itchy feet cravings

Pearl Harbor

Here I am back at the office doing the usual grind. I still can’t believe that it’s been a week since I arrived back here in my country after a hectic, grueling study travel tour in three countries. For one stricken with wanderlust, it was a very awesome experience, indeed.

I’m happy that my trusty digicam is beside me to remind me of the places we’ve just visited in Hawaii, Indonesia and Myanmar. I know I can’t write about all my experiences in just one blog so I’ll start with my sojourn in Honolulu first before anything else.

I was really excited to visit Hawaii despite some friends telling me that its a lot like the Philippines but only with all the American amenities in it. True, when I touched down at the Honolulu International airport, it felt like I didn’t leave my country though I endured a nine hour flight. And as I went through the airport, there were Filipino personnel who immediately guessed I AM Filipino.

Well, I shouldn’t be surprised. I figured out then during our stay here that Hawaii is home to many Filipinos, Koreans, Chinese, and Japanese much more than it is for Americans. My advantage is that I had no trouble getting to my temporary residence, which is at the University of Hawaii campus, and where the East-West Center is located.

I had to catch up on sleep the first day we got in. Jet lag was setting in and I was so groggy due to the huge time difference. I felt more refreshed when we moved on to our second day, Sunday, Feb. 23, for a tour of the iconic spots in Honolulu. Our first stop: Pearl Harbor.

I was grinning ear to ear when I read that part of our itinerary was a visit to Pearl Harbor. I remember indicating in our pre-arrival questionnaire that I do hope to see the place. Imagine my surprise when it was indeed taken into consideration by the organizers. I wanted to see this place primarily because I watched the film and was curious to see what it really looked like.

I wasn’t disappointed. For history buffs like me, the visit to Pearl Harbor– devastated during the Dec. 7, 1941 attacks that eventually led the US to declare war against Japan and play an integral part in World War 2–is an inspiring opportunity.

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We got a chance to hear from Paul Heintz, the education director for the Pacific Historic Parks, more details about the park, what’s inside the USS Arizona Memorial, how the place was before Japanese troops launched an aerial attack on PH and