Postcard Perfect 047: Hanami season in Japan

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Last Sunday, I featured that two beautiful stamps for my Sunday Stamps entry. In this week’s Postcard Perfect, I am featuring the postcard where these two stamps were affixed to.

Pretty sakura, Japan’s national flower.

Beautiful cherry blossoms, aren’t they? They’re called sakura and they’re Japan’s national flower. Every year, the whole country awaits that one time in the year when the cherry blossom trees bloom ushering in the spring season. Lasting only from 7-10 days, the whole country is turned into one big pink explosion. Japanese families look forward to this day so they can do “hanami“, or flower-viewing. It is one great time to hold picnics under the cherry blossom trees, sharing food and laughter while enjoying the beautiful sight of flowers around them. 
The advent of the blossoms not only heralds the end of a harsh winter but also the beginning of another school year and a new fiscal year for businesses, so hanami is like a party to celebrate a new beginning. 

The fleeting beauty of the cherry blossoms is symbolic to the Japanese. They liken the petals to the life of the samurai – a brief explosion of colour, bright for the duration of their short life, before they wither and die. They represent the brevity of life and the frailty of existence, and this is celebrated by getting roaring drunk on copious amounts of saké. Read more at JapanVisitor.

I also want to point out that the sakura postcard was sent by my friend Clarissa (Kizuna: Ties and Bonds of Love) on 29 February 2012 to celebrate the coming of spring as well as to mark the leap year. Thank you for your thoughtfulness, Clang!

Sunday Stamps 053: Hanami season in Japan

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By the time I received this, spring season is already in full swing in Japan and one of my good friends, Clarissa (blogging at Kizuna: Ties & Bonds of Love), who lives there with her family might already be enjoying the beautiful spring season. She sent me a lovely cherry blossom postcard to celebrate not only the coming of spring  but also to commemorate the leap year. Notice the special postmark? Affix to this postcard are two equally lovely stamps featuring flowers.

I assume that the pink flower on the left stamp with a bee, a definitive from 1997, is a cherry blossom, but, I’m not sure if what kind of flower is on the stamp on the right. I could not find any info about it from the Japanese postal site.

Anyways, Clarissa’s family is always anticipating the coming of spring when they, as most Japanese families, go for hanami. Hanami (hana means flower; mi means to look) is one of the most awaited events in spring time. It happens between March and April when cherry blossom trees all over Japan bloom from seven to ten days and the whole country is covered or turned into an explosion of pink! The Japanese hold outdoor parties, prepare lots of food specific for this occasion and share them with families and friends while they enjoy viewing the lovely spring blooms. Clarissa said her daughters couldn’t wait for hanami to come as they enjoy picnicking under the sakura tree.

The advent of the blossoms not only heralds the end of a harsh winter but also the beginning of another school year and a new fiscal year for businesses, so hanami is like a party to celebrate a new beginning.


The fleeting beauty of the cherry blossoms is symbolic to the Japanese. They liken the petals to the life of the samurai – a brief explosion of colour, bright for the duration of their short life, before they wither and die. They represent the brevity of life and the frailty of existence, and this is celebrated by getting roaring drunk on copious amounts of saké. Read more at JapanVisitor.

Arigatou, Clang. Maraming, maraming salamat!

Postcard Perfect 046: Coron, Palawan

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From the beautiful town of Coron located in the northern part of Palawan Island comes this postcard, my first from Palawan (in the Philippines). It was sent to me by my fellow Miss Igorota sister GingMaganda:

Coron town, a must-visit place when in Palawan province especially by divers. It’s a haven for divers all over the world with its famous World War II underwater shipwrecks surrounded with magnificent coral reefs making it as one of the best dive spots in the world. – Source
 
Coron is situated on Busuanga Island and is a small parochial fishing town. Most of the guesthouses and restaurants – shown in the postcard is the la Sirenette Bar – are built on piles over shallow water.

Postcard Friendship Friday 064: The colourful salwar kameez of Pakistan

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This postcard was sent two years ago and I remember how excited I was to get my first-ever postcard from Pakistan. It shows the salwar kameez, Pakistan’s national costume.

