April 30, 2012

International Workers Day

Tomorrow, May 1, is International Workers Day, a non-working public holiday in over 80 countries in the world.

In recent years, at least in the developed world, May Day has mostly been a day to celebrate the value of workers and the many rights the labor movement has earned for workers, as well as a day to remember the many martyrs who died for the cause.

Although the United States celebrates Labor Day in September, the holiday was inspired by the riots that occurred in Chicago in May, 1886. American and immigrant workers demanded an eight hour work day with demonstrations in Haymarket that turned very ugly, in large part due to the aggressive reactions by police.

Since then, May Day throughout the world has seen many organized public events, street demonstrations and even violent riots to demand improved working conditions for workers.

I was fascinated by this very interesting and fair PBS account of what lead to the Haymarket riots (Part 1). And then with what happened in Haymarket on May 3 (Part 2) and the tense and unjust events that followed (Part 3).

What struck me most about this program are the echoes of what we are hearing and seeing today with the Occupy Movement. From what I read in the news, Occupy Wall Street is indeed gearing up for a massive day of protests, rallies and marches in New York and around the world tomorrow to spread its anti-greed message. With police and bankers reportedly joining forces to respond, I fervently hope the events stay lawful and peaceful and we don't once again see tragic history repeating.

This mural in the lobby of a building is my tribute to workers everywhere. By happenstance, I found it in New York City, but I can't remember exactly where.

This is my contribution to Monday Murals.

New York, 2008

PS. There are some humans who should not work at all. That would be young school-aged children. Help me reach my goal of raising US$500 by chipping in $5, $10 or whatever. Together we can sponsor two children to STOP working in the filthy unhealthy coal factory in a Manila slum and START going to school. Details and secure chip in form on top of my rght sidebar.

My heartfelt thanks to those who have encouraged me and contributed.

A gift of education is a gift of hope.
And it's the only key to change their world.

Project PEARLS: Peace, Education, Aspiration, Respect, Love, Smile.
[Featured in National Geographic.]

"If you want others to be happy, practice compassion.
If you want to be happy, practice compassion." 
                                                     - The Dalai Lama 

April 27, 2012

Tea Kettle Reflections

Have a headache? Flu? Body aches? Is your system too hot? Too cold?

Don't despair; there's a Chinese herbal tea remedy for it.

In most, if not all, Chinese towns you can find any number of small tea shops or street vendors offering a quick cup of herbal "make you feel better" for whatever ails you.

And at one such street stall not long ago I found my reflections for Weekend Reflections. The first photo is also my contribution to Weekend in Black and White. Better viewed enlarged.

Wuchuan, 2012

A Blossom Better Up Close

Not all flowers are beautiful, I think. Some are downright homely.

So I thought of the blossoms on this tree as I approached it on a dull gray day recently.

Wuchuan, 2012

But as I got closer, I began to change my mind.

And when I looked more carefully, I came to appreciate its unique beauty.

There's a life lesson in there, isn't there?

Of course I haven't the foggiest notion what the tree or its blossoms are called. Do you?

Sharing with the flower loving communities at Floral Friday Foto, Flowers on SatudayToday's Flower and Weekend Flower.

April 24, 2012

A Cemetery in Mongolia

Traditionally, Mongolians did not bury their dead. Rather, the body of the departed soul was “cast out” in an open air burial after a ceremony led by a Buddhist lama - or more lamas, depending on the social status of the departed. It’s an intricate process that ends in the corpse being left in the clan’s sacred burial place to be devoured by predatory animals and is well described in a paper here.

After the 1921 Revolution that turned Mongolia into a Communist nation, open air burials were strongly discouraged and European-style burials were gradually adopted.

These are photos of a cemetery on a hill we saw about an hour’s drive outside the capital Ulaanbaatar.  The images will have to tell you the story, as I have no further information about it.

I marvel at the many styles, shapes and materials used. As you can see, a few markers were enclosed in a fence; most were not.

Mongolia, 2007

To the front of the burial grounds is an expansive vista of a small town in the valley and the mountains beyond.

Joining the Taphophile Tragics community.

April 23, 2012

But the Future Is Yours to Choose - Mural Visayas II

Cebu, 2011

As my small tribute to Earth Day 2012 (yesterday, April 22) I post this mural found on a public wall in Cebu. The future is ours to choose, indeed.

It's my second mural from the Visayas region of the Philippines. I provided some background information on my first post here.

Joining Monday Mural where you'll find links to beautiful, creative, funny or thought-provoking murals around the world.

April 20, 2012

Smoke in a Rice Paddy

Kaiping, 2010

Joining the meme communities at Weekend Reflection and Weekend in Black and White.


