Request

To my cover-exchanging friends, please try as much as possible to
(1) WRITE THE ADDRESSES USING YOUR OWN HANDWRITING
as these give a more personal touch to the cover
(2) PLEASE DO NOT USE TAPE OR STICKERS ON THE REVERSE;
the Philippine postal service damages the cover with scribbling that highly devalues the aesthetic value of the cover, which is what I am after
(3) PLEASE TRY TO USE COMPLETE SETS
or at least same themes when sending covers, but it is okay if this is not possible or if this would be expensive, and
(4) PLEASE USE SMALL ENVELOPES,
not too small, but maybe around 4"x6" or something like that; big envelopes are not very attractive unless they have many stamps.
Thank you!

21.3.09

Suid Afrika - Mountain Majesty


Okay, so before I start, I just have to show this list of South African autonyms galore:
  1. Republiek van Suid-Afrika (Afrikaans)
  2. IRiphabliki yeSewula Afrika (Sth. Ndebele)
  3. IRiphabliki yaseMzantsi Afrika (Xhosa)
  4. IRiphabliki yaseNingizimu Afrika (Zulu)
  5. IRiphabhulikhi yeNingizimu Afrika (Swazi)
  6. Rephaboliki ya Afrika-Borwa (Nth. Sotho)
  7. Rephaboliki ya Afrika Borwa (Sth. Sotho)
  8. Rephaboliki ya Aforika Borwa (Tswana)
  9. Riphabliki ra Afrika Dzonga (Tsonga)
  10. Riphabuiki ya Afurika Tshipembe (Venda)
Now, to the cover. On this cover is affixed one of the four stamps in the set on South African Heritage Parks, namely Drakensberg Park.

Drakensberg, which means"Dragon's Mountain" in Afrikaans, is the highest mountain range in Southern Africa, rising to 3,482 metres in height. In Zulu, it is referred to as uKhahlamba, or "barrier of spears," and in Sesotho as Maluti (also spelled Maloti). Its geological history lends it a distinctive character amongst the mountain ranges of the world. Geologically, the range resembles the Simien Mountains of Ethiopia.



Click on the picture below to see the breathtaking view of the range in full majesty.



Malaysians in Space



Here is one of my favorite FDCs. It commemorates the launch of the National Angkasawa program of Malaysia.

The Angkasawan program was an initiative by the Malaysian government to send a Malaysian to the International Space Station on board Soyuz TMA-11. The program was named after the Malay word for astronaut, Angkasawan. It resulted in Sheikh Muszaphar Shukor becoming the first Malaysian in space on October 10, 2007.

The evidence suggest that the main objectives of the program are to uplift the national image and to instill in the younger generation greater interest in Maths and Science. At the launch, the Malaysian Science, Technology and Innovation Minister Datuk Seri Dr Jamaluddin Jarjis said: "It is not merely a project to send a Malaysian into space. After 50 years of independence, we need a new shift and a new advantage to be more successful as a nation. "We want to awe and inspire, and spur Malaysians to attain greater success by embracing science and technology.

The program sought to elicit interest from the Malaysian youth by setting up experiments in space, some of which were spinning a top in zero gravity and tossing the Batu Seremban (a Malaysian traditional five-stone game). It also included a live Physics lecture to be made by the Malaysian astronaut to show Malaysians the effect of zero gravity.

The cost of sending Sheikh Muszaphar into space has been estimated at RM 105 million (approximately USD 26 million). The Malaysian space program has been criticized as a waste of money for a developing nation that could ill afford such indulgences. Officials defended the funding of the program as part of a US$900 million defense deal struck with Moscow in 2003 to buy 18 Sukhoi Su-30 MKM fighter jets.

I personally also think that it was a waste of money, considering that the country could use some development in its rural areas, which I must say from first-hand observations are quite underdeveloped. However, considering that Malaysia seems to be a progressive country - undeniably more progressive than the Philippines at the moment - perhaps the government has something up its sleeve.

I also consider this one of my favorites because, although it may seem a waste of money, it is still nonetheless a symbol of national pride, development, and achievement for a Southeast Asian country!

