My 20 Most Memorable Places in the Past 20 Years

Episode 125 – Thursday, January 26th, 2017 (7331)

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I’m so excited tomorrow because I and my work colleagues will go to Baguio for our adventure trip where we will stay there with cold weather for three days. This will be my first time ever to go there which is also one of my dream places to visit. That will be nice, and I’ll share my adventure with my colleagues in the future episodes.

Ooops… before our Baguio trip within this weekend, I had visited several places, not just only in the Philippines, but also in abroad. I have an episode that I wrote last year about my experience in travel where I went several places (read Episode 98). I love travel places anywhere either with companion or solo. But in this episode and because it’s throwback Thursday, I just want to share the 20 most memorable places that I ever visited in the past 20 years. Now, I choose only 20 places that I had visited and lived for quite sometimes since I’m talking about 20 years in my life (that’s not my real age, by the way, and it’s not my birthday either). I don’t select which one will be the no. 1 or becoming most memorable places in all, but I pick up 20 out of many places that I had ever landed based on my criteria:

  • Staying overnight in the place at least one night
  • Numerous times that I visited the place
  • Significant and historical landmarks, tourist spots, and attractions

There are my lists for my most memorable and wonderful places that I ever visited and lived in the past 20 years (in non-particular order).

In the Philippines:

  1. Santa Rosa, Laguna

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This is my hometown, of course, where I live with my family for almost 25 years. This is the place where I grew up playing with my childhood neighbors on the streets until my adulthood. I left the place for almost one year because of my stay in the United States, and I came back home in July 2005. Since then, I began to study my fourth (senior) year high school in a non-deaf school and college at PUP-Santa Rosa. There are some interesting places in the city such as Enchanted Kingdom where I went there only twice. There are two Feast locations in the city – Feast SM Santa Rosa led by Bro. Dreus Cosio and Feast Technopark Hotel led by Bro. Jon Escoto, and the Kerygma Lenten Recollection is also held in the said city annually.

  1. Pasay City
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SM Mall of Asia (left) and Philippine School for the Deaf Main Building in Pasay City

Located south of Manila, Pasay City had been my “second” home because of my deaf school, Philippine School for the Deaf (PSD), where I studied there for 10 long years with lots of the best and the worst happenings in my school life. When I came back home in 2005, the city was considered as my “past” due of my shift to “Post-Deaf School World” after I was transferred from PSD to a non-deaf school. However, in 2013, I returned to the city to attend Grand Feast of Kerygma Conference (KCON) at the SMX Convention Center which is located on that city. Since then, most especially during Kerygma events such as KCON and Grand Easter Feast, the city has always been held annually.

  1. Quezon City
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Quezon Memorial Shrine in Quezon City

The former nation’s capital, Quezon City, was the place during most of my life in Deaf School Era (1994-2005). It was the location of the office where I applied for foreign exchange student back in 2004, and I and other high school students from different parts of the country who became exchange students gathered together to attend seminars for the preparation to go to the U.S. Days before and after our U.S. experience, we stayed in a rest house in that city for few days to attend orientations from the exchange program.

Prior 2004, I already went to the city for some of memorable events such as PSD Boy Scouts camping at La Mesa Dam and Deaf Awareness Week celebration at Quezon Memorial Circle in 2003.

  1. Calamba, Laguna

The birthplace of our national hero, Dr. Jose Rizal, the City of Calamba is one of the places in Laguna that I already visited, and this is the gateway to travel going to Batangas. I first visited the city when I was in second grade during a field trip in 1997 where I and other deaf students visited the Rizal Shrine. 12 years later, I visited again the shrine, this time, with my non-deaf college classmates to take pictures for our Rizal subject.

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With my college classmates posting near little Rizal statue at Rizal’s house in Calamba, Laguna (Photo courtesy: Tent Archives)

Calamba is also the place with several hot springs and resorts, and I had experienced these only twice. In 2006, I and my college friends went in a resort in that city to have overnight swimming as a reward for our winning in a contest few months after. Almost 6 years later, I and some of my officemates went to the hot spring resort for our overnight bonding as well as my farewell party just days before I left from my first job.

