To my cover-exchanging friends, please try as much as possible to
as these give a more personal touch to the cover
the Philippine postal service damages the cover with scribbling that highly devalues the aesthetic value of the cover, which is what I am after
or at least same themes when sending covers, but it is okay if this is not possible or if this would be expensive, and
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!


Chinese New Year Covers

2008 Olympics

So, it's already 2010 and I still have some scans from 2008 that I haven't posted. Not a good sign. Well, anyway, I thought I might share these scans of some covers I received with the 2008 Beijing Olympics as the theme. Some are FDCs while others are just regular covers.

The Beijing Olympics was one of the reasons why I finally decided on visiting Beijing in 2008. On top of the fact that everything would be in tip-top shape and that the city would be manicured to perfection (you can always count on the Chinese government when it comes to making a presentation), I thought it was high time that I visited the famed Great Wall. I also visited Shanghai on this trip and took the 12-hour overnight train from there to Beijing.

I must say that I liked both cities and hope to one day return. I also plan to maybe hike portions of the Great Wall. Want to join? :-)

This cover uses the official FDC, but it was not sent on issue date. My friend just used the FDC envelope but sent the cover much later, which I think is okay. At least I have the FDC envelope.

This cover has the complete set of Russian Olympics stamps, but my friend Alexander decided to use a commemorative cover instead of a regular envelope. The cancels have a special design, but not the Olympics FDC cancellation.

Because I like covers sent directly to my address, I asked my friend Andrzej to sent me the FDC even after the day of issue. Thankfully, Poczsta Polska allows for the sending of FDCs even after day of issue, like in the Philippines. So, strictly speaking, this is not an FDC, but it does use the official envelope and it h asthe official cancellation, which is good enough for me.

Unfortunately, the only real FDC I have does not have an official FDC envelope because Korea Post does not issue them.

While there is no indication on the cover, this was actually sent to me after the day of issue with the special cancellation. There are just no other postmarks or markings to indicate this. There is a boxed chop on the upper right hand side because this cover was "received in bad order" at the Central Mail Exchange Center in the Philippines. In fact, the cover was covers in strips of tape that attempted to "seal" the small tears found themselve on the low quality paper of the envelope as it was handled.

This cover does not have the complete set and was actually not sent through the mail system although it looks like it was. My friend Alberto initially planned on sending the FDC direct to my address, but he seemed to have a problem. I think it was that the stamps did not fit on the cover and the postal clerk wouldn't let him attach extra postage onto the reverse, or something like that.


Cambodge ព្រះរាជាណាចក្រកម្ពុជា

These scans have been sitting in my hard drive for quite some time now. They show the covers that I was able to send myself during my trip to Cambodia, which was my favorite trip among all the ones I took while I stayed in Macau.

Cambodia is a wondrous country with friendly people. It's the type of place that makes you feel extremely depressed that good people have to live such hard lives (although sometimes people start getting corrupted when they start living comfortable lives, but that's another story). The sights and atmosphere of the country are certainly something that makes you want to go back, and so I will go back in October of this year.

The temples for which Cambodia is well-known are interesting pieces of history. Walking along their corridors and studying their intricate designs brings feelings of awe and enchantment because they exude humanity at its finest. Such grand works of art are certainly a testament to man's ingenuity and creativity. However, after a while, the temples start to look all the same and I must confess that there was a point when I felt that temple-hopping needed to stop.

Sadly, the weather did not agree with me when I visited the most famous temple of all, the Angkor Wat. It was raining the first time I visited and when I decided to visit again to take in the glorious sunset for which Angkor Wat is so famous, the clouds and the drizzling got in the way. Nonetheless, the experience was still one that I enjoyed, and I actually felt like I was experiencing what it felt like during the olden days when the Khmers would stay in the confines of the Wat walls to wait out the rain and battle against the elements.