Sindhi Folk Dancers, clad in Salwar kameez, perform at Lok Virsa Festival in Islamabad.
The colours may be too bright but, according to my friend Cheema who sent me this postcard, he think it’s only to add impact to the performance.
Salwar kameez is worn by both men and women in Pakistan and also in countries like India, Bangladesh and other South Asian countries. Usually the fabric is made from cotton as it helps manage the heat. 
 

The salwar is a loosely fit trouser, which falls along the leg, and is held at the waist with the help of a drawstring or an elastic band. The waist of the salwar is double the actual size of the waist to provide comfort. Extra material is added along the thighs for easy movement, and the bottom is also large compare to the ankle, so that the foot can slide in easily.

The kameez is almost always full sleeved and never low neck. It covers the front and back of a girl and a ‘dupatta’ (a rectangular piece of cloth, plain or embroidered) must be worn (by women) on top of it. The kameez is up to the knee and has either a straight of wide flare. – Source
When I went to Bangladesh for a short consultancy in the early 2000s I was amazed at the fabrics and the vibrant colours that are available. How lovely the ladies looked wearing them. I thought I’d bring some local fashion home and they make great souvenirs for my mum and myself so I bought a couple of stylish saris (or sarees) and salwar kameez which I never wore  till a year after I bought them. That’s when I went to Sri Lanka and gathered enough guts to wear the salwar kameez (lol). My South Asian colleagues thought nicely of me though ^.^

Many thanks to Cheema – shukkriya – for this beautiful postcard. This is my first and only postcard from Pakistan.

Sunday Stamps 050: Philippine Marine Biodiversity on Stamps

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According to a scientific finding in 2011, the Philippines has the highest concentration of marine species amongst the island nations that comprise the Coral Triangle (Indonesia and Malaysia are the other two). These findings point to the Philippines as the world’s hub of biodiversity. (Source)

However, this marine biodiversity is under constant threat of degradation, habitat loss, and many more due to its improper use and management. Conservationists in the Philippines are locking in arms to save and conserve the country’s marine ecosystem. I hope that we don’t see the day that these marine species are lost and can only be seen on stamps.

The stamps featured this week are from different sets of definitive stamps issued in 2011 showcasing the Philippine Marine Biodiversity. These stamps are great reminders of the beautiful creatures under the sea and how important it is to help conserve our coastal environment.
One of the five definitive stamps (in P1, one peso denomination) in the Philippine Marine Biodiversity series issued in Oct 2011.

Left stamp: A definitive in the category of the Philippine Marine Biodiversity (in P3, three pesos denomination) issued in January 2011; right: another definitive in the same series but from a different set, issued in November 2011.

The above stamp shows the Picasso Trigger, a popular aquarium fish specie.

The Picasso Trigger is a magnificent and very popular aquarium species that is easily recognized by its creamy grayish-tan and white colored body splashed with many distinctive bright blue and yellow fine-line, and golden, black and white wide-band type markings. Average size is 9 to 10 inches. The fish enjoys the shallower waters inside and outside the reef where lots of rocks and creviced structures are present to hide in and search for food from. – Source

Below, left, is a stamp that shows a Striped Sturgeonfish.

The Striped Sturgeonfish has a yellowish head and body with prominent horizontal blue stripes edged with black. On the head, the stripes converge around the eye. The lower part of the body is pale blue. The tail is black with blue margins. It has a long spine on the tail stem that can cause a painful wound. The Striped Sturgeonfish is also known as Lined Surgeonfish, Clown Surgeonfish, and Clown Tang. – Source

And the last stamp, below, right, is not a fish but a flatworm. It’s called the Polyclad Flatworm.

As their name suggests, these free living worms are generally dorso-ventrally flattened being no more than a few millimeters thick. Sizes range from less than one millimeter to over 30centimeters. Most polyclads are extremely delicate, typically elongate and/or oval with a smooth dorsal surface. Some genera, however, display dorsal papillae. Polyclads exhibit wide variety in colour pattern and texture. They have marginal ruffles tending to increase in number with size.    – Source

And, in case you hadn’t noticed, the Picasso Trigger and the Polyclad Flatworm stamps each bear a bar code. Bar codes were first used by the Philippine Postal Corporation on stamps last year and, I may be wrong, but  I noticed the bar codes appear on the Philippine Marine Diversity stamps issued in October and November only. As to why a bar code is placed these stamps, or what purpose does it serve, I could not find any information at all.


