As a child growing up deep in the mountains, the writer could only ever dream of visiting the land of Lincoln.
She was one of the first girls from Mainit to go to school and finish college. And when she became a schoolteacher, she would inculcate in the minds of her young pupils the words of the Great Emancipator -
that we are all created equal and that everyone must have a chance.
When my children said that I would visit America, I was over the moon. At 71, I did not expect that I would still get the chance to ever see “the land of the free and the home of the brave.” But like a dream come true, with my brother Frank and my daughter Judy, I arrived in Los Angeles, California in October 2011 exceedingly excited to see the sights— but moreso, to be reunited with my only grandson, Second, whom I have not seen for long six years.
But I was unfazed by the six-kilometer distance (back and forth) as I thought it would just be an easy walk from Bontoc to Alab where I used to teach. I discovered however that my legs are not as quick and strong as they used to be, and I had to rely on my cane to carry a bit of my weight.
The US Capitol was a sight to behold. From afar, it stands as a proud and grand symbol of power. The 88-meter high dome above the Capitol building adds to the grandeur of the place.
My niece’s camera was clicking away trying to capture our faces in front of the famous landmark. But nothing could compare to the delight I felt as I watched the ducks frolicking in the pond in front of the US Capitol. Oblivious of the tourists and passers by, the ducks – father, mother, babies – were dancing and merrily chasing each other around the waters. They looked so happy, peaceful and carefree – mirroring my feelings when surrounded by my children, family and loved ones.
While maybe a common thought, I could not help but truly appreciate that beyond all the power, the grandeur, the successes – of which the US Capitol, to me, symbolized – in the end, what matters is the simple yet profound joy of being together as a family.
That was just our first stop and we still had a long way to walk. We came next to the Washington Monument which is an obelisk of marble and granite built to commemorate the first US President, General George Washington. It is known to be the world’s tallest stone structure.
Surrounding the Monument are flags of the United States. I wondered if the flags numbered 50 to represent the 50 states. With my curiosity piqued, I started counting how many flags were there as we walked around the Monument. Frank said I would lose count, but I persevered and kept my focus. But I soon gave up when my eyes grew tired because the flags all looked the same! I later learned that there were indeed 50 flags at the base of the Monument.
During an earthquake August of last year, the Washington Monument was damaged and it remains closed to the public while the structure underwent repair. That stopped me on my tracks as I thought about how fragile, delicate and vulnerable life can be; how one act of nature can alter everything as we’ve seen in the many disasters that struck us recently. In my simple mind, I went back to a basic understanding that we should cherish people around us, and make the most of the moments we have.