My 20 Best in 20 Years (Part 2)

Episode 123 – Thursday, January 19th, 2017 (7324)


This episode is the continuation of my two-part story about my top 20 best and most memorable moments in the past 20 years (dating from January 1, 1997 up to December 31, 2016). If you missed the first part from number 20 to 11, you may click my previous episode right here. And now, for the second part, I’ll share to you about my best incidents from 10 to 1 which made me and my life colorful, wonderful, full of happiness, and full of love. There are the lists:

  1. Visiting Atlanta with my host parents (September 4, 2004)
My host dad, Danny Woolmaker, me, and my fellow exchange student, Fharhana, visiting Underground Atlanta in September 2004. This was the one of the places that I visited while I was in the United States. (Photo courtesy from My Tent Archives)

During my first few weeks of my stay in the United States, I was so excited to explore, not only in Alabama – the state where I lived with my host family, but in the other states nearby. For the first time, I and my host parents – Lyn and Danny Woolmaker, together with my fellow Filipino who was also an exchange student, went to Atlanta, Georgia, about 108 miles from our home in Talledega, Alabama, for our first ever family trip.

When we arrived there, we first took a train ride from the airport going to Underground Atlanta in downtown. Next stop was The World of Coca-Cola Museum (the old one before its renovation in 2007) where it showcased the history, manufacturing, and influence throughout the world about the world’s famous softdrink. After our tour, we took some sightseeing around the downtown such as CNN Center and Underground Atlanta. On the final stop, we visited Stone Mountain Park where there’s an 825-foot Stone Mountain and its huge carving of three Confederate heroes – one of the world’s largest sculptures. I and my fellow exchange student went to the summit thru sky lift cable to have a nice view of the surroundings.

  1. Attending Kerygma Lenten Recollection for the first time (March 29-31, 2013)
First KLR that I attended (Feast Technopark)
This was the poster of Kerygma Lenten Recollection that I attended for the first time in 2013. (Photo courtesy from Feast Technopark Facebook page)

It was the time when I had supposedly to have a summer outing with my former college classmates when the plan was cancelled, but instead it turned out to have a peaceful moment in our minds. One of my college classmates invited me and some of my former college classmates to attend a holy week recollection where many people were worshipping to the Lord. I had no idea during that time, but I realized it was the time to retreat and to reshape around my life. This was my first ever attendance of Kerygma Lenten Recollection (KLR) where I would meet new people who later became my long-time friends at The Feast. I attended two of three KLR days, and eventually I, together with some of my new friends, went to SMX Convention Center for the Grand Easter Feast as my first time attendee.

This moment became a history throughout my life as I started to attend Feast in Biñan and to serve for Media Ministry several months later.

  1. My last school day at ASD (May 25, 2005)
011-My friends, ASD vocational staff (05-25-05)
Together with ASD Vocational Staff on my last school day at ASD (Photo courtesy from Tent Archives)

After my high school graduation at Alabama School for the Deaf (ASD), I attended for the final school day where I remembered most of the memorable moments that happened throughout the school year. I took many photos with my schoolmates, my teachers, ASD staffs and supervisors. I also took photos of some buildings and dormitories around the ASD campus.

This was really reminiscing for me as being an exchange student of a nice and wonderful deaf school (considering as my host school during my course of exchange program). However, I had no idea that this would be also my final school day in a deaf institution. Few months later, my school life would be shifted into a new environment as I would attend a non-deaf school as a continuation of studying my fourth year high school.

  1. Hong Kong trip with my friends in financial school (October 11-14, 2014)


This was my first ever trip to abroad after staying in the U.S. in 2004 and the first in Post-Deaf World Era. I made this adventure to attend the worldwide convention in Hong Kong together with my friends and mentors from the financial school. We stayed there for three nights and three days with lots of learning and adventure. After attending the convention, we had a short sightseeing in Hong Kong Disneyland before we rode the subway train going back to our stay-in apartment. On the next morning, we had a whole day tour around Hong Kong where we visited Chinese temples and Giant Buddha in Lantau Island, Avenue of the Stars, Symphony of Lights from Hong Kong skyscrapers, and night market at Mongkok to buy some pasalubongs and gifts.

  1. My first ever Christmas in the U.S. (December 24-25, 2004)
With my host mom, Lyn Woolmaker, before heading to Christmas Eve Mass (Photo courtesy from Tent Archives)

My one-year stay in the U.S. was really special, and one of the most memorable moments during my stay was my first ever Christmas. On a night before Christmas, I and my host family – the Woolmakers attended the Christmas Eve mass (my first time to attend a mass night before Christmas). And on the day where the Jesus Christ was born, we took from the Christmas tree to open the surprise gifts. Later on, we visited the house nearby where we gathered with our Filipino community in Alabama to eat bunch of food and to celebrate together. This was my first and only time to celebrate Christmas outside my family at home.

  1. Winning ASD Academic Bowl Team as Southeast Champs (February 26, 2005)

Academic competitions in school were part of my school life when I studied at Philippine School for the Deaf (PSD). But when I studied at ASD as an exchange student, I faced a bigger challenge in academic competitions.

015-ASD Academic Bowl Team (04-24-05)

The ASD Academic Bowl Team composed by me, my classmate, Tiffany Smith, junior student Abby Reid and a freshmen student went to South Carolina School for the Deaf and Blind in Spartanburg, about 287 miles away from our school in Talledega, Alabama, to compete for the Southeast Regional Academic Bowl Tournament. Our team played against 15 teams from different deaf schools in the southeast region, and we had lost only one game out of 8 games. In the semifinal match, we defeated the five-time defending champion, Florida School for the Deaf (FSD) where we came back from 0-10 deficit. On the final match, we finally captured the southeast regional champions after defeating South Plantation High School (Florida).

