Taiwan in the joyful eyes of Candida
Philippine STAR’s Bum Tenorio and his mother Candida in Yehliu. On his mother’s 75th birthday, Bum gifted her with her first ever trip abroad.
Taiwan in the joyful eyes of Candida
RENDEZVOUs - Christine S. Dayrit (The Philippine Star) - November 3, 2019 - 12:00am

We travel the world to discover its beauty, to gain experiences. Every experience of each city we visit is unique. What makes a discovery more meaningful is the company we are with when we travel.

Traveling takes another meaning when our purpose is to make others happy. This, I recently experienced in Taipei. The city recently created beautiful memories for us when my best friend Bum Tenorio, our friend and ace concert producer Glenn Aldueza and I traveled to Taiwan to celebrate the 75th birthday of Bum’s mother Candida Tenorio.

Chiang Kai-shek Memorial is a famous national monument and tourist attraction. Photos by Bum Tenorio Jr.

Taipei, the capital of Taiwan, has been a popular destination of late among Filipino travelers. Besides its eclectic culture, the city is reasonably priced in all fronts — food is inexpensive, hotel accommodations are affordable, even land tour arrangements can be tailored fit according to one’s budget. On top of that, the feeling that one is safe no matter how near or far one walks in Taipei’s busy, bustling streets or night markets is another factor that makes the city a worthwhile traveling experience.

By all means, this trip to Taipei is memorable because we saw it from the grateful and joyful perspective of Nanay Candida. It was her first time to travel overseas and Bum, who saved up for this trip, made sure it would be an experience of a lifetime for his mother.

Even before we arrived at our rooms at Amba Taipei Songshan, we already made arrangements with the kind hotel staff to decorate the room of Nanay Candida. A “Happy Birthday, Nanay Candida” bunting was on the wall, welcoming the birthday celebrant on the eve of her birthday. When she opened the window curtains, she was floored to see the expanse of the beautiful city that seemed to wink at her at sunset. We were billeted at the topmost floor of the hotel and the room I shared with Nanay Candida at Amba Taipei Songshan had the best view of the city. 

“That’s Taipei 101. That used to be the tallest building in the world,” Bum told his mom in the vernacular while pointing to the building. His mom sat by the bay window, the expanse of the marvelous view she tried to memorize in her heart. “Thank you! Thank you!” she kept on saying as she embraced Bum, Glenn and me. “Amba is a beautiful home,” she continued.

Taiwan’s cityscape, with Taipei 101, as seen from our well-appointed room in Amba Taipei Songshan Hotel.

Yes, Amba Taipei Songshan is a beautiful home away from home. The hotel is an urban oasis in eastern Taipei with panoramic views of Taipei 101 and Keelung River. It provides unbeatable convenience to Xinyi, Songshan and Nangang districts, and direct access to Songshan Station for metro and trains. Taipei 101 and the trendsetting Xinyi shopping and business district are just five minutes from the hotel by free shuttle service.

After our sumptuous dinner at the hotel’s Que restaurant, with wood-fired grill with a view, we started to discover the city at night. Nanay Candida said she was an early sleeper but since she was in Taipei, she would not want to miss the opportunity of discovering the city. (By the way, for our trips to the night markets, she opted to wear her Silva’s dusters paired with her Wataru espadrilles. She told me the best dusters in the Philippines are made by Silva’s, a clothing shop in Banlic, Cabuyao, Laguna. The Tenorios are from Gulod, a coastal barrio in Cabuyao.)

Bum got his mother’s hand and we all explored Songshan district by foot that night. We went to the centuries-old temple in Songshan. With a tall glass milk tea in hand that Glenn bought for his lola, Nanay Candida gamely explored and ate the street food of Taiwan in Raohe Night Market.

At the Raohe Night Market, we all relished pork pepper buns, grilled squid and pork rib bone soup. Nanay Candida seemed to enjoy them. Glenn tried to give her the stinky tofu but she thought it was too much experiment for her. But she totally enjoyed the torched beef wagyu cubes. She took a bite of xiang chang (the famous sausage of Taipei) and gave everything to her son to finish. She also partook of the yummy oyster omelet that Bum, Glenn and I enjoyed.

