Sunday, September 30, 2007

To Know Malaysia Is To Love Malaysia

They say, “to know Malaysia is to love Malaysia.” Indians, Malays, Chinese and many other ethnic groups live together in this country. Multiculturalism has made Malaysia a home to hundreds of grand festivals and cultural celebrations. Despite the influence of other cultures, Malaysia has still made its name to the world.

Malay is the national language in Malaysia. However, because there are various cultures and races residing in the country, English has been widely used among people. Malaysia is known for its love for culture and arts. The country has a booming film industry producing a minimum of fifteen films and three hundred dramas each year. Other cultural activities of the country include music, dance, theater, and handicrafts. European influences can be observed in courts. Museums and galleries are very popular in the country impressing their visitors with their beautiful collection of paintings and sculptures. The country also is multi-religious but Islam is the most dominant religion.

Friday, September 28, 2007

Getting-To-Know Singapore

Singapore is a diverse country of people among different races. Singapore is a modern city known for its cultural diversity. Their race can be traced back with their past immigrants that include a mixture of Chinese, Indian, European influences and Malay. Though this is the truth, they still remain to think of themselves as Singaporeans as a whole, regardless of their culture or race. Each still possesses its own unique character.

The streets of Chinatown are still visible. Little India along Serangoon Road still displays its distinct features. The Muslim characteristics are still distinct in the Arab Street. Around the city, there are signs of British colonial influence as seen in Neo-Classical buildings.

Food is readily available in Singapore. There are various cuisines to choose from. There are Chinese, Malay, Indian, Western, Indonesian, Italian, Spanish Peranakan, French, Fusion and Thai.

Each racial group has distinctive religion. There are great festivals of special significance all year round.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Singaporeans And How They Value Their Belief Systems

Singaporeans celebrate the major festivities that are associated with their respective religions. These religions are direct reflection of the diversity of racse living there. The Chinese follow Buddhism, Shenism, Taoism, Christianity and Catholicism. There are those who classify themselves as free-thinkers because they do not belong to any religion. Malays are Muslims. Indians are Hindus.

Religion is important in Singapore. Religions of people often cross racial boundaries and there are some who mix particular ways among religions. They tend to combine a little of the mysteries and beliefs with the signs and times of today. The Singaporean's value for religion is manifested in religious buildings that are seen everywhere be it old temples, exotic mosques and modern churches. Here in these places of worship, you can see believers from various races and ethnicities. A deeper understanding of their religions and their places of worship play a vital part in the appreciation of their art.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Singlish, ah.

The evolution of language has and will never stop. This has been proven throughout centuries when languages evolve. There are some languages that are considered dead but there are those too that are considered new and evolving.

Just like Singlish. Singlish is a dialect (maybe slang) that means Singapore English. (Note that this isn't the official language of the country. The four official languages of the country are Malay, Mandarin, Tamil and English. English is the most common language used as this unutes the different ethnic groups.) Singlish is a combination of English and those other languages spoken in the country like Malay and Hokkien. Singlish speakers are not necessarily aware of which language they are from. Singlish speakers usually end their sentence with a distinctive exclamation like ah, lah, ley and what.

I'm not at home lah. That's why ah.
Don't like that lah.
It is very troublesome ley.
No parking lots here, what.

Do you get it, what?

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Singapore Is Worth-A-Stay

As the world is in clamor because of overpopulation, there is one country, in fact, that continues its challenge to its citizens to boost population. That is it is quite easy to secure permanent residency in Singapore. Permanent residency is for non-Singaporeans who want to study, work and live in the country.

But why in Singapore? Because it is in Singapore where jobs are open to foreigners, the compensation is high, the cost of living is tolerable and the place is worth-a-live-and-love. Singapore is a developed country where people interact harmoniously among different races who reside there for good. The pattern of the country is rooted from the inherent cultural diversity of the place. The people here are mixtures of Chinese, Malay, Indian and European influences. This means that there is no worry in interacting with them because they basically understand each other's races, each other culture.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

The After Life

Since the ancestors of Taiwan were, in fact, Chinese, the three belief systems of China have been carried over to Taiwanese. The three religious traditions of China that have been practiced in Taiwan are Confucianism, Buddhism and Taoism. These three are known as the “three teachings”. Each of these three religions have practitioners or priests. They are responsible for taking note of the religious calendar and let their fellow believers be informed of the religious events and prescribed rituals.

Taiwanese believe in reincarnation. They also believe in the Buddhist heaven and hell. They believe that before a person is reincarnated, he or she will go to either heaven or hell when they die. If the person lives a good life on Earth, he or she will be rewarded with a good life in heaven. If he or she lives a bad life on Earth, he or she will go to hell. A person's fate during reincarnation is determined by his or her past life. If he or she wants to have a better life after life, he or she must perform good deeds. They also believe that other people can save you from hell if special offerings and prayers are given to you.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Favor Bank

In Taiwan, social places are common for them. Tea houses, coffee shops and restaurants are spots where people cultivate and nurture relationships. The aim of these encounters is mainly to relax. For them, talking to family and friends and spending this interaction in these places is a form to bond, connect and open in a genuine way. These people really value friendship. You can therefore expect that when times you need a support group, these friends will back you up automatically. Asking and granting favors are common things for friends in Taiwan.

