Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Five Facts I Didn't Know about Taiwan

Despite the fact that Taiwan is only a little over 2 hours flight away from Philippines, it did not make it in my list of countries I wanted to visit because of few good reasons. One I now reside in Singapore which makes it more than 4 hours flight and second I need a visa to enter Taiwan and shell out 60sgd or 2400php for a single entry.

Not until the government of Taiwan issued a visa-free entry for Filipino tourist which started last year November, 2017 until July, 2018.  This news got Taiwan in my radar, plus Gemson(my brother) recently got his passport. So we plan, booked our flights and hotel and off we go.

Here are five facts I didn't know about Taiwan until now.

1. Wifi spot everywhere. Well almost.
You can stay connected in this country as there is free wifi in almost all the public spaces - shopping areas, hospitals and libraries. You just need to do their one-time registration through this link - Taipei Free

2. Their incumbent President Tsai Ing-Wen(May 20, 2016 - present) is the first woman elected in office and the first unmarried president of the country.
You better ain't mess with her. #girlpower 💪👊

3. This country ranked third(1.13) with the lowest fertility rate in the world based on 2017 statistics. It preceded Macau as second(0.95) and Singapore on top(0.83). The low fertility was accounted for women having better access to education and full-time jobs plus childcare is expensive.

4. Taiwan recognises lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender(LGBT) rights
On 24 May 2017, the Constitutional Court ruled that the current marriage laws are unconstitutional and that same-sex couples should have the right to marry. The court has given the Parliament a maximum of two years to amend or enact laws so that same-sex marriage is legally recognized. If the Parliament fails to do so by 24 May 2019, same-sex marriage will automatically become legal.

5. Taiwan is formerly known as Formosa, officially known as Republic of China(ROC)
When Portuguese discovered the main island in 1542 they called it Ilha Formosa, which means "beautiful island." In 1945, the Republic of China took control of the country from the Japanese. Today, majority of countries including People's Republic of China do not recognise Taiwan as independent country. But Vatican City and 21 countries in United Nations recognises Republic of China officially.

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

CCF: Be the Church – UnMask

Acts 5:1-14
Bro. Popit Aragones

Image courtesy of faithalive365.com
In the concluding verses of Acts Chapter 4, we learned that the early church voluntarily shared their possessions and property to the church as a result of the unity brought by the Holy Spirit working in their lives. Barnabas who was named “Son of Encouragement” sold his land and brought all the money to the apostles.

However, Acts Chapter 5 started with a “But” to express contrast between the early church including Barnabas versus Ananias and his wife Sapphira. While Barnabas gave everything he had sold the land for, Ananias and Sapphira kept some for themselves. To be fair, believers are free to keep a portion of money entrusted to us, because God asks us to give willingly according to our heart.

Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.
– 2 Corinthians 9:7

The sin Ananias and Sapphira committed was not about holding back part of the money – their sin is lying to God and the apostles, saying they gave the whole amount but holding back some for themselves. Trying to make themselves appear more generous just like Barnabas.
During this time, even after the Holy Spirit had come, the believers were not immune to Satan’s temptations. This event translates to the true condition of their heart -  Hypocrisy.

Hypocrisy is an outgrowth of narcissm. Hypocrites are people who pretends to have higher noble beliefs but are actually not. They always show their best foot to appear more spiritual than others. Faking their spirituality in the expense of lying.

“Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You clean the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence.
“Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You are like whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of the bones of the dead and everything unclean.
–Matthew 23:25,27

Ananias and Sapphira being struck down to death by God gives emphasis to the mostly overlooked by equally important truth of God’s holiness. God’s divine judgment to Ananias and Sapphira displays the nature of God being holy, sovereign and righteous. God in his holiness hates sin and cannot allow people to be complacent with their sins.

This event brought shock and fear among the believers. The gospel and truth of God’s word and character divides people. Genuine believers will see it as a wake-up call about God’s holiness, they will repent and continue to follow Jesus. Other believers may get offended and run away from church.
To avoid falling from the same judgment of Ananias and Sapphira - believers should always be in the lookout. Realize the reality of hypocrisy. Guard your heart from living a double life. The sin of hypocrisy is very dangerous because it does not only affect the life of the believer but the church as a whole. Hypocrisy can mislead and deceive people.

In conjunction, we should reflect and ask ourselves:
How is your heart today?
What is the motive of your heart, why are you doing what you are doing in the church, in your ministry, in your discipleship group?

As the word of God exposes the real condition of our heart, rebuking us, and confronting us with our sins – Do not be discouraged. Acknowledge your sins before the Lord. Yes it can be painful at times but this should not be the cause of us turning away from the church, instead a good reason to cling more to our spiritual family.

Transcribed by:

Thursday, April 5, 2018

Music: Love Won't Let Me Down

In the midst of disappointments, uncertainty and changing times, it's encouraging to know that there are things that will never change and will never fail us.