I have almost reached my goal of raising enough funds on my blog to get two children to STOP working in the charcoal factory in the Manila squatter community called Ulingan and START going to school. I am so grateful to those who have contributed so far or have left words of care and encouragement.

Project PEARLS estimates there are 300+ school-aged children in Ulingan. Last year, 62 children were sponsored for kindergarten, elementary and secondary school scholarships. This year they aim to keep these children in school and send another 90+.

Can you chip in $5, $10, $20 or whatever to complete my drive? You can securely donate using the form on the top right sidebar.

Our few dollars added together to make this gift of education and hope will have an enormous impact on the future of these children.

You can read more about the children of Ulingan and the Project PEARLS scholarship program in my earlier posts (especially here and here) and much more directly on their website.

April 17, 2012

Sandy Ridge Cemetery

I thought I'd end up with a pretty lame post, if one at all, when I took these shots of a cemetery I saw in the distance yesterday. Instead, my online research unearthed some interesting information I did not know even after 27 years in the region.

This is Sandy Ridge Cemetery, known as Shaling by the locals.

Hong Kong, 2012

These photos show just the top section of one of the larger cemeteries in the Hong Kong New Territories. It is one of nearly one hundred named burial grounds in this Special Administrative Region.

The cemetery was opened in 1949 and holds the mortal remains of a mix of Buddhists and Christians in both coffins and urns.

But it is perhaps unlikely that I will get to visit Shaling Cemetery anytime soon; first, because it's hard to get to, and second, because it's located in a 28 square kilometer area of land bordering the Shenzhen River and China that is closed to all but locals and those with special permits to enter (this is the most interesting part I did not know). There is, however, a plan to reduce the size of this area significantly, and already there are places open to visitors. I'll have to find out whether the cemetery can be accessed by non-relatives. 

In the early 2000s, the Department of Food and Environmental Hygiene began a program to remove, cremate and place in the urn sections the human remains of parts of various cemeteries in Hong Kong, including this one. Families could apply for permission to do a private exhumation and make their own arrangements. I'd like to find out more about that program, too.

This may be of interest to the community at Taphophile Tragics.

April 16, 2012

Pretty Factory

Say mural and I think of compelling wall art; you know, a painting or a tile mosaic image. So now you tell me, is this a mural?

Hong Kong, 2010

We can agree it's painting, yes? It's on the walls of what I can only call gigantic storage drums (anyone know a more correct term?) of some kind of plant (cement, perhaps, although it looks too clean). 

The pleasantly painted image of the green islands in the blue sea under a blue sky blends nicely into the coastal setting of Hong Kong.

And I'd bet the owners of these multi-million dollar condominiums are not displeased with the effort made to beautify their view.

And that made it compelling enough for me to show you this today for Monday Mural. What do you think?


This past week I have been supporting a fundraising drive for scholarships for the poorest of the poor children in a slum in Manila. The response has been totally wonderful.

If you'd care to chip in $5, $10, $20 or whatever, to help get a child like Cynthia OUT of the charcoal factory of Ulingan and INTO school, please see my earlier posts this week for more details and securely contribute with the form on my sidebar.

Give the gift of education. And hope.

Project PEARLS: Peace, Eduation, Aspiration, Respect, Love, Smile.

April 14, 2012

Meet the Dragon Bridge

Gently floating down the pristine Yulong River on bamboo rafts, surrounded by the romantic karst hills of Guangxi (also shown here and here) and shrouded in a soft mist, we passed under the charming 600-year-old Yulong "Meet the Dragon" Bridge.

 Guangxi, 2007

Local legend has it that a dragon from the East Sea came by and was so enthralled by the stunning scenery that he decided to stay. Not content to move around only at night, he was spotted by the villagers, who thereafter called the river Yulong, meaning meet the dragon.

This ancient single arch stone bridge is linked with the blogging communities at Weekend Reflections and Sunday Bridges.


UPDATE: I am raising funds to get TWO children OUT of the charcoal factories in the Manila squatter community of Ulingan and INTO school.

I am thrilled that with the contributions of my fellow bloggers and friends I reached my first goal of sponsoring one child to school. I've raised the goal to TWO scholarships.

If you care to help too, chip in $5, $10, $20 or whatever you can in the secure CHIP IN form on the top of my right sidebar. 

I posted a longer introduction a few days ago.

Project PEARLS: Peace, Education, Aspiration, Respect, Love, Smile

April 10, 2012

Qingming Rituals

Qingming Festival (aka Ching Ming or Tomb Sweeping Day), like many traditional Chinese festivals, involves family, food and firecrackers.

Much like a western memorial day, this is a time for the living to remember those who have passed on. For the Chinese people, it is significant to celebrate their enduring lineage. Families take this day to clean and restore their ancestors' resting places.