However, despite their friendliness and openness, they pay close attention to one's authority and status in the society. One's respect is defined by education, occupation, age, and gender. And though it may be hard for people to interact to varying status, they still can establish a relationship of mutual benefit. Remember that favors are common to them? Yes, they might need one another in the future. At least, they've already invested in the favor bank.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Taiwanese Are Pleasing

Taiwanese are known for their pleasing characters. They are friendly and courteous people. These people believe in the saying that no man is an island and that social responsibility follows when social relationships are established. They believe that one cannot live and do anything without the help and cooperation of others. They acknowledge any form of aid that is extended to them by their family and friends.

Taiwanese are also accommodating. During initial interaction even to strangers, Taiwanese usually offer cigarettes, smalls presents or business cards to overcome shyness and that an easy flow of conversation will take place. Also, don't be shocked if these Taiwanese will talk to you very eagerly even during your first interaction. They give informal introduction to initiate a talk with you. However, even with this kind of attitude, trust for them is not easily given to people. For them, it is a virtue to be earned and not just to be given directly to people.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Let's Go To The Treasure Island!

One small place that is interesting to visit is the country in Southeast Asia, Taiwan. This beautiful gift of nature is also known as Treasure Island because it has beautiful scenery and landscapes. Although the island is small-for-a-country type, it is still famous to tourists because of its theme parks, beaches, grand mountains and cultural offerings. The people from this country are very accommodating, friendly to visitors, the weather is consistent to fair and fine, tourist facilities are excellent, and the modes of transportation are convenient even to first-time travelers.

Yang Min Shan National Park is a must for those who want to relax and reflect. It has hot springs, exquisite flora and wildlife. It also has relaxing spas. People from Taipei will highly recommend the mineral springs of which their place is known of. From the metro, it will only take for 45 minutes if you ride in a bus while 70 minutes if you prefer train. Guests can go hiking or have a picnic in this park.

Friday, September 14, 2007

Pit Senyor!

Cebu was my next stop of my culture hopping. When I went there together with my close friends, we were able to witness the grandest celebration of the province: the Sinulog Festival. We went there January last year and we were able to witness the street dancing, the colorful parade of costumes of the participants and a whole lot more.

But of course, we did not go there just for fun. While we were in the place for a week, I was able to interview native people and asked them questions that are related to their place and to their celebration. According to the native that I had talked with, the Sinulog Festival is celebrated to honor the Santo Niño, or the child Jesus, who used to be the patron saint of the entire province of Cebu. It is basically a dance ritual that remembers the Filipino people's pagan past and their acknowledgment as Christians. All of them were in joyful jubilation. All of them were chanting Pit Senyor! Pit Senyor!

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Enlarged Kisses

Last year, when I visited the Philippines, the first thing I had in mind was to visit the world famous Chocolate Hills! Chocolate Hills, tagged to be the eighth wonder of the world, is composed of 1268 hills. Unbelievable, but true. That's why when I was already in the place, I thought to myself, I could already die, I've already seen God's perfect work of art. It was astounding as these hills really looked like chocolates. Good thing I visited there during the summer season of that tropical country.

During summer time, the thousand hills in Bohol turn brown so that when you are in the aerial view, you'll see enlarged Hershey's Kisses all over the island. But do you know why these hills turn brown every summer? It is because these hills don't grow trees. Only hays. And during the summer time, because it is literally hot all over the Philippines, the hays of these hills die. And when they die, the brownness of the hays and the soil contribute to the “chocolatey” color of these hills.

So that's a matter of fact.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Bohol Is Where Amicable People Live

Last year, as part of a school requirement, I went to the Philippines to learn their culture. Upon further research, I was able to find out that there are more than twenty races and ethnicities in the said country! What a number! Then I thought to myself of giving a try and experience to maybe two to three cultures. So I researched. Based on my investigation, I was convinced to travel in Bohol to learn about their culture deeper.

Bohol is a province in the Philippines. It is historical in nature because a Spanish legend during the time of Magellan came and visited the place. Boholanos, or the people in Bohol, were said to be friendly. All throughout generations, this tag among Boholanos has been adopted. Now, they gratefully commemorate this through the Sandugo Festival of Bohol that is celebrated every July each year. In this celebration, the governor of Bohol usually acts Miguel Lopez de Legazpi (a Spaniard explorer) while the mayor of the city in Bohol plays Datu Sikatuna (chieftain in Bohol). On the historical date of March 16, 1565, a blood compact between these two leaders took place. This symbolizes the friendship of the Philippines and Spain as a whole.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Small Yet Big Enough!