Dear Lord,  
Help me to always trust in your plans and heart even my own heart falter. Keep me in your wings, that I can hide from it including from myself. For there is no better place to be than in your presence.
Fill my empty heart with your love. 
Your seeking lost daughter.


When I was searching

Your love was never far
You made a way to get to me
You were the whisper leading me to Your heart 
Forever I belong to You
Now I can see clearly My God You are for me 

You won’t let go
Your love won’t let me down

And I know it’s true
Yeah I know that Your love is all around I believe in You
Holding on to You
Holding on and I know You will never fail 

I want all of You 
You never change Your love won’t let me down
Love won’t let me down
Love won’t let me (down)

Love won’t let me (down)
Right when I need You

You listen as I pray
You’d leave the ninety-nine for me
You paint the sky with promises of Your grace
So I would find my way to You
Now I can see clearly My God You are for me 

You won’t let go
Your love won’t let me down

And I know it’s true
Yeah I know that Your love is all around I believe in You
Holding on to You
Holding on and I know You will never fail 

I want all of You 
You never change Your love won’t let me down
Love won’t let me down
Love won’t let me (down)

Love won’t let me (down)
Holding on and I know You will never fail 

I want all of You 
You never change Your love won’t let me down
Love won’t let me
Songwriters: Alexander Pappas / Michael Fatkin

Video credits to Youtube channel Hillsong Young & Free

Monday, April 2, 2018

Resurrection or Easter Sunday?

Have you ever wondered how Easter eggs and Easter bunny is related to the resurrection of Jesus Christ which we are celebrating annually on Resurrection Sunday aka Easter Sunday. Why is it commonly known as "Easter"?
Image courtesy of wikipedia

Question: "What are the origins of Easter?"  

Answer: The origins of Easter are obscure. It is often assumed that the name Easter comes from a pagan figure called Eastre (or Eostre) who was celebrated as the goddess of spring by the Saxons of Northern Europe. According to the theory, Eastre was the “goddess of the east (from where the sun rises),” her symbol was the hare (a symbol of fertility), and a festival called Eastre was held during the spring equinox by the Saxons to honor her. 

Historically in order to make Christianity become more attractive to non-Christians, the ancient Roman Catholic Church mixed the celebration of Jesus' resurrection with celebrations that involved spring fertility rituals. These spring fertility rituals are the source of the egg and bunny traditions.

It's crystal clear, the true symbol of resurrection Sunday is not colourful decorated eggs or the easter bunny but an empty tomb. Because the main takeaway here is -- Jesus is alive! He has risen from the dead! That is worth more celebrating!

The angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid; for I know that you are looking for Jesus who has been crucified. He is not here, for He has risen, just as He said. Come, see the place where He was lying. --Matthew 28:5-6

Credits to: https://www.gotquestions.org

Sunday, March 25, 2018

Sri Lanka: Spice Garden

On our way to Kandy which is the last leg of our Sri Lanka trip, we drop by in one of the visited Spice Garden in Matale.

The tour started in the garden by introducing us to some herbal plants and its medicinal benefits. We get to touch and smell pepper, nutmeg, ginger, vanilla, cacao, cardamom, pineapple, cinnamon and others.  Few of the plants I must admit is the first time I am seeing them up close and personal.

Drinking tea during the tour
After the tour we went to a room to check all the spices and ayurvedic herbal medicinal products they produce. To name a few they have herbal balm, green oil, cough syrup, wild bee honey mixture, herbal tooth powder, cosmetics, citronella, cinnamon oil, herbal wine, hair removing cream, variety of essential oils, king coconut oil, cocoa, different kinds of spices and the like.

What appeals to me is their cosmetic kit, which I was able to try personally during the product demo.

Cosmetic Combination

1. Aloe vera cream
Daily use of aloevera cream replenishes skin health and restores natural moisture balance. Helps against wrinkle and sun burns.

2. Sandalwood cream
Can be used as a vanishing cream. Use after shaving cream. Cures pimples acne.

3. Aloe vera cream and Sandalwood oil
Mix together a little quantity of aloevera cream and few drops of sandalwood oil to apply on the face and neck. Massage upwards for 1-2 minutes daily for best results against dry skin and wrinkles. Suits every skin type and solves multiple anti-aging problems. Also useful remedy against cellulites and stretch marks.

At the end of the tour you are offered to buy from their store. They can be a little pushy, but it's your own discretion, you may or may not buy from them.

If you are interested you can visit them in this address:

Ranweli Spice Garden
Kawdupelella, Matale, Sri Lanka
Tel: +94 22 47339
Fax: +94 66 2247558
Email: ranspicemt@sltnet.lk

Thursday, March 22, 2018

Movie: Wonder

As I am not a sleeper-kind-of-passenger-during-flights, I try to make use of the airtime by watching movies or reading books from my kindle. Unfortunately I forgot to bring my kindle during my Sri Lanka trip last week so I am left with the first option. As I skim through the movie list, "Wonder" caught my eye and next thing I know I am in tears watching this film. Yes I am an emotional viewer, lost it few times but please don't judge me. :)

From the acclaimed 2012 best selling novel written by RJ Palacio, WONDER tells the incredibly inspiring and heartwarming story of August Pullman, a boy with Treacher Collins syndrome who enters fifth grade, attending a mainstream elementary school for the first time.

