Text and Photos by Henrylito D. Tacio
I had been to the United States about five times already – and I flew via Northwest Airlines (NWA) before it was absorbed by Delta Air Lines. From Manila, it passed through Narita airport in Tokyo, Japan, before proceeding to the U.S.
Recently, I returned to the U.S., but instead of flying via NWA, I decided to try our own carrier, Philippine Airlines (PAL). This time, I had to pass through Vancouver (Canada) from Manila before proceeding to New York.
My friend, Atty. Nicolas “Nick” Caraquel, picked me up at the JFK International Airport. It was almost midnight when I arrived in the city that never sleeps. “Welcome to New York,” said the immigration lawyer, who was named one of The Outstanding Filipinos in America.
This was my third time in New York. The first time was in 2000 when I came to co-write a paper on water and population with award-winning American journalist Don Hinrichsen. It was wintertime, so I didn’t have time to really explore Manhattan.
The second time was in 2008, when I accompanied my sister, Marilou T. Eplite. Thanks to our kababayans from our hometown, we were able to see America’s famous landmark, the Statue of Liberty. We also had an opportunity to go to Rockefeller Center, a national historic landmark in the heart of Midtown Manhattan. We had our souvenir photo taken at the Top of the Rock observation deck.
From JFK International Airport, we immediately proceeded to Nick’s house. He knew I was not only tired but hungry, so he brought me to McDonald’s, the only place open at that time. “There’s no Jollibee?” I kidded.
We brought the food to his apartment. While eating, he told me of our trip to Washington, D.C. “We will leave at 6 am,” he said before I went to bed.
I was excited since I had not been to Washington, D.C., by land. It was a long four-hour drive; we passed the cities of Trenton, New Jersey; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; Wilmington, Delaware; and Baltimore, Maryland before we arrived in Washington, D.C.
We – Nick, and two of his friends, John Eric Obieta and Jerome Dominic Perez, and myself – looked for the hotel where we would stay for the night. After finding it, we prepared ourselves for the meeting that Nick had to attend. It was just a walking distance, and we arrived just in time for the meeting.
After the meeting, we reconnoitered the area near our hotel. We took some photos before trying to find a place where we could have dinner. Our two companions went to West Virginia as Erick had to meet his aunt.
Nick, who drove us all the way from New York to Washington, D.C., was too tired to go explore more. “We have to go back to the hotel,” he said. “We might as well sleep early.”
I agreed with him. I really didn’t have enough sleep when I arrived. There was no need to continue with our “walk tour” since I had been to America’s capital twice before. The first time was in 2002, the year when Don and I presented our paper at the Woodrow Wilson Center Institute for Scholars at the Ronald Reagan building.
In 2008, I returned to the place together with my sister Marilou and her husband, David Eplite. What fascinated me about the visit was having up close with the famed Washington Monument, an obelisk built to commemorate George Washington, the first president of the United States.
After hitting the bed, I was already out there – not knowing if I snored. It was already almost 10 am when we woke up. We had our breakfast, checked out from the hotel, and took a taxi to go to the White House. We had our pictures taken and then hired another taxi to be near the Washington Monument.
We were near the Korean War Monument, and we were tired of walking to go near the Washington Monument. We had our pictures taken with the Washington Monument as background.
Then, we walked through the Reflecting Pool to go to the Lincoln Memorial Monument. After taking photos, we called John Eric to pick us up. We decided to have our lunch at Bistro 1521 Filipino Cuisine in Arlington, West Virginia.
After eating, we left the place and were ready to go back to New York City. Since John Eric was already driving, Nick asked him to do the job. To keep himself alive and kicking, he and Jerome crooned.
When we arrived in New York, Nick said that we would proceed to Times Square instead of going straight to his apartment. “We will pass it first before my apartment, so why not to the place?” he suggested.
Times Square, a major commercial intersection featured in Hollywood movies, particularly those directed by Woody Allen, is sometimes referred to as “The Crossroads of the World,” “The Center of the Universe,” “the heart of The Great White Way,” and the “heart of the world.”
It was almost eleven o’clock at night when we had our walk tour, and yet it was still loaded with people from all over the world. According to some records, an estimated 50 million visitors are drawn to the place. Each day, 330,000 people pass through Times Square. It is no wonder why it is one of the world’s busiest pedestrian areas.
After the walking tour, we – the four of us – went to see a movie.
It was already two in the morning when we returned to Nick’s apartment. I didn’t sleep since I had to go to the airport at 4 am for my flight to Florida.
Yes, it was a quick visit to those two most important places in the United States.