Harding Intsik, an obscure attraction inside Manila’s vast Rizal Park, is a Chinese garden designed and gifted decades ago by the Taiwanese government. A set of postage stamps featuring two of the most notorious dictators in Asia–namely Philippines’s Ferdinand Marcos and Taiwan’s Chiang Kai-shek–commemorates the garden’s completion in 1967.
Though not as splendid as Chinese gardens elsewhere, Harding Intsik incorporates the essential elements – zigzag bridge over pond, pavilions and corridors, statues of literati, lush vegetation, etc. It could be the only oriental garden, on Planet Earth, adorned with giant palm trees! No tea house or tea service onsite though.
Before arriving in Manila during an eight-hour layover, I was warned numerous times about the city’s traffic congestion, which restricted my adventure to only the must-visit Intramuros – Spanish Colonial Period’s Walled City. Manila is endowed with a sizable Chinatown and the peculiar Chinese Cemetery, neither of which piqued my interest. It was during the drive to Intramuros that I stumbled upon Harding Intsik.
Those who were at the garden that rainy afternoon appeared to be university students. They found shelter to escape the unpleasant mishmash of rain and heat; I could picture them sitting at the same spot, reading the same book in any sunny day though. Whatever they were drinking to quench thirst and combat humidity was either coffee or water, not tea. Most tourists graded the garden lackluster, even a waste of time. Certainly it was not built for tourists. Its construction aimed to attain political goals, which fortunately entertain residents of a cacophonous, over-populated metropolis.
This is my tenth year contributing to T Ching. I decided to write about Harding Intsik while reading in one review, after my trip, that although the Taiwanese government, more specifically, the Nationalist Party’s exploitation of taxpayer money, funded the entire project, all “evidence” such as commemorative plaques had been removed or replaced since the so-called “Rise of China.” My tour guide photographed me holding an umbrella in front of the winding corridor. How I wish I had turned around to inspect one plaque pinned to the corridor pillar, as shown in the photo, but there is really not a need. Due to pressure from China, Taiwan is not admitted to not only the United Nations but also organizations such as the United Nations’ information-distributing, humanitarian agency WHO (World Health Organization). At China’s request earlier this year, major airlines deleted references to Taiwan in their flight schedules. The East Asian Olympic Committee barred TaiChung, Taiwan’s second largest city, from hosting the East Asian Youth Games. All had been a struggle for the oppressed during the past ten years, and the struggle persists in the coming ten years when the oppressor wields power regardless of the sophomoric, trite propaganda and implementation.
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