The Khmer Post

The Khmer Post, in stark contrast to the Khmer temples, is an extremely disheartening experience, one much worse than the Philippine Post, I must say. First off, when you reach the post office at Siem Reap you will see neatly laid in front of you the most beautiful array of Cambodian stamps you could ever imagine to ever see. All the Cambodian stamps with Khmer themes and depictions of the various temples and Khmer culture are laid out for you to pick. from The catch is, prices are not face value, which I thought was pretty strange since it was inside the post office itself (In some countries they charge more than face value, but the selling price is either printed or officially set, but that was not the case here). The "post office" was actually more like a stamp dealership. There were beautiful stamps, yes, but they came with extravagant prices. Some recent issues from 2008 could rack up as much s USD23 for an 8v set whose face value was little more than USD4!

When I asked the lady (if you can call her a "lady" after the way she behaved) postal clerk about buying some stamps at face value so that I could stick them onto covers for my fellow collectors, she kept pointing at the stamps laid out on the counter. I kept asking her for "face value" stamps and I'm pretty sure she knew what I meant since I do not think I am the first person to ask her for such absurd a thing at her post office. After I kept insisting, she finally showed me some stamps, some ugly definitives that she kept hidden behind the counter. I asked her for other stamps, knowing that there had to be some better ones. It was like I was pulling a house out of an elephant's behind! Finally, she produced some better stamps, but they were not in full sets, which I think was her way of discouraging me from paying at face value. But I bought them anyway, and I had to give in to some of their "discounted" stamps (meaning they were not full sets) that they offered at 4 for USD1, which was double their face value.

And it doesn't end there. When you try to send your letters and your postcards, there is no actual postal rate. It just depends on the whim of the postal clerk and whether or not she feels you have put enough postage. I am sure that there is an "official" rate lying somewhere, but when you ask the clerks what it is, they ask you to show them your stamps and then study them, deciding whether they are enough or not. And no, I'm pretty sure they were were not calculating the total in their heads. On one occasion I sent out a postcard for 2400 Riel while on another occasion I sent one out for 4000 Riel, and this was at the same post office! It's worse when you try to register because they get all frantic and panicky, asking around about what they should do.

The post office in Phnom Penh was quite similar in terms of chaos, but the clerks were a little more friendly and accommodating. The post office at the Phnom Penh airport was , by far, the most terrible! First off, I was standing in front of the counter for a good ten minutes before the postal clerk literally emerged from the back of the counter - apparently she was taking her nap, and this was at 14h00, clearly not lunch hour (in the Philippines, most post offices close for lunch)! And when she finally decided to get to work, she took my letter, "weighed" it on the scale, and then declared: "four dollar" and then I haggled with her, knowing very well that USD4 or 16000 Riel was way too much. And it wasn't the weight because all that was inside was a blank sheet of paper. She then "converted" it to Riel and I guess she thought I didn't know the exchange rate so she said USD4 was 10000 Riel. I kept saying that it costs only 4200 Riel (because according to the central post office in Phnom Penh, that is the official rate), and she got all upset, insisting that I pay 10000 Riel! I got really so pissed with her ruse to drain money off foreign customers that I just up and left, making sure that she would be as annoyed, irked, and irritated as I was. At the end of it all, I do not know if these postal clerks have some kind of quota that they have to meet in order to pass some kind of absurd performance measure, but if they do, that just goes to show how sad the postal system in Cambodia is.

Anyhow, I hope that if you read my rantings, you didn't get too depressed about the world. To try and make things better, I offer you scans of my Cambodia covers:

The stamp on the far left shows some of the carvings on the wall of Banteay Srei, which I believe is famous for its intricately designed walls. I was able to visit this little temple and must say that it is impressively in good condition, considering that it has gone through hundreds of years of heat and rain.

The stamp on the upper right is from a set of five and it shows Preah Vihear, which I did not have the privilege of visiting. Preah Vihear is a Khmer temple situated atop a cliff in the Dângrêk Mountains, in the Preah Vihear province of northern Cambodia and near the border of the Kantharalak district in the Sisaket province of eastern Thailand. In 1962, following a significant dispute between Thailand and Cambodia over ownership of the temple, the International Court of Justice in The Hague awarded the ownership to Cambodia.

