Taiwan Experience: Sharing Autonomous Thoughts and Practices in Relation to Climate and Ecological Crisis

We had an opportunity to visit Taiwan and stay there for almost two months from July to September 2017. With the help of our friends from Neng Sheng Xing Factory Tainan City, Taiwan an LGBTQ community, artist and environmentalist who runs a two building multi-functional creative-space with live house/concert venue, gallery, bookshop, bars, organic market stalls, workshop and lecture venue and a hostel accommodation.

 

On the first week of our arrival, we managed to participate in a one week event in Ocean Home Wild Market Festival (July 3-9, 2017). The festival located on coast line of Hualien City east coast of Taiwan, on the Pacific Ocean. This festival was organized by more than 150 volunteers from different parts of Taiwan who are responsible on maintaining the traffic, kitchen staffs, cleaners, sound engineer, production assistant, seller, electrician, program coordinator etc. The practice of volunteerism in Taiwan is very high. They have three stages for performances: independent stage, free stage and environmental stage. Every stage accommodates diverse genre of music and performances from techno/electronic, rock, alternative, disco, theater, dance, trans-music, earth music etc. There are almost 400 makeshifts stalls/store which is selling different hand-made crafts, foods and beverages and 10% of the profit of each stalls will goes to the logistics and funds for the festival.  Many people came from all over Taiwan and some numbers of foreigners. Most of the people who participate lived in a tent and the festival provided a place where you can take a shower. It was a new experienced for us to witness a festival like this who are independent from government and corporate sponsorship. We got a chance to go to a near water falls in Hualien with a Taiwanese friends. I also managed to play in a band with a Japanese friend and the crowd were appreciative.

After the festival we go straight to Tainan City by train, a four hours travel from Hualien to Tainan City. We stayed in Neng Sheng Xing Factory as a residence artist and in this space we will organize and facilitate different activities and workshop that we prepare and share some information of the things that we do in the Philippines. At the time we arrived in the space, the people who stay there are all volunteers which they called “little helper”. The task of little helper is more on domestic works like cleaning, preparing foods, organizing garbage disposal in exchange they can stay and have food for free provided by the space. Tainan, officially Tainan City, is a special municipality of Taiwan, facing the Formosan Strait or Taiwan Strait in the west and south. Tainan is the oldest city on the island of Taiwan and also commonly known as the “Capital City” (府城; FǔchéngHú-siâⁿ) for it’s over 200 years of history as the capital of Taiwan under Koxinga and later Qing dynasty rule. Tainan’s complex history of comebacks, redefinitions and renewals inspired its popular nickname “the Phoenix City”. It is also one of Taiwan’s cultural capitals, for its rich folk cultures including the famous local street food and traditional cuisine. We really like the food here because it’s delicious and very cheap compare to the other cities in Taiwan.

We started our first activity on August 6, a workshop on a DIY Eco-menstrual pads for women an alternative DIY making of re-usable pads for women. To help minimize the waste. Think, how many women throw disposable pads and panty liners every day? That’s a lot of waste! These products require hundreds of years to biodegrade, particularly if wrapped in the plastic bag commonly provided for this purpose as part of their packaging. In fact, every piece of plastic ever made, still exists to this day. This workshop facilitated by Juey. There were seven participants who joined and most of them are happy to sew together.

The next activity happened in National Tainan Second Senior High School on August 9, with the help of Neng Sheng Xing people they arranged my activity in this school. There are 40 senior high school students and their adviser who joined. I presented a power point entitled “Ecological Catastrophe and Our Autonomous Initiative” an analysis on how the corporation with the help of the government destroy the Earth and the direct action that we can do to prevent this destruction. Through exploring and providing alternative solution that are independent and autonomously done by individuals, family and the community in general. The second presentation is a film entitled “Leyte Mission”, a short documentary about one of the strongest typhoons recorded in history: Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines. The video documents the devastating impact experienced by the people in Leyte Province and how anarchists made an intervention in the relief effort and recovery stage to give direct aid to the marginalized communities that were affected. The third is the Off-grid Solar Power demonstration and workshop, I show them the four equipment and how it works to provide electricity. I promoted the used of decentralized and self-manageable type of energy production for household level. An alternative to minimize the carbon emission and make a direct-oriented result base practice by community itself.

The third activity take place on August 12, we introduced and organize together the Really Really Free Market event in the streets in front of Neng Sheng Xing Factory. Many people participate and bring stuffs that they can share and also other passerby join to collect some materials. There is a lady who pass by and ask what is going on and then later she came back and share some sweets and foods for all of us. There is a lady who play violin and a guy who play djembe. Father and daughter dance on the streets. And lot of exchanging stories and meeting new people. Our objective is to present a community that open for sharing and giving as an attempt to lessen the capitalist-consumerist lifestyle.

