because weather elements will surely erase it after 100 years.

One can tour the whole site in an hour. This explains why Angono is the Art Capital of the Philippines producing geniuses like Lucio San Pedro and Botong Francisco.  Their ancestors have been doing art since 3000 years ago.  The site is also on the tentative list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites and I hope this will be accepted by Unesco in the near future.

Old Bridge Area of the Old City of Mostar

Our passports were checked as we left Dubrovnik and entered Bosnia-Herzogovina.  Asians these days are a welcomed travelers and passing through the checkpoints was a breeze.  It was a rainy day but our hearts were not dampened by the weather and we ventured into the Old city with our young guide who started the tour in the old Town.  We saw some remnants of the ravages of war like large holes through buildings and destroyed mosques but the town was completely rebuilt out of the original materials.  Even the cobblestone streets were patterned from its prewar appearance.

An interesting place we visited was a mosque where traditionally one is allowed to wear shoes inside.  This is the only mosque in the whole world where this was once done.  It was a tanners mosque and being smelly and dirty, they were allowed to wash their bodies inside the prayer area where there was once a free running stream.  Unfortunately after the post war rehabilitation, the stream was gone.  

The Old bridge area was teeming with people and was daunting to traverse in the rain, where one could easily slip.  This was also completely destroyed during the Bosnian war and with the help of the United Nations and donor countries was rebuilt using original materials.  This was a symbolic bridge among the Bosnian people, a centerpiece of peace.

We were able to buy Bosnian costumes for our kids and I got an authentic Ottoman coffee grinder aside from the usual magnet souvenirs and replica of the bridge.

Monday, July 31, 2017

The Historical Village of Hokkaido

The Historical Village of Hokkaido covers an area of some 54 hectares and is located in the Nopporo Forest Park in the suburbs of Sapporo City. This outdoor museum was opened to the public on April 16, 1983, to preserve the olden day structures and to show what the pioneer's life was like in Hokkaido.

About 60 typical structures of the Meiji and Taisho era (Mid 19th to early 20th century) are restored in a site which is divided into Town, Fishing Village, Farm Village and Mountain Village sectors.  Due to time constraints, we were only able to visit the Town sector of this massive area.  Each structure is reproduced authentically with displays inside.  

Horse drawn trolleys in the summer and sleighs in the winter provide transportation for visitors along the main street, which is lined with old wooden and wooden buildings.   I had the privilege to visit a doctor's clinic, a barber shop, police station, brewery, newspaper, and photography studio building to name a few.  Throughout the year, there are many delightful entertainments for the visitor.  

Museum hours are from 9 am to 4:30 pm on Tuesday to Sunday.  The ticket office closes at 4 pm. Ticket prices range from 500 to 800 yen.

Monday, June 26, 2017

Dominican Republic 2016 National Anthem 50th Anniversary

On 7 June 1897, the Congress of the Dominican Republin passed an act adopting "Himno Nacional" with the original music and revised lyrics as the country's official national anthem; however, then President Ulises Heureaux (1846-1899) vetoed the act because the lyric's author, Prud’Homme, was an opponent of the president and his administration. In 1899, Heureaux was assassinated, and the political disorder that ensued prevented the national anthem's legal adoption until 30 May 1934 when "Himno Nacional" was officially adopted and signed into law.

The Spanish name of the Dominican Republic, "Rep├║blica Dominicana", is never used in the anthem's official Spanish lyrics nor is the denonym for Dominicans, "dominicanos". Rather, the indigenous word for the island Hispaniola, "Quisqueya", is used twice and its derivative denonym, "quisqueyanos", is used once. However, research later shows that these words does not seem to derive from the original Arawak language.

 Dominican Republic 2016 National Anthem 50th Anniversary - Mint Never Hinged (MNH)Imperforate Sheetlet with 1 value (1v Imperf M/S): $50

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Yangdong Folk Village-UNESCO World Heritage Site #117

After a breezing 30 minute ride from the Geongju city center, we arrived at the Yangdong Folk Village (Yangdong Village of Gyeongju), a traditional village from the Joseon Dynasty.  It is located in Gangdong-myeon, sixteen kilometers northeast of Gyeongju, South Korea, along the Hyeongsan River. Mt. Seolchang stands to the north of the village. 

