It's Halloween eve and it's just another day here. Instead of wearing costumes on halloween night, the Taiwanese have Ghost month every seventh month of the lunar calendar. For thirty days they believe that ghosts leave the underworld and roam the world of the living. The Taiwanese offer food and burn incense and paper money for their dead relatives. During the ghost month, it is forbidden to launder or hang clothes after dark as ghosts are suppose to inhabit them and cause trouble to the wearer. Getting married or moving to a new house is definite no-no unless you want to be accursed for the rest of your life. The list of things one shouldn't do on Ghost month is long yet my husband tells me that observance of the Ghost month is common for all Chinese.

There are no halloween parties, no children wearing costumes asking for treats. I'll have to content myself with the certainty that back home my mother will, without fail, offer candles and prayers for relatives that have moved on to the great beyond. Like she always does on the first day of November.
Halloween in the Philippines is celebrated in two distinctly different ways. Costume parties are becoming a regular publicity event for radio stations, clubs and other night spots. In affluent neighborhoods and communities with sizeable expatriate residents, children don their favorite scary costumes to do their rounds of Trick and Treating. My country being a great admirer and imitator of all things American (a statement of fact), Halloween is one celebration complete with pumpkins, witches and ghouls. Any westerner attending a Halloween Party would feel at home.

As for me, I grew up celebrating November 1 as All Souls Day. To the religious Filipino, November 1 is the day to remember loved ones who have passed away. Mass and prayers are offered for the dead. Families gather together to go to cemeteries. They clean the tombs, light candles, and keep vigil for a day. Some even bring food and stay in the cemeteries overnight with the whole family.

My grandparents from both my mother and father's side of the family are buried in the province. On the night of November 1, my mother would light candles, one for each relative and then offer prayers. She would place each candle on our doorway and then prepare food. She would place servings on plates at the dining table and forbid us to touch or eat them. Souls of the departed are believed to visit their living relatives and the food and candles are offerings to them. The candles are allowed to burn down and the food left on the table to be discarded in the morning. As a child, the only thing I fear on All Souls Day was seeing a ghost. Looking back, that's far too boring compared to the witches, zombies, headless riders, ghouls and what-have-you's lurking in the halloween night of western culture. (Growing up taught me that there are other, far more fearsome things but that's another post)

There you go our local mix of Halloween celebration. Costumes and parties became popular of late but visiting tombs, lighting candles, and offering mass and prayers for departed love ones is a long and continuing tradition for us Filipinos.
Random Thoughts today

Just finished reading New York Times columnist A.O. Scott's review of the movie 'Babel'. It hasn't opened in Taiwan yet and I'll be among the first to watch it when it does.

J.K. Rowling was featured on Yahoo! 60 minutes. (Sorry I can't work out how to include the links here) So was Sean Penn and I happen to think that he was so full of himself. It's just me so ... But Clint Eastwood's musical talent was a revelation!

Kiran Desai interview on her winning the Man Booker Prize for her novel “The Inheritance of Loss".

I little bit of this and that. I'll write something down tomorrow. 'til then.
I was reading an article in the Philippine Daily Inquirer by the well-respected Conrado De Quiros. His column, 'There's the Rub', appeals to me because he writes of the hopes, anger, frustrations, and joys of being a Filipino. Most of the time, he raises his voice against the abuses of government and rails on the authorities who have been remiss or negligent of their duties. Oftentimes, too, he writes to coax some fight from the seemingly indifferent majority of Filipinos. I think of him as a voice in the wilderness. But I know that I'm not the only one who can hear him clearly.

Yet again, this piece articulated the currently pervading mindset of most Filipinos living in the country. The overwhelming majority wants to leave; those that have left feel regret and guilt; The families feeling the stress of separation and the silent individuals who suffer the pangs of isolation and displacement.

Why is it that most of us think that living in a foreign country is preferable to staying in the Philippines? I called my parents two days ago and told them that I plan on going home and staying for at least a year. They thought my decision strange. Most of what was left unsaid was distilled in the one question they thought should stop me going home: Everyone is lining up at POEA (Philippine Overseas Employment Administration) trying to get out of the country, you're already in Taiwan so why come back?

Why indeed?

