Life and Style wRap: Pope Francis’ first love, explore China for free
MANILA, Philippines - Here are Life & Style stories you might have missed from the week of March 11 to 16.
Spurned in puppy love, Bergoglio turned to the Church
Like all young boys in their youth, the young Jorge Bergoglio—recently elected as the 266th Roman Catholic pontiff—fell head-over-heels in love, as well.
"If I don't marry you, I'll become a priest."
According to a bespectacled, white-haired woman identified only as Amalia, Pope Francis wrote those words to her in a letter more than 60 years ago when they were just 10 or 12 years old.
"In the little letter, he had drawn a little house with a red roof and white walls and, and he wrote, 'this house is what I'll buy when we get married,'" the woman remembered, standing on the sidewalk in the Flores neighbourhood where they were both born.
But the seemingly innocent promise was taken very differently by Amalia's conservative parents who were scandalized their little girl was receiving notes from boys.
"I have nothing to hide, it was a thing of children," Amalia insisted decades later as reporters and television cameras swarmed.
Nevertheless, her parents tore the letter up and did whatever was necessary to keep their daughter away from the young Jorge Bergoglio. Their courtship was over before it began.
Bergoglio, archbishop of Buenos Aires and Primate of Argentina, was elected to be pope on Wednesday. He is the first man from the Americas to hold the post.
Malaysian author wins Asia's top literary prize
Author Tan Twan Eng became the first Malaysian author to win Asia's top literary prize on Thursday for his novel set during the aftermath of the Japanese occupation of Malaya.
Tan won the US$30,000 Man Asian Literary Prize with "The Garden of Evening Mists", beating 4 other shortlisted books. The book follows a young law graduate who discovers the only Japanese garden in Malaya and its secretive owner.
"This comes as a huge shock," Tan said at a black tie dinner in Hong Kong where the announcement was made. "It's such a strong list this year that I am speechless."
The book's central metaphor of the Japanese garden was partly inspired by a chance meeting with the gardener for the emperor of Japan, he said.
"I've always been interested in that period of history and I've always wanted to explore all the things which I felt weren't explored enough by other people," he said of its setting in the aftermath of Japanese occupation, an issue that continues to resonate in Asia.
It is the second time the prize has been won by a novel originally written in English. All previous winners, except “Ilustrado” by Filipino author Miguel Syjuco, won as English translations.
St. Francis's simple lifestyle inspires new pope
If the newly-elected Pope Francis wanted to portray himself as a humble man in touch with the poor, he couldn’t have picked a better name.
While he wasn’t always a shining beacon of light for all things holy, Saint Francis of Assisi’s conversion from party-loving youth to devoted Christian makes him one of the Church's most popular saints.
Born in 1181, he grew up in an age of wealth. But his rollicking ways were eventually curtailed by his desire to become a knight in battle. The opportunity arose when his town of Assisi declared war on Perugia. After being taken as prisoner for ransom, he was finally released after a year thanks to his father's riches and later answered the call for knights for the Fourth Crusade.
It was during this time that Francis had a dream in which God told him his calling lay elsewhere. He began to devote himself to prayer and is said to have passed his first test from God when he kissed the hand of a leper.
His chroniclers say he was then spoken to by Christ on the crucifix at the ancient church of San Damiano: "Francis, repair my church." Taking the instructions literally, Francis returned to his father's home and took fabric from his father's shop and sold it to raise funds.
Seeing the act as one of theft, Francis's father dragged him in front of the bishop who told him to return the money and God would provide. It is regarded as a key moment in the life of Saint Francis, who from then on, shunned the material pleasures of his life to devote himself to God, preaching to the poor and gathering followers.
Times may have changed but Pope Francis is renowned for his humble lifestyle.
As a cardinal, he would take the bus and train to work and lived in a simple apartment. And in his first duties as pontiff, he has chosen to do away with frivolous customs of, for example, riding in a limo; choosing to ride in a bus with the other cardinals or walking short distances.
Christie's to auction 'perfect' new 102-carat diamond
See original image of diamond in this BusinessInsider.com article.
Auction house Christie's on Wednesday said it would put up for auction "one of the world's most perfect diamonds"—a new colourless, pear-shaped gem weighing 101.73 carats.
In the rough, the diamond was 236 carats when it was extracted from the Jwaneng mine in Botswana, before it was meticulously sculpted for 21 months, Christie's said.
The American Institute of Gemology has handed the gemstone the top colorless grade "D" and the best clarity grade, "flawless," Christie's said, also hailing the diamond's "absolute symmetry".
Last November, Christie's sold another “flawless” diamond. The 76-carat Archduke Joseph Diamond sold for US$21.5 million (16.5 million euros). In May 2011, a heart-shaped 56-carat diamond was auctioned off for US$10.9 million.
Before going on sale in Geneva, the new diamond will go on tour to New York and Hong Kong in April. The May 15 auction will mark the first time the rock goes on sale and the buyer will have the privilege of naming it.
Technology to detect Alzheimer's takes SXSW prize
Technology capable of diagnosing Alzheimer's disease long before its symptoms appear won a coveted honor for innovation at the South by Southwest (SXSW) festival.
Neurotrack, which uses eye tracking to achieve a claimed 100% success rate, clinched the health technologies category in the SXSW Accelerator competition as the festival's interactive segment drew to a close.
"It's a computer-based visual cognitive test that is able to diagnose Alzheimer's disease 6 years before symptoms appear," said Elli Kaplan, chief executive officer of the Richmond, Virginia-based upstart.
"Today the only way to diagnose Alzheimer's is once full symptoms are in existence," Kaplan told AFP, "but that's years after irreparable damage has already taken place."
Initial users of Neurotrack will be pharmaceutical manufacturers to help them develop drugs to prevent or at least slow the progression of the most common form of dementia, she said.
But in time, Kaplan added, it will be rolled out to doctor's offices and research hospitals—and potentially, a smartphone and tablet app that individuals can use as well.
China city searching for 'modern Marco Polo'
A Chinese city is searching for a foreign traveller to become a "modern Marco Polo" with a US$52,000 (40,000 euros) salary on offer to the winner, a tourism official said Wednesday.
Hangzhou in eastern China, renowned for its canals and bridges, was described as the "most beautiful and elegant city in the world" by the Venetian traveller, whose 13th-century journal was one of the first detailed accounts of China written by a European.
Now the city is "calling people around the world to follow Marco Polo's steps," said Chen Li, of Hangzhou's tourism commission.
The promotion is akin to Australia's "best jobs in the world" campaigns, the first of which required the winner to live on a tropical island for 6 months.
The new Marco Polo will be recruited via Facebook—which is banned in China itself—and will undergo intensive training before being flown to the city for a 15-day trip, the tourism commission said in a press release. Duties include making a short video about Hangzhou and promoting the city online.
Visit the Facebook page here.
China was the world's 3rd most visited country in 2011 behind the United States and France, according to the United Nations World Tourism Organization, with 57.6 million international tourism arrivals. -With reports by Peter Imbong/Rappler.com