Affording a view for many kilometers across a plain, Prasat Preah Vihear has the most spectacular setting of all the temples built during the six-centuries-long Khmer Empire. As a key edifice of the empire's spiritual life, it was supported and modified by successive kings and so bears elements of several architectural styles. The temple gives its name to Cambodia's Preah Vihear province, in which it is now located, as well as the Khao Phra Wihan National Park which borders it in Thailand's Sisaket province, through which the temple is most easily accessible. On July 7, 2008, Preah Vihear was listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The stamp celebrates the first year anniversary of the temple's listing.

The third stamp is, I guess, a definitive and it shows what in French is called "vannage" and in English "winnowing." As the two terms did not help shed light on exactly what it was, I looked it up and apparently it is the agricultural practice in which rice is tossed in pans in order to separate the grain from the sediments, dirt, stones, etc. The picture best help explain what I mean. They also have the same practice here in the Philippines.

This cover has four definitives which depict the Thommanom/Thonmanom (apparently the spelling changes depending on the language, the latter being in French and the former in English).

The stamp in the middle is part of a set issued to celebrate the 50th year of the Red Cross in Cambodia. I guess that Cambodia is like the Philippines in that they like to show their prominent figures in society on their stamps, etc., as a way of perhaps boosting their leaders' egos? Sadly, the pictures seems to tell me that the wife of the Cambodian minister is not so happy and enthusiastic about what she is doing, but that may just be me. Also, this stamp reminded me of what a friend a friend told me about Cambodian politics: it is very dirty and extremely corrupt! She tells me this from a personal experience she had where she tried to do the right thing and stop the corruption. But it did not work and she had to leave the country for a bit lest something inopportune happen to her (i.e. goons are hired to beat her up and threaten her!)

The most exciting thing about this cover is the special cachet which in this scan is not so clear... But the cachet was applied at the mail processing center and it celebrates World Post Day. What a most welcome coincidence! At least something was born of that harassing experience at the post office!

This registered cover, the one that caused a ruckus at the post office, came out very beautifully in my opinion. While the stamps are not all of the same theme or of the same set, I think that the layout and postmarks are beautiful. I have already discussed one of the stamps and the others are quite self-explanatory, but I do want to point out the two stamps that celebrate 30 years since "Great Victory Day." As you may already know, Cambodia was subject to the grossly tyrannical and genocidal rule of Pol Pot and his Khmer Rouge Regime. Some estimate that 2 of the 8 million Khmers at the time were killed by this terrorist group which sought to "restore" Cambodia to its "glorious" (i.e. Khmer) past by purging it of any and all signs and influences of modernity and capitalism. Apparently, this included torturing and executing millions of Khmers. "Great Victory Day" or 7 January, 1979, was the day when the Vietnamese forces marched in and the day that the Khmer Rouge finally fell after four years in power.

Another exciting thing about this cover is the Inbound Mail label applied in Hong Kong, which is different from the others I have seen before. See my Tunisia post to compare.

This second registered cover was sent from the central post office in Phnom Penh. I personally applied the postmark, thanks to the very helpful and friendly postal clerk who obliged me. However, the canceller was not so nice since it was made of metal and the lady applied ink from a rubber stamp pad which, as you can see, was probably wet with water and not ink. Well, at least I have the memory of the nice lady to keep with me.

Another reason why this cover makes me smile is that it has a stamp with the Angkor Wat! At least I was able to get one despite the high price tags they put on stamps that have anything to do with the Angkor Wat (maybe they just didn't notice this one?). The cover also has a stamp commemorating the coronation of their New King, Norodom Sihamoni, a man who has lived a most interesting life, which includes a genealogy of Khmer-French-Italian descent, a childhood spent in Prague, years of study spent in France and North Korea, and much more. He can speak fluent French and Czech and can also speak English and Russian. Another interesting thing: his name is a combination of his parents' name: Sihanouk and Monineath. More on him can be found here.
Here is a cover that I was able to post from a smaller post office in Cambodia that I saw while riding on the back of a motodup. I asked the driver to stop and drop me off there even though it was not part of the plan. The stamps are part of the same set to which the Sihamoni stamp in the cover above belongs. Thankfully the cancels are very clear and so is the World Post Day cachet that was applied, which makes me so happy that I chanced upon that small post office.

