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Posts tagged ‘History’

The Chocolate Queen of the Philippines

As tears stream down Raquel Choa’s face, I wonder what grievous deed I have done – or hurtful words I have uttered – to make her cry at our first meeting. The chocolate maker has been telling me how she developed a deep love of cacao during some of the toughest times of her life. “I don’t know why I cried,” Raquel says, wiping away the tears with a tissue. “I was also sharing this with a group of six people yesterday, but no teardrops fell from my eyes. I can feel that you have an open heart and you embraced the story.” Read more

Spanish Whispers in Cebu

When Ferdinand Magellan witnessed the sunrise from the deck of the Trinidad on April 27, 1521, he scarcely knew it would be his last. In the distance, the large coral outcrop of Mactan Island beckoned with a strip of powdery, cream-colored sand lapped by rippling cyan waters – the kind of tropical idyll that sun-starved modern travelers go halfway around the world to see. But the celebrated Portuguese explorer was here in the service of Spain, midway through an epic circumnavigation of the globe. His more immediate mission was to fight on behalf of his newfound friend and ally Rajah Humabon, the chieftain of a nearby port town named Zubu. Read more

Geneva, the crossroads of Europe

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It’s a place synonymous with international diplomacy and human rights. But despite its long history and scenic location at the southern tip of the Alps’ largest lake, the Swiss city of Geneva doesn’t register on many travel itineraries. As part of a 10-day work trip, I’m treated to a walking tour with longtime guide and resident Ursula Diem-Benninghoff, who is a fount of knowledge on her adopted home city. Read more

Cheong Fatt Tze’s blue mansion

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Peering out of our window on the seventh floor, the house looked far smaller than it did from the street. But its romantic window shutters, tiled roof and walls painted in indigo blue were still magnificent. Although The Blue Mansion was just behind our hotel, it took Bama and I four days of slow deliberation before we stepped inside for a guided tour. Read more

The origins of Singapore

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Before the ‘Lion City’ evolved into a global financial centre, the humble Singapore River was its lifeblood. Today it is bereft of the bumboats that once clogged its waters, ferrying goods between warehouses and larger vessels anchored offshore. Echoes of that storied past exist only in the sculptures of naked boys plunging into the river, Indian and Chinese coolies loading sacks onto a bullock cart, and other bronzes scattered along the waterway. Read more

Stanley: vestiges of the past

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When family friends and relatives are in town, my father makes it a point to take them to Stanley. He goes not for its famous street market – where stacks of knickknacks and souvenirs can be found – but to soak up the town’s ambiance and history. Read more

Dili to Venilale: the road of remembrance

Royal school, Venilale

I had travelled to Timor-Leste in the hopes of meeting someone who would freely tell us about the past. Bama, in his wish to hear an unfiltered version of events, chose to conceal his Indonesian identity. Read more

Taipei and the politics of memory

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Ringed by seven lanes of traffic, the East Gate of Taipei stands alone, a small, ceremonial structure under the watchful gaze of a pink monolith dotted with tinted green windows, the former headquarters of the Kuomintang. A band of red columns support palace eaves seemingly too large for the humble stone base, giving the gate a non-defensive, almost gaudy appearance. Mounted on the crenellations, a decorative plaque proclaims its name as Jingfumen, ‘Gate of the view of good fortune’. Read more