Close to midnight, she rallied all of us to go home to Amba. Nanay Candida fell in love with the hotel — in an instant. “I tried the bed early and it is just right in its softness. I also like the beddings. I like the smell of the room. And I love it that the bathroom is very clean. I feel like a rich woman,” she said.

I quickly replied, “You already are — in more ways than one.”

A little before 12 midnight, we all gathered in the room that I shared with Nanay Candida. Bum and his mother were huddled in an embrace as they watched the city lights from our room. They were singing to each other kundiman songs.

When the clock struck 12, Glenn brought out the birthday cake that the staff of Amba Taipei Songshan hid in the bottom of the refrigerator. We sang her “Happy Birthday” and she just cried at our display of love for her. That night, we all had a good, happy cry — at our well-appointed room in Amba, with the view of Taipei 101 blinking, winking at night.

Di and Ken Reyes with Carla and Karl Reyes at the Raohe Night Market

 

We woke up the following day with Nanay Candida wearing her floral dress. “My outfit for my birthday,” she said. It was a pink floral dress that she said was a Christmas gift to her by Bum’s dearest friend Rachy Cuna. One of her birthday wishes that she lovingly asked of me was to go to fruit orchards in Taiwan. I dutifully arranged one for her through Jeron Travels in Manila.

To the north of Taiwan we hopped into a van. The minute we set foot inside a guava and lemon farm, she regaled us with her gratitude and joy. She told me many times how much she was enjoying herself amidst the fruit orchards. Her joy was our joy, which we carried all throughout Kavalan Brewery where we tasted single-malt whisky.

After our day tour, she excitedly entered Amba Taipei Songshan like she was entering her own home. She stayed at the lobby for a while to bask in the fresh scent of the hotel. Then to the room we went to freshen up for dinner.

I orchestrated with the hotel chef the birthday dinner we would have that night — lobster and steak. Everybody had a smile after our meal. Nanay Candida had the biggest smile — coupled with tears of joy when, again, she blew out candles on her birthday cake.

After our dinner, we found ourselves walking around the Shilin Night Market. Glenn, a milk tea fanatic, came to us with his hands filled with the famed drink of Taiwan.

The following day saw us at Chiang Kai-shek Memorial. Then to Yehliu, a cape in the Wanli District of New Taipei, to ogle the hoodoo stones that dot its surface. Then to the famed railroad tracks of Shifen we went for our sky lantern experience. We were surprised when she wrote her wishes on the lantern that we released in the air. Her wishes were not for her but for her sons, her family, for Glenn, for me.

“What about your wish for yourself?” I asked her.

“All of you fulfilled my wish already. It’s time for me to wish for your intentions,” she said.

On our last night, we had an excellent hotpot and steak dinner at the beautiful home of expats Ken and Di Reyes in the tony side of Taipei. It so happened that Karl Reyes, brother of Ken, bumped into Bum at the night market on our first night in Taipei. Karl, his wife Carla and Bum have known each other for years through Karl’s cousin, Philippine STAR “Allure” editor Joanne Ramirez. Karl and Carla were also vacationing in Taipei that time and they were in the night market with Ken and Di. To make a long story short, they invited us for dinner. They served the best meal in Taiwan and Nanay Candida served the best stories of her life. The dinner ended way past midnight with Nanay Candida again blowing out the candles on her cheesecake — with tears of joy.

On our last day, we wanted to bring Nanay Candida to Taipei 101 before heading to the airport. But she refused. “You have all overextended your kindness. Save the money instead of paying for our entrance fee. After all, every morning that I wake up and before I go to bed, from my room in Amba, Taipe 101 is always there. It never leaves me. Thank you,” she said.

And off we left our beautiful hotel room to zoom to the airport.

“Bye-bye, Taiwan. Bye-bye, Taipei 101. Bye-bye, Amba. See you again. Thank you. Thank you. This is very memorable for me,” Nanay Candida said while waving goodbye to the glistening cityscape from our hotel room.

It was an unforgettable experience — for all of us. All because we saw genuine joy on the face of a 75-year-old woman who traveled abroad for the first time because of the dream of her son to bring happiness to his mother no matter what.

* * *

 For more information on Amba Taipei Songshan, log on to www. amba-hotel.com. Or call Jeron Travels and Tours at 02-8854-1813 or log on to www.jerontravel.com.

E-mail me at miladay.jewels@gmail.com.

TAIWAN
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