TAIWAN, the Philippines’s immediate neighbor to the north, has been on a forward trend to technological advancement for years.
This is mainly due to the foresight and determination of its leadership, and the discipline of the people of Taiwan and their unwavering belief that their leaders continue to lead them on the right path.
I first visited Taiwan 31 years ago, a trip sponsored by the Taiwan Economic and Cultural Office. It was the first country I went to outside the Philippines, a trip made years before I even ventured to Davao and Cebu in the southern part of the country.
The Taiwan I saw in 1986 was lush with vegetation, yet had towering manufacturing facilities that dotted the countryside. Its airport was already impressive, had modern facilities that put the then Manila International Airport to shame.
Teco toured two journalists each from the Philippines, Malaysia and Thailand around the island for a whole week in an airconditioned van, and proudly showed us the advancements in agriculture their scientists applied not only in the island, but throughout the world to help alleviate poverty and hunger. At that time, many Taiwanese touted doctoral degrees in agriculture and were proudly sent by the Taiwanese government to other Asian countries, Africa and Central America to teach agricultural techniques to grow food abundantly in foreign lands.
When the joint invitation to tour Taiwan again this year came from the Taiwan External Trade Development Council, Taiwan Association Inc. and Jeron Travel, I did not hesitate. I wanted to see Taiwan once more and see for myself the changes that have taken place in the island – formerly called Formosa – for the past three decades.
My second visit to Taiwan took place on July 14-20 this year. This time, I was with a dozen fellow journalists from different newspapers in the Philippines. Allan Lin, President of Taiwan Association, was on hand at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport to see us off. He flew with us to Taiwan. We saw him again at the Taoyuan Airport, welcoming us to Taipei.
The trip from the airport to Taipei was in an airconditioned bus, with Jeron Travel representative Julie Gernandiso and tour guide Albert Jhou, a retired engineer who was with us during the entire trip. Hazel Voluntate, a Taiwan Association staff, came also with her children.
The Taiwan landscape I saw looked exactly like the country I visited in 1986. There were trees and plants everywhere. The farm lands were still verdant; the mountains and hills were lush with vegetation. Its longest river system, the Zhuoshui, continues to supply pristine water to its residents and irrigates its vast farm lands. Towering buildings housed residents. There were manufacturing complexes in areas separate from condominiums and commercial buildings.
Taiwan is exemplary in its cleanliness. One cannot see any trace of trash anywhere.
People in Taiwan travel well. Their bus systems are airconditioned and on time, free for the first 10 kilometers from boarding point. A high-speed rail system took us from Taipei to Kashsiung in Central Taiwan in a little over an hour, covering a distance of 400 kilometers.
While there are private cars traversing the paved roads, people in cities can use the YouBike, an eco-friendly, free-bike system, to move around the city centers.
But the king of the road in Taiwan is the motorcycle, parked and lined up along major as well as side streets, very orderly indeed, while their owners go to work, do their errands, and visit relatives somewhere.
The night markets are a draw, 31 years ago as tey are now. Street food, inexpensive souvenir items for visitors to take back home, and the delicious pineapple cake the island is also popular for, are must haves and must taste.
The food in Taiwan is diverse and delicious. While my weeklong travel to various cities in the island did not feature the braised eel I enjoyed 31 years ago in a restaurant near the Grand Hotel, the various indigenous dishes served in the numerous roadside restaurants we visited more than compensated for its absence. Alfalfa sprouts and the myriad vegetables grow there is abundance. Besides, the endangered eel needs a break from the voraciousness of us humans.
Public toilets abound, for both locals and visitors. If you are squeamish though, look at the toilet doors for guidance. Taiwanese squat in the comfort of the rest rooms. Foreigners prefer to use the western-style toilet seats.
Taoist and Buddhist shrines are everywhere, showing for the world to see, the religious devotion of the Taiwanese people to their God. Even Christians can relate to the beautiful temples that dot the Taiwanese countryside.
In the 1980s, the Taiwan government shifted its economic thrust from agriculture to technology, without however making the former suffer for the other. The slide in the prices of its main products – sugar and rice – in the world market convinced the Taiwan leadership then to also pursue technology.
Today, Taiwan is a world leader in green technology, a feat they would like to show Filipinos in the Taiwan Expo 2017, scheduled for Sept. 29 to Oct. 30, at the SMX Convention Center in Pasay City. To showcase their products and services are at least two dozen Taiwanese companies and 21 universities and schools, to invite Filipinos to advance trade and business, and cultural exchanges between the two countries.
Acer, a Taiwan company, is one of the foremost brands that come to mind for the success it enjoys not only in Asia, but also in the West. It has a branch here in the Philippines and will be at the Taiwan Expo along with other Taiwan businesses, representing a whole gamut of industries including food, motorcycke manufacturing, green construction materials and solar energy.
Taoyuan City in northwestern Taiwan is said to be the sixth-largest city in the island. Its officials hosted the Filipino journalists and recognized officials of the Taiwan Association led by honorary president Seimu Huang. There, the mayor said Filipinos are an integral part of the Taiwanese work force, which like workers from Vietnam, number close to 30,000 at any given time.