Saturday, January 17, 2009
(Left: Posing in front of the US Capitol)
One Saturday afternoon during our December holiday, my brother-in-law took us to Washington, DC for a tour of the US Capitol. We took the train to the capital's Union Station, and from there did the 10 minute or so walk to the United States Capitol Complex. The weather was very mild, and it was a good time to stroll with the kids and do a bit of sight seeing / history field trip.
The Capitol is amongst the world's most widely recognizable buildings. It is the meeting place of the US legislative bodies, a museum, and a tourist attraction apparently visited by millions every year. The construction of the building began in 1793 and has been built, burnt, rebuilt, extended, and restored. It is part of a complex that includes the US House and Senate buildings, the Supreme Court building, the Library of Congress buildings. For this afternoon, we only had time to explore the museum inside the Capitol.
We got on a mid-afternoon guided tour that started with a 13-minute film, "Out of Many, One" - a look back on how modern United States was created. The tour went around several chambers including a huge one at the bottom of the dome. Each chamber was filled with artworks and statues representing all 50 states in the US.
As we were waiting in line, I had a quick conversation with my wife as I saw our 3 sons goofing around with their cousins. Our conversation turned to whether or not our children comprehend the places that we visit. Our 2 older sons probably appreciate that they get to see some of the characters and places that they learn about in their lessons. Our youngest at 4 years old, may probably think of this day as just another sightseeing afternoon. He'd most likely remember the train ride and his encounter with the squirrels at the Capitol grounds more than the tour itself.
Close Encounters with Philippine Presidents. Visiting the Capitol, so near the powers that be in this country made me think back of my own encounters with 2 Philippine presidents, and a near encounter with an American president. I was in senior high school in Manila when I joined a group of students that went to attend one of the US bases hearing at the Senate building in Manila. After the session, some of the senators approached the visitors gallery and had conversations with us, the regular folks. Then Senator Erap Estrada was nearby so wanting to start a conversation with him, I turned on an audio recorder I had in my hand, held it out in front of his face like a reporter, and proceeded to ask him some of the questions I had in mind. I noticed that while talking to me, he would put his mouth close to the recorder, maybe to ensure that what he was telling me was properly recorded. What he didn't know was that I ran out of tape earlier in the day, and I just turned the recorder's power on though there was no tape inside. My teachers had a good laugh when I told them about it while we were going back to school.
As for President Gloria Arroyo, I was a listener at a forum in the University of the Philippines during the campaign period of the 1996 Senatorial Elections. Then Senator Arroyo was on stage with other senatorial candidates, and I could vividly recall how small a lady she was. When she spoke at the podium, she had a low commanding voice and an immense presence that I don't think is captured on TV. That was the time when she was completing her first term as a senator, and she was better known as one of the hard working senators. Public perception on her is totally different now, a blogger posted on this blog that she is the biggest bully of them all.
I did have a near encounter with President George W Bush. This was during his visit to the Philippines though I don't remember which year it was. I was watching TV when I learned that a motorcade bearing him was driving from Manila to the Batasan Complex where he was scheduled to give a speech in front of the Philippine Congress. His route would take him through Commonwealth Avenue and then right to Batasan Road. That was a 10minute walk from our home and it was where I pass by when I ride a tricycle to work. I was in house clothes (sorry, no better term for pambahay) and rubber slippers but when I got to where he was supposed to pass, I believe that the motorcade passed by already. Sayang! (Too bad.) The road was narrow, and I could have told my family that day that I got within 2 or 3 meters of President Bush, hehehe.