The first Filipino to reach the peak of Everest made it in 2006, but I highly doubt that the next Filipino (representing the Philippine and no other foreign state) will make it to space any time soon. I mean, the Philippines doesn't even have adequate infrastructure, what more this "luxury"?

Việt Nam - France Joint Issue



Issued 15 Oct 08, this Vietnam-France Joint issue features beautiful scenery from both countries.

The stamp on the left shows the Strait of Bonifacio, which lies between Sardinia in Italy and southern Corsica in France. The little town shown in the stamp is meant to represent Bonfiacio, the sourthernmost French town.

The stamp on the right shows none other than Ha Long Bay, located off the coast of northern Vietnam. This iconic bay is home to numerous limestone formations that jut out of the water in a truly magnificent array of mountain-like structures. These are truly a wonder of nature and have been in the UNESCO World Heritage list since 1994. Vietnamese legend has it that these formations were caused by a dragon descending into the sea and struggling, thus causing the carving in the rock formations. Aptly, "Ha Long" means "Descending Dragon" in Vietnamese.

Hrvatska (Croatia)


20.3.09

中国 - France Joint Issue



Here is a nice cover from Guangzhou in southern China with the 1998 2v France-China joint issue set.

The French design, on the left, shows the Louvre, and the Chinese design, on the right, shows the Palace museum, located at Tiananmen Square. At the moment, the Palace museum is still being renovated and this is also the reason why I was not able to visit the museum when I was in Beijing in October last year.

الجزائر (Algeria)



My first cover from Algeria!

As I am not really a fan of flora and fauna, I'll just focus on some trivia about the country:

Algeria is a country located in North Africa. It is the largest country of the Mediterranean sea, second largest in the Arab World, and the second largest on the African continent and the eleventh largest country in the world in terms of land area.

Its name in Arabic is "Al-jazā’ir," which was taken from the city's older name of jazā’ir banī mazghannā, the Arabic for "the islands of (the tribe) Ait Mazghanna," which was used by early Arab cartographers.

Pictures of Algeria that can be found on the net (click here) give a very good impression of the country, and I think Algeria will definitely be one of the countries I will visit if ever I go to Africa!

And a note on the cover: notice how the postal worker positioned the registration sticker in a diagonal position, as if s/he were trying to cover the bird design! I take it that the postal worker must hate birds then?

19.3.09

台湾



Funny how the Philippine recently had an issue on crabs, and here I get an FDC on shells! Hurray for the creatures of the sea, then, eh?

15.3.09

Polska - A Case of Mistaken Identity



Here we have an issue with an interesting story. First, about the issue:

The two stamps on this FDC are part of a 4v set issued 30 Jan 09 to pay hommage to four Polish personalities who survived the horrors of the Nazi Concentration camps in WWII Poland. (Why they didn't include all 4 on one FDC is beyond me.) The special postmark bears the motto "Ocaleli z zagłady," or "Survived the destrucion."

The story I was talking about here is that this issue was withdrawn from circulation on 24 Feb 09, with an apology from Poczta Polska. Why? Because the name on one of the stamps (on my cover, it is the one on the right) is incorrect! Well, at least it is partially incorrect.

The name on the stamps reads "Władysław Wolski," which has caused confusion as Władysław Wolski (1901-1976) was a minister in the 1950s and had close ties with the Soviet Union's security service.

The correct name should be "Władysław Józef Wolski." This person, Władysław Józef Wolski (1910-2008), the correct person to pay hommage to in this case, was an historian and professor at the universities of Krakow, Wroclaw and Lodz. He was arrested in November 1939 during a Nazi operation against the Polish intellectual circles. 183 people were deported to the concentration camps of Sachsenhausen and Dachau. Władysław Józef Wolski was released in 1941 and worked again in 1946.

Cases similar to this happen in the Philippines. Oftentimes, first and last names tend to be the same and so it necessary to include the middle name or initial. For example, there are many people named "Juan Santos," here for example, so it is necessary to indicate if you are referring to "Juan A. Santos" or "Juan B. Santos." Sometimes, even the middle initials are the same so you need to have the full middle name! And sometimes, the full middle name is the same, meaning the two persons' names are exactly the same.

