COMETs are coming! (E-jeepneys now in Quezon City)

Just when I was starting to live like a total hermit (with occasional trips to the nearest shopping mall, the nearest supermarket, and church), hope sprung again when I saw this article online. There are many reasons to love Quezon City in the Philippines. There’s the city’s laid-back vibe as seen in areas like the Maginhawa Street food strip, Tomas Morato, UP Town Center, and the Trinoma and SM North Edsa mall area. The country’s two best universities are housed here. And then this: eco-friendly and rider-friendly e-jeepneys called COMETs (City Optimized Managed Electric Transport) now ply the LRT Katipunan – Trinoma route!

But wait, there’s more. Thirty e-jeepneys are just the beginning. Soon, we will see more routes and more jeepneys, which will bring us an overload of good vibes:

  • An eco-friendly upgrade to the iconic Philippine jeepneys. Sure, it’s not as colorful and crazily decorated as the jeepneys we’d come to love, but that can be fixed. What’s important is that they now use lithium ion batteries which lessens too much dependence on oil. This also means (hopefully!) less transport strikes which cripple our movements around the city!
  • Safer jeepney design.  We passengers don’t have to worry about getting accidentally hit by upcoming cars on the road because the door is now located at the side of the jeepney, allowing us to board safely from sidewalks. And whenever the rains relentlessly beat the pavement and floods ensue, these jeepneys can still brave the roads, thanks to hydraulic wheels that can rise by one foot.
  • More orderly boarding and alighting, plus some creature comforts for the tech-savvy commuter. We all know that the way jeepneys (and other forms of public transportation) randomly stop at various parts of the road causes traffic. This behavior also reinforces lack of discipline among people, both drivers and passengers. It seems that a more orderly way of commuting is about to be institutionalized through the COMET. The COMET has designated stops which are actually followed from LRT Katipunan to Trinoma and vice versa. Passengers conveniently pay for the fare via a card that they tap-in when boarding and tap-out when alighting.  What’s more, this e-jeepney also housess some creature comforts for the tech-savvy: GPS and Wifi connection, flat screen TV that displays news and ads, CCTV camera for monitoring the safety of passengers, and continuous communication between the COMET command center and e-jeepney to effectively forsee and manage congestion to and from the destination. I like this a lot because it resembles my bus adventures while I was studying in Seoul. Very convenient!
  •  Better compensation for drivers. Gone are the days when jeepney drivers are unsure of how much they will bring home to their family – or if they will bring anything substantial at all. By being a COMET driver, they are given monthly salaries plus benefits. Here, drivers, passengers, and the environment wins. What’s good for one sector is also good for the others. A dream come true.

According to the aforementioned Rappler article, this is the COMET’s route. I haven’t tried it yet but I’m excited!

COMET e-jeepney route from LRT Katipunan to Trinoma, and vice versa. Taken from http://www.rappler.com/nation/69948-quezon-city-electric-shuttles-operational.

COMET e-jeepney route from LRT Katipunan to Trinoma, and vice versa. Taken from http://www.rappler.com/nation/69948-quezon-city-electric-shuttles-operational.

environmental news network logo

This morning’s interesting articles @ Environmental News Network

environmental news network logoEnvironmental News Network is a website that posts a comprehensive selection of environment-related news everyday. I’ve been a newsletter subscriber since 2010 or thereabouts, so I’ve always had interesting news to read in my inbox everyday since then.

Today I want to share two of the most interesting news items I found. Well, interesting for me, at least.

First is an article titled “Why It’s Important to Rinse Recyclables. It’s interesting for me because  it’s common sense to rinse recyclables for sanitary and health reasons, but it’s not always done. An article like this is a great reminder why it’s important. Among the reasons cited here are efficiency (it makes sorting recyclables at the recycling plant easier and faster), health and sanitation (you wouldn’t want to attract yucky molds and pests anywhere near your recyclables, right?), and higher income (the cleaner the recyclable, the higher the grade and consequently, the price).

