After seeing and passing by the deserts and rocky mountains of New Mexico and Arizona and 12 hours travel by Amtrak, I arrived safe and sound in Riverside, California. It is a state in the western side of US on the Pacific Ocean.
California is called the Golden State because of sunny climate and the discovery of gold in the olden days. It was formerly called California Republic before statehood and this is reflected on the state flag which was raised by American settlers rebelling against the Mexican rule. The area was colonized by Spain and the name was taken from “Califia,” a mythical paradise in Spanish romance. It is the third largest state by land area and with the biggest population in the US. It was accepted in the Union on September 9, 1850 as the 31st state and currently headed by Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger.
The train was just right on timeI alighted at Riverside Downtown train station at around six o’clock in the morning. I got out of the station thinking that I could easily be seen by my childhood friend Porfirio Basilio, Jr, who was my classmate in elementary and high school but he went the other way. Nevertheless he saw me from the bridge of the station and called me out as Apiong. We warmly greeted and hugged each other. It was nice seeing him after a long time.
Pareng Jun droved me down for a quick visit to Riverside County Hospital where he works as a nurse. He showed me around to his workplace and introduced me to his colleagues and later took out a cup of coffee from the canteen. We proceeded to his house and I saw the mountains by the neighborhood which I requested to climb before we got inside his house. It was so peaceful and quiet at the top overlooking the entire Riverside. The city’s name was taken from the nearby Santa Ana River and this is the birthplace of the California citrus industry. I remember that California oranges were so popular.
I met his family for the first time with wife Bernadette and children Chelsea and Jeremy. Chelsea is my inaanak. I was even surprised that she showed me the list of his godparents from an invitation card that she keeps. I was the third one from his ninongs that she met. We dined together for breakfast. I was lucky to be served with adobo and tuyo which I missed a lot.
After freshening up, Jun took me to the house of Caroline Casingal, also our kababata who is married to Herrel Claudio, brother of our classmate Rowena. We warmly greeted and hugged each other. We definitely had a great reunion all the three of us plus the presence of Caroline’s sister Cristy who was also our childhood friend. They all work here as nurses. I also met her mother Tiya Conching and her two beautiful daughters Ashley and Isabel. Oline as we call her treated us for lunch at BJ’s Brewhouse. We reminisced the good old days over wine and good food. Then we went for shopping at one of the malls at Menifee.
The following day we went for another round of shopping at Promenade Mall at Temecula. I bought some souvenir shirts and later watched movies at Edwards Cinemas. This was my first time to try a US cinema house. I enjoyed the latest movie release of Fast and Furious with Cristy whereas Oline took her kids on a separate animated movie.
I did not expect that Oline, Cristy and Herell will be taking me to Hollywood. They treated me with an unforgettable experience of Universal Studios. It was a dream came true on this trip. I only heard of it and seen it on TV. We spent the whole day here.
On the last day of my sojourn, I thanked the wonderful family for my experience of the American Dream and bade them goodbye. I was fetched by Jun to show me around this time. We attended mass on an Easter Sunday at Corpus Christi Church in Corona Hills. Later, I witnessed the exciting Easter egg hunt by the children. Then we went for an early lunch at Cheesecake Factory then rested for few hours at their house. Jun and his kids took me to Downtown Disney and saw what was so American setting.
As Jun said that he has to feed me with Filipino foods before I go home to be acclimatized, he took me to a buffet eat all you can resto as they charged only US6 per person. Wow I was so full. I had so much of Pinoy foods before my flight. Later they sent me off to LAX airport and bade each other goodbye. All things simply have to end even if you hate it but I was happy to go back home equipped with those wonderful memories. I definitely had an adventure of a lifetime.