Text and Photos by Henrylito D. Tacio
Additional Photos by Marilou T. Eplite
“Start spreading the news, I’m leaving today…”
That was what I was humming as our plane flew from the Senator Ninoy Aquino International Airport going to the United States. I was bound for New York.
That was in 2000, and it was my first time being in “the land of milk and honey.”
Then, I returned. The first time, I was alone; on my second time around, I was with my sister Marilou. The two of us explored the city that never sleeps.
New York, which has been featured in so many Woody Allen movies, usually does not disappoint, although you can be frustrated in some instances. Though, there are only a few places in the United States that can be considered inherently as entertaining as New York.
It is hard to remain bored for long in a place where there is something (okay, a hundred things) going one every second of the day. No matter what excites you, they are all there: great theater, marvelous museums, luxurious hotels, fascinating history, exciting nightlife, sumptuous dining. Okay, you get it, do you? You name it, and the city has it!
New York has five boroughs: Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens, the Bronx, and Staten Island, with Brooklyn being the most populous. Brooklyn and Queens on their own each have more residents than Manhattan. New Yorkers tend to refer to Manhattan as “the city,” even though they identify the other boroughs by name. And when it comes to sending mail, “New York, New York” always means Manhattan.
I never thought I could come back to the city. Before attending an international conference in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, I received an email from my sister, Marilou, that she planned on going to New York, but her husband couldn’t go. (At that time, they were living in Delaware and were going to move in two weeks to Florida.)
Since I was already in the United States, I decided to go with her. But before that, I asked my friends who had been living in the city for several years already if they were willing to host us. All three answered affirmatively; that’s what friends are for!
Coming from someone who’s been to New York twice in the past, you might ask, “What are some of the things you should see or experience first? Well, there are thousands of them, but most first-timers may settle for the following:
The first stop should be the Statue of Liberty on Liberty Island. It is a must-see as it is the most recognized icon of New York City, and perhaps even of the United States. It took France ten years to construct it and was given as a gift to recognize the friendship between the two countries.
From a distance, the statue is mesmerizing. “My mother rushed us to the window,” recalled a German immigrant whose shipped passed by in the 1920s, “to see this magic statue standing there. Now, we were going to go to heaven.”
As you see it for the first time, remember the philosophy of Auguste Bartholdi, who sculpted it: “Colossal statuary does not consist simply in making an enormous statue. It ought to produce an emotion in the breast of the spectator, not because of its volume, but because its size is in keeping with the idea that it interprets, and with the place which it ought to occupy.”
Near the Statue of Liberty is Ellis Island, a memorial to all foreigners who have made the United States their adopted home. But before exploring the island, see first the 30-minute film, “Island of Hope, Island of Tears.” Museum exhibits occupy three floors of the main building. The exhibits document immigrants’ experience at Ellis Island, as well as the history of immigration in the US.
In my research, I found that among the notable personalities who made it through Ellis Island were actors Bob Hope, Edward G. Robinson, composer Irving Berlin (yes, the man who composed “Heaven Watch the Philippines”), the Von Trapp family of The Sound of Music fame, and poet Khalil Gibran.
Once you’re back to Manhattan, go directly to the Rockefeller Center, a complex of 19 commercial buildings, which were declared a National Historic Landmark in 1987. Here, you can see the country’s fourth-most familiar statue (after Lincoln Memorial, Mount Rushmore, and Statue of Liberty) – the bronze gilded statue of the Greek legend of the Titan Prometheus recumbent, bringing fire to humankind.
And here’s a quick bit of history about Rockefeller Center. It was named after John D. Rockefeller, Jr., who leased Columbia University’s space in 1928 and started developing it in 1930. Rockefeller initially planned a syndicate to build an opera house for the Metropolitan Opera on the site but changed his mind after the stock market crash of 1929 and the withdrawal of the Metropolitan from the project.
Over the top of one of the Rockefeller’s buildings, you can see the tallest building of them all – the Empire State Building. It is a 102-story Art Deco skyscraper whose name is derived from the nickname for the state of New York. The American Society of Civil Engineers has named the building one of the Seven Wonders of the Modern World. In 1986, it was designated as a National Historic Landmark. Its towering height is 1,414 feet or 431 miles.
Close to the Rockefeller Center is the Radio City Music Hall. When it was completed in December 1932, it was considered the largest and most opulent theater globally. The “International Music Hall” was its original name but was later changed to reflect the new era of technology being introduced at the time, the radio. One of the complex’s first and most important tenants was RCA; hence the other name the Center itself was dubbed was “Radio City.”
Another iconic world landmark is the Madison Square Garden, renowned for boxing matches and various entertainment attractions. It calls itself “The World’s Most Famous Arena.” Know this: the Garden seats 20,000 people, and its adjacent theater can take an additional 5,000.
At night, don’t miss out on going to the famed Times Square, principally defined by its animated, digital advertisements. It is also the site of the annual New Year’s Eve ball drop. On December 31, 1907, a ball signifying New Year’s Day was first dropped at Times Square, and the Square has held the main New Year’s celebration the same way in New York City ever since.
Another little bit of history! New York City, the largest city in the United States, was named after the 17th century Duke of York, James Stuart, and the future James II and VII of England and Scotland.
Unknowingly, New York is the only city in the United States where more than half of all households do not own a car (in Manhattan, more than 75% of residents do not own a car; nationally, the percentage is 8%).
After all, there is the Subway, the largest rapid transit system in the world, when measured by the number of stations in operation, with 468. New York’s subway is also notable because nearly all of the system remains open 24 hours per day (though in some cases with significant differences in routings from the daytime network), in contrast to the overnight shutdown common to systems in most cities, including London, Paris, and Tokyo.
“I want to be part of it..”