I wasn't happy being a second-class citizen. I'm tired of being a foreigner. I miss my friends and the simple joy of speaking the language of my birth, something that I used to take for granted. I didn't want to be limited to menial jobs nor do I feel at home here. I realized that living abroad is not for everyone, it is definitely not for me.

Situations and circumstances vary and I know there are many who think that living abroad is better. Still I feel that in exchange of material comfort, we are losing something much more precious as a people.

My digital cam's charger is busted. As it is, the Taipei zoo pictures lay unrecovered within its depths. Okay, for now please bear with me. If you must really see pictures of the Taipei zoo animals go here. Thanks.

Come back again for a different topic tomorrow.

I've been looking around, reading other blogs when I came upon this
interesting topic for a blog carnival.

The topic is, 'In a former life, I must have been _______. You think of an animal that shares your personailty traits and fill in the blank with that animal's name.

Okay, Let's see - I'm quiet, hates commotions, litter and chaos. I like to keep things orderly and I'm fiercely loyal and protective of my family. I wish I could say that I must have been a cat but I identify more with the flock than with an individual. I love the sensation of flying too - whether on a plane or on a fast motorcycle with the wind on my hair. I consider the great open sky and a strong, steady breeze as pure joy. I like to be free and if I could trade my human legs for anything, I'd get wings. I think I must have been a bird in a past life. A bird that travels with a flock, follows the changing seasons and comes back to its birthplace once every year. Yes, I must have been a bird.
I find this short clip from youtube typical of travel in Taiwan. The island is mountainous and half the time traveling from one place to another would mean passing through similar narrow roads snaking on the side of mountains. The clip was shot on the east coast of Taiwan. Check it out here.
Friends have told me that since I live in Taiwan, they would very much like to read articles about my adopted country. I'll certainly try. The thing is, I've lived here for seventeen months now and I still haven't gone down to learning Mandarin. I also feel that I still need time to become completely adjusted to the culture. Seventeen months wasn't enough. I remember someone saying that the adjustment period for people vary. Some are okay at three months, others take longer and some don't get adjusted at all. I'm with the ones who takes longer to adjust to a new place.

We went to Taipei's Zoo last week and I did manage to get some shots of the animals they have there. It's such a big zoo and they have grouped the animals according to their natural habitat (temperate, arctic, african animals etc.) I'll post the pictures as soon as I can.
It's a cloudy day here at Taichung and I just spent half the day in front of the computer. Actually, I was customizing my blog, figuring out how to put the adsense codes without ruining what little design I have managed to put out through trial-error-error-grrr and waiting for the call that would seriously put an end to my computer career (read:lack of career). I would go out to meet a friend later and we'll spend the remaining time in the afternoon chatting and watching a movie. It's not how I would want the day to go but heck, with my close friends and family a plane trip away this would have to suffice.

Yes, Colin Firth. I first heard of him in Bridget Jones's Diary. Back then, I didn't understand why they got him to play opposite the positively charming, Hugh Grant in the first place. Let me explain. The synopsis of the movie went like this - Colin gets to compete with Hugh for lead Renee's affection. I was like, there's no contest there! (Or so I thought).

But then I got to actually watch the first Bridget Jones. I loved the whole movie and remembered being charmed out of my socks and feeling a bit intrigued by Colin Firth. Several movies and favorite English actors later, I got to see Colin on some other movies - The English Patient, (because I was so taken with Ralph Fiennes), What A Girl Wants (because I was at home flipping channels)and Love Actually (same reason as with the previous movie). His character in Shakespeare in Love didn't actually register with me. (Only became aware he was there ages after) Was too busy on Joseph and Gwyneth to notice the unwanted and meddlesome Lord Wessex.
And with that moustache to boot ..!

Fast forward to the present: Bridget Jones II. Hmmn - There is definitely something about Colin Firth.

It took me that long but this got me started on reading just about anything about the actor.

From what I have read so far, Colin Firth has legions of female fans and that most were converted by that moment when he emerged, wet and fully-clothed from a brief splash he took as Darcy on BBC's made for TV adaptation of Pride and Prejudice.

So I guess I can put a little distance between myself and his post-Darcy fans. I'm not sure why but I want to make that distinction nonetheless.