  1. Tagaytay City, Cavite
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Together with my friends from The Feast on the infinity pool of One Tagaytay Place Hotel (Photo courtesy from Sony Camelon)

About 28 kilometers (17.5 miles) from my home in Santa Rosa, Tagaytay is considered as a Southern Luzon’s version of Baguio because of its scenery and cooler climate due of its high attitude. On March 8, 2014, I went there with my friends from Feast Biñan and HOT Team to bond together and to stay overnight in a hotel. On the next morning, we had our sightseeing trip to Picnic Grove where there’s a nice view of Taal Volcano and Lake Taal. This was my first and only time to have bonding time with my friends in the hotel overnight.

  1. Candelaria, Zambales

About 258 kilometers (160 miles) from Manila, this place was so wonderful because it was the location of Boy Scouts camping in February 2002. This was my first time ever to join the camping of Boy Scouts composed of some deaf students and camping teachers of PSD. Our camping lasted three days and two nights where we explored mountain hiking, sightseeing to the rivers and the mountains of Zambales, night gathering with a bonfire, and a nice swimming at the beach on the last day of camping. It was the farthest that I had ever traveled within the Philippines prior my adventures in the United States two years later.

  1. Muñoz, Nueva Ecija
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It’s me taking selfie at City Hall of Muñoz just minutes before my first ever meeting with my long distance textmate turning girlfriend in 2012.

About 195 kilometers (120 miles) away from my hometown in Laguna, the Science City of Muñoz was the place where my former long distance girlfriend lived there temporarily to study for college (also located in the said city). Thus, this city was our mandatory meeting place to have our romantic dates after months of waiting due of our long distance, and we did for 15 times in the last three long years. Our first ever meeting was happened on June 23, 2012 where I went at the park near the city hall where I waited her for few minutes to have our first ever personal interaction after a year of being textmates. This place was the second farthest (after Candelaria, Zambales) to travel from Manila and the first ever to travel solo in a far place from my home. My God, I really miss that place.

  1. Cabanatuan, Nueva Ecija

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This city was my first place to have an overnight stay alone from my home, a day before my first ever meeting with my girlfriend, in 2012. Travel about 115 kilometers (71.5 miles) from Manila, this place was so memorable for me and in my colorful love life where I and my former long distance girlfriend had our romantic dates (eating lunch, watching movies, attending mass, etc.) several times in that city.

Abroad:

  1. Hong Kong, China

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In October 2014, I and some of my colleagues from financial school in Makati went to Hong Kong to attend a financial seminar which was held at Hong Kong Disneyland Hotel. Staying for three days, we explored some beautiful places in Hong Kong such as 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.

This was my first time to travel abroad after my adventure in the U.S. back in 2004.

My Adventures in the U.S. (2004-2005):

  1. Washington, District of Columbia

The capital of the United States, Washington was the first U.S. city that I landed with my colleagues on my first day of being exchange student. We stayed at Georgetown University for four days to attend pre-arrival orientations with other exchange students from other nations before meeting with our respective foster families around the U.S. During the course of our stay, we visited many interesting places in the city such as Smithsonian Museums (Air and Space, and American History), Lincoln Memorial, FDR Memorial, and sightseeing at Potomac River.

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With my ASD friend, Abby Reid, before entering U.S. Supreme Court Building in Washington, D.C. in April 2005 (Photo courtesy from Tent Archives)

During my life in the U.S., I had been in the capital city thrice. As what I said earlier, the first one was with other exchange students for our pre-arrival orientation. The second time that I visited the place was when I joined with ASD Academic Bowl Team to compete for the National Academic Bowl Tournament at Gallaudet University in April 2005. And the third and final time was happened during my final days in the U.S. on the final week of June 2005 where I met my old colleagues again (after being exchange students and staying with their host families elsewhere in the U.S.). On July 1, 2005, we left Washington, D.C. to go back home after almost one year of our great experiences in the U.S.

  1. Talladega, Alabama
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Johnson Hall Building inside ASD Campus in Talladega, Alabama where I studied my fourth (senior) year high school as a foreign exchange student (Photo courtesy from Tent Archives)

This was really considered as my “second” home when I was in the U.S. I lived there for almost a year (319 days to be exact) with my foster (host) family – the Woolmakers who are considered as my “second” family. Slightly bigger than my hometown, Santa Rosa, in land area but only almost 5% of its population, Talladega is just looked like a city but similar to a rural town in my home country.

