by Susan Vicencio-Garaygay'68
Soon after the University of the Philippines Nursing Alumni Association International's 35th annual convention & Coral Jubilee at The New Yorker Hotel in New York City, New York, a group of the University of the Philippines nursing alumni boarded the bus early Sunday morning of August 3, 2014 to embark on a six-day voyage that covered a number of acclaimed places such as Philadelphia, Washington, District of Columbia, & Niagara Falls that eventually continued on to Canada. Most of the travelers, though weary-eyed due to lack of much needed sleep as a result of the previous night's "partying,” graciously kept or "pretend" to lend an attentive ear to our tourist guide, Patrick, who arduously rendered some historical account on the places we were about to visit. At lunch time, we finally reached Philadelphia where those who were visiting for the first time eagerly sought out joints that would serve the infamous "Philly" steak sandwich. After a few photo shoots outside and around Independence Hall, and with Patrick's persistence, the group reluctantly boarded the bus to continue its journey towards Maryland where we finally turned in for the night to recuperate (from the long hours of utilizing our gluteus maximus). It was everyone's hope to get a good night's rest to replenish our energy needed for the anticipated trek towards the nation's capital (Washington, DC) the following day.
After some spotty thundershowers the night before, the following day (Aug.4) promised us a beautiful one. So, the bus went on to Washington, DC with a reminder (from Patrick) that we will be heading back to Corning, NY to reach Niagara Falls before nightfall. Having been to Washington, DC more than a decade ago, I was personally astounded at the many transformation the city has been through.
The National Air & Space Museum offered a virtual journal of mankind's air travel - from the first airplane (a practical fixed-wing aircraft) invention of the Wright brothers to the current advances of space travel. After the "oohs" and the "aahhs" looking at the museums' offerings, the group then proceeded to the Vietnam and Korean War Veterans Memorial. Both are architectural tributes to the men and women who died in the service to our country. We certainly did not miss visiting the iconic Lincoln Memorial that faces the infamous Washington Monument that compelled one to reflect on the long lasting significance of the principles of governance laid down by the forefathers when this great nation was created. A brief stop by the reflection pool at the US Capitol afforded another opportunity to use our iPad, iPhone, digital cameras, etc. to record our presence on these historical sites.
It was a challenge for Patrick to get us back on the bus so we can proceed to the White House. Unfortunately, as we were slowly meandering on foot towards the designated location where the public is allowed to view the Presidential abode from the outside, a group of uniformed government authorities came by and ordered everybody to turn around and go back where we all came from. Needless to say, it was such a disappointment! As I said earlier, having been to DC in the past, before "terrorist" became a household word, I have to be content at relying on my aging brain to recall the various rooms and the insides of this significant house.
So, back to the bus, we headed to Corning, N.Y. where we visited the Corning Museum. We were delighted to see a live demonstration of how a glass pitcher was created. There were prizes in the likes of corning glass products awarded to winners of the drawing. Unfortunately, no one among us was lucky enough to get a prize. After having our appetites whet looking at the museum's wonderful display of hundreds of various glass creations that included a gorgeous glass chandelier, a chess set with glass figures, a chair resembling a throne, paper weights in various sizes, colors, theme, and jewelry of all sorts, we proceeded to meander around the museum shop looking for replicas or some unique piece to purchase.
Nearing night time, we finally reached Niagara Falls, N.Y. and if not because of hunger pangs, a few of us who are avid gardeners could have opted to skip dining to visit the gardens around the Falls and see the various flowers and shrubs that are local to the area. We then proceeded to the Rainbow Bridge that connects the two Niagara towns (NY & Canada) where we had a glimpse of the infamous Niagara Falls from the US side. The group hang around long enough to wait for the colored lights that went up providing illumination to the cascading waters of the falls allowing another photo op.
Bone weary after a long day of travel, we checked in late at our designated lodging - the last stop at the US side of the border, anticipating the following day's onward journey to Canada.
