Wednesday, July 3, 2024
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Becoming an American without Losing My Roots, Part 1

where the “shot heard round the world” was fired: Lexington, Massachusetts

This story began
way back when I was born. My father was a soldier who fought alongside
Americans against the Japanese on Philippine soil in WWII.  My mother was sent to America on a Philippine
government scholarship to study the latest in deaf education and to bring it
back to the Philippines. Both infected me with their love for America.

Getting a
high school scholarship to the American School fueled the addiction. Training
by American multinationals after college further stirred the pot. I almost relocated
to the US when Philippine democracy and economy were in tatters during the fall
of Marcos. It was, therefore, no accident that I came to America to retire. On
Valentine’s Day 2011, I became a US citizen.

Early in our
RV cruising days, I unequivocally saw America’s beauty. I was mesmerized
by spectacular national parks like Glacier Bay, Denali, Mt. Rainier, Yosemite,
Sequoia, Joshua Tree, Grand Canyon, Rocky Mountain, Badlands, Everglades,
Smokey Mountain, Acadia, etc. I began to sing the song, “America, the Beautiful.”

When we drove
up the East Coast from Florida, I lingered in the solemn halls of Washington DC,
Baltimore in Maryland, Philadelphia in Pennsylvania, and Boston and Concord in Massachusetts.
These cities played significant roles in the birth of this great nation. I
began to hum “The Star-Spangled Banner.” 

In no
uncertain terms, I was starting to feel like an American. I felt sad as I
walked along the Civil War battlegrounds, proud when I gazed at awesome NASA
rockets, inspired among the ancient ruins and great houses of American Indians,
and more. I knew the conversion was final when I began to take pride.

technical difference between a US permanent resident and a naturalized citizen
is that the latter can vote (or run for an elected post office). I cast my vote
for the first time in the 2012 presidential elections. It was amazing to watch as
more than 300 million people accepted the results broadcast by the press with
polling centers in Hawaii and Alaska still open.

There are
other systems to love. They say that there are more libraries than McDonald’s
stores in America. Every county issued library cards to us even if we would
only be in the area for a few weeks. The largest national highway system in the
world made road trips so easy. Through Bill’s $10 Senior Golden Pass, we have visited,
for free, 31 National Parks, 92 National Monuments and National Historic Sites,
and both national parkways.

I have visited
31 of the forty-six American Presidents’ homes, tombs, and/or presidential
libraries; even the homes of their first ladies. We came across
larger-than-life heroes, brave pioneers, cultural icons, and lay and church
leaders. I was inspired by Americans who came and fulfilled their dreams.
Visits to the homes and tombs of literary greats gave me the final nudge to
start writing.

We have been
to the largest and the smallest of towns, the poorest of counties and the
wealthiest of states, and everything in between. Some of America’s man-made
structures and natural formations are among the tallest, the biggest, or the longest
in the world. There are those that you cannot find anywhere else. We visited
factories of products made in America and headquarters of noble institutions
that serve the world. It was cool to discover that we had been to half of the
suggested places in the July 2014 article in Readers’ Digest,
“A Quirky Tour of the US.”

My American
education was an intravenous transfusion, not just an injection. I am no longer
a Filipino tourist or a permanent resident. I am not even just a US citizen. I
am an American. But to be a US citizen, I had to surrender my Philippine
citizenship. Did this mean I ceased to be a Filipino? The answer is in Part 2.

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