I am taking this long trip to the heart of the United States of America.
It is a consulting job that I am taking with a federal agency that provided the impetus to taking this trip to America's heart.
I will go through its heartland, this country that was founded on sheer political imagination of settlers who had the courage to call it quits with the colonizing masters of the motherland, the England of long time ago.
The trip takes three days from my base in Los Angeles, with only a few stopovers, with two bus changes, one in Dallas, another in a city in Virginia, a few hours from Williamsburg.
I imagine the distance: Washington, D.C. is two hours away by car; New York is six hours away. Ah, I tell myself, I am beginning to imagine the energy of the thirteen states in the East Coast that had the temerity and daring to call it 'Enough, enough!' with the English colonial administrators and rulers.
I have encountered the State of Virginia and the city of Williamsburg when I took my World and U.S. Histoy in high school, a requirement then in my pre-college program in some fancy Catholic institution run by missionary religious.
We were made to memorize all the fifty states of the U. S. and so we had to invent some mnemonics, some device to get it through all the list.
I developed some sort of sing-song, with the imagined tadada-tadada-tadada rhythm to recite the strange names of places I have not been nor ever dreamed of, these places including their stranger capital cities: Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas...and down your line until you reach the kulelat of them all, Alaska and Hawaii.
I do not know why in those years, the 70s, the Alaska and Hawaii were both at the bottom, violating all the rules of categorizing logic.
So now, I take these trip as some kind of a ritual to get to know those places whose stange names and meanings I was made to memorize by the colonizing education I got in the Ilocos of my heart in the 70s, in those years when 'nationalism' was the buzzword of both the reigning regime and the oppositionists.
Sometimes they call this act 'cross-country': you cross the countries in this country, the countries as nations, the nations within a nation, with this U.S. as veritably a prime example of a nation among nations.
A colleague at the University of Hawaii Manoa encouraged me to do it, saying, 'Take it, take that bus trip so you will finish your book and I will get to read it, I would love to read it.'
So beginning today--no I started a long time ago--I keep a journal of this cross-country experience.
I will listen to the silences.
I will take cues from the gaps and gulfs of the mind and the senses.
I will open my eyes.
I will see things, even those that are strange and alien.
I will see what America is like to an alien like me, alien because I came here to savor its blessings.
Because I came here to be a beneficiary of the sacrifices and prayers and gifts of life of its founders.
I will try to see America in this light and in the light of its commitment to life in this country and in other countries.
I will see it in accord with the parameters of democracy and justice, humanity and understanding.
I will see it more and more beyond that which is familiar to me, beyond the lens that I already know.
And I am open to all its surprises, including adjusting my accent to suit the particular accent of the places and peoples I will encounter.
Tomorrow, June 22, I will take that trip.
I ask the Maker for blessings so I can see things better with the light of the Maker's enlightening Word.
So I can tell the story of this trip afterwards.
A. S. Agcaoili
June 21, 2006