Qingming in Chinese means "clear and bright," a solar term indicating when the sun is exactly at the celestial longitude of 15°. On our calendar, it begins around 4th of April. Thus last week Wednesday was official Qingming day.

Yet it was early morning the day before when my honey and I boarded a bus in Wuchuan with the extended family of our friend and spent until late afternoon visiting nine separate graves to pay tribute to their forebears.

On this first hot spring day after a wet chilly winter, we had a first-hand look at the rituals of the day. While specific details of traditional customs may vary from place to place in China, and even overseas in Chinese communities, here is a much abbreviated account of what people generally do at gravesites on Qingming:

1. Sweep the grave or clear it of all debris and plant overgrowth.

clearing the gravesite or sweeping a grave

2. Strategically place amulets around the grave to protect against evil unearthly influences. (This practice may be distinctive to certain regions.) Here it was in the simple form of small mounds of dirt with pieces of paper and rocks.

cleared grave with amulets

3. Burn candles and joss sticks (incense) to call the ancestors, imaginably like ringing the doorbell to announce one’s arrival.

4. Offer foods – such as a full roasted suckling pig, boiled chicken, barbecued pork, rice, fruits – and drink and place them in front of the tomb. Typically white rice wine is first poured into small glasses then spilt onto the grave.

5. Burn joss paper – fake money and other symbols of wealth like gold, silver, clothes, jewelry, gadgets (cell phones are popular these days!) – anything that gives us comfort as humans. (I’ve even seen miniature mansions and cars before.) Traditional belief holds that when burned, these symbols will transform into real wealth for their ancestors to enjoy in their place beyond.

"hell" money and other goodies burned for the spirit world

6. Pay respect and show devotion to the ancestor with kowtows; the number varies by region.

7. Surround the grave with firecrackers (this too may be unique to here) and light them to scare away gremlins or other nasty spirits hovering around the grave.

I'll not be surprised if you have some questions. There is still so much I could say about our fascinating experience, as well as about Chinese gravesites and this ancient traditional day of devoted offspring demonstrating they have not forgotten their predecessors.  But that would make this post unbearably long, so I may have to return to this story in future.

For links to posts by others with an interest in graveyards and cemeteries, visit Taphophile Tragics.


If you'd like to help me get ONE young girl like Maricel out of the charcoal factory in a Manila slum and into school, please see my post yesterday and securely CHIP IN just a few dollars through the form on the top of my right sidebar.

A one year scholarship of US$200 will give one student:
• School supplies: two sets of uniform, pair of shoes, socks, backpack, notebook, pens, pencils
• Scholarship certificate
• School meals
• Food for Learning Program (rice and canned goods for home)
• Vouchers for additional school supplies needed for school projects
• Opportunity for special field trips for top scholars

Every child deserves this minimum. Please chip in $5, $10 or whatever you like and together we can sponsor one child and give the gift of HOPE.

Project Pearls Scholarship Program.

April 9, 2012

Holy Mosaic Mural

This large mosaic mural of Christ lying on a bed of thorns graces the wall beside the basement parking lot ramp for Alliance Fran├žaise de Manille that promotes French language, culture and friendly relations with Filipinos through art and educational programs. Unfortunately, I can't tell you who the artist is.

This mural is across the street from a wall mosaic with a lighter subject I posted on this blog before.

Makati, 2008

For those of you who observe it, I hope you had a joyful Easter.

Linking with Monday Mural.


On a very different note, I am supporting a fundraising drive for a very special group of children. This is my appeal to YOU to CHIP IN to help get ONE child like Resty here to elementary school.

Meet Resty. At five years old, he must have already experienced life at its worst than most of us do. But poverty doesn't stop this amazing boy to dream big and to work for his dream to get out of Ulingan.

Resty is the youngest entrepreneur I have met in my life. He collects nails from burned wood for hours just so he will have enough money to buy himself soap and shampoo. He collects empty... cardboard boxes to help his grandparents put food on the table.

Resty, a very proud nursery graduate, is on his way on fulfilling his dream.  (~Melissa Villa founder of Project Pearls)
Ulingan (which means charcoal) is a small squatter community in Manila where many children subsist by working to make charcoal.

With your help of $5, $10, $20 or more we can raise the $200 to give ONE child in Ulingan the gift of education and make a huge difference in his or her life. Please go to the form on the top of my right side bar and securely chip in. I'm happy to answer questions or concerns. 

Project Pearls helps the poorest of the poor children in the Philippines have a better life by providing them with PEARLS: Peace, Education, Aspiration, Respect, Love, Smile.  You can read more details about the PEARLS Scholarship Program.