But for me, the most important reason for rinsing recyclables is the health and sanitation aspect of it. We recycle to limit waste and unnecessary consumption, but more often than not, the health and sanitation aspect is forgotten. It shouldn’t be. It should go hand in hand. A healthy environment means having healthy people around, as well.

This is also the reason why I believe that reusable eating utensils (spoons, forks, plates) is better than disposable plastic utensils–to a certain extent. That is, reusable eating utensils is better as long as these are rinsed and kept well. After all, what’s good about using earth-friendly things if they are not clean and sanitary enough for human usage, right? Who wants disease with their burger and fries, right?

Second is an article titled “Disc or Download: A Virtual Energy-Savings Debate”. This one talks about how carbon footprint in consuming video games is surprisingly more efficient when you buy the Blu-ray version of the game rather than downloading it online. The common way of thinking is that it’s more environment-friendly to download it, because Blu-ray entails energy consumed from the production of the disc itself plus transportation costs. But a systematic study by the Journal of Industrial Ecology proved otherwise.

So those are new stuff I learned today. Hope you also learned something new from these, too! Happy reading!

Tried and Tested: Pure Strength 100% Natural Deodorant by Human Nature

I know, I know. It’s a deodorant for men and I happen to be a woman. But that didn’t stop me from using Human Nature’s Pure Strength 100% Natural Deodorant. I have two reasons for this. 

1. It’s a natural deodorant that screams STRENGTH based from its name alone. As an urban warrior in a tropical country, I need something stronger than my girly deodorant (also from Human Nature). I move around the city a lot via public transportation, so the heat can be unbearable. Even when the rain gives a short-lived and cool respite, I still want to be protected from unpleasant body odor. So that’s why I made the switch.

2. It smells cleaner and more refreshing than my girly deodorant, thanks to bergamot and rosemary essential oils. I would like a variant that has a minty, cool scent, though. I hope Human Nature releases one soon.

I’ve been using this deodorant for about a month now and I must say it works so much better than my girly deodorant. I leave home feeling and smelling fresh and I come home feeling and smelling fresh. I will continue using Human Nature’s Pure Strength deodorant for sure…until a minty variant comes along. ^^   

Enchanted Burger @ Enchanted Farm Cafe

enchanted burger

Here’s a delicious routine after stocking up on your Human Nature beauty essentials. Just a floor above the Human Nature flagship store along Commonwealth Avenue in Quezon City (Philippines) is Enchanted Farm Cafe, a social enterprise selling healthy salads, burgers, and desserts straight from (you guessed it right) Enchanted Farm.

I tried the Enchanted Burger, a yummy compromise between my love for meat and my brain’s nagging to eat more veggies. It is made from 20 percent meat and 80 percent veggies, so it is, of course, a guilt-free meal. It is also loaded with other fresh veggies like cucumbers and greens. All of this cafe’s burgers are served with side salad and sweet potato fries. So I suppose this will fill up our fiber needs for the day.

The salad was super fresh and the dressing had a sweet, tangy taste which i loved. While I’m not really a fan of sweet potato fries, the tartare-like dipping sauce made it a delight to eat. 

Next time I drop by the area, I will their pastas, salads, and desserts (sabanoffee pie, in particular!).

Image

Yummy Seabass Set at Be Organic Restaurant in Bangkok

Yummy Seabass Set at Be Organic Restaurant in Bangkok

Gave myself a yummy organic treat at Be Organic restaurant in Bangkok last Sunday. I’ve been wanting to sample some dishes from this restaurant by Lemon Farm and I finally had my chance after church. Too hungry to choose, I picked the seabass set (250 baht) which includes the seabass plate with brown rice and veggie sides, veggie salad, soup of the day, and bancha (tea).

I loved the tangy sauce that the seabass came with. Staff were nice and they served my food with a smile.

There’s also a mini grocery shop beside the restaurant, selling organic veggies and other health foods. Beauty products are also here. It’s a one-stop shop for almost all of your organic needs!

Be Organic is located at the first floor of Portico Building. Take BTS Chitlom exit 4. Walk along Soi Langsuan for a bit until you see Portico on your left. You can’t miss it!