On Aug. 5, our 3rd day of travel, the Canadian rain showers greeted us upon stepping out of the bus. Since Patrick was the only one among us who carried a huge umbrella, I decided that it was the opportune time to get chummy with him as we hurriedly tread towards the boats that will take us to the "Maid of the Mist" ride to see Niagara Falls up close. We were provided (red) raincoats both to identify which group we belong to and protect us from getting drenched from the heavy fine mists as the boat approaches the cascading waters of the falls. It was indeed a tremendous and overwhelming experience eyeing the magnificence of the sight that cemented the fact that nature is indeed mightier than man!
After such an exhilarating jaunt, we proceeded to the revolving restaurant of the Skylon Tower for lunch where we enjoyed our delectable choices off of the menu as we marveled at the 360 degree view of the Niagara Falls. What a sight it was!
Having consumed a fine, full meal ending with a dessert, I did not think that my soporific state would allow me to keep awake when we went on to the Niagara Falls IMAX to watch a movie depicting the historical and mythical background of the falls. The movie was both informative and a fascinating legendary account of the young Indian maiden who chose to perish in the cascading waters of the falls to restore her family's honor upon refusing to be the bride of the leader of her tribe.
After the movie, we went sight-seeing around the Toronto business district that afforded a glimpse of the CN Toronto Tower. This is one of Canada's icon having been dubbed as the tallest structure in the world at the time of its completion in 1976. We also had the chance to see the Richardson Romanesque architectural structure of the Ontario Legislative Building built in 1893 and currently functions as the parliamentary building of the province of Ontario. The group then made a short stop downtown Toronto to see both the old and the new City Hall that houses the city's municipal government—another photo op.
The group then proceeded to the University of Toronto campus for further sight-seeing. Aside from being considered as the best university in Canada, it is also known as one of the top 30 institute of higher learning in the world. Next stop was Chinatown where we had a traditional Chinese style family dinner. To walk off the "calories" after a huge meal, several folks went hunting for our native Philippine treats such as "hopia", "siopao", "champoy/dikyam", etc. to purchase. What was sought after by most, especially those who have not visited the old country for some time now, were long-time favorites such as lanzones, atis, and chico. It was a big "let down" to most when the fervent hunt bear "fruitless." However, upon returning to the bus, our tour guide magically produced a number of "atis" which he himself purchased somewhere in Chinatown and then put them up for auction! As a gesture of gratitude after reaping profit from the auction, he offered to rent a car and go back to Chinatown the following day to purchase both "atis" and "chico" for those who lost in the auction and promised to look for "lanzones". A long list of orders was then drawn!
Day 4 (Aug. 6) was a special day for Class '68 to meet classmates residing in Canada, Chicago and Michigan who were unable to attend the N.Y. reunion. Our Canadian counterpart fondly dubbed as the "Toronto Team" hosted a picnic at Mississauga, Ontario (an area close to Toronto) where we feasted on several delectable Filipino dishes much to our stomach's content. The place was spectacular with the panoramic view of the blue waters of the lake scattered with sailboats gently billowing across. Needless to say, even with a bit of a chill, it was the PERFECT day for a picnic! The group could have been easily mistaken as a bunch of rowdy juveniles with their raucous laughter and antics as jokes were exchanged and played several party games to the delight of the other tour participants who graciously accept the class' invitation and came along.
The Toronto Team further proved their ability as THE super-excellent host at the dinner dance that ensued that night. After a program of updates with everybody's current position in life, and a sumptuous dinner, the group was surprised with a large bowl full of "lanzones" for each table that sat 8 people. Imagine the uproar at that time when the "waiters" came out to present this surprise gift! ! Some, I think had "accidentally" exceeded their share! An Elvis Presley impersonator topped the evening of continuous dancing to the 60's and 70's music popular during the "bell-bottoms" and "hippie" eras. It was indeed a night to remember!
It was difficult to say "goodbye" to friends, whom, in so many ways, one has grown up with, just as it was after graduation day. However, remembering those days at the Nurses' Home and PGH awakened feelings of how it is to be young and 20 once again, though it may just seem to be an illusion!
