|El Nido, Palawan|
Xŭ Líng Fēng (許凌峰), Ling Hong to his family and Edgar to his Filipino freinds, is a Chinese national who chose to live in the Philippines as a permanent resident, and expressed his love to the country he now calls home by visiting all its 81 provinces.
Edgar was born to Taiwanese parents and is raised as a child in the Philippines. He went to a Chinese school in Manila and by the age of 18, he decided to go back to his home country. For three years, he tried to learn and adjust to the culture of his homeland. It was difficult, he said. It was ironic because I was in my home country but I really felt homesick, he added.
|Bangui, Ilocos Norte|
Luckily, there was a small Filipino community in their town with whom he felt more connected. It came to a point when he badly missed his friends in the Philippines and finally decided to return to Manila.
Aside from Fookien which Edgar's family speaks at home, he also speaks quite good Filipino. Majority of his barkada in the Philippines are Filipino-Chinese, but he does have some Filipino friends as well. I really feel that I belong here (in the Philippines), Edgar says. In fact, I already forgot that I am Taiwanese. I only remember that I am a foreigner when I need to renew my Alien Certificate of Residence (ACR) and when I renew my Taiwanese passport.
In 2010, Edgar fell in love with travel photography and joined the travel blog pinasmuna.com as a travel photographer. With travel photography, he was not only able to hone his photography skills, he was also able to better appreciate Filipino culture through interaction with people during his travels around the Philippines.
|Biri, Northern Samar|
During my first year of travels, I was amazed by how beautiful the Philippines is. Filipinos are really very blessed to have such wonderful sceneries and landscapes. Later on, Edgar also explored the different flavors of Philippine cuisine. From Ilocos to Pampanga, from Bulacan to Bicol, from Iloilo to Samar, and from Davao to Zamboanga, the everyday life of the Filipino revolves around their food.
In 2013, Edgar started attending festivals in Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao. These festivals gave him a deeper appreciation of the Filipino culture. When asked what his most favorite Philippine festivals are, he quickly replied: Ati-Atihan Festival of Kalibo, Kaamulan Festival of Bukidnon and T'nalak Festival of South Cotabato.
I loved these three festivals because I could really feel the culture being celebrated. I felt connected with the people and their traditions. These festivals also represent the colorful and diverse culture of the Philippines.
The region in the Philippines closest to the heart of Edgar is the Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) or the Bangsamoro. ARMM is the most misunderstood region in the Philippines, Edgar says. There are always risks involved in any travel, and these risks can be managed with proper planning and coordination. I was very hesitant at first to visit ARMM especially with my physical attributes. But I was proven wrong, Edgar added.
Most of the kind-hearted people I met in the Philippines are from the Bangsamoro, Edgar says. Just like in any town or province in the Philippines, the Bangsamoro people are hospitable and fun loving. They also have some of the most interesting cuisine in the Philippines. Edgar's favorites are the Sinina of the Maguindanaos, the Rendang of the Maranaos and the Kurma of the Tausugs.
Tawi-Tawi is one of the most memorable provinces for Edgar because it is here where he climbed his very first mountain in the Philippines. Totally unprepared, Edgar hiked to the peak of Bud Bongao wearing slippers. But all the challenges was rewarded with an astonishing view.
|San Juanico Bridge (Leyte-Samar)|
Another memorable travel destination for Edgar is Quirino province where he met a small family of Dumagats, an indigenous people in the area. I admire their simple life and I envy the paradise-like landscape of their ancestral land, Edgar says.
The Ivatans are also amazing. Honesty and kindness are their second nature. If I am to look for a place to retire, I would probably choose Batanes.
Last November 16, 2014, Edgar finally visited all 81 Philippine provinces during a trip to Carabao Island, Romblon province. Edgar really feels proud of this achievement, he should be! I have been around the Philippines, I ate the local cuisine, I experienced the local cultures, and deep in my heart, I feel I have become a true Filipino, Edgar says.
It's really inspiring that a foreigner like Edgar chose to explore every province of the Philippines. If a foreigner like me can, then a Filipino can, Edgar added.
|Lake Sebu, South Cotabato|
What's next then? Will you start visiting other countries? Perhaps, Edgar replied. But there's so much more to see here in the Philippines. More festivals to experience. More food to taste. More people to meet. I'm never gonna get tired of the Philippines, Edgar added.