A story of courage, family and friendships that is worth your two hours screen time. If you don't believe me go check for yourself. 

Meanwhile here are some of my favourites quotes or snippets of conversation from the movie. Enjoy and #ChooseKind

Auggie Pullman: Be kind, for everyone is fighting a hard battle. And if you really want to see what people are, all you have to do is look.

Via Pullman: If they stare let them stare. You can’t blend in when you were born to stand out.

Nate Pullman: Hey, two rules. First, only raise your hand once in class no matter how many answers you know, except for science. Crush them.
Auggie Pullman: Check.
Nate Pullman: Second, you’re going to feel like you’re all alone, Auggie, but you’re not.
Auggie Pullman: Check.

Auggie Pullman: [voice over] I know I’m not an ordinary kind of a kid, I’ve had twenty-seven surgeries. They help me to breathe, to see, to hear without a hearing aid, but none of them have me look ordinary.

Auggie Pullman: [voice over] My mom always said, “If you don’t like where you are just picture where you want to be.”

Summer: “When given the choice between right or being kind, choose kind.”

Nate Pullman: [to Auggie] I know you don’t always like it, but I love it. It’s my son’s face.

Isabel Pullman: You are not ugly, and anyone who cares to know you will see that.
Auggie Pullman: You just have to say that because you’re my mom!
Isabel Pullman: Because I’m your mom it counts the most because I know you the most. Believe me.

Mr. Browne: Who is it that I aspire to be? That is the question that we should be asking ourselves all the time.

Isabel Pullman: You really are a wonder, Auggie.

Auggie Pullman: [voice over] Then again, maybe that’s kind of the point. Maybe the truth is, I’m really not so ordinary. Maybe if we knew what other people were thinking we’d know that no one’s ordinary, and we all deserve a standing ovation at least once in our lives. My friends do. My teachers do. My sister does for always being there for me. My dad does for always making us laugh. And my mom does the most, for never giving up, on anything. Especially, me. 

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Sri Lanka: Sunrise Trek at Pidurangala Rock

While Pidurangala Rock is overshadowed by its adjacent more popular and enormous rival Sigiriya Lion rock, Pidurangala offers a closer to nature experience of moderate hiking and bouldering. Compared to Sigiriya where the fortress is reachable by stairs and pathways, in Pidurangala you will start with rough staircases followed by rugged terrain of uneven rocks where you cannot almost recognize the road.

Another thing to note is you only give a donation of 500 LKR(a little over 3USD) here to be able to trek this rock even without a guide as to Sigiriya where you need to pay a whooping 4600LKR(more than 30USD) and another 30USD for the guide(if you opt for one). The price itself is incomparable.

We planned to do a meet and greet with Mister Sun that day at the top of this bald rock. We woke up at 4.30am and arranged a tuk-tuk ride to the entrance of Pidurungala, paying 1200LKR for a round-trip transportation. After getting our tickets, we started our ascend at around 5am-ish, we didn't manage to bring flashlights which is helpful because it is still dark. But good thing we have our mobile phones to somehow light the bumpy coarse. We finally reach the top in less than 30 minutes of carefully stepping and passing through different sizes of rocks and stones randomly organized by nature.

Picture below shows numbers of tourist who managed to climb on top, all waiting for the sun to peek over the horizon of lush greenery. We were a bit bothered by the hazy clouds but after few moments the sun slowly breaks the dawn, exhibiting its grandeur as it paints the sky with mixture of yellow and orange blends. Forgive me as my camera was not able to give justice to this enchanting moment, there's no better way to see it but personal.

Left picture captures one of the major obstruction in climbing up or down Pidurangala, as there is only one person at a time who can pass by through this rocks in specific spot.  Traffic build up for tourist going down. This is one of the moments where having long legs and arms is an advantage. Also on our way down we noticed a boulder garden(which we did not see during our ascend as it is still dark) with half white gigantic sleeping buddha lying underneath a massive rock acting as its shed. I would say perfect spot to hit the snooze :)

Kathy, Julius, Christine and me

Although Sigiriya rock is rich in history and archaeological significance, climbing Pidurangala rock gives you a touch of adventure with more nature-feel and harmony with Mother Earth. Not to mention in hindsight, you appreciate things better when you work hard for it. Because nothing worth having (or in our case seeing) comes easy. Thank you Pidurangala for that challenging but worthwhile climb. 

“Because in the end, you won’t remember the time you spent working in the office or mowing your lawn. Climb that goddamn mountain.” -- Jack Kerouac

Tip: If you want to cover both rocks, you can wake up for the sunrise at Pidurangala and then head to Sigiriya.

Shoutout to Cristine for most of the pictures.