The fourth event done on August 13, we facilitate a workshop/training on Conflict Transformation. More than 10 people participate. We start at around 2pm, the first thing we did is the One Minute Introduction, and participants will introduce themselves in one minute and experienced to speak up in a diverse group of people. Then we share the Group Juggling Game, the objective is to give them an experienced on how to communicate well, focus and how they will react on the situation. Then we introduced and explain what Conflict Transformation is. After that we go to the next tools/exercise about Brainstorming, getting or harnessing ideas and thoughts from the participants. Then we share the Four Roles tools in which they will choose one role that they think its fit for them and explain why they choose the roles and not the other roles. Then we group them into two, each group composed of four roles and we gave them a situation ire for them to figure out how they can make a plan of action based on their role in collaboration with others. Then presented them in the whole group. On this activity everyone shared their opinion sometimes an arguments from some of the participants but settled it in the process. The next tools that we share is the Tape in the Forehead/ Margin-Mainstream, this is one of the intense and emotional thing for all of us. We put different signs in their forehead and tell them to find their group without talking, at first most of them are confused on finding their group then suddenly managed see their group with the help of someone. But one individual stay alone with no group at all. Then we ask the group how they find each other, what they feel after they find their group. The same question that we ask on the one who are alone. After that we have a debriefing asking them what they notice and what they learn, suddenly one participants share her feelings in which she is concerned about the one who had no group and she cried felt that she experienced the same being alone, lonely, rejected. Everyone shared their feelings, another female share the same thing that she feel discriminated, feeling of not belong. While we are discussing this I already put some things to fill up for the Mainstream and Margin awareness then explain this to them that each of us feel the same and sometimes we are not aware that we hurt anybody. Then we had a 5minute break. The last workshop is the Village Game, we group them in to two again and tell them to draw an ecological sustainable village that they dream of. After they finished the drawing each group present their work. Then a group of people went to their village and started to proposed development projects and convinced harder the community to take the offer but the village refused and depended their community. This workshop is about a non-violence situation ire on how the people will react on destructive development intrusion.

The last activity occurred on August 20, 2017. We share two films: 1.Sining, Kalikasan, Aklasan (Art, Nature, Resistance) 31 mins. A short film about the horizontally-organized protest event against the State of the Nation Address of the President. The video documents the inclusive and creative kind of resistance initiated by a diversity of individuals and groups condemning the social and ecological injustice. 2. “Leyte Mission” 9mins. A short documentary about one of the strongest typhoons recorded in history: Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines. The video documents the devastating impact experienced by the people in Leyte Province and how anarchists made an intervention in the relief effort and recovery stage to give direct aid to the marginalized communities that were affected. At this day there is also a Farmers Market Day. Two days in a month Neng Sheng Xing Factory tie up with the local organic farmer. They invite local farmers and seller to use their space as a temporary market to sell and showcase organic products, this is to support the advocacy on organic farming and organic product consumption.

When we are in Tainan City, we visited other places too like the Fort Zeelandia in Anping District, Fort Zeelandia was a fortress built over ten years from 1624 to 1634 by the Dutch East India Company, in the town of Anping on the island of Formosa, during their 38-year rule over the western part of that island. Another place is The Tainan Flower Night Market is a night market in North District, Tainan, Taiwan. It is often considered to be the largest and most famous night market in the city. It is said “South is Flower, Middle is Fengjia, North is Shihlin”. We also went to Ala Stream Waterfalls Group (中文版:阿拉溪鞋瀑布群) is a group of at least 4 waterfalls in Tainan, Nanxi District, it’s a great experienced to be in nature for a quiet moment. Aside from touristic spots, we had a chance to visit the Xigang District a rural area were agriculture is one of the main livelihood. In this place a local farmer’s community are contesting the road widening project of the government. They don’t want the project to be built because most of the agricultural land and historical places will be destroyed.

As a residence artist in Neng Sheng Xing Factory in Tainan City we noticed the hard work of every member in different task that they need to do. Every dinner all of us will eat together as a family. If we have time we also cook Filipino dish. Language is one of the barrier and sometimes miss-understanding occur but it will be easily settle. I see their dedication on running their space as they really like to do whatever according to their desire. Most the people there are very kind and sweet.

When we finished the residency, we decided to visit Taipei City to meet other interesting people and to do some activities with them. The first place that we visit is the Trapped Citizen Collective House that run and rented by 30 people. Most of them are into the music scene mainly punks and other are into activism. The main function of the space are for music studios, film screening, gathering hub and accommodation. The member are mainly composed of men and three female. Every Sunday they have a meeting to discuss matters regarding the space and their collective. They welcomed us dearly like as we know each other a long time ago, even though we didn’t know each other they didn’t hesitate to let us in and stay for free on their place. We had a film screening event that happened on August 23, one of our friend there decided what film we will screen and we choose Manila Dispatch and again the Sining Kalikasan Aklasan with Chinese subtitles. After the two film shown we had a break for five minutes then I continue the program by having a power point presentation about Etniko Bandido Infoshop. Then we open the floor for question and answer. I received a lot of question and clarification coming from the participants and more are related to politics and society in the context of Philippine archipelago.  About what is our position in the War on Drugs policy? Poverty situation? The relationship with other left-wing block? How we organized? The danger of being an anarchist? Etc.