Happy eating!

Who’s Son Are You? (or, Why do parents obsess over sons in sageuk storylines?)

Have you ever noticed how some families in Korean TV dramas fuss over sons, be it wanting to have one, or raising one, or the lack of one?

Photo from the SBS TV drama “Jang Ok Jung: Live in Love”

Take “Jang Ok-Jung: Live in Love”, for example. Each character seems to know what’s at stake with having a son. The King wants one as an heir. Jang Ok-Jung wants to give birth to one to secure the King’s love and her position in the palace. The Queen is forlorn at her inability to produce one, as it seems to be her primary responsibility. The Queen Mother wants a pure, royal blooded, untainted-by-any-“low-class wench” (the Queen Mother’s words in the drama, not mine, hehe!). Whereas the Queen Dowager doesn’t mind one from Jang Ok-Jung’s womb, as long as the womb is affiliated with her faction (you know how intrigue-filled palace life in any saguek is!).

But one movie truly characterizes this preoccupation with having a son, in my opinion. No doubt readers of this blog (this writer included) might have been too young when the movie 씨받이 (The Surrogate Womb) was shown in 1987. Some readers of this blog might not even have been be born yet.

Recently, though, while on a student exchange program in Seoul, our history class was made to watch this movie, and what stood out for me was how the movie revolved around producing a son.

The film is a classic period masterpiece by renowned Korean director Im Kwon Taek, which was presented at the 44th Venice International Film Festival and won the Best Actress Prize for Kang Soo-yeon.

The film tells the story of yangban couple Sang-Kyu and his wife, who have been married for 12 years already but are still childless. The family has no heir to facilitate ancestral rites. This becomes unsettling for the family. So they come up with a plan to hire a 씨받이, or surrogate womb, in secret. They finally choose Oak-Nye, played by actress Kang Soo-yeon, as surrogate womb. Oak-Nye was forced to undergo various physiological and sexual indignities to ensure the birth of a son, such as holding her breath til near-death on the night of a full moon, drinking a concoction made from the grinded nose of Buddha’s statue, and bathing on almost-burning water, to name a few. Eventually, Sang-Kyu and Oak-Nye eventually fall in love. The family finds out about the affair and tries to separate them, but to no avail. Oak-Nye eventually gives birth to a boy. The family keeps the child. Oak-Nye and her mother, with heavy hearts, leave the house with their “prize” – 10 patches of land.

Photo credit: Wallcoo.net

So why this impassioned preoccupation with producing a son during the Joseon period? At this day and age, and being a foreigner at that, this is quite a puzzle for me.

According to my readings, this strong preference for a son is rooted in Confucianism. First and foremost, a male heir is needed to conduct ancestor worship. Ancestor worship can only be done by the head of the male lineage (the father/husband) as ritual master. In their minds, a daughter cannot carry out ancestral rites nor continue family lineage.

In the absence of a male heir, the ritual of honoring a family’s forefathers is in danger of coming to a halt. And in Confucian culture, this is a no-no. That’s why the clan gives so much importance to paternal lineage.

That’s also why, if you watch the movie, you’ll notice that the production of a male heir is like a family affair. Everyone is concerned about it, from the grandma of the family down to the distant relatives.

There is a great emphasis on keeping the family lineage alive since social and political status depended heavily on birth and lineage.

The film also depicts the extreme pressure on yangban women to produce an heir, which is their most important duty. She must assure the continuation of the husband’s line by bearing a son. A son is also needed to pass down the family fortune after parents’ death. Failure to produce a male heir was considered a sin, according to the “seven sins” for wives in The Great Ming Code. Moreover, women with only daughters were treated as if they were criminals. So if a yangban woman has no son, the family would either hire a surrogate mother, like in this particular movie, or adopt a son.

Screenshot from the SBS drama “Jang Ok Jung: Live in Love”.
Photo credit: allkpop.com

In “Jang Ok-Jung: Live in Love”, the Queen Mother and Queen In-Hyeon thought they could use Ok-Jung’s womb as some sort of surrogate womb, after which they’d steal away the baby. But, as you may well know from the drama, the King had other plans: Through sly maneuverings, he demoted Queen In-Hyeon and appointed Ok-Jung as queen in order to secure his son’s position as successor.