The village is designated as Important Folklore Materials No. 189 by the South Korean government.

The size, degree of preservation, numerous cultural assets, traditionalism, beautiful natural setting all contribute to the importance of Yangdong Village. It is also a fine example of the  yangban (Korean aristocracy) lifestyle and Neo-Confucian traditions. The village is listed by the South Korean government with UNESCO as world heritage site with Hahoe folk village in 2010.

Saturday, February 25, 2017

Beautiful Geongju- Cheomseongdae Observatory

This observatory was built during the reign of the Silla Queen Seondeok (632-647 AD).  This is the oldest astronomical observatory in East Asia which consists of 26 steps of 30cm high stones placed above double stylobates.  Its exact dimensions are 5.17 meters in diameter and 9 meters in height and is made of granite stones witha stoen base measuring 5.35 meters.
At the top, the square stones are arranged in the shape of the Chinese letter for "well".  Every part of the building from its structure and composition of each stone contains symbolical meaning.   It is filled with various scientific yet mysterious points, such as the fact that the stones that make up the letter for well at the top of the observatory are exactly the length of the stylobate.

Beautiful Geongju- Wolji Pond

In the year 679 AD, during the 19th year of King Munmu's rule, Donggung Palace was built  as a venue for state festivals, banquets and as a prince's palace.

According to to History of the Three Kingdoms (Samguksi), that inside the Palace, a pond was dug, artificial hills were created, flowers were planted, and strange animals were brought in and raised.  The pond also served as a place to entertain valuable guests and hold banquets for the king and his subjects.  The artificial pond with an area of around 190 meters in all four directions was also called the Anapji during at the Joseon dynasty.

Wolji Pond was uncovered during the excavation and dredging work conducted in 1975.  The date inscribed on the roof and tiles decorated with stylized floral medallion (posanghwa),  confirmed that the original dates of construction were accurate.  During the Joseon Dynasty, the pond was neglected and became a straying place for wild ducks and geese hence became Anapji (wild goose and duck pond).

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

The Cape Floral Region

The Cape Floral Region, one of South Africa's eight World Heritage sites, comprises eight protected areas stretching from the Cape Peninsula to the Eastern Cape, cutting across spectacular mountain and ocean scenery and containing some of the richest plant biodiversity in the world. 

The region was the sixth South African site to be inscribed on the World Heritage List of UNESCO. Unesco's World Heritage Committee declared the 553 000-hectare Cape Floral Region to be of "outstanding universal significance to humanity", describing it as "one of the richest areas for plants in the world". 
The Cape Floral Region "represents less than 0.5% of the area of Africa, but is home to nearly 20% of the continent's flora," Unesco said. "Its plant species diversity, density and endemism are among the highest worldwide, and it has been identified as one of the world's 18 biodiversity hot-spots. "The site displays outstanding ecological and biological processes associated with the Fynbos vegetation, which is unique to the Cape Floral Region. "Unique plant reproductive strategies, adaptive to fire, patterns of seed dispersal by insects, as well as patterns of endemism and adaptive radiation found in the flora, are of outstanding value to science."

Saturday, September 3, 2016

Zimbabwe, the Beautiful

After an hours flight from Johannesburg, we landed in Victoria, Zimbabwe.  The falls was originally name Mosi-oa Tunya but was renamed to Victoria in honor of the British Queen when Scottish Dr. David Livingstone discovered the place.  He was much revered here that even when Zimbabwe regained Independence  almost all traces of British influence were deleted save this place name.

We were lucky to see the double rainbow and enjoy the sporadic spray of heavy mist with the sun shining ever so brightly.  This was moderate rain season so the falls were said to be in their not-so-strong flow. Had we visited during the heavy months, it would have been difficult to appreciate the vista this magnificent place offers.

The Zambesi river cruise the day before the falls was exciting.  It was the first time we saw real river creatures unlike the river safaris we experienced before.  A family of pearly white tusked elephants with their babies on the Zambian side of the river was a sight to behold.  The crocodiles and hippos surrounding our boat added to the excitement.  The setting sun on one side and the rising moon on the other was such a beautiful scene!

