These stories and moments feel like such a world away now that I am writing about them more than a year after. So much more, I’m a different me — shorter hair, even bigger dreams and all. But I’m still so happy I ever got to finishing this. It was an almost impossible feat to get myself to look through all those raw videos and photographs without either being unhappy with where I am or wanting to cry out of frustration. But here it is finally and I can’t help but feel so blessed.
I don’t remember all the days exactly but just as our trips in the States usually are, everyday was a blast. We live with our aunt and uncle in a peaceful village in Virginia for a week where we often stayed with the rest of our cousins and family in our father’s side. Most of them we’ve met early on as children but have already forgotten. It’s sad to live so far away from family, but we spend whatever time we had with each other as if we never grew up apart. All is vague in my head but I distinctly remember moments of highs and happiness in the East Coast — trotting around 99 cent stores, falling in love with Georgetown while looking for DC Cupcakes, running around big open fields and looking for deers in our uncle Jeff’s backyard, cooking breakfast for everybody on mornings but terribly failing at baking ready-to-bake red velvets, myself hopping on Joaquin’s back and running around and falling over and injuring him (sorry Wawa but you gotta admit that was still very fun), playing with our adorable nephews and nieces (quite too much to mention), embarrassing ourselves in public and eating such good food almost unendingly.
We set off on a road trip to Maryland, Delaware and onto New Jersey, staying in Atlantic City for a couple of days before we hopped on a bus headed to New York. Atlantic City was great — it reminded me a little bit of Las Vegas except with better shopping and a beautiful seaside where my sister and I would often stay by. My fondest memories of that beach was of a quiet midday rest, just writing away on my journal, and that morning Trisha and I woke up at 5am and jogged against the frosty winds. That was crazy, and we’re even crazier, but I swear that will always be one of the most exhilarating mornings of my life. The beach was then so serene and there was nobody else around. My whole body was numb from the cold and all the running but all we did was laugh and laugh. Some nights were totally random, watching concerts, running under heavy rain just to buy hotdog sandwiches, playing at arcades and just being plain silly.
New York was New York. It was pure magic — everything you imagine and more. My family stayed there for only seven days but all of it was really so utterly amazing. We stayed at this really quirky b&b in Brooklyn during our first few days, and although we left really early on mornings and hardly ever had time to just lounge around the space we cherished the few late night hours we spent with our hosts and other guests this one night, talking about the world and art and forcing Adam to sing for us. One afternoon we decide to head to Times Square and right when we hopped off the train, we found ourselves listening to Adam’s voice, like honey, echoing the underground walls of NYC’s subway trails. When we finally got to him we couldn’t help but keep cheering for him, and everybody else started to do the same. I can’t forget that moment. Adam’s big genuine smile and him telling us “I knew it. I just knew we’ll be seeing each other here.” We couldn’t stop just sharing lots of laughter together before separating ways.
New York can be a lot of different things to different people, but to me it was all about the smaller things. The eclectic vintage stores and tiny restaurants, the artists performing on sidewalks and subways, having the privilege to visit all the Bethel branches and going on a Bible tour — really beyond words life changing, and simply roaming the streets and just feeling so utterly alive.
We left NYC on a freezing Sunday morning with bigger hearts and stronger faiths, and all hopes in the world that one day too we can come back. And for a long time after then, I’d still daydream about their two-dollar bagels with cream cheese and recall all the interesting people and experiences I’ve met and experienced.
Halfway through the trip, my sister and I, near-crying, would wish that time could slow down even just for a bit. Of course it doesn’t. On our last night in Virginia, we all get together for a dinner party at tita Ressie’s, eating and talking and laughing the night away. The next day we fly off to the West Coast, this time to stay with relatives from my mum’s side.
There is a calmness I feel whenever I’m in Los Angeles. That kind that I feel when I am at home. And the truth is, it almost is anyway, except it’s halfway across the Earth. We spend lots of days in the living room, just watching TV shows and oldtime videoclips of us four sisters as kids, going shopping in outlet malls and swap meets whenever we feel like it, and bonding with our lovable Mama (the only grandmother we have left). We get a little bit obsessed over Trader Joe’s while we were there and drop by a couple times to buy our favorites.
We go on a road trip to Las Vegas one night, listening and dancing to upbeat r&b music and exchanging many stories to get us through the night without falling asleep. We arrive in Vegas by midnight and settle in our hotel rooms. That night I can’t sleep so I stay by the window and write.
“In a few hours we drive to the Grand Canyon for a day trip. I cannot sleep and so I try to stand by our suite’s window to look at the city. I sneak under the canopy and find a secret hideaway for the nocturnal that I am, above all majestic twinkling lights and think of the eeriness that is a single thin sheet of glass that gives me such confidence. Without it, I am 33 floors above the ground and ready to fall. I find something so beautiful about that.”
The days pass quickly and all of a sudden it was time to fly away from vibrant USA and all the loving, hospitable loved ones and family we are so blessed to have in our lives, and towards our sunny Manila home. Bittersweet and short-lived, as usual.