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A Message of Peace on the Holy Month

Look at this building and have a guess... What do you see? A Hindu temple? Or a Buddhist one, perhaps? In fact, this is an Islamic mosque. The name is Masjid Menara Kudus located in Kauman Village, Central Java, Indonesia.

This old minaret of the mosque built by Sunan Kudus (one of the '9 Saints' credited for the spread of Islam on Java island) in 1549 adopted traditional Javanese architecture of that time, which was heavily influenced by Hindu and Buddhist styles. Sunan Kudus was very gentle and tolerant to the local culture. He made good use of the symbolisms in Hinduism and Buddhism such as Noble Eightfold Path ('Ārya'ṣṭāṅga mārgaḥ' in Buddhism) and manifested it into architecure (especially for mosques, minarets, entrance gates, and place of ablutions).

To respect the Hindus, on one occasion he deliberately tied his cow on the courtyard of his mosque. The Hindus who revered cows soon felt sympathetic after listening to his explanation. To this very day, there are still a lot of people in the area (most of them are Muslims) who refused to slaughter bulls and cows out of respect to his teachings.

Isn't it a wonderful world if respect each other and maintain peace? As the new moon begins to reveal itself in the nightsky, we would like to wish our Muslim sisters and brothers Ramadan Kareem, Happy Ramadan! May this holy month shower blessing upon you and the entire world. Let peace be your guide! Selamat Menunaikan Ibadah Puasa Bulan Suci Ramadhan!


Burmese Secret Cosmetic

Burmese Secret Beauty

What kind of gift it is for that a cosmetic and skin conditioner are not made from factory but from forest? Burmese people has been treasuring this
treasures for so long and it is quite guilty for not to share to others.

Thanaka, Burmese ancient cosmetic which is used until present day, is that gift. It is made from Sandalwood tree, when ground, the bark of Thanaka Tree acts as an astringent, sunscreen and antiseptic. [3] It is worn by ladies, old and young alike, and it is hard to find a woman who does not like Thanaka. [1] You can only find it on sell in Myanmar.

The scientific name of thanatkha plant is Limonia acidissima (Roxb). It belongs to the Rutaceae family together with the Thi or Linonium elephantum (corr), the Okshit or Aegle marmelos (L) and the pyindaw-thein or Micromelum hirsutum (Oliver) plants. The thanatkha grows in the southern and western parts of India, the northwestern part of the Himalayas, the Punjab State, the Assam State and in Myanmar, in the dry zone: from Shwebo district in the midlands to Pyay district further south. The thanatkha plants that grow on dry, rocky soil produce hard, thin barks, long-lasting and durable in use. The best thanatkha plants are naturally slow in growth and it takes three to ten years for the tree trunk to grow two inches in diameter. The barks obtained from these trees are so fragrant that the womenfolk here adore them very much. Accordingly, they fetch good prices in the market. Various kinds of thanatkha differs in quality but those produced from Shwebo district and the Shinma­taung thanatkha from Pakokku district are the best and the most famous in our country. [3]

Following the destruction of the Shwemadaw Pagoda in the earthquake of 1930, the clearing the ruins there led to the discovery of a circular stone slab used by Princess Razadatukalya, daughter of Hanthawaddy Sinbyshin Minn for grinding the Thanakha bark . Afterwards, the slab was donated to the Pagoda as a valuable antique. [2]

The thankatkha is a very useful plant and its plays a great part in the field of Myanmar indigenous medicine. The leaves are used as a remedy for epilepsy, in some regions. The berry-like fruit also is used as antidotes and tonics. The ripe fruits, plucked and cultivated within the same day is supposed to produce healthy plants. The blossoms are adorned by women and their smell is sweet and fragrant. The bark is rubbed with a little water to induce the liquid which is worn for self-beautification. The thanatkha liquid has the properties of making the skin cool and smooth, having a refreshing and cool fragrance, beautifying the users. It also cures pimples and acne. The hard, yellowish, sweet-smelling thanatkha wood is used to make handicrafts such as trinkets, combs, boxes and many others. The root possesses much medicinal value and is used in Myanmar indigenous laxatives. [3]

The cosmetic appears in many forms; in its raw - and highly prized - state it will be sold in markets in small 10-18cm long branches and logs. These are ground vertically, round and round, on a special flat circular whetstone with a few drops of water, producing a milky yellow liquid that ist hen immediately applied to the skin. While wet it is virtually translucent but in an hour, it dries to a rich yellow crust. [1]

Thanaka is a prized wood, in 1958, The former British colonial government has approved the Forest Act, which added Thanaka tress to its list of protected trees. It stated: "no person shall collect or remove for trade purposes… Thanaka wood and bark."