The next day August 24, I was invited also to cook and share the film Leyte Mission and S.K.A. in another space called Nature More with their mission of sparking sustainable values and attitudes via creativity, art and interdisciplinary collaboration. The set up was kind a cozy with a hi-tech kitchen facility and elegantly design furniture. Our friend invited a small number of people estimated 14 person to have a dinner while I’m presenting a film. It’s a casual conversation, curious why are there so many waste and garbage in Manila River and discussing what kind of community-development should be appropriate.

The last event take place in a space called Revolution International, a newly renovated building and when we got there the construction still not yet finish. They plan to have a bar, fair trade store that will support other country, they have also an accommodation for rent, and space for workshop/ lecture/ screening. This was managed by a Taiwanese and Japanese friends with their partner investor who will finance the progressive business project. According to them, to continue the social and political initiatives you need to do a certain compromises in a way to achieve the things that you need to pursue. At this space Juey facilitate again the workshop on how to make a DIY Earth-friendly cloth pads for women while I’m touring around the area with our friend and visited the The Ama Museum (Chinese: 阿嬤家-和平與女性人權館; pinyin: Āmā Jiā-Hépíng Yǔ Nǚxìng Rénquán Guǎn) is a museum in Datong District, Taipei, Taiwan. The museum is dedicated to the comfort women during the Japanese rule of Taiwan. The same day is our presentation called Creative Resistance against Ecological Collapse. Again I presented the film Leyte Mission and Sining, Kalikasan, Aklasan. Next, participants make their reaction and raise some question. One of them impressed on the stress debriefing activities that we did for the kids of San Miguel Leyte who had traumatize on the 2013 Typhoon Haiyan. The solar power effort to bring a free electricity in the typhoon affected area was for them a nice initiatives. The space member cook delicious pasta for all the participants.

The next day we had chance to visit Yun Sen Waterfalls in New Taipei City a hometown of our friend. It’s a 30mins trekking and we noticed that many local older people go to this place with their friends and family. It’s a cool place and accessible nevertheless  it’s clean with no trace of rubbish. Then we meet the family of our friend who prepared our lunch, they are very hospitable. After that we visited the Sanxia Old Street and railway.

We went back to Taipei City and the next day another friend tour as around and visited Lungshan Temple of Manka is a Buddhist temple in Wanhua District, Taipei, Taiwan. The temple was built in Taipei in 1738 by settlers from Fujian during Qing rule in honor of Guanyin. Then we went to the oldest and only punk shop in Taipei named Liberated Rythms a music, clothes and art related merchandize that caters punk, post punk, indie, darkwave, coldwave goth, deatheock, crust punk, thrash. HC, black, metal, indie, doom, sludge, psychedelic rock and more.

I also visited the Aborigine protest camp near Taipei Main station. The main issue that is being demonstrated is the Tsai administration’s exclusion of privately-owned property from what was designated as indigenous land in the draft proposal put out by the Council of Indigenous Peoples. It was one of the promises of the Tsai administration that it would restore traditional lands to Taiwanese indigenous population. As a result, while indigenous territories have increased from zero to 800,000 hectares, Indigenous Peoples themselves estimate that their land should consist of 1.8 million hectares. Indigenous groups have criticized that Indigenous Peoples themselves, who should know the range and extent of their traditional territories best, were generally not consulted in the process of surveying traditional lands.

The last two days of our stay in Taiwan ended in Taoyuan City, a place near the international airport. Another friend invited us for a free stay in her space. She loved to have visitor and always preparing sweets and foods for a guest. We had a chance to see Hutou Mountain Park and see a lot of Filipino migrant worker. Most of the nearly 120,000 migrant workers from the Philippines in Taiwan are working in factories, where they are working regular hours with overtime pay. But not all migrant workers had a good experience, according to some information that we got most of them get less than a minimum wage specially people who are into domestic work and care giver. The minimum wage in Taiwan is around 22,000 NT Dollars per month but the migrants only get 15,000 to 18,000 NT Dollars a month. They have only one day off per week and lived in a small apartment with other workers, company will issued penalty if you sleep-over outside the designated apartment. They also have a curfew that no one should be outside at 10pm.

Our days in Taiwan is very hectic but it’s a lot of fun and excitement.

 

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