I have always dreamed of going to the Philippines, a very small country, yet a very diverse culture. As learned, this Southeast Asian country is composed of more than seven thousand islands. There is actually no exact number of these islands as the number varies from time to time; so that when the country is on its high tide, the number of islands become 7107. But during its low tide, the number becomes lesser.

The country has plenty of islands making it very interesting for travel. Though one country, these islands greatly represent varying cultures unique from each other. For example, in the northmen part of the country, the people there speak differently with that of the southern part. Not only in language they differ, they also differ in the belief systems, in the ways of life even in the language used. As a result, people from the northern part claim that they are more advanced than the South. Same conviction is true with that of the southern groups, they also claim that they are more advanced when compared to the North.


Sunday, September 9, 2007

Turks Are Happy People

Festivals in Turkey are often celebrated during the third quarter of each year. If one observes closely to the Turk feasts, you will discover that the Turks are grateful people and that they love huge celebrations. These celebrations are often manifestations of thanksgiving for the abundant blessings they receive yearly.

In June, two popular festivals take place. First is the Strawberry Festival. People rejoice because of the abundant harvest of strawberries. This is a merriment in Bartin. Second is the International Wine Festival in the country's biggest wine producer, Urgup. In this celebration, people drink wine, sky's the limit. Wine companies host this celebration.

In July, Apricot Festival is celebrated in Malatya to celebrate the harvesting of the crop.

In August, everyone gets a happy and full stomach because of the Chef's Festival. Turkey chefs amaze the tastebuds of every local and foreign visitors with their specialties.

In September, Watermelon Festival in Diyarbakir is the higlight of the month. Contests are open to visitors and prices are at stake to the max.

Friday, September 7, 2007

Turkey Is A Holy Place

As Turkey is a Muslim country, several feasts are celebrated each year to commemorate traditions and beliefs.

Seker Bayrami, commonly known as the Sugar Festival, is a 3-day celebration marking the end of Ramadan. This is the time for joy and merrymaking where everyone goes out and socialize. They also exchange gifts and other Turkish delights and sweets. This usually happens every February.

The most important religious holiday is the Kurban Bayrami. This reminds its people of the near sacrifice of Isaac by his father Abraham. Instead of the child, God allowed lamb to be sacrificed. All throughout the country, those people who can afford it will sacrifice an animal to commemorate this event. They reserve a portion of the meet to the needy. This is usually done during April.

Another holiday in April is the Mesir Macunu or the Power Gum Festival. This is in memory of the curative power of an elixir that restored the health of the mother of the Ottoman Sultan Suleyman. This drink mixture has 41 spices. That is why the number 41 is significant to the Turks. In Turkey, the successful completion of events is usually marked by saying a special phrase 41 times.

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

Portugal Bulls vs Spain Bulls

Portugal has this celebration called the Red Waistcoat Festival which occurs every July. This name is derived from the red waistcoats of the campinos or bull herders. In this celebration, they bulls are let loose in the streets and start on their way to the ring. I find this amazing because people from this country sort of risk their lives in order to express jubilation.

The same happening occur in Spain. Spaniards call it San Fermin. This is a celebration renowned for its weeklong nonstop wine, merrymaking, carnivals, bravado and most especially the letting out of the bulls and letting them run in the streets.

But what's the difference between these two countries in terms of dealing with bulls? In Portugal, they wrestle the bulls so they have bulls left for the next years. In Spain, on the other hand, they kill the bulls else the bulls will kill them!

Monday, September 3, 2007

Where The East Meets The West

Turkey is a country where the east meets the west. So if you go and visit this place, you will get to observe and experience both the eat and west cultures. It probably explains why people here present a very diverse understanding of art and culture.

Like any other Muslim country, religious practices in Turkey should be respected, most particularly during the holy month, the month of Ramadan. During this time, eating, drinking and smoking during daytime should be discreet as it is forbidden by their culture. You should dress modestly when you visit the Muslim places like mosques and shrines.

In Turkey, taking photographs near the military or official institutions is a no-no. If you intend to take pictures, always ask permission from the people-in-charge.

Another way of life in Turkey is tipping. It is customary that you give service charge between 10 to 15 per cent. This unwritten rule is usually common in hotels and restaurants, taxi fares and in spas.

Saturday, September 1, 2007

What Makes A Fig?

Olá amigos en amigas!

In Brazil, there is a unique gesture that they do everytime they expression their appreciation to a particular person: Brazilians pinch their earlobes in front of the person they admire by using their thumbs and forefingers.

Also, people in Brazil make a fig to invoke good luck. Now how do you do this one? Simple. Just place your thumb between your index and middle fingers while making a fist.

Now consider this scenario: a guy approach you and asks you a question. Too bad, you don't know the answer. What are you going to do? Brazilians flick their fingertips underneath their chins. This is a common understanding to Brazilians as they know that the one doing this gesture does not know the answer to the question. So now we understand why in cartoon shows, the characters are doing this? Obviously, they got this from the Brazilian culture.