May 25, 2019

Skywatch Friday: Balinese Gate


Me and my dad went to the mystical island of Bali a couple of years ago and explored its beautiful temples and natural sites. The sky that time was dark with overcast but when it started to rain lightly for just a few minutes, clearer skies replaced it. This was a shot I took before the rain greeted us that afternoon when we arrived.


This post is part of Skywatch Friday that features different views of the sky around the world. Visit Skywatch and go on tour around the globe seeing sunrises, sunsets and so much more than the sky that you know at http://skyley.blogspot.in/

May 22, 2019

Poll: Dream Destination

"The world is a book and those who do not travel read only one page". Just as the quote says, truly, living a life without a dream destination is living a life without reason, at least for me. But I know you do! I know you have this one special place in the world that you secretly hope you'll be in someday. I have listed down some famous dream destinations, but I wish to hear what's your through this poll. Of these 14 places, which would you like to visit the most?

When results have been tabulated, I will be writing an article about the top choices and what's in those places to boost your excitement and drive to keep on dreaming to see that special place! I love to travel and I want you as well to have that dream, that dream that will take you to wherever your heart desires to be at.


Which of these places would you like to visit the most?

Amsterdam
Dubai
Egypt
Hawaii
Maldives
New York
Paris
Peru
Prague
Rio De Janeiro
Rome
Tokyo
London
Iceland
Created with Quiz Maker

Sightseeing Taipei - A Half Day Itinerary

It was my 15th country/territory, Taiwan was. Since the island nation above the Philippines has opened its doors to Filipinos last 2017 and imposing a temporary visa-free policy for a year which was then extended to another year from July 2018 to July 2019, many Filipinos, including myself, made plans to visit and see what Taiwan has to offer. 

UPDATE: Taiwan faces calls to extend visa-free entry for Filipinos before the temporary visa-free program ends this July 2019.

Chiang Kai Shek Memorial, Taipei

Officially the Republic of China, Taiwan is the place where the nationalist leader Chiang Kai Shek fled to exile and established the Chinese republic when the communist party led by Mao Zedong took over the mainland. through the years, Taiwan went nowhere but up and the success of its industry and finance has fortified the nation into being one of the richest countries not just in Asia but in the whole world.

WATCH: Steven's Queue VLOG#39 - Ni Hao Taiwan!

Me and my cousin Ate Judy flew to Taipei last November 2018 and we spent the first day looking around the capital city of Taipei. We flew in via Cebu Pacific Air on their earliest flight from Manila.

Taoyuan International Airport (TPE)

From our place at Minquan Station (we stayed here for 4 days at a private room at a condo via AirBnB), we took the Subway all the way to our first destination which is the Chiang Kai Shek Memorial. via the Red Subway Line, it took us just 5 stations to reach the memorial hall which is one of the major landmarks of Taiwan.

Chiang Kai Shek Memorial Station is a junction for both the Red Line and Green Line of MRT.

(L) Me inside the Taipei Metro                    (R) Chiang Kai Shek Memorial Complex            

The complex was vast! Aside from the memorial hall, there are two halls that are built in traditional Chinese style, the National Concert Hall and the National Theater Hall. They were not open when we visited so we were not able to explore whats inside both halls.

WATCH: Steven's Queue VLOG#40 - Chiang Kai Shek Memorial

When me and my cousin continued walking through the entrance to the complex from the station, we saw our high school classmate and friend April who has been living and working in Taiwan for 7 years now. She is accompanied by her boyfriend Roilan and it was a happy moment to see her after so long. She went all the way to Taipei from Hsinchu just to see us that afternoon.

There is no entrance fee to pay when visiting the Memorial complex, even through the Memorial Hall and the museum that is located at its base. I think it is a must to visit this place which is why it is also the very first landmark we visited not just for its beauty but to give respect to Taiwan's leader Chiang Kai Shek. 

Ate Judy, Me, April, and Roilan - Groupfie Time!

Climbing through the stairs at the Memorial Hall, it led us to the tomb of the Nationalist leader wherein a changing of the guards ceremony is taking place. Everyone was quiet and solemn as we all silently watch the ceremony. Travelers from different nation were present during that afternoon's program.

