Saturday, June 18, 2011

Dr. Jose Rizal @ 150 on Stamps

In line with 150th birth centenary of our National Hero, Dr. Jose Rizal, several tourism and philatelic related activities are ongoing. The Department of Tourism (DoT) opened the "Lakbay Jose Rizal @ 150," a year-long tour that allows tourists to retrace the national hero's steps by visiting as many as 27 Rizal sites in the country. Participants will be given "Lakbay passports" and a special stamp for every Rizal site they visit.

The National Historical Commission of the Philippines, in partnership with the Philippine Postal Corporation, also held a stamp design contest entitled “150TH BIRTH ANNIVERSARY OF JOSE RIZAL STAMP DESIGN CONTEST” with the theme Rizal: Haligi ng Bayan. The contest was participated by students, amateurs and professionals and judging was held last March 1, 2011 at the NHCP Building. Dir. Jeremy Barns of the National Museum; Dr. Ngo Tiong Tak from Philippine Postal Corporation, Mr. Danilo Pangan from the National Commission for Culture and the Arts and Mr. Fidel Sarmiento from the Art Association of the Philippines, served as judges.

The Philippine Postal Corporation, meanwhile, is issuing commemorative stamps and souvenir sheets that honor Rizal. The postal service is also hosting an exhibit of Rizaliana stamps and other memorabilia at the Manila Central Post Office lobby at the Liwasang Bonifacio. The exhibit will run until the 30th of June. Stamps Clubs and Philatelic Societies all aver the country are also exhibiting their Rizal stamp collections.

Cebu City is one of the 27 historic Rizal sites included in the Lakbay Rizal @150. The S.S. EspaƱa docked in Cebu on August 2, 1896 for a routine one-day stop over. After breakfast on board, Commander Carcinero took Rizal under custody to the Spanish Military Commander of Cebu, Gen. Adulfo Montero in the Military Headquarters located in Fort San Pedro.

Currently some items from the USP Rizal Museum are on exhibit at the the 2nd Floor, Ayala Center in Cebu. These include the original woolen coat and camisa chino shirts worn by the National Hero.

Above is the block of stamps of Rizal issued for his 150th Birth Anniversary in 2011. Below is my Lakbay Rizal Passport stamped during my visit to Fort San Pedro.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

50th Anniversary of the Swiss National Anthem on Stamp

Until the end of the 19th century, there was no Swiss national anthem. The German-language patriotic song Rufst du, mein Vaterland, composed in 1811 by Johann Rudolf Wyss (1743–1818), was the first national anthem, used until 1961. The Swiss Psalm was composed in 1841 by Alberich Zwyssig (1808–1854), with lyrics by Leonhard Widmer (1809–1867). Since then it has been frequently suggested it be adopted as the official anthem, but the Swiss Federal Government has refused several times, wishing to let the people decide what they want to sing on political and military occasions.

The setting of the hymn to the British tune of God Save the Queen led to embarrassing situations when both countries' anthems were played. Therefore it was replaced with another tune in 1961. After a trial period of three years the Swiss tune was adopted indefinitely in 1965. The statute could not be challenged until ten years later but did not totally exclude the possibility of an ultimate change. A competition was set up in 1979 to search for a successor to the anthem. Despite many submissions, none of the others seemed to express the Swiss sentiment.

The Swiss anthem finally got its definitive statutory status in April 1981, the Federal Council maintaining that it was purely a Swiss song suitably dignified and solemn.

The block of 4 stamps above features the Cross (emblem in Swiss flag) with the titles of the anthem in the official languages issued on 2011, the 50th year anniversary.

Monday, June 13, 2011

The Malacca Stamp Museum

Malacca's rich cultural history makes it a haven of museums. One of the several museums located here is the The Malacca Stamp Museum (Muzium Setem Melaka) was formerly the Melaka State Museum. It is also known as the "Sekolah Gambar". Originally, it was used as the residence for Dutch dignitaries living in Malacca. On March 19, 1954, G.E. Wisdom, the resident commissioner of Melaka converted this building into a state museum. However in 1982, the museum was moved to the Stradthuys. Now it houses the Melaka Stamp Museum. The Department of Museums and Antiquity has gazetted it as an ancient monument according to section 15 of the Antiquities Act.

The museum showcases various stamps, first day covers, philatelic products and bank notes. The museum opens daily from 9am to 5 pm except Mondays and during Friday lunchtime (12 noon-2:45 pm). It is presently located at the St. Paul's Hill, in between the Islamic Museum and Umno Museum. Admission is 1 Ringgit.

St. Paul's Church Ruins in Malacca

After a 2 hour ride through the wide and smooth highways of Selangor, we arrive at the St Paul’s Church in Malacca, a breezy sanctuary reached after a steep flight of stairs. Originally built by a Portuguese captain in 1521, the church offers views over Malacca from the summit of Bukit St. Paul. Inside the decaying stone interior are intricately engraved tombstones of the Dutch nobility that are buried here. The church was regularly visited by St Francis Xavier, and following his death in China the saint’s body was temporarily interred here for nine months before being transferred to Goa, where it remains today. Visitors can look into his ancient tomb, which is surrounded by a wire fence, in the center of the church and a marble statue of the saint gazes wistfully over the city. When the Dutch completed their own Christ Church in 1590 at the base of the hill, St Paul fell into disuse. Under the British a lighthouse was built and the church eventually ended up as a storehouse for gunpowder. The church has been in ruins for more than 150 years.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

The Magnificent Batu Caves of Malaysia

On a laid back Sunday afternoon without traffic, once can reach this magnificent destination in 20 minutes from the KL city center. The Batu Cave temple complex rises almost 100 m above the ground and consists of three main caves and a few smaller ones. The biggest, referred to as Cathedral Cave or Temple Cave, has a 100 m-high ceiling and features ornate Hindu shrines. To reach it, visitors must climb a steep flight of 272 steps. My wife had no problems climbing the steps this time, as they were relatively "easier" compared to the Great Wall climb. The cave is located in Gombak district, 13 kilometers (8 mi) north of Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. It takes its name from the Sungai Batu or Batu River, which flows past the hill. Batu Caves is also the name of the nearby village.