  1. Competing ASD Academic Bowl Team in Gallaudet University (April 22-25, 2005)

As southeast champions, our team had a ticket going to Gallaudet University in Washington, D.C. to compete for the National Academic Bowl Tournament. However, we faced tough challenges to the national competition when one of our team members was unable to join due of his school suspension. But despite that, we never gave up our team spirit and confidence to compete against 9 toughest teams from 9 deaf schools across the United States. Losing 8 out of 9 matches, we remained positivity and having fun as teammates, and because of our great effort, we were awarded, for the rarest time, a Sportsmanship Award which made us a good model among other teams.

040-ASD Academic Bowl Team won Sportsmanship Award (04-25-05)
ASD Academic Bowl Team winning Sportsmanship Award during the conclusion of National competition held at Gallaudet University in Washington D.C. with university’s president I King Jordan (left, standing). (Photo courtesy from Gallaudet University)

My participation in National Academic Bowl Tournament was so memorable where my host parents – Lyn and Danny Woolmaker, Math teacher Kayleen Pugh and school librarian Linda Randolph were there to watch our matches. Before our competition, the ASD team had our sightseeing trip around Washington D.C. such as Metrorail, the Capitol, and Smithsonian Museums.

  1. ASD Graduation (May 24, 2005)
ASD Class of 2005

Graduating from high school was one of the most defining moments that I had during my life in the U.S. I and my batch mates of senior year (Grade 12) were wearing our togas and walking into the stage receiving our high school diplomas. This occasion was so special to me being an exchange student after studying ASD in the last 10 months with lots of most memorable moments happened. During the occasion, my host family – the Woolmakers was there to have full support for my high school graduation. And there were lots of graduation gifts that I received from them and the host school.

However, despite of graduating high school at ASD, it was not accredited to my high school diploma in my home country, the Philippines due of exchange program. Because of this, I needed to study my fourth (senior) year high school again (but this time in a non-deaf school rather than my previous school, PSD) after I came back home from the U.S.

  1. Having first ever non-deaf girlfriend (June 17, 2012)


When I studied in deaf school (PSD), I had “dated” several deaf girls that they didn’t last long. But after I came back home from my wonderful experience in the U.S., my life was shifted to a new world from being “deaf”. In “non-deaf” world, my life was changed, but my love life was shifted into downfall.

For 7 long years, I had never had a girlfriend who was not a deaf person. This was the cause of having the curse called “the curse of deaf sweethearts” because of my failures to have a non-deaf girlfriend. But one stranger came into my life in an accidental incident. To make a story short, she became my long distance textmate, and within one year of exchanging text messages, she made me so happy that I easily forgot being alone in life. Thus, this was the start of having my love feelings on her.

Finally she became my first ever non-deaf girlfriend after within one year of being textmates. This was the end of my love drought and failures from the past, and this was the start of a happy love relationship despite of long distance (in fact, we hadn’t met personally until days later).

Unfortunately, in June 2015, we ended our long distance relationship after three long years due of her complicated reasons.

(Note: most of my memorable dates with my former girlfriend were supposed to be included on the list when I decided to omit these because we’re no longer sweethearts.)

  1. Travel going to the United States (August 9-13, 2004)
003-I was standing over Washington Monument in Washington D.C. (08-10-04)
In August 2004, I fled to the United States as a foreign exchange student. Behind me was the Washington Monument in Washington, D.C. during my first days in the U.S. (Photo courtesy from Tent Archives)

This was really considered as my best and most memorable moment ever in my whole life. This was also the greatest birthday present for me (happened just three days after my birthday). Through exchange program, I was one of 40 other high school students from different parts of the Philippines to be qualified to become foreign exchange students and to stay in the United States for almost one year (merely 11 months).

After months of screening, series of interviews, and taking exams, we finally captured our dreams to go to the U.S. with lots of experiences and adventures. And on the biggest day – August 9, we’re so excited to depart from our resting place in Quezon City going to the airport at the early Monday morning. This was my first time ever to take a ride on the airplane, and it was really wonderful. I and other exchange students, together with our coordinators, took our first flight to Hong Kong where we would transfer to our second flight for U.S. It took a long flight going to our next destination – Chicago, the first city in the U.S. to touchdown. When we’re there, we passed thru security check and immigration before we took our final flight going to Washington, D.C. where we would stay there temporarily to attend orientation.

With my host family, the Woolmakers, after my arrival at Birmingham International Airport, August 13, 2004 (Photo courtesy from Tent Archives)

In Washington, the first city to have our temporary stay in the U.S., we met other exchange students from different nations to socialize and to take our sightseeing around the city during our three-day orientation with fun and activities. After four long days, on August 13, we separated to go to our different places around the U.S. to live with our own foster families. I and a Filipina exchange student, together with other exchange students from other countries, accompanied together going to Birmingham, Alabama to meet our respective foster families there. Even though I was not feeling well when we arrived at the airport, I met the Woolmakers for the first time that they would become my second “family” during my wonderful life in the U.S.

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I really miss these memorable moments happened in the past 20 years in my life. These are considered as the best because these gave me happiness, great experiences, and a wonderful love life. I hope this year (2017) and the following years to come (probably in the next 10 or 20 years from now) that there will be wonderful moment happen in the future, and that’s what I’m dreaming of.


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