Postcard Friendship Friday 063: Fernando Amorsolo’s obra maestra

Sent by Arlene, who blogs over I Love Postcrossing, this postcard features the beautiful oil painting of the Philippine countryside, an obra by one of the Philippines’ National Artists, Fernando Amorsolo. It conjures nostalgia, of a long-gone era in my country.

Below, the postcard illustrates the rice harvest season generations ago, with one woman on a break to nurse her baby. Harvesting rice in the Philippines, as in many Asian countries that grow rice, is a happy occasion. Villagers come to offer a helping hand and, after a day’s work, a feast is prepared. There were games for kids, music and dances, traditional, of course. There were no electric violin or guitars yet in those times.

Postcard shows one of the oil paintings done by Fernando Amorsolo. His works depict his love for the Philippine rural landscape and farmers/labourers.

As he was developing his skills early on in his life, his mother did embroidery to support him. He also helped by selling watercolour postcards he himself created to a local bookstore.

Amorsolo’s works are known for his play of light and shadows (noted for his signature backlighting technique of his subjects) and for his mastery of realism, impressionism and the use of chiaroscuro, an Italian term describing contrast between light and dark, to achieve a sense of three-dimensionality, especially in regards to the human figure. (Source)

Maraming salamat, Arlene.

Sunday Stamps 043: Outlaws on Chinese stamps

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Art on stamps – this is the theme this week at Viridian’s Sunday Stamps. First thing comes to mind is a painting but then saw this Chinese stamps sent to me years ago that does not only show a painting but also illustrate one of the four great Chinese classical masterpieces, The Outlaws of the Marsh. It is a story of 108 characters – all kindhearted outlaws – who fight for people’s rights against an evil, corrupt government. Familiar, isn’t it? Seems like an Asian Robin Hood or any other characters in Western literature that waged war against the evil.
Here are the much-touted stamps:

Although there are lots of materials about this story in the Internet, this is the first time I’ve heard of it and I’m very interested!
It has been said that this story has never before shown on stamps so that the Chinese Post issued stamps in a series that span over a period of ten years beginning in 1987! 
The stamps on the left are only two from the four-set in the 5th series that came out in 1997.  Top stamp, Hu Yanzhuo tricks Guan Sheng. Below, Yan Qing wrestles Qing Tianchu.
Along with the stamps corresponding souvenir sheets were also issued, except in the second series. The souvenir sheets show a conglomeration of the stories told on stamps and are all beautifully illustrated and painted by contemporary, anonymous Chinese painters. 
I’m very interested to learn more about this epic classic and I now have this urge to complete the set.

Sunday Stamps 042: The People’s Republic of Kampuchea stamp

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This week’s Sunday Stamps is a theme-free day and our host, Viridian, suggests posting anything that we wish. So, today, I’d like to share this old Cambodian stamp, circa 1987, when Cambodia was still under the Vietnamese rule and was known then as the Peoples Republic of Kampuchea.
Baument technologique avec l’antenne de radio micro-onde
Valued at 1 riel.
 It can be recalled that so much fighting happened between Cambodia and neighboring Vietnam concerning border disputes in the 60s. Then we all know about the Pol Pot regime in 1975 that lasted till 1979 when the Vietnamese troops captured and freed Phnom Penh from the Khmer Rouge. It is then when the whole country was under the occupation of Vietnamese forces and the pro-Hanoi People’s Republic of Kampuchea was established.

Despite its inherent weaknesses and the odds stacked against it, which included being dismissed as a “puppet state” of Vietnam and being imposed grievous economic sanctions, as well as a debilitating Civil War, the PRK/SOC (State of Cambodia, État du Cambodge) remained stronger than its enemies.[2] Overcoming grinding poverty and isolation, it was able to achieve the reconstruction of Cambodia as a nation. – Source

Taking into consideration the last sentence in the above paragraph, this explains why there is an microwave antenna on this stamp. It shows that the country is well on its way to reconstruction and development. Unfortunately, there is not much information to be had about this stamp. In fact, I don’t think the Cambodian Post Office has a complete stamp archive. So sad really because, aside from stamps,  there are countless valuable documents and records have been destroyed by the Khmer Rouge and are now lost forever.