Zimbabwe is rich, beautiful and friendly. We fervently hope the people will overcome the vicious cycle of poverty.

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Independence Hall

The Declaration of Independence was adopted and the Constitution of the United States of America framed in this fine early 18th-century building in Philadelphia. These events, which took place respectively in 1776 and 1787, were conceived in a national context, but the universal principles of freedom and democracy set forth in these two documents have had a profound impact on lawmakers and political thinkers around the world. They became the models for similar charters of other nations, and may be considered to have heralded the modern era of government. 

Independence Hall was designed by attorney Andrew Hamilton in collaboration with master builder Edmund Woolley to house the Assembly of the Commonwealth (colony) of Pennsylvania. Begun in 1732 and finished in 1753, it is a dignified brick structure with a wooden steeple that once held the Liberty Bell. 

The building has undergone many restorations, notably by architect John Haviland in the 1830s and under the direction of the National Park Service beginning in the 1950s, returning it to its appearance during the years when the new country’s Declaration of Independence and Constitution were debated and signed. In the Assembly Room, the momentous events that occurred there are explained and their international impact as well as the spread of democracy are discussed.

Awesome Jeju Island

Rising 1,950 meters above sea level, Halla-san is the central volcanic mountain peak of Jeju Island. About 360 parasitic volcanoes surround Halla-san's base, the largest number of such volcanoes that has been found around any single mountain peak. Halla-san is famous not only for the uniqueness of its geographical formation but also for its ecological diversity. The combination of high mountain peaks, oreums (parasitic volcanoes), caves, and beaches make for numerous and various environmental habitats. 

A variety of plants and animals can be found on Halla-san, where climates range from the subtropical to the temperate and, even in some areas, polar.
The Geomunoreum Lava Tube system was instrumental to Jeju's selection as a World Heritage site. The Geomunoreum caves were formed by lava pouring down the island's coastline from Halla-san, and both its length and scale make it one of the largest and most distinctive of any such cave systems in the world.

Seongsan Ilchulbong peak is an ideal spot for enjoying the sunrise. As it rose from the sea, the geological history of the formation attracts visitors.

In addition to the designation as Natural World Heritage Site in 2007, Jeju Island has also been appointed to the World Network of Biosphere Reserve in 2002 and the Global Geoparks Network in 2010. Jeju Island is the first spot in the world to receive the UNESCO Triple crown designation. Highlighting these aspects, Korea put a huge effort in the vote for the New 7 Wonders. The island is an unexplored district containing all seven themes; great landscape, island, volcanoes, coast, cave, falls, and forest which were the main required elements for the vote. Unlike other proposed sites, Jeju Island maintains a close connection with the lives of people, offering space for culture and history to co-exist. 

Wednesday, July 29, 2015


After an hour fast train ride from Osaka via the the Shin-Osaka line, and a 15 minute walk, we arrive at the magnificent Himeji-jo castle. The castle is the finest surviving example of early 17th-century Japanese castle architecture. It is located in Himeji City, in the Hyogo Prefecture, an area that has been an important transportation hub in West Japan since ancient times. The castle property, situated on a hill summit in the central part of the Harima Plain, covers 107 hectares and comprises eighty-two buildings. It is centred on the Tenshu-gun, a complex made up of the donjon, keeps and connecting structures that are part of a highly developed system of defence and ingenious protection devices dating from the beginning of the Shogun period. The castle functioned continuously as the centre of a feudal domain for almost three centuries, until 1868 when the Shogun fell and a new national government was created. 

The principal complex of these structures is a masterpiece of construction in wood, combining function with aesthetic appeal, both in its elegant appearance unified by the white plastered earthen walls – that has earned it the name Shirasagi-jo (White Heron Castle) – and in the subtlety of the relationships between the building masses and the multiple roof layers visible from almost any point in the city.

It is approximately an hours climb  on several stairs to reach the top of the castle especially during summer where everyone seems to be visiting the structure to pay homage to their king whose remains are located at the topmost part of the castle. I was about to give up midway through the climb when I noticed that several senior citizens were climbing.  At the top, one can see beautiful city. On the way down one can see several rooms including the suicide or harakiri rooms.