The city is the home of Alabama Institute for the Deaf and Blind where it includes Alabama School for the Deaf (ASD), my host school that I studied as a foreign exchange student during my fourth (senior) year high school. I also visited nearby places in Talladega such as Cheaha Mountain, the highest mountain in Alabama, and Talladega Superspeedway.

  1. Birmingham, Alabama
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With my foster father, Danny Woolmaker, during our visit at Vulcan Park in Birmingham, Alabama (Photo courtesy from Tent Archives)

This was the first place in Alabama that I landed after attending pre-arrival orientation from Washington, D.C. On August 13, 2004, I met for the first time the Woolmakers as my foster family after my arrival at Birmingham International Airport. During the course of exchange program, I and my host parents – Lyn and Danny Woolmaker (sometimes with their only son, Austin) traveled the largest city of Alabama several times to visit some attractions of the city such as Vulcan Park where it features the 56-foot Vulcan statue, 16th Street Baptist Church, Birmingham Museum of Art, Birmingham Civil Rights Institute, Southern Museum of Flight, and Birmingham Zoo where we visited for my final day in Alabama before going back home.

  1. Montgomery, Alabama
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Together with other exchange students at Montgomery State Capitol on January 29, 2005 (Photo courtesy from Tent Archives)

The state capital of Alabama, Montgomery was the place during the mid-year orientation with exchange students (including me) who lived in that state. Before attending our orientation, we visited Alabama State Capitol and sightseeing with other exchange students. We went there again for the second time in June 2005 where we attended the summer party less than a month before we’re going back home in July.

  1. Gadsden, Alabama
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With my foster mother, Lyn Woolmaker, during our visit at Noccalula Falls Park in Gadsden, Alabama in December 2004 (Photo courtesy from Lyn Woolmaker/Tent Archives)

During my first (and only) Christmas season in the U.S., I and my host parents went to Gadsden, about 44 miles from our home in Talladega, to visit Noccalula Falls Park where there’s a 90-foot waterfall, and we rode a red train to explore around the park while it was a chilly December weather. We visited the city twice – the second one was on New Year’s Day of 2005 where we ate a lunch with one of their deaf friends.

  1. Atlanta, Georgia
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It’s me and my fellow exchange student, Fharhana, at The World of Coca-Cola Museum in Atlanta, Georgia (Photo courtesy from Tent Archives)

About 108 miles from Talladega, Alabama, Atlanta, the state capital and the most populous city of Georgia, is home of many tourist attractions. The World of Coca-Cola Museum is one of these where I and my host parents, together with my fellow Filipino friend who was also an exchange student, visited there on September 4, 2004 to see the history of the world’s famous softdrink. We also visited Underground Atlanta and had sightseeing outside CNN Center. During my stay in the U.S., I went the city and its surroundings some few times including my summer outing with some of my friends from ASD in Six Flags White Water in Marietta and watching a basketball tournament with my host parents where it was played by ASD varsity team during my final days in the U.S.

  1. Cave Springs, Georgia
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(Photo courtesy from Tent Archives)

This place is the site of Georgia School for the Deaf (GSD) where my foster father, Danny Woolmaker, worked there. I had visited GSD a couple of times with my foster mother (and his wife), Lyn where we watched some GSD varsity games such as American football, basketball (playing against ASD varsity team) where Danny coached girls’ varsity, and a stage play where some GSD students portrayed one of Shakespeare’s works.

  1. Plains, Georgia
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Former U.S. President Jimmy Carter (far left) and his wife, Rosalynn (far right) with exchange students (including me) taking some photos in Plains, Georgia (Photo courtesy from Mr. Wally White/Tent Archives)

This town was so memorable for me because it is the birthplace and home of former U.S. President Jimmy Carter. On December 19, 2004, I and other exchange students together with Mr. Wally White (who already rested in peace, by the way) went to the place, after exploring Callaway Gardens near Pine Mountain, Georgia on the previous day, to attend a Sunday mass at the Baptist church with the special visitor – Jimmy Carter, who spoke some messages while holding the mass. After the mass, we tried to approach the former president with his wife, the former First Lady Rosalynn Carter, to take some pictures.

