On an early Friday morning, 16 delegates from various parts of the Visayas gathered in Mactan-Cebu International Airport. We were all excited as we waited for our flight for China. Still unfamiliar with each other, we passed the time glancing at our phones every now and then. Who knew that we would soon embark on one of the most exciting trips of our lives which would bond the 16 of us forever?
The Chinese Consulate General of Cebu sponsored this 10-day summer camp in order to promote Chinese culture and heritage among the Visayan youth. The 16 of us were from different parts of Cebu province, with the exception of one from Bohol. Under the guidance of Robin Tan and Janelle Binueza, we spent our 10 days in five different places in China: Shanghai, Suzhou, Wuzhen, Hangzhou and Xiamen.
Each place has its own splendor and story to tell. Our first destination was Shanghai Disneyland. The rainy weather did not dampen our excitement. Needless to say, we all enjoyed exploring the different rides and attractions in the theme park.
It was one full day of fun and bonding, concluded with a magical fireworks display.
Besides visiting Shanghai Disneyland, we gained some fascinating insights into some parts of Old Shanghai as we visited the Shanghai National Museum, Tian Zi Fang Street, and Yuyuan Garden. It was topped off by the famous Huangpu River Cruise at night, which gave us a spectacular view of Shanghai’s magnificently lit buildings. We all enjoyed the cold breeze and the beautiful sights of the city.
For the next two days, we explored the ancient city of Suzhou and the historic town of Wuzhen. Both places are famous for their picturesque canals, stone bridges, and traditional pagodas. We were able to explore Chinese culture firsthand as we visited another beautiful garden called the Humble Administrator’s Garden. We felt one with nature as we strolled along the calming waters and willow trees, but our learning experience did not end there.
In Hanshan Temple, another famous tourist spot, we learned about Buddhism, the temple’s history, and a historic poem all while admiring the beautiful tower of the temple. However, if there’s one thing we cannot forget, it would be the extremely popular legend of Bai Suzhen (白素貞), more popularly known as Madame White Snake. The legend is now counted among four of China’s Great Folktales.
The Legend of the White Snake (白蛇傳) is about the love story between a mortal Xu Xian (許仙) and an immortal white snake spirit who had transformed into a woman called Bai Suzhen. They met at the Broken Bridge (斷橋) in Hangzhou one rainy day, fell in love, eventually married and had a son.
But by marrying a mortal, Bai broke the laws of nature, and was imprisoned in Leifeng Pagoda (雷峰塔). Twenty years later, Bai was freed and reunited with her husband and son. Knowing about the historical legend, we were able to appreciate more our boat ride across the stunning West Lake in Hangzhou and our visit to the Leifeng Tower where Lady Bai was imprisoned.
Speaking of history, we went back in time into the Song Dynasty as we entered Song Cheng Theme Park. This theme park featured the culture and beauty of the Song Dynasty with various attractions, shops, and costumes for their guests.
But what really amazed us was the spectacular cultural show entitled “Romance of the Song Dynasty,” which depicted Song Dynasty’s prosperous living, a war hero’s story, local legends, tea culture, and the charm of modern Hangzhou through dance and unbelievable technological effects. The marvelous show is definitely a must-watch for everyone.
Departing Hangzhou, we rode a bullet train bound for Xiamen. I realized then that China is not only full of history and culture, but has also become technologically advanced. Their bullet train is the peak of railway innovation. Transportation has become so convenient and comfortable, and we were privileged to experience this firsthand.
We noticed their high-tech payment methods as well; instead of carrying cash, they simply scan a QR code to purchase items almost anywhere. It is truly incredible to see technology pushing the limits of our imagination.
Finally, we arrived in Xiamen, our last destination but definitely not the least. Personally, I was very excited because we were in Fujian, my home province. In fact, most Chinese Filipinos are from Fujian province. But what excited us the most was being able to visit two schools in Xiamen. We were able to tour the beautiful campuses, interact with students, learn Chinese calligraphy, and experience a typical student’s lunch menu.
Overall, it was a memorable experience where we learned a lot and made a lot of friends to boot. It was proof that despite the language barrier, we can still forge friendships with each other.