Featured Article – By Wenn I.
My long time good friends back home were given the opportunity to visit NYC for the nth time but never got the chance to go upstate (Buffalo) to take a peek of the world-famous Niagara Falls. Last month, some of them who are leaders of local church organizations attended a 3-day conference in New Jersey. Among the delegates to the said conference were my friends who are known for their exemplary contributions and service to their respective local communities in Cagayan de Oro City, namely Judge Evelyn and husband Engr. Kelly, Atty. Rene, the couple Dodo and Helen Sescon, Jun Dominguez and Ric Santillan. Surely, the conference itself for all of them was a once in a lifetime event as it was a gathering of heads and active members of religious organizations throughout the globe.
After the said conference, they spent some more weeks for shopping, tours and more getaways. While in NYC, my humble place in Ozone Park served as the home base of most of them while they were busy looking around the beautiful and scenic spots in the city and visiting houses of other home town buddies who were eager to invite and bond with them too. It was a worthwhile experience on their part as they have been able to see some of their former town mates and also got invited to take a few day tours to nearby NYC's tourist destinations like the Statue of Liberty, Times Square, the Trump Tower and other towers in Manhattan, Rockefeller Center and the St. Patrick's Cathedral. They had the chance to visit my local parish, the Holy Child Jesus Church, for the Sunday service and got to have a picture of the church premises.
The highlight of their NY tour was the trip to Niagara Falls. We were all very excited and looked forward to spending this trip a more enjoyable one. As a matter of fact, we left at the wee hours of the morning as I wanted them to relish every minute of the travel so they will forget the fatigue it could bring due to long hours drive. We were joined by other friends, namely Totoy and Melet Lantoria, Cora and Ding, who were very generous to share us their time and treasure. They drove us to wherever we would want to stop in going to and coming from our destination. As usual, picture taking was always part of the fun not only because of the amazing scenery that the state of New York could offer to its visitors but mostly of the group's spirited personalities which made the camaraderie and the trip more lively!
We had to stop by at some of the beautiful parks and enjoyed frolicking under the spring time's heat of the sun, savoring the smell of the leaves and barks of the trees around us, listening to the tweets of the birds and filling our hungry stomachs with some prepared delicious food. As a matter of fact, I have an anecdote to share which merely popped up out of nowhere while we were busy preparing the food on one of the vacant tables in the park. I asked them if they would like to eat ham. Cora, one of our van mates, replied with another question: “Is it Baboy, Wen?” I retorted back innocently, “No, it's pig”! (For those who are not so familiar with the vernacular term, “Baboy” and “Pig” are the same. Baboy is the Tagalog term for pig in the Philippines). There was giggling and laughing to our hearts content!
Finally, we arrived at our destination after 8 long hours but never felt any weariness at all. Immediately, we checked in at the Holiday Inn Hotel which fortunately is just a walking distance to the dockyard of the boat called the "Maid of the Mist". We left some of our belongings in the hotel so we could scan and roam around the area.
So as not to waste the remaining hours of the day, we rushed immediately to the place where the boat's located. Only four of us braved the ride and were able to experience the delight that one can get from riding the maid of the mist, enjoying the water rushing all around while exploring the roar of the Niagara Falls. Oh, some of our companions really missed the fun particularly the view from the Canada side! It was surrounded by the mighty Falls, good we were provided with a raincoat for protection, otherwise we would be soaked with water, just like the rest who preferred not to wear the jackets so they could feel the coolness of nature even though they appeared like mga “basang sisiw” literally ("wet chick") at the end of the ride!
It was an amazing and thrilling experience since as we get to see the roaring Falls up close, it gets even more mightier! Truly incredible! There was an added bonus because of the colorful rainbow appearing behind the Falls. No wonder tourists kept on visiting the place just to get to see the gigantic amazing Falls!
The following day, we hopped inside a boutique souvenir store called “Maids in the Mist” where we bought some “pasalubong” or presents for folks back home.
A funny incident happened once again while we were inside the said boutique store. While Judge Evelyn was so preoccupied looking for an awesome shirt for her lovely “unica hija”, she handed over and entrusted me her shoulder bag which was filled with her very important travel documents (eg. passports and tickets) and her treasures (cash and jewelries) to top it all. After buying all the things she wanted from the store, I was surprised to see her face looking so worried. So, I got worried too. I thought she was not feeling well or perhaps not happy with the things she bought from the store. But there was something bothering her that she got into a panic, we were told she couldn't find her bag. As a matter of fact, she asked me about it and in all candidness, I merely assured her that her bag is probably just inside the store and no one will get it. So, everyone helped in looking for her bag all over the store. While Judge Evelyn was closely scrutinizing the people inside, probably using her legal and investigative intuition, she saw this woman in the mirror standing and bringing along her bag. And guess who the woman was………Lo and behold! It was me! I was carrying my bag on my left arm and hers on my right. Oh my gosh, was that a minor slip of memory or sheer senior moments for both of us! No one even remembered that an event happened earlier before the said lost and found incident. That was hilarious which made all of us laughed and laughed and laughed!
As we were about to depart the place, we reminisced of the happy things which happened during the previous day. We had to rest for a while providing our generous driver laughter and the energy to move on to another destination….the shopping spree! On our way home, we stopped by at Woodbury Factory Outlets, one of NY's largest shopping outlets. They were amused to acquire some of the branded quality items at competitive prices, lower than those being traded in NY's Manhattan area and even way far lower than the prices back in the Philippines for the same products.
While it was a brief vacation for all of us, the fond memories still lingers. I was deeply touched and happy that some of them had chosen to stay in my humble place. After New York, each one has its own itinerary on hand. Some proceeded to other states in the U.S. to visit relatives and friends and I am sure it was a non-stop fun for them! They are now back in their home country safe and sound, with God's blessings and probably still having that remarkable feel of the Niagara Falls!