This is true in the case of one of my far relatives. Her name is Zenaida "Santos" Dizon (sorry, I forget her middle name, but let us pretend it is Santos just to prove my point). She lives in the United States, where she has been since the 1960s. When she came here for a vacation a few years back, she was detained at the airport because the officials there were led to believe that she was a criminal! This is because they were on the lookout for a criminal who had the same name! Thankfully, she was able to prove that it was not her by providing her personal information and by the mere fact that she lives in the US and therefore most likely didn't commit the crime, which I believe was something like embezzlement. Now, whenever she returns to the country, she must present a special document of identification to prove that she is not the Zenaida "Santos" Dizon they are looking for!

I think this problem with same names is being solved by the recent practice of giving Filipino children two first names, a middle name, and a last name, so most Filipinos of this generation have four names, like me!

By the way, thanks to Eric Contesse once again for some of the information Ion the Polish issue that I included in this "report."

საქართველო (Sakartvelo) - Women Wooing



Here is another beautiful cover from Khatuna. Sadly, the cover was slightly crumpled, but anyway, what I was really after were the stamps!

Here we have issues that I can now cross off my want list:
  • 2006 Europa CEPT: Integration in the Eyes of Young People
  • 2008 Europa CEPT: Letter writing!
  • 2003 Women for Peace: this issue pays tribute to UNIFEM, or the United Nations Development Fund for Women. UNIFEM provides financial and technical assistance to innovative programs and strategies that promote womens' human rights, political participation and economic security. Since 1976 it has supported womens' empowerment and gender equality through its program offices and links with womens' organizations in the major regions of the world. This is probably the favorite UN branch of a devout feminist. Also, I can't help but notice that the two women in the depiction on the stamp seem to be wooing each other! Is it just me or are they really?
The other stamps are:
  • 2006 Painting (Overprint)
  • 2008 Fresco of King David IV of Georgia. In Georgia, King David IV is called Agmashenebeli (English: the builder) because he played an important role in regaining Georgia, expanding its terrain, and fending off the Christian lands from the Turkish Seljuk Sunni Muslim invaders in the 11th century. He is called "the builder" because he as able to not only regain Georgian lands from the invaders, but also because he was able to conquer parts of Armenia and Albania to include in the dominions of the Georgian kingdom.

14.3.09

13.3.09

المملكة العربية السعودية

My first cover from the Middle East. This one's from Saudi Arabia.












The yellow stamps show the King Fahad/Fahd International Seaport at Yanbu.
The two definitive stamps below the yellow stamps show the Kaaba in Mecca, which Muslims journey to in order to fulfill the Hajj Pilgrimage, one of the five pillars of Islam.

Pyi-daung-zu Myan-ma Naing-ngan-daw (Union of Myanmar)

Okay, so as you all have probably figured out by now, I am fond of looking up autonyms and endonyms even if I myself do not understand their true meanings or cannot read the alphabet in which they are written, as in this case:



This reads "Pyi-daung-zu Myan-ma Naing-ngan-daw" (Union of Myanmar) and is written in the Burmese language, whose script, consisting of circular and semi-circular letters, was adapted from the Mon script, which in turn was developed from a southern Indian script in the 700s.

The cover below is my second from Myanmar. Again, though, and to my dismay, the postmarks are very unclear and dates are beyond untintelligible. The sad thing is that this was sent registered, which is supposed to make it a more prized addition to my collection, but these terrible postmarks just detract from the cover.

Anyhow, as you can see from the stamps, the sender was thoughtful enough to use the Philippine stamp in the Myanmar set of the ASEAN 2007 joint issue. The other stamps is the traditional Lao house, and the other shows a Burmese xylophone. The covers below are some FDCs that the sender sent me; they're very nice and I wonder if they are official?







Notice how on this third cover, they seem to highlight "4th" in red. Is this a Buddhist practice?

Also you may have noticed that I switch from Myanmar to Burma interchangeably. This is because there is still some debate over what to call Myanmar/Burma officially.