Screenshot from the SBS drama “Jang Ok Jung: Live in Love”

Such is the trouble and intrigue behind the production of a male heir. But does this ring true in the present time?

The answer is, not so much. I couldn’t believe it myself at first, since Korea is known to be a patriarchal society. But, when one of my Korean professors shared with us the results of his study, I began to believe that Korean society may indeed be moving towards gender equality.

Basically, our professor said that although strong son preference still exists in Korea, especially among older generations, there is a drastic decline in son preference among females and younger generations. This is the conclusion that he arrived at after analyzing survey data from the East Asian Social Survey in 2006.

He says that this may be because of Korea’s democratization and the women’s movement, minds are slowly but surely changing. Moreover, he also says that family life in Korea has shifted from paternal to bi-lateral, that’s why son preference has weakened noticeably among females and youngsters.

There are a lot of other articles that point to this interesting trend. This article from Korea JoongAng Daily points to the changing perceptions of parents towards raising children, which is from the function of having a child (i.e., this kid will do this-and-that for the family in the future) to the pure pleasure of raising a child.

This New York Times article, meanwhile, even hails Korea as a trendsetter in Asia for successfully reversing the high sex imbalance in the population. It also says that daughters are more preferred now since they are seen to be more caring than sons towards their parents, especially in old age.

So the next time you see a sageuk with characters clamoring for son in the family, smile, savor the nostalgia, and say, “It’s becoming Korea’s past.”

References:

1) Women’s Life During the Choson Dynasty (Han Hee-Sook)

2) Korea – Traditional Korean Families

3) Son Preference or Daughter Preference? A Comparative Study (Eun Ki-Soo)

4) Gender equality slightly improved last year: gov’t report (Korea Herald)

Queen, Maiden, or Gisaeng?: How to choose your Hanbok in your next photo trip

Seoul (and the whole of Korea, for that matter) teems with places where you can try the Hanbok, Korea’s traditional attire. From the airport to tourist spots like palaces, traditional villages, and museums, the Hanbok experience is an ever present attraction which signals that you are, indeed, in Korea.

The Hanbok experience
Photo from english.visitkorea.or.kr

The allure of the Hanbok for us foreigners may be because of the elegant way our favorite actors in our favorite Korean TV dramas wear them.

the moon that embraces the sun

Scene from MBC’s top-rating TV drama “The Moon that Embraces the Sun”

The sight of the Queen walking regally at the palace, of Korean ladies sauntering at the market, or of a gisaeng dancing gracefully while the hem of her Hanbok rustles musically with each beat just makes us want to try the Hanbok for ourselves, at least once in our lives.

Not all Hanbok are created equal, though. During the Joseon period, one’s social status was made apparent through the kind of Hanbok one wore. And if you intend to relive your Hanbok fantasy down pat, accuracy is key. That is, would you want to appear as a queen, maiden or gisaeng in the next photo you’ll proudly post on Facebook (or any other social network you use)?

Hanbok comes in different styles for differenet people.
Photo from Korea.Net

So the next time you spot a Hanbok booth in Korea, keep these little nuggets of info in mind. Who knows, you can even dazzle your friends with your “extensive” knowledge of the Hanbok!

Hanbok for the common people

Materials used for making Hanbok ranged from hemp, ramie, cotton muslin, silk, and satin, depending on the weather.

Commoner’s Hanbok.
Photo from Caidenlee.blogspot.com

 But if you are a commoner, you wear white Hanbok on most days, with the only exceptions being festivals and special life events like weddings. White isn’t so bad, though, since it represents purity, integrity, and chastity.

Hanbok for the upper class

If you come from the yangban or upper class, or if you are a court figure, you wear brightly colored Hanbok in red, yellow, blue, and black, which represent the give traditional elements in Oriental Cosmology – fire, earth, water, metal and wood. You also wear an assortment of accessories. The hair is elaborately arranged and decorated, too.