This cover I did not send myself. It is from a Filipina friend of mine who lives in Phnom Penh, where she volunteers in projects and NGOs to help the Khmers, which I think is a noble cause. I really like this cover because it celebrates Independence, which is among my most favorite topics. Cambodia gained independence from the French in 1953 after 90 years of colonization. I guess the man in the three stamps is the former Norodom Sihanouk, but I am not sure. I just wish that the postal clerk could have applied her postmarks a little bit higher, or at least somewhere where they wouldn't overlap with the commemorative postmarks!

This second cover from my friend shows a traditional way of catching fish in the Cambodian swamplands.

Hope you enjoyed the scans!



For over thirty years, the Telethon has been one of the most important programs that has been created to help children with incapacity; not only by helping these children in their rehabilitation, but also by introducing a cultural change in the country that promotes the dignity and rights of people with incapacity. Since 1978, the Telethon has managed to unite the mass media around this event, especially the television. The Telethon has united Chile in solidarity and has become a true national celebration.


澳門 Macau

This is an entry I've been promising myself that I'd post as a tribute to the wonderful territory of China that I called home for five months, Macau.

Macau was, until 1999, an overseas territory of Portugal. It is the first and last European colony in China. Today, it runs with the "two systems, one nation" policy like its sister "Special Administrative Region" Hong Kong, the more popular of the two. Because Macau is a special administrative region, it maintains its own legal system, police force, monetary system, customs policy, immigration policy, and, much to my delight, its own postal system.

The name Macau

Macau is known by three different names: Macau, Ao men, and Ou mun, one name for each language in common use in the area.

Macau is, of course, the English name for the territory. Legend has it that this name was acquired when the Portuguese arrived in Macau at a place near A-Ma Temple and asked the locals for the name of the place, to which the reply was "A Ma Gok" (the final "k" in Gok is not pronounced with a sharp "k" in Cantonese, making "Gok" sound mor like "Gao") or "A-Ma Temple" since they assumed that the Portuguese were asking about the temple. Another, more local version of the story I heard while in Macau was that "Macau" actually comes from a curse in Cantonese. Apparently, Cantonese people are known for being quite rude (a claim I can now better understand) so when they couldn't understand what the Portuguese were asking them, they replied with something like "What the hell are you saying?" (in Cantonese, of course). The Portuguese, also not understanding what was being said, picked up part of the cursing and recorded it as "Macau," a name that would stick to this day. The spelling of "Macau" actually evolved from other earlier versions such as Amaquão and Amacuão.The true origin of the name of course will never be known since there were noofficial, formal records or accounts recorded about Macau at the time.

Ao men, the Mandarin name for Macau, literally means "inlet gates" and probably gets its meaning from the fact that Macau lies at the mouth of the Pearl River Delta. The Cantonese name for the place, Ou mun, has the same exact meaning and sounds very similar to the Mandarin pronunciation.

The Place

Macau consists of three islands: Macau, Taipa, and Coloane. Macau is the old part of Macau. It is where it all began and it is on Macau island that you can find the very old buildings that seem like they're falling apart. The seat of government is also on Macau and it is there that you find the "heart of Macau," a place called "Largo do Senado," which is known by most locals as "San Ma Lou" or 新馬路. Macau island is rich with history and culture, probably because it is where it all began. The famous Grand Lisboa, the lotus-shaped gold structure that I have seen countless times, is also on the island. So is the the home of tycoon Stanley Ho, who owns the Lisboa Hotels.