"Myanmar" is derived from the local short-form name Myanma Naingngandaw, the name used by the regime currently in power in the country. While the etymology of the name is unclear, it has been used since the 13th Century primarily as a reference to the Myanma ethnic group.

"Burma," the older name for the nation, is believed to have come from the word Bama, which is the Indian name for Burma. Westerners grew accustomed to using this term and the practice caught on until the current regime decided to follow the footsteps of the Chinese Communist Party by also initiating a cultural revolution by changing place names, etc. Case in point, "Yangon" was used to replace "Rangoon," which is a British transliteration of the name for the capital city.

To an extent, this also happens in the Philippines. Street names that carry foreign influence (since they were set up during he colonial period and were thus given foreign names) have been revamped by using Filipino words and the names of Filipino heroes and statesmen in an attempt to "erase" the foreign influence.

Another interesting thing about Myanmnar is the Kyat, its official currency. Since 2001, the official exchange rate has varied between 5.75 and 6.70 kyats per US Dollar . However, the street rate (black market rate), which more accurately takes into account the standing of the national economy, has varied from 800 kyats to 1335 kyats per USD . This black market exchange rate tends to decrease during the peak of the tourist season in Myanmar (December to January).

So, if ever you are to go to Myanmar, do not go to the bank where they will give you only about 7 kyats per USD! That would be a major, major rip-off!

Notice that the postage for this registered letter is only 105 Kyat. The official exchange rate would make you think that this is very expensive since, using the 7kyat/USD rate, this would mean it cost $15! But, in reality, it only cost about $0.10!

12.3.09

United States



Unfortunately, this one was damaged with a drop of water. Notice the word "Quezon."






Alzheimer's affects many elderly people. Generally it is diagnosed in people over 65 years of age,although the less-prevalent early-onset Alzheimer's can occur much earlier. An estimated 26.6 million people worldwide had Alzheimer's in 2006; this number may quadruple by 2050.

대한민국 - Pilipinas Joint Issue

Just wanted to share this Korea-Philippines joint issue on festivals that was meant to mark the 60th years of diplomatic relations between the two countries.

I find it quite odd that there would be a celebration of the 60th year of relations as I am used to seeing 50th, 75th, and 100th. Why the Philippine Postal Service is so fond of the 60th anniversary of things is beyond me. I recall that there was also an issue in 2007 celebrating 60 years of France-Philippines relations, which according to a French stamp exchange partner went unnoticed in France. (Well, actually, I'm pretty sure it also went unnoticed here save for the few collectors and postal workers and French embassy affiliates in the country.) I also remember a 4v set and S/S celebrating the 60th year of the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources. Strange, really.

Well, anyway, here are the issues from the Philippines-Korea issue, which I unexpectedly and coincidentally received on the same day (today).





More on the the featured festivals:

The Panagbenga Festival is held yearly during the month of February. The celebrations are held for over a month and peak periods are the weekends. The Panagbenga Festival showcases the many floral floats and native dances. At this time of year, the City of Pines is almost surely in flower fury over Panagbenga festival, the city's biggest festival.

Panagbenga is a Kankanaey term for "a season of blooming." It is also known as the Baguio Flower Festival, a homage to the beautiful flowers the city is famous for as well as a celebration of Baguio's re-establishment. Since February 1995, it has been held to help Baguio forget the 1990 earthquake that distressed much of the city.

Sonori (Cow Play) in Hangawi. Hangawi (Chuseok), which falls on the 15th of August by the lunar calendar is one of the biggest national holidays in Korea, when people celebrate the year's good harvest and observe worship service to family ancestors. At this time, when newly harvested grains and fruits are abundant, as indicated in the saying "May every day be neither more nor less than Hangawi!", the Sonori is performed. To the tune of cheerful musical instruments of the farmer's band, two people put on straw mats shaped like a cow and visit door to door, wishing for a year of good harvest and peace and tranquility.

5.3.09

Italia

Nederland


Polska



Thank you for this beautiful registered cover, Kazimierz!

台灣 (Taiwan)