(Continued from last week.)
Oasis of peace
The city is also the headquarters of Fo Guang Shan Buddha Memorial Center, located in Dashu District. The Buddhist monastery is the largest in Taiwan and covers more than 100 hectares.
“It can take you two days just to see everything here. So, today we’ll just stay here for two hours and visit the museum and the Big Buddha,” our tour guide, hired by Jeron Travel and Tours Corp., said referring to the magnificent 108m-tall Fo Guang Shan Big Buddha, which is equivalent to the height of a 36-storey building.
Another attraction in the city is the Lotus Pond, a man-made lake which features dozens temples, pavilions and pagodas including the prominent Dragon and Tiger Pagodas, a two seven-story pagodas guarded by crouching tiger and dragon statues. Visitors enter through the dragon’s mouth into a tunnel (inside the dragon’s body) with walls embellished with carvings.
“Visitors exit via the mouth of the tiger for good luck,” Albert said during the tour.
After going around Taiwan’s maritime capital, our group headed to the country’s oldest city called Tainan, which is some 50 kilometers from the port city of Kaoshiung.
There, we met with a Filipino musician and composer Edgar Macapili who is now an adopted son of the Siraya Tribe after marrying a member of the indigenous tribe 20 years ago.
Siraya is one of the 17 indigenous tribes in Taiwan but it hasn’t been officially recognized. Macapili and his wife are exerting all their efforts to get recognized so they could build centers to revitalize and introduce their culture to many.
“This place is home to cultural activists and they promote their culture and let the society know that Siraya people still exist,” Macapili referring to Siraya Scenic Area where clusters of the Siraya Tribe communities are located.
Taiwanese culture is a blend of Confucianist Han Chinese and Taiwanese aborigine cultures. And they’re proud of it. Hence, indigenous tribes are being recognized by the government and are given the opportunity to revitalize their language and culture by setting up centers where they can preserve their history for the next generations to come.
Feels like home
From Tainan we headed to Sun Moon Lake in Taichung, which is probably Taiwan’s version of Tagaytay. From its terrain to architecture of edifices surrounding the body of water, the province resembles the chilly destination of Manileños back home. And interestingly, the merchandises sold at its local market are the same items you can buy in Baguio like the “barrel man,” phallic carvings, and the woven fabric we thought only exclusive to Ifugaos.
Explanation to these similarities can also be found right at Wen Wu temple located on the perimeter of Sun Moon Lake in Yuchi Township. The temple sits on the mountaintop at an altitude of 954 meters, giving visitors the best view of the area. At the entrance of the temple, there’s a concrete map that depicts how Taiwanese ancestors traveled by foot just exactly how aboriginal people reached Philippines using land bridges.
“These connections between the Philippines and Taiwan are still visible up to these days. We have similar cultures and that makes easy for Taiwanese and Filipinos blend and interact,” Representative Gary Song-Huann Lin of the Taipei Economic and Cultural Office told Manila Standard in Manila a few days before our trip.
(To be continued)