(L) Changing of the Guards                     (R) Intricate design of the Tomb's ceiling         

After the ceremony, we decided to go down and visit the museum that is housed right below the tomb, at the hall's ground floor. It has an exhibit of photographs and memorabilla related to the life and legacy of Chiang Kai Shek. I really did enjoy the exhibit that shows his garments and clothing that showed a fusion of both traditional Chinese clothing and modern day attires.

(L) Chiang Kai Shek's Coat                       (R) Me and Chiang Kai Shek

Bethelites Batch 2006 at Taipei

We then said our goodbyes to April and Roilan and me and my Ate continued on our adventure around the city. We then went to Taipei Central Station where we are about to ride the Taipei Sightseeing Tour - Hop On, Hop Off Bus. We got our tickets at Klook.com. They have a 4-hour ticket which costs Php 450 while a 24-hour unlimited pass costs Php 899. We purchased the  24-hour unlimited ride with stops at major tourist attractions in the city.

WATCH: Steven's Queue VLOG#41 - HOP ON - HOP OFF TAIWAN

Our first stop is Ximen Junction wherein we visited the famous and historical theater called The Red House. It was constructed by a team led by a Japanese architect Kondo Juro which was originally made to become a public market. It was then turned into a theater and now, a museum and cafe.

Me and my Ate Judy at The Red House

Ximending District is very busy and I can even compare it as a quainter version of Tokyo's Shibuya Junction. Shops and restaurants lined up the streets and smaller alleys led to a lot of other stores and establishments. It was full of life, especially at that time of the afternoon which was about just an hour before sunset.

(L) Selfie Time with the 'Locals' of Ximen   (R) Loved this little alley across Ximen

To be honest, we were not able to maximize the 24 hour ticket that we purchased because we started the bus ride late at around 5 pm and the last round trip is at 7:30 in the evening. But nonetheless, we can say it was worth it because we did a round trip sightseeing on it's final trip and we were able to see the sights of Taipei during nighttime, it was beautiful!

The last full round-trip that we did was on the Taipei Sightseeing Tour Bus's Red Line. It starts and ends its route at Taipei Main Station and passes through important locations such as the Ximending District, Taipei 101, and the Sun Yat Set Memorial Hall.


(L) Me taking videos at the Taipei Sightseeing Bus                    (R) Taipei 101 at Night 

Just like any other East Asian country, Taiwan is a well developed nation and truly one with the first world. Its infrastructures and efficient public transport makes it not just a good place to visit and travel to, but also a perfect place to live and work in. 

Locals are very nice and disciplined and a barrier I did experience was language as to not all locals are fluent in the English Language but if you are lost, it's not hard to find a younger generation Taiwanese which can help you find your way.

Visit Taiwan, and experience 'The Heart of Asia'


May 16, 2019

Brunei - The Heart of Borneo

Situated at the heart of Borneo, the Kingdom of Brunei is one of the richest nations in Asia and in the world. Last September 2018, me and my high school best friends went to explore this quiet but golden country with only half a million citizens. Here are some snaps from our trip to it's capital, Bandar Seri Begawan.

The Royal Regalla Museum

Beautiful canals by the Marketplace

Prayers at the Teng Yun Temple

Took this photo of my friends at Teng Yun Temple

Inside the Empire Hotel at Bandar Seri Begawan

Judy, Myrcel, Dianne, Angelica, Lara, Stevenson, Marvin, and Faith

More poses inside the Marble Hotel

Beautiful gardens outside the Hotel

Under the sunny seaside of Bandar

Good Girls at Brunei

Omar Ali Saifuddien Mosque

You are a whole new world, Brunei!

May 15, 2019

Problems of Democracy

The problem with democracy is not about having too little of it, the problem is when we have too much of democracy (Flinders, 2014) Matthew Flinders has emphasized a very good point about how too much of democratic powers not just from the politicians but also through citizens has been thought to be detrimental to a nation’s prosperity. Several aspects of hyper democracy such as Flinders described as excessive sensitivity of politicians to social networks, 24-hour media coverage, and such gives the citizens too much of the wrong kind of freedom to do things and not through the deeper and more developmental types of democratic practices.