So on Aug. 7, (Day 5 of the tour), after promises that we will see each other again, sooner than later, we were back on the bus on the way to Ottawa and Montreal.
We drove along the St. Lawrence river, one that forms the boundary between Canada and the United States, and arrived at the town of Brockville where we boarded a boat for a ride along the famous 1000 Islands. The 1,000 Islands is an enclave consisting of 1,864 islands that stand between the US and Canadian borders in the St. Lawrence River. The islands in Canada are in the province of Ontario and the US islands are in the state of New York. Sizes of the islands range from over 40 square miles to small ones that are either uninhabited or only homes to migratory waterfowl or occupied by a single residence.
The boat ride provided us with sights of the different summer homes built by the wealthy and middle-class families during the late 19th and early 20th century. A few of such homes were built with stones and were considered as "castles" and became as international landmarks. We had a glimpse of one famous existing example, the Boldt Castle on Heart Island. It was left unfinished for the past 75 years due to the untimely death of Mr. Boldt's wife to whom he has dedicated the island. However, it was eventually completed in accordance to his original plans and updated with the current technological conveniences. Wealthy vacationers from prominent families coming from New York City, Pittsburgh, Chicago and Cleveland and other cities of the U.S. and Canada came to stay and play during the summer months of this period. The region also became known as the center for recreational boating, thus leading to the construction of yacht houses. Today, the region boasts a historically important collection of homes that endured even the war of 1812 between the British Empire and the United States.
After immersion on the interesting historical background of the area, the group proceeded downtown Ottawa to the Parliament Hill or The Hill, as colloquially known, located in the banks of the Ontario river. It is the home of the Parliament of Canada containing a number of architectural elements of national symbolic importance. One example of this is the fountain containing the Centennial Flame situated at the entrance of the Hill. The Centennial Flame was dedicated on January 1, 1967 to mark the beginning of the Canadian Centennial.
On Aug. 8th, day 6 of our journey, we reached Quebec and entered the lower entrance of the old city (Old Quebec) where the city's port is located. A local guide led the group to a section of Upper Town that allowed a partial view of the famous Chateau Frontenac, a 650-room castle-like hotel that hosted several famous foreign dignitaries such as Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip, Queen Juliana of the Netherlands, Sir Winston Churchill, President Charles de Gaulle, and President Franklin D. Roosevelt. For those of us who are Roman Catholics, we counted this day as a blessed one for having the opportunity to cross the "Holy Door" of the Basilica of Notre Dame that only opens once every 25 years or when there is a jubilee celebration as permitted by the Pope. We then proceeded to Lower Town descending the famous "Breakneck Stairs" that took us down to the Rue de Petit Champlain. This street is said to be the oldest shopping center in North America, dating back to the founding of the city in 1608. Shops, art galleries, restaurants, and boutiques lined both sides of the street offering various souvenirs and eye-catching merchandise. Painted on the wall of a structure named Soumande House is a painting that depicted the story of Quebec's architecture, its fortified walls, as well as its seasonal colors and the 16 significant individuals credited to the establishment of the city. The group divided itself into three's and four's to grab lunch at the various bistros as the place was indeed crowded with long queues of hungry visitors. We made our way back to cross the Canadian-U.S. border through Vermont and arrived at Lawrence, Massachusetts on time to grab a late dinner before turning in for the night.
Our tour ended on Aug. 9, and traveled to Boston where we briefly stop at the campus of Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Lunch time for us was a Lobster meal (Chinese style), after which we finally said our "good-byes" and more promises to see each other again - perhaps, at the 2015 reunion in California.
Regardless of a few annoyances that are commonly found among travelers, the tour not only allowed us the pleasure of each other's company and memories to share, but earned four continuing education credits and additional knowledge on cultural issues affecting nursing practice, recent finds on Diabetes presented by Delia Reyes,'68, FNP and the science of nursing informatics presented by Dr. Edmund J.Y. Pajarillo'79.