The cave is one of the most popular Hindu shrines outside India, dedicated to Lord Murugan. It is the focal point of Hindu festival of Thaipusam in Malaysia. The limestone forming Batu Caves is said to be around 400 million years old. Some of the cave entrances were used as shelters by the indigenous Temuan people (a tribe of Orang Asli). There was a festival happening during our visit. There were several elaborate dances and traditional Hindu music playing with long queues of devotees inside the temples.

The Batu Caves was promoted as a place of worship by K. Thamboosamy Pillai, an Indian trader. He was inspired by the 'vel'-shaped entrance of the main cave and was inspired to dedicate a temple to Lord Muruga within the caves. A 42.7-metre (140 ft) high statue of Lord Muruga was unveiled in January 2006, having taken 3 years to construct. It is the tallest Lord Muruga statue in the world.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Forbidden City on Stamp

The Forbidden City was the Chinese imperial palace from the Ming Dynasty to the end of the Qing Dynasty. It is located in the middle of Beijing, China, and now houses the Palace Museum. For almost five hundred years, it served as the home of emperors and their households, as well as the ceremonial and political center of Chinese government.

Built in 1406 to 1420, the complex consists of 980 buildings with 8,707 bays of rooms and covers 720,000 m2 (7,800,000 sq ft). The palace complex exemplifies traditional Chinese palatial architecture, and has influenced cultural and architectural developments in East Asia and elsewhere. The Forbidden City was declared a World Heritage Site in 1987, and is listed by UNESCO as the largest collection of preserved ancient wooden structures in the world.

Since 1925, the Forbidden City has been under the charge of the Palace Museum, whose extensive collection of artwork and artifacts were built upon the imperial collections of the Ming and Qing dynasties. Part of the museum's former collection is now located in the National Palace Museum in Taipei. Both museums descend from the same institution, but were split after the Chinese Civil War.

The stamp above features the Forbidden City issued in 1954.

Tiananmen Square on Stamp

Tiananmen Square is the largest city square in the world measuring 440,000 m² - 880m by 500m. It is located in the center of China's capital, Beijing, and named after the Tiananmen Gate, also called the Gate of Purification. This gate separates the Forbidden City from the Tiananmen Square. It has great cultural significance as it was the site of several important events in Chinese history. Outside China, the square is best known in recent memory as the focal point of the Tiananmen Square protests of 1989, a pro-democracy movement which ended on 4 June 1989 with the declaration of martial law in Beijing by the government and the death of hundreds, perhaps more, of protesters. When I visited Beijing, the Chinese nationals were not aware of the said massacre because media was banned from covering the event.

Used as a massive meeting place since its creation, its flatness is contrasted by the 38-meter (125 ft) high Monument to the People's Heroes, and the Mausoleum of Mao Zedong. The square lies between two ancient, massive gates: the Tian'anmen to the north and the Zhengyangmen, better known as Qianmen to the south. Along the west side of the Square is the Great Hall of the People. Along the east side is the National Museum of China (dedicated to Chinese history predating 1919). Chang'an Avenue, which is used for parades, lies between the Tian'anmen and the Square. Trees line the east and west edges of the Square, but the square itself is open, with neither trees nor benches. The Square is lit with large lampposts which are fitted with video cameras. It is heavily monitored by uniformed and plain clothes policemen.

The souvenir sheet above features the flags of China and Tiananman Square issued in 2009.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

The Tianjin Eye- The Ferris Wheel on a Bridge

After a 30 minute ride via the South Beijing terminal super train (with speeds of 329km/hr), we arrived at the picturesque Northern city of Tianjin, China. Its main attractions include the Ancient Culture Street, the Tianjin and Boxer Rebellion Museum, Jinwan Square and the Tianjin eye. The Tianjin Eye is a 120-metre (390 ft) tall giant Ferris wheel built above the Yongle Bridge (formerly Chihai Bridge), over the Hai River in Tianjin, China. It is the only Ferris wheel in the world to have been constructed over a bridge.

Construction started in 2007, with completion of the main body on 18 December 2007, and the wheel opened to the public on 7 April 2008. At the time of completion, only the 135 m (443 ft) London Eye, 160 m (520 ft) Star of Nanchang, and 165 m (541 ft) Singapore Flyer were taller.

Tianjin Eye is one of four 120 m Ferris wheels in China, the other three being Changsha Ferris Wheel (completed 2004), Suzhou Ferris Wheel (completed 2009), and Zhengzhou Ferris Wheel (completed 2003). The only Chinese Ferris wheel with a greater height is the 160 m (520 ft) Star of Nanchang, which opened in 2006. The 208 m (682 ft) Beijing Great Wheel, under construction since 2007 and originally planned to open in 2008, has been delayed until 2010. Tianjin Eye is electrically powered and has 48 passenger capsules, each able to carry 8 passengers, and takes 30 minutes to complete a rotation, giving a maximum capacity of 768 passengers per hour.

Above is a stamp issue by Austria in 1966 to commemorate the 200th Anniversary of the Ferris Wheel.