Macau is connected to Taipa island by three bridges. Taipa is the "new" Macau. Settlement on the place began quite recently, especially because ferries were needed to cross the sea to Taipa before the first bridge was opened for use in October 1974. According to a local I lived with during my stay, Macau is the "rich part" of Macau. He pointed out that most of the people on Taipa are the ones who can afford the rather expensive flats on the island and that things on Taipa were generally comparatively more expensive that they were on Macau. I guess Taipa is like the "uptown" of Macau. From my personal observation, the atmosphere on Taipa is very different from the one on Macau. Macau is very congested and busy. Cars are all over the place and so are people, especially tourists. In contrast, Taipa is very relaxed and quiet. There are very few people walking on its streets and it is generally very orderly. The University of Macau is located on Taipa and so are the Venetian and all those other famous, newer casinos of Macau.

There was a time when a ferry or boat was needed to get from Taipa to Coloane, but today the two are connected by the Cotai Strip, a reclaimed strip of land on which most of the new casinos like the City of Dreams, Hard Rock Cafe, and Four Seasons are found. Coloane is the recreational part of Macau. It is here were Macau people love to go for picnics, barbecues, hiking, and just relaxing on the beach. The beach is appropriately called "Hac Sa" which means "black sand" since the water and the sand is a rather ugly brown color due to the fact that Coloane lies on the mouth of the Pearl River and so it is there that the sediment carried away from the river is dumped into the sea, resulting in the brown color. Unlike in Hong Kong where the sea is a beautiful green, in Macau it is always a muddy brown. There is also a very very small village on Coloane and, while walking through its narrow lanes which reminded me of pictures of Portuguese neighborhoods, I got the feeling that it was an abandoned place. Actually, the village is home to many of Macau's seniors. I do not know if the place is full of elderly people because they have been there for a long time but were never "replaced" since the new generation decided to move to Taipa or Macau or if Coloane is really the place where the Macau people retire to when they grow old, but it is indeed a very laid back and relaxing place, perfect for a retirement home. Cars are few and so are people.

Note: When you move around in Macau, you never really get the feeling that you're on an island because everything is connected by bridges or land strips and it feels as though Macau is one big peninsula jutting into the sea.

The Language

Many people ask me about the language that is spoken in Macau.

Since it is part of China, most less familiar foreigners assume that people there speak Mandarin, the standard Chinese language. While Macau Chinese can speak Mandarin, it is not their first language and from what I've heard, many of them are not too happy to speak Mandarin.

The main language in Macau is Cantonese, the language spoken by the locals in the Guang Dong Province of China, of which Macau is basically a part. Cantonese is also the lingua franca in Hong Kong. It sounds markedly different from Mandarin and the two really do not sound alike except for instances where Cantonese borrowed words from Mandarin or vice versa.

Many people ask if Portuguese is still spoken in Macau, a question I also had in mind before arriving. I assume that the question asks if Portuguese is still spoken "on the streets," so to speak, and my answer is no. While it is true that signs in Macau can still be found in both Chinese and Portuguese and legal documents are written both in Chinese and Portuguese (in fact, if there is a misunderstanding in the Chinese translation of the law, then it is the Portuguese version's original meaning that presides), most people in Macau cannot speak Portuguese at all. I spoke to a local about this and he said that Portuguese is not spoken at home by the ethnic Chinese and is not even taught in Chinese schools, so there is really no way for them to learn it. He added that, on top of that, there is no need to learn it since no one speaks it anyway and the legal system operates in Cantonese and rarely in Portuguese. According to him, Portuguese is spoken only by the very few local Portuguese left (most of whom can also speak Cantonese) and by the expats from Portugal and other Portuguese-speaking countries like Brazil, Cote d'Ivoire, Mozambique, East Timor, etc. The only school that teaches Portuguese, from what I understand, is the EPM, the Escola Portuguesa de Macau.

So for those of you who have skills in Portuguese and want to try them out in Macau, I warn you already that you may be disappointed when you get there and the ethnic Chinese look at you in a strange way when you try your Portuguese on them. However, some can still speak Portuguese since government employees must also be able to speak Portuguese, but it's not like all the government employees can speak it and it's not like everyone in Macau is a government employee.