Brightly colored Hanbok for yangban women.
Photo from MBC’s TV drama “Arang and the Magistrate”

You can also tell the period in which the Hanbok was popular. During the early Joseon period, the jeogori was hip-length in style and was fastened at the waist. The jeogori that we are familiar now, which is arm pit-length in style with front panels made longer for breast coverage, were popular during the late Joseon Dynasty. This is an interesting article on how the jeogori has changed over the passing of centuries.

Hanbok for royal family

Symbols on the hem of one’s Hanbok denoted the wearer’s rank. A queen’s clothing carried the phoenix symbol. Princesses and royal concubines’ clothes, meanwhile, were decorated with a floral pattern. And for the ultimate sign of luxury, only royalty were allowed to wear gold-colored clothing.

Photo from Eng.expo2012.kr

Specific attire worn by female royalty include the hwalot, the wonsam and the dangui, among others.

Hwalot.
Photo from the KBS TV drama “The Princess’ Man”

If you want to wear something a princess would, then choose a hwalot, a ritual attire adorned with 10 symbols of noble plants and animals denoting luck, long-life and prosperity. Luxuriously embroidered using crimson thread, one can imagine how expensive a hwalot is. Common people, who cannot afford this clothing, resorted to wearing nok wonsam instead.

In addition, the hwalot was also an attire that noble classes wore as a bridal topcoat.

Wonsam.
Photo from the SBS TV drama “Jang Ok Jung”

Ceremonial topcoat for royalty, court ladies with high rank, and yangban women was the wonsam. To differentiate a royalty’s wonsam from a court lady’s and a yangban woman’s, different colors were used for each class. Moreover, decorations around the chest, shoulders and the back further signified which class the wearer belongs to.

A gold-colored wonsam, of course, can only be worn by the empress. The red one is worn by the queen. The green one is worn by a princess (or by a woman from the commoner class, but only during her wedding ceremony).

Photo from the MBC TV drama “The Moon that Embraces the Sun”

For minor ceremonies, the queen, princess or the wife of a high ranking government official wore the dangui, the difference being the queen and the princess wore dangui that had a gold trim, whereas non-royalty wore plain dangui. Wives from the noble class, wore the dangui during major ceremonies.

Hanbok for gisaeng: Fashion-forward and free

Do you remember that scene in “Jang Ok-Jung: Live in Love” where gisaengs served as Jang Ok-Jung’s models during her fashion show? There is truth to this scene, as gisaengs were actually stylish trend-setters during their time. Because they were not constrained by rules and regulations, such as in clothing, they got pretty creative with their clothes, makeup and accessories.

Gisaeng as fashion icons.
Photo from the SBS TV drama “Jang Ok Jung”

A major difference in a gasaeng’s Hanbok, though, was the presence of a wide band around the chest.

Hwang Jin-Yi, an intellectual gisaeng.
Photo from the KBS TV drama “Hwang Jin Yi”

Gisaeng also wore eye-catching accessories such as jeonmo (hat) in Gu Family Book.

A gisaeng sporting a beautiful hat.
Photo from the MBC TV drama “Gu Family Book”

Modern Hanbok

Hanbok, at the present time, is only worn during special ceremonies like weddings, 60th birthday and funerals.

Hanbok has been altered through the ages according to foreign influences. Current times still point to the same trend. Nowadays, Hanbok is more modern, with silhouettes adapting to the changing times. It also seems to be more comfortable to wear as there are less parts to don.

Modernized Hanbok.
Photo from the MBC TV drama “Feast of the Gods”

But whatever Hanbok you choose to wear, the important thing is how happy you are with it and how beautiful it makes you feel. And preserving an experience like this in photos makes it all the more special. Queen, maiden or gisaeng, there’s a Hanbok especially made for you.

