Another dispatch for the Far East, from Taipei, Taiwan. It is a balmy 23 Celsius here and likely will get to around 28. Taiwan is one of the tiger economies of the area, along with Hong Kong, Singapore, and South Korea. The country is clearly more prosperous than the Philippines, though it isn’t booming the way it used to before so much manufacturing went to China. The people are patriotic and are happy to point out when things are made in Taiwan, as opposed to mainland China.
Christianity, or so called Christianity, is held by only a small portion of the population. I am told that though Catholicism is here, it is a very tiny minority. The Taiwanese people don’t like the idea that priests cannot marry and have children, as family is very important to people here and is a form of security, instead of the social safety nets we have in the west.
The Taiwanese people are very friendly but most speak little or no English, as opposed to the Philippines, where English is spoken by many. Their driving habits are marginally better than what is seen in the Philippines. Traffic lights are often treated as optional and scooters also drive everywhere, including the sidewalk and through tight markets. You can often see mothers with their child balanced in front of them, zipping down the road, without helmets. They look like they are having a lot of fun though and I never saw any accidents, though I hear they happen.
Taiwan had a very low birth rate because there are three children aborted for every one born, which a shocking statistic. I would imagine that there wouldn’t be as many abortions in places like the Philippines.
There is much more corruption in the Philippines I believe. I was traveling as part of a group and I heard about the corrupt police. Then on the drive to the airport, the driver of the van I was in was shaken down. I was up front in the passenger seat and all of a sudden, there was a man on a motorbike beside us who was beeping his horn and pointing to the side. There were no lights flashing and you could see no identification on the man so our driver didn’t pull over immediately. The cop said the driver was getting a ticket for ignoring police directions and that would be 7500 pesos. It is difficult to dispute tickets so the driver gave a thousand peso note, or $25 approximately, and there was no ticket. A friend in Taiwan, who has been there 25 years said something like that has never happened to him or anyone he knows, in that country. In conversation, a Filipino pilot who happened to be sitting beside me a on a flight said he thought that the corruption is due to Spanish rule of the Philippines, but as I pointed out, that ended more than a hundred years ago. That doesn’t seem so believable.