Being listed by Diamond (2003) as a Semi-liberal Democracy during the time of his writing is truly on point in my honest view. Just a couple of years after the second EDSA revolution, wherein the people ousted former President Joseph Estrada and promoted a new leader in the person of Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, nationalism was still strong. Almost every Filipino felt like a winner when they collectively empowered each other to succeed against corruption through the case of President Estrada. Though during the 2004 elections, several issues such as the famous “Hello Garci” scandal was exposed which presented President Arroyo to be manipulating the votes in her favor which led her to another 6 years in the executive office. Though there may have been an election, what’s behind all the numbers were not transparent.

Reading further through Diamond’s enumeration, what trickled me was the fifth item which is Pseudodemoracies (electoral authoritarian regimes). Though I am not questioning the results of the 2016 elections with respect to the nation’s pulse at that time, being a democracy wherein the executive branch is in control to be supreme over the other branches and segments of the government and is not accountable horizontally through citizens nor vertically through other state actors (Diamond, 2003). We can clearly see reports of human rights violations being justified by unjustifiable reasons by the patrons and supporters. A government being fueled by the faces of post-truth politics, fake news proliferation, and ad hominem wars on social media fighting for their colors. At first, I was amazed by such display of political activity from the netizens, but judging from their social media responses and engagements, it’s very miserable to read their conceptions of events. Having too much freedom to express their thoughts without really organizing their thoughts through facts doesn’t make them any better in engaging. It’s like people waging wars without any weapons even body parts, just a sea of roars and yells.

The democratization of nations on the past decades was at very fast rates. As much as we can see progress in shifting the governments from authoritarian regimes such as those of Latin America and totalitarian regimes through the fall of the Soviet Union, we can also see examples of nations failing even through embarking on the journey of the free, democracy. Though the power did shift to the people, the quality of life of the citizens were also a big factor to the nation’s progress. As Fukuyama (2015) presented through his paper, it is important that the quality of living of the citizens before a nation shifts to a democracy becomes the key determining factor to the long-term success of its transition. Established democracies have shown better living conditions and quality of thinking of its citizens long before the transition was made. Before the power shifted to the people, they should have been empowered and educated. He is not a supporter of authoritarianism, though a much bigger control is needed, and a necessity of enforcement should be prevailing especially during the early years of democracy. Because going back to Flinders’ talk, having too much democracy will only lead to chaos. What more to a budding democracy which we can personify into a newborn who still is incapable of doing things on its own. Enforcement of the law can be made truly positive if that power will be backed up by the citizens faith that it is all being done for the betterment of all and not just for the interest of a few. Law enforcement which is transparent but does not violate human rights and the constitution.

There are a lot more problems to democracy which is not limited to corruption, clientelism, and vote buying. But the first step to solving these problems is to accept that these situations are prevailing and think of ways, collectively, on how not just law enforcement can control this but every citizen can do their part as well. Educate the people, and as much as the government can, provide empowerment because in the end, the quality of democracy can only be measured by one factor, the quality of its citizens.

References:

Diamond, L. (2003). Moving Up Out of Poverty: What Does Democracy have to Do With It?

Flinders, M. (2014). The Problem with Democracy. Retrieved from TEDxTalks: http://bit.ly/2BCeCQz

Fukuyama, F. (2015). Why is Democracy Performing so Poorly? Retrieved from Journal of Democracy, Vol 26, Number 1: http://stanford.io/1SVQpSN

May 11, 2019

Kyoto Highlights

Japan was amazing, and Kyoto is no exception. With its ancient Japanese heritage sites and traditions that have been preserved, this city is truly a porthole that can warp you to the Japan that have been listed on history books and magazines.

Last June 2018, I went to visit Kyoto with my favorite cousins and we had an amazing time together that will forever be cherished and treasured. Let me guide you through some pictures I took during our unforgettable adventure in the ancient capital of the Land of the Rising Sun.

Train Tracks of the Arashiyama Line

Tenryu-Ji Temple

(L) Yasaka Shrine       (R) Cold Soba at Honke Owariya c/o Ate Carmeline

Old Streets of Gion makes me feel at a scene on the "Memoirs of a Geisha"

(L) Kinkaku-Ji Shrine        (R) Fushimi Inari Taisha

Kiyomizu-Dera Temple

(L) With the Birthday Celebrant, LILY!   (R) Jogging with Carlos at Nijo Castle

Sushi No Musashi, Kyoto Station

Arashiyama Bamboo Grove

Arigatou Kyoto!