The Postal System

The Macau Postal System, or Correios de Macau, was formally founded in 1884 as the Correios, Telegrafos, e Telefones (CTT) Coreios de Macau. It began services as an umbrella organization for communication, but in 1981 the telecommunications and postal services were separated.

Currently, Correios de Macau has 14 stations, one of which is temporarily closed for renovation. I made it my mission to visit each of these stations and post myself a cover so that I could have a postmark from each station in Macau. You can see the scans below.

The Central Post Office, located in Largo do Senado at the center of Macau, is a beautiful edifice that was built in 1929. I do not know if my perception of it is colored by the fact that it is the Mecca of beautiful Macau stamps, but I think the building is very beautiful in the day time and at night since it is tastefully lit.

Some "Maximum Covers"

Since I am not really a fan of postcards, I decided that instead I'd try to make what I like to call "maximum covers." Because Macau does not have too many "regions" or anything like that to commemorate on its stamps (unlike France, Italy, Russia , the US, and other countries that have many regions to boast), it often showcases its buildings and historical sites on it stamps. So I thought I'd try to get postmarks from the post office near the featured buildings applied onto the stamps. I was able to do this for the Cultural Center and the Museum of Communications since these two places have a post office and a stamp depicting them. I should have also done this for the Coloane Post Office and Coloane stamps, but it skipped my mind...

I also tried making a maximum cover for the Macau airport, which you can see in my previous post on Macau. I used the Air Macau 10th Anniversary S/S since the issue on the Macau Airport was released during the Portuguese era and so is no longer honored for postage. I also made one for the University of Macau. The university unfortunately does not have its own post office, but I thought maybe I could send a cover the the University with stamps celebrating the University's 25th year in 2006.

Here are some FDCs that were issued while I was there. Unlike in the Philippines, FDCs in Macau can be sent only on the date of issue, so these covers are really FDCs. In fact, the line in front of the Post Office on the first days of issue is often very long, and it was especially long for the Macau 10th Anniversary issue that was released on 20.12.09, Macau SAR establishment day. I had to wait in line for four hours before being able to set foot in the post office! However, it paid off when I saw the covers and stamps, which I think are neat pieces of history. Thankfully, I was in Macau on establishment day and enjoyed the very long fireworks show that was held to celebrate the joyous occasion and also to send out FDCs of the issue. I left for the Philippines for the holidays the day after. And when I got back on 01.01.10, the next day the Year of the Tiger issue was issued and I was so happy because I made it just in time for the issue! What coincidences!

Macau SAR 10 years 3v FDC

Macau SAR 10 years S/S FDC

Macau-China Joint Issue FDC

Year of the Tiger 1 of 5v set FDC

Year of the Tiger 5v FDC
Notice the embossed animals designs on the left. Macau Post really excels when it comes to philatelic design.

East-West Art 2v FDC

Chinese National Guard in Macao 10 years 6v FDC

Since World Post Day fell on the same day as the date of release of the East-West 2v issue, they were offering free commemorative envelopes an a special cancellation postmark at the philatelic desk. I decided to create a fusion of the two celebrations and used one of the 2v in the East-West set on the commemorative cover and had the philatelic clerk apply the special cancel. I think it is a really neat cover.

Here is a cover that a friend of mine sent to his family in Germany. Since his girlfriend visited him while I was still there and he knew I collected stamps, she asked her to bring the cover back to Macau so that he could give it to me. The packet was sent registered and there are some other interesting labels that were applied in Germany. According to my friend, the green one is some sort of customs duty clearance sticker.

Below is a sample of the really neat Meter stickers used by the Macau post. On top of an already beautiful design for the meter cancellation, the label sticker used also has a nice design! The designs show the Central Post Office.

And, last, here is a cover sent to me from the University of Macau. I just wanted to show that the University has its own meter postage design, as you can see. It is interesting that the university chose to dispatch its mail from the Jardins do Oceano station when the Nova Taipa station is much closer. I guess it may be because the mailing facility at Jardins do Oceano is larger?