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A Show of Grandeur in the Face of Defeat

Taipei, January 2017

Chiang Kai Shek lost the civil war in China and retreated to Taiwan in 1949 with his defeated army.  He ruled this tiny island nation through his KMT party until  his death in 1975.  The United States continued to recognize Taiwan as the government in exile until four years later when it broke off diplomatic relations and recognized the People’s Republic of China as the true Chinese government.

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The Land of Ecotourism and the Solitary Tarziers

Bohol, March 2017

My cousin and I were running of out places to see in Cebu so I decided to check out the Internet for inspiration.  I knew that we could go to Bohol by ferry and come back the same day but I was hesitant to go there without any plans.  Luckily, I found a one-day tour package from Cebu to Bohol for less than 3,000 pesos each.  The package included the ferry fare from Cebu to Tagbilaran and back, Loboc river cruise, and land travel to Chocolate Hills, the Tarzier sanctuary and several other places of interest.

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Speed Eating My Way Through Manila’s Chinatown

Chinatown, March 2017

Mao Martinez and I started our food tour outside the LRT Carriedo Station, crossed a very busy rotunda and made our way to Ongpin Street.  I met Mao through an NGO where he works at.  Their group organizes food and travel tours around Manila as a way to fund their projects. This Chinatown tour is one of them.  We were supposed to be with several people but they all bailed out the night before.

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The Island Where Catholicism Planted Its Cross

February 2017

Ferdinand Magellan was a Portuguese navigator working for the Spanish monarchy.  He was looking for a westward route to the Spice Islands and found the Philippines instead.  He had all kinds of problems by the time he got to the island of Cebu but he found friendly natives who welcomed him.  He planted a cross and baptized several hundreds of converts to Catholicism.  His story should have a happy ending, except he got involved in local politics.  To please the local warlords, he promised to eliminate a competitor named Lapulapu.  Instead he was killed by Lapulapu in the neighboring island of Mactan.  The year was 1521.  It was the start of the Philippine conversion to Catholicism, a historic and life-changing event for the entire country that today,  80% of Filipinos are still Catholics.

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The Concrete Jungle of Metro Manila

March 2017

Metro Manila is a collection of different towns woven into each other’s backyards that finding the boundaries can be difficult.  It has a population of almost 13 million people and getting around in this metropolis can be quite taxing, especially to somebody like me who lives in a Midwest countryside — lots of trees around my house, occasional deer eating my plants and the faint sound of a truck revving up its engine as it goes up the hill.

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A Make-Believe Spanish Colonial Town in Bataan

Late January to early February 2017

Many Americans are familiar with Bataan because of the World War II Death March, when defeated Philippine & American soldiers were forcibly marched  to Tarlac by a brutal Japanese army.  Many soldiers died during the march and there are markers and sculptures all over the province commemorating this very important historical event.  One can even go to Corregidor where McArthur retreated to and launched his escape to Australia.

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A Tale of Two Restaurants

February 2017, SM Megamall, Mandaluyong, Philippines

I love dim sum.  The tiny morsels of food served on small plates are the equivalent of Spain’s tapas.  When I lived in Southern California, I kept a list of LA Times’ best dim sum restaurants and dragged friends and family members to each one.  My favorite restaurant was Empress Pavilion in LA’s Chinatown.  It had long lines starting at 11 am on weekends and the din of so many people talking at the same time in the large and open dining hall was uncomfortable.  Although you sometimes had to chase the food carts that snaked around the dining hall, the food was worth the inconvenience.  Everything was fresh and the selection was large.  For a group of four, our total cost averaged about $10 per person.  Unfortunately, LA’s Chinatown has lost a lot of businesses recently and most restaurants are gone.  Even Empress Pavilion is only open on special occasions.

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