Thanaka is sure a good souvenir to be brought home when travelling to Myanmar. Its smell, its figure and its secret are sure to keep a good memory of this country.



Asean City

Today marks the 42nd Asean Day a non-Holiday for a region struggling to get recognized by its own peoples. I said it before, time and again, to make August 8th a special non-working Holiday so that people will talk about it - increase awareness.

If people are working, their minds are set on their jobs. But if they don't have work, or they'll receive premium or double pay, they will ask about "the Holiday". What is it about? Why August 8th? Where are we now? Is it really working?

I can't help but think that this Asean Day is just another regular day because they do not want the Asean peoples to be aware of it, once we the public are, then questions like "Is it effective?" and "Are they really doing their jobs?" and "Do our country need Asean?" will be asked. Are there things to hide from the Asean people?

Let's leave it at that, for today we are going to take a tour... so let's go to Asean City.

"Welcome to Asean City", the tour guide said, as the bus carrying you enters the city. "This city is home to 100,000 people from across the region, living together as one united neighborhood sharing their cultures with each other."

People are walking doing their own business as the the bus continues to roll on. Some will stop and wave to you, while some put their hands on their chest. "On your right is the Asean University. This is a dream come true after long years of being just a collection of State Universities across the region.", the tour guide proudly declares.

"I graduated from this University, with a Major in Asean Cultures, which enables me to work in any Asean member states in different culture-related fields," she continued.

Elementary school children are lining up waving the Asean flags as the tourist bus passes by. There are also the High School and College students, themselves wearing their respective national dress.

You were also shown the Asean Museum of Arts and Culture where each member States history are displayed (both in traditional means and virtual reality). There was also the Asean Religions block where different churches, mosques, and temples of the various faiths in the region are located - and co-existing peacefully with each other. The the Asean Hospital, the Asean City Hall, the Asean Sports Center, the Asean Police and Fire Stations, and the Asean Cyber Exchange Center.

"This is the Asean Cyber Exchange Center where each Asean City across the region can exchange information and knowledge with each other," Babysher said, which you just remembered. She showed you a virtual representation of the Asean Region (formerly known as South-East Asia) with each Asean City marked. Babysher moves her hand and the virtual scene moves accordingly, "this is where we are 'Asean City #7' in Bataan, Philippines, or 'Asean City Mabuhay' as it is officially named.

"These cities are villages with some privileges and restrictions. For example, Asean Cities have some autonomousity when it comes to the management of the village. And an example of restriction, the city have to exemplify the ideals of the ASEAN Organization - non-interference. In simplest of terms, these cities are meant for cultural exchanges, for you and me, as well as to serve as an ideal example of how we, as a region, can live together in spite of our diversity.

"And this ends today's tour my fellow Aseans. You are free to roam the city and learn more about Asean and its peoples. You can also visit the City Hall and ask for information of how you can become part of an Asean City. We will meet back here 4 hours from now. Mabuhay!" Babysher smiles and bows down.

Is this possible? Asean City? I hope so. This is, in my opinion, one way of spreading the Asean integration in the grassroots level. A huge project and will take maybe ten years to materialize. But how about choosing a village or a city and giving them the title "Asean City" if they pass a set of rigid tests and criteria?

The main purpose and objective of an Asean City is for cultural and information exchange. There is no better way to learn of each other's cultures but by establishing each cultures in each regional hub in the region. As someone hailing from the Philippines, we can have at least four Asean Cities - Northern Luzon, Megapolitan Manila, Visayas Region, and Mindanao Region.

Each Asean City will first and foremost, focus on its national culture. In this case the Philippine culture. Next, its local culture - for example in Mega Manila, the Tagalog culture. Then third and the most important of all, the culture of the other Asean Nations.

We're not just talking about Museums here, there's little cultural exchange in that, but rather making this Asean City a real village (or a city if one believes they can pull it out). A village where real people, real families are living. I am thinking that each Asean City should have 2 to 4 families of each member Nations.

These Asean Cities will be for cultural purposes only, they won't be allowed to have a say on politics specially the State in which it is located lest we invite unnecessary criticisms and possible collapse of the project. Leave the politics to the ASEAN Organization itself, and leave the cultural aspects to the people, after all it you and me that matters in this "Asean Integration".

I really hope this is possible. Feel free to expound on this idea.

Happy Asean Day everyone!!