Sunday Stamps 037 and 038: Two-in-one post

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I missed last week’s meme so I’m going to put two entries in this week’s post to make up for my absence. Sorry, friends, I got so engrossed with stamping and that I had forgotten our meme.

Last week’s theme asks for stamps from mainland Asia. I need not look too far – I’m featuring an old stamp of Cambodia issued in 1984 when Cambodia was under the Vietnamese control (1979-1989). It can be recalled that the Vietnamese expelled the Khmer Rouge in 1979 and helped install a Vietnamese-backed Cambodian government.

Used but well-preserved.
No idea if this is a definitive or a commemorative but it does look like a commemorative issue of the 1st anniversary of the International Forum for Peace in Southeast Asia which was held in Phnom Penh in February 1983. Notice that the partially visible postmark bears the word “Kampuchea”, or, Cambodia. At that time, the use of French was common and the country’s official name République Populaire du Kampuchéa. Big, big thanks to my good friend thestampraider for giving me this and other old Cambodia stamps. She will soon be  blogging about stamps of Cambodia that she had collected out of several years of seeking far and wide, specifically the post-1979 Cambodia stamps. You can find her newly created blog here – Stamps of Cambodia.
Next up are stamps from Japan, under this week’s Oceania and Island-nations theme:
 
On top is a stamp showing one of the most popular sports in Japan. Baseball was introduced to Japan in 1837 and has been a popular sport ever since. Japan’s 33rd National Athletic Meeting in Nagano in 1978 was celebrated with a stamp showing a batter and catcher against a backdrop of Nagano’s mountains. (Source) No info on the one below. Help appreciated 😀

Postcard Friendship Friday 052: The sublime Ha Long Bay

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Today’s postcard is from another new country in my collection – Vietnam. I mentioned “new country” because the VN postcards I sent to myself years ago were not in my current album. But I digress.

Vietnam’s close proximity to Cambodia made Vietnam a popular weekend getaway of ex-pats like me. I have been to Ho Chi Minh City several times already. HCMC, is the most progressive city in VN and lies south of the country, a mere six hours bus ride from Phnom Penh where I live. However, the postcard I’m featuring today shows the breath-taking Ha Long Bay, which is up north of the country, in Quáng Ninh province.

A junk boat sits in the middle of Ha Long Bay, Vietnam, with several floating villages nearby. Ha Long Bay, meaning the Bay of the Descending Dragon, is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Sent by my very good friend, PinayWifeSpeaks. Postmarked 27-09-2011, Saigon 700000.
Ha Long Bay is one of Vietnam’s most popular, if not the most popular, tourist destination. It is an amazing body of emerald waters with a 120-kilometre coastline in the Gulf of Tonkin, near the border of China and about 170 kilometres east of Vietnam’s capital, Hanoi. The bay includes thousands of monolithic islands and islets in different sizes and shapes that create a spectacular seascape of limestone pillars. According to the World Heritage Centre online site, the site’s outstanding scenic beauty is complemented by its great biological interest. Most of these islands are uninhabited but some support floating villages of fishermen who ply the shallow waters for a diverse species of fish and mollusks. Tourists enjoy a day cruise of Ha Long Bay (or for longer periods) aboard stylish junk boats and often stop on these floating villages for visitors to observe the lifestyle of the boat-people.
PinayWifeSpeaks, cảm ơnThank you very much.
Here’s hoping my husband and I can visit Vietnam again, this time, go further north towards Ha Long Bay and to Sapa Valley. Or perhaps, the two of us together with our husbands? ^.^

P.S. I noticed that the postmark still bears the name “Saigon” which is the old name of the capital city of the French colony of Cochin-china, and later, of the old independent state of South Vietnam. Saigon was actually once known as Prey Nokor and was a very important Khmer seaport prior to the annexation by the Vietnamese in the 17th century. Yes, Saigon was once part of Cambodia and it is a very controversial issue up to now. I’ll leave it up to the experts to debate on this issue.

When Saigon fell during the war – what we all know as the Fall of Saigon –  the city’s name was later changed to Ho Chi Minh City, after the VN’s beloved hero, Ho Chi Minh. I wonder why HCMC hasn’t been incorporated yet in VN’s cancellation marks.