Embracing American Identity while Preserving My Heritage, Chapter One

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

The narrative commenced when I entered this world. My progenitor was a fighter who stood alongside American forces battling the Japanese on Philippine grounds during WWII. My mother was dispatched to the United States on a scholarship from the Philippine government to delve into cutting-edge methodologies in deaf education with the intent to import that knowledge back home. Both instilled in me their fervor for the United States.

Securing a scholarship from a prestigious American institution for high school education fueled my passion. Additional training provided by American conglomerates post-graduation further stoked the fire. During the tumultuous era of Marcos’ downfall, as Philippine democracy and economy crumbled, I nearly made the decision to relocate to the US. It was, therefore, no coincidence that my retirement transpired in America. On Valentine’s Day 2011, I officially became a citizen of the United States.

During our early days of traveling in an RV, I was unreservedly captivated by the splendor of America. The breathtaking national parks like Glacier Bay, Denali, Mt. Rainier, Yosemite, Sequoia, Joshua Tree, Grand Canyon, Rocky Mountain, Badlands, Everglades, Smokey Mountain, and Acadia mesmerized me. I found myself humming the anthem, “America, the Beautiful.”

Journeying up the East Coast from Florida, I found myself lingering in the hallowed halls of Washington DC, Baltimore in Maryland, Philadelphia in Pennsylvania, and Boston and Concord in Massachusetts. These urban centers played pivotal roles in the formation of this illustrious nation. Subsequently, I caught myself humming “The Star-Spangled Banner.”

Unmistakably, I felt the inklings of embodying an American identity. Walking amidst the battlegrounds of the Civil War filled me with melancholy, while gazing at the awe-inspiring NASA rockets evoked pride. Among the ancient remnants and grand edifices of American Indian heritage, I felt inspired. The definitive moment arrived when a sense of national pride began to blossom within me.

The distinguishing factor between a US permanent resident and a naturalized citizen lies in the ability to partake in voting activities (or run for elected positions). I exercised my voting rights for the first time during the 2012 presidential elections. Witnessing over 300 million people accepting the election results disseminated by the press, with polling stations in Hawaii and Alaska still operational, was a remarkable experience.

There are various facets of the country to appreciate. It is purported that libraries outnumber McDonald’s outlets in the United States. Each county graciously issued us library cards, regardless of our transient stay in the vicinity. The vast national highway system made road trips convenient. Leveraging Bill’s $10 Senior Golden Pass, we explored, free of charge, 31 National Parks, 92 National Monuments and National Historic Sites, as well as both national parkways.

I have visited the dwelling places, final resting spots, or presidential libraries of 31 out of the forty-six American Presidents, including their esteemed first ladies’ abodes. Encountering larger-than-life heroes, intrepid pioneers, cultural idols, as well as secular and religious leaders enthralled me. Witnessing the homes and tombs of literary luminaries spurred me to embark on a writing journey.

Exploring a spectrum of towns—from the grandest to the humblest, counties—be they affluent or impoverished, and the entirety in between, provided a profound experience. Some of America’s architectural marvels and natural wonders rank among the tallest, biggest, or longest globally, with certain landmarks being exclusive to the US. Venturing into American-manufacturing facilities and the headquarters of philanthropic organizations with a global reach was enlightening. It was intriguing to realize that we had visited half of the suggested sites mentioned in the July 2014 edition of Readers’ Digest in the article titled, “A Quirky Tour of the US.”

My educational journey in America was akin to a profound infusion, rather than a mere injection. I transcended the label of a Filipino tourist or a green card holder. At present, I proudly identify as an American. However, to attain US citizenship, I had to relinquish my Filipino nationality. Does this signify the end of my Filipino heritage? The answer lies in Chapter Two.

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