Where to try Hanbok (Just some, not all! ^^)

1. Seoul Global Culture & Tourism Center located on the 5th floor of the M Plaza in Myeongdong http://www.visitseoul.net/en/article/article.do?_method=view&m=0003001006003&p=06&art_id=55733&lang=en

2. Tourist Information Center (TIC), located in the Korea Tourism Organization (KTO) Headquarters in Seoul http://visitkorea.or.kr/enu/FU/FU_EN_15.jsp?cid=1799300

3. Bukcon Maru

http://www.bukchonmaru.com/en/blog/2013/5/16/the-experience-of-wearing-hanbok

4. Myeonggajae Guesthouse

http://www.myeonggajae.com/eng/bbs/board.php?bo_table=notice&wr_id=55

5. Seoul Namsan Gugakdang

http://english.seoul.go.kr/cav/ena/eview.php?pYear=2013&pMonth=02&idx=634

Sources:

http://weyesweb.wordpress.com/category/korean-traditional-clothing-hanbok-%ED%95%9C%EB%B3%B5/

http://www.han-style.com/english/hanbok/meaning.jsp

http://www.koreatimes.co.kr/www/news/art/2007/07/203_6384.html

http://www.earticle.net/Article.aspx?sn=112264

http://iamkoream.com/april-issue-keeping-the-hanbok-tradition-alive/

http://english.visitkorea.or.kr/enu/CU/CU_EN_8_1_2_1.jsp

http://www.koreatimes.co.kr/www/news/culture/2013/01/148_25981.html

http://www.medieval-baltic.us/korot3.html

Homestay and traveling solo in Suncheon made easy by BnB Hero

Traveling solo has been on my bucket list since I started watching Ian Wright in awe at Discovery Channel’s Lonely Planet in high school. Although I’ve traveled in many parts of the world already for the past __ number of years, I still haven’t mustered up the courage to backpack by myself. It’s always been with family and friends.

I took the Mugunghwa train from Yongsan Station in Seoul to Suncheon City. It took me around 5 hours. A very long trip, indeed! I took the KTX going back from Sincheon to Seoul — only 3 hours! ^^

But thanks to the opportunity presented by BnB Hero, I finally did it. As my prize for churning out one of the best blogs about the Seongju Life and Culture Festival, I was given a free homestay at Suncheon for the Suncheon Bay International Garden Expo.

The entrance to the Suncheon Bay International Garden Expo

Truth to tell, this wasn’t on my list of things to visit in Seoul since I am not fond of gardens. But I’m glad I soldiered on, anyway.

I bought the night ticket on my first day, since I arrived at Suncheon late in the afternoon. And on the second day, I bought the one-day pass.

Not only did I see the ecologically friendly Suncheon City, I also experienced the joy of living with a Korean family.

Beside me is Tina, my beautiful and kind homestay host!

Initially, I was concerned about traveling solo and staying with an unfamiliar family for 3 days and 2 nights. I voiced these concerns with BnB Hero and they helpfully arranged things for me. They recommended a nice apartment room for me that’s owned by a very kind woman named Tina.

Breakfast was included in the deal, and woah, what a big breakfast it was! It was my first real Korean breakfast that’s not in the school dormitory, kekeke. Tina and her husband cooked it together. What a loving family there are.

Tina also spoke English well, as she was an English teacher. So for foreigners like me who are worried about communication barriers, there’s nothing like that when you stay with Tina.

There were a lot of beautiful gardens in the Expo! One whole day is not enough to explore! You need two—or more!

I also feel I got lucky in my first homestay. The room was clean, the host was nice, and she even accompanied me in some trips, like at the Suncheon Bay Garden Expo and at the Suncheon Drama Set!

The awesomely serene Suncheon Bay! Entrance came free with my Garden Expo ticket purchase. There’s also a free shuttle to take you there. Easy-peasy! ^^

A panoramic shot of the Suncheon Drama Set. Entrance also came free with my purchase of a Garden Expo ticket. Just take Bus 777 to get here. But luckily, for me, Tina kindly accompanied me!

All in all, this trip made me braver in terms of traveling solo. Korea is such a safe and easy place to travel around in. And with the help of BnB Hero, your travel is bound to be safe, easy, economical and fun!