Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Korea Dedicates 2014 Lotus Lantern Festival to Buddha's Birthday and Sewol Ferry Tragedy Survivors

The Lotus Lantern Festival is one of the biggest Festivals here in South Korea. This is Korea's way of throwing a big party for Buddha's birthday. Korea celebrates the life and example of Buddha when he was still alive by displaying lanterns. If you think these beautiful and colorful lanterns are just for aesthetic purposes, you are wrong. It is called Lotus Lantern Festival because lotus lantern symbolizes Buddha's life and mission which somehow equate to wishes for good health, long life and an overflowing abundance.

One of the symbolic lanterns in the parade honoring the birthday of Buddha

For this year, the lotus lantern parade was held on the night of April 26, 2014. The program started at around 7 pm and the parade lasted for about 2.5 hours. It was more than two hours of enticing view of glowing lanterns all over Dongdaemun History and Culture Park down Jongno Street up to the Joygesa Temple. The sight of over thousands of people and monks walking the street carrying that cute glowing object is somehow an interesting sight. They are also chanting a song, probably some Buddhist hymns which I could not understand.

Monks chanting and carrying lotus lantern during the parade

I have seen a lot of types of lantern during the parade carried by Monks and followers of Buddha from all walks of life. I couldn't really identify some of them and what it symbolizes in connection to the life of Buddha but I can classify them. There are some symbolic lanterns like this one:

A big human lantern showcased during the parade

The human lanterns made of paper and silk are too enormous. They put the big lanterns on what seems to look like an altar and four people will together carry the altar during the parade.

A symbol of the followers of Buddha holding a lotus lantern and a book of his teachings

Some lanterns also depict fictional creatures which could be symbolic in Buddhism.

A monk sitting in a lotus over a lion-like creature
But not everything about the parade refers to deep symbolic figures for Buddhism. There are some lanterns which I think were there just to entertain people and not to bother the audience about the meaning like this one. Who would say everything must be serious? I find it too cute.

A human-like lotus lantern
There are also some fictional creatures like this what seems to be a peacock lantern in its entertaining blue light. I was far away from the figure so I was not able to take a closer shot.

Peacock like lantern with dancing blue lights
Of all the lanterns presented in the parade,this is I think the most awesome one. Oh, she's not a lantern, but she's the only glowing human presented along with other lanterns. I guess she's a Gumiho.

A Gumiho

After the parade, all roads lead to Joygesa temple where we will met by more lotus lanterns and lanterns of all forms and sizes. I know it's meaningful but we just settled to understand that it's a great photo opportunity.

At the gate of Joygesa Temple

When we entered the temple, we felt we just arrived in a different dimension of the world. The surroundings were full of lanterns and colorful lights coming from different sources. We just toured around the area while the rest of the followers of Buddha worshiped inside the temple.

Around the vicinity of Joygesa temple
I think the most interesting part is this corner in the temple where it displayed lanterns with lights changing colors for every minute.

Lotus Lanterns changing colors

We did not forget too that the place is very sacred for Buddhists because it's their worship place. In fact, right at the middle of the temple stands a very big tree. People bow down, kiss or even pray at the foot of the tree.

Followers of Buddha whisper their wishes by touching the tree and pray

However, this year's festival is not just all about Buddha. Due to the recent incident, part of the festival is an offer of prayer and sympathy to the affected people of the Sewol  Ferry Tragedy. People tied a yellow ribbon as a symbol of hope for the safe of returns for those who survived the tragedy.

The yellow ribbons symbolize the hope for more survivors from Sewol Ferry Tragedy

This year's festival was celebrated in a subtle way because of the heart breaking incident that happened a few weeks ago but this didn't stop thousands of people to enjoy the colorful lanterns in light for the birthday of the most celebrated religious figure in Korea, Buddha.

Thursday, April 24, 2014

#PrayForSouthKorea : The Aftermath of The Sewol Ferry Tragedy

We were having lunch on that 16th day of April when the news about the Sewol Ferry Tragedy flashed on the television screen. I saw how the ferry tilted and there were 2 people reported dead at that time. I thought it was just one small accident, but the news occupied the television airtime up to late night cancelling some regular TV shows here in Korea and I assumed it was not just any regular tragedy. I listened to the news and I was surprised as the death toll continued to rise, not to mention the other missing victims of the tragedy.

Apparently, the said ferry traveled from Incheon to Jeju Island carrying 475 passengers of which 340 are students and teachers of Danwon High School in Ansan. As per the latest news, only 174 passengers survived the accident and that include the Captain and some of the crews of Sewol Ferry. Death toll rose to 171 and there are about 131 more passengers missing. The search and rescue operation continues despite the challenge of unfavorable weather condition. Most of the dead bodies are said to be trapped in their respective vessels after the Ferry's crew announced to stay still and not to leave the ferry during the hiatus.