  1. Chattanooga, Tennessee
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It’s me taking a photo during my second visit in Chattanooga, Tennessee; at my back, the Tennessee Aquarium building (Photo courtesy from Tent Archives)

One of the largest cities in the state of Tennessee, I had visited Chattanooga twice during my one-year stay in the U.S. My first one was with other exchange students in October 2004. Before heading to Pigeon Forge for our four-day adventure trip, we visited Tennessee Aquarium in downtown Chattanooga where it exhibited the aquatic wildlife. The second one was happened during Holy Week of 2005 (March 24) where I and my host parents, Lyn and Danny Woolmaker, first visited Chickamauga and Chattanooga National Military Park, the Lookout Mountain on the borders of Tennessee and Georgia (within Chattanooga Metropolitan area) where we explored the Rock City, the Seven States marker, the High Falls, and Point Park. We also visited Tennessee Aquarium IMAX Theater in downtown.

  1. Pigeon Forge (and nearby towns), Tennessee

After visiting our first trip from Chattanooga, I and other exchange students had long journey going to Pigeon Forge, and we stayed there for three days. After we arrived, we ate dinner, took a race track, and stayed overnight in a budget hotel. During the course of our adventure trip, we went to Smoky Mountains in Townsend and Gatlinburg where we had a short mountain hiking at the Smoky Mountains.

  1. Spartanburg, South Carolina
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South Carolina School for the Deaf and Blind building in Spartanburg

This city was the site of 2005 Regional Academic Bowl Tournament where the ASD Academic Bowl Team, composed by me, my classmate, Tiffany Smith, junior student Abby Reid and a freshmen student, won the championship. It was held at South Carolina School for the Deaf and Blind in Spartanburg, about 287 miles away from our school in Talledega, Alabama. During the course of competition, we stayed there for four days with fun, excitement, socialize with new friends, and pleasure most especially after taking home with a champ.

Interesting Facts:

  • The farthest place that I ever traveled with companion within the Philippines: Candelaria, Zambales (288 kilometers or 179 miles away from my home) in February 2002.
  • The farthest place that I ever traveled solo within the Philippines: Muñoz, Nueva Ecija (195 kilometer or 120 miles away from my home). I traveled going home alone 15 times – the last one happened on June 13, 2015.
  • The farthest place that I ever traveled with companion from Talladega, Alabama (thru land travel): Spartanburg, South Carolina (at South Carolina School for the Deaf and Blind) about 287 miles or 462 kilometers away from Woolmaker’s house in Talladega where I lived with my foster family for one year. The 462-km land travel is equivalent to driving from Manila going south to Ligao, Albay or going north to Currimao, Ilocos Norte.
  • The farthest school that I ever attended from my home in Santa Rosa, Laguna: Philippine School for the Deaf (PSD) in Pasay City (about 38 kilometers or 23.6 miles away from my home). I had done this for 10 long years (1994-2004, including being solo traveler from 1998 to 2004), and it took 5 rides (public transport) to go there.
  • The nearest school that I ever attended from my home: International Montessori School, located inside Golden City subdivision, just walking distance about 250 meters away from my house.
  • The northernmost place that I traveled (with companion): Candelaria, Zambales (but it will be dethroned with my Baguio trip tomorrow).
  • The southernmost place that I traveled (with companion): Anilao, Mabini, Batangas (the birthplace of my father).
  • Number of flights (passenger airplane) that I rode during my adventure in the U.S.: 12. Overall, I had 14 flights (including the last 2 on Hong Kong trip) that I already rode in my entire life.
  • In my entire life, I have never ridden on a boat or ship that travel from one island to another.

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These were the places made me so wonderful with unforgettable happenings, and most of these are included as top 20 most memorable happenings ever occurred in my life in the past 20 years. I really, really miss traveling and visiting such places like these. And for tomorrow, I’m hoping that I and my work colleagues will have a safe travel with a nice weather condition going to Baguio which will be my first time ever to go there in my entire life. This might be probably the one of the most memorable places that I ever traveled for the next 20 years in my life. Well… maybe. Let’s find out.

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