The Sewol Ferry Tragedy is now considered to be one of the biggest peacetime maritime disaster in Korea. As an OFW living in this country, I am one with fellow Filipinos in praying for South Korea.

One of fellow OFW who happened to visit Danwon High School in Ansan posted some photos of the latest happenings there.

A public vigil at Ansan Olympic Stadium is being held. Relatives, friends and even random people who sympathize to the victims of the Sewol Ferry Tragedy gathered to pray for the them.

I guess writing notes on a small post-it cards is already part of Korean culture. Thousands of students and friends of those who are affected by the tragedy express their sympathy by writing notes for them.

The wall of the stadium is flooded by hundreds of messages and flowers.

But what really breaks my heart are these pictures of young students who are now dead because of the tragedy.

Some of them maybe an only child of the family, some of them may have big dreams in life and others may have unfinished business.

I pray that God will give strength to the bereaved families. I pray that the lost ones will find peace. And I pray, no matter how hopeless, that there are still more survivors.

I would like to express my condolences to the family of the lost ones.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Investment Options and Financial Education Seminar for OFWs in South Korea

We, the OFWs here in South Korea are here in this foreign country for only one reason, to earn more money. When I first received my first salary, I was like "woah, this is like 3 times bigger than the salary I had in the Philippines" and somehow I felt I gained power because of the monetary possession I have. When you have money, it's easy to shop and buy anything you want. But remember, the opportunities we have here in Korea are temporary. It's not that we will forever work here. Time will come, our visas will expire and we need to go back to our country. The question is, what will you do next after kissing your Korea dream goodbye? Have you saved enough money to start a new life in the Philippines and to continue the lifestyle that you have established during your glorious days in Korea?

As an OFW, it is important to find alternative resources of our finances. We work hard for the money and we should know how to make our money work hard for us too. Isn't it amazing that while we are working, our money is also working to multiply itself? It is possible, it depends on how much knowledge you have when it comes to financial management and if you have strategies in investing. Let me share to you some of the possible  investment vehicles to help you improve your finances.

1. Stock Market

I think the most "doable" type of investments available is investing in the stock market. I call it doable but not necessarily easy. You can also choose to invest in a mutual fund or UITF if you really don't have time to monitor your portfolio. Stock market, Mutual fund and UITF are different in nature but they are somehow similar because it involves buying of stocks from the participating companies in the market. As an OFW, stock market is the perfect investment choice I may say because it does not really require a lot of your time, at least in the case of long term investment.

2. Real Estate

If you are not yet ready to invest in stock market, Real Estate is also one of the best investment vehicles. Although it is more complicated to invest in Real Estate than in stock market, the gains is just so rewarding  including the fact that you can call this investment your home.

3. Business

May it be a traditional business, a networking business or a franchising business, this is always a good way to start finding your way to financial freedom. Business has a lot of risks and if you are ready to handle it and you are up for the challenge, you can do pretty well with it and you can eventually achieve your goals. But as an OFW, having a business means finding for somebody you trust to manage and develop it because you can't obviously manage it until you go back home.

But wait a minute, before you even attempt to choose what investment option you should pursue, there's one thing you need to consider first, KNOWLEDGE. I would like to quote Warren Buffett for this:

As a backgrounder, Warren Buffet is one of the richest men in the world. Most of his wealth he obtained from the Stock Market.

See, even experts advice us to do your homework first before investing. Read, study, watch videos and most of all attend financial education seminars. Invest on knowledge first before participating in the business because knowledge is your weapon against the risk factors involve in the investing arena.

So for OFWs here in South Korea who would like to educate themselves regarding the different investment alternatives like Stock Market, Mutual Funds and Personal Financial Management, a seminar called "OFW Financial Literacy" will be conducted here in South Korea on June 2014.

The speakers of the said seminar will be Mr. Randel Tiongson and Mr. Floi Wycoco who also invested their way to Financial Freedom. Mr Wycoco was actually an OFW before. He has an inspiring story that I am sure all OFWs can relate including the escape from the harsh reality of poverty into financial freedom. The seminar registration fee is only 25,000 KRW, a very cheap investment compared to the knowledge you will acquire from this seminar.

For Pre-registration and for more information about the said seminar, please send a private message to Mr. Marlon Albao. Ask him any questions you want to raise regarding this upcoming seminar and he will address it. Also, please join PINOY STOCK MARKET INVESTORS IN KOREA Facebook group for some updates regarding this seminar.

You maybe enjoying now the benefits of working here in Korea because of the salary, but please think also of the future. What will you do after you finish the contract? While you are earning good, start making a strong foundation of your finances so that you don't need to go back again abroad and miss another birthday, Christmas and important family events. This is your opportunity to start investing on knowledge. Once you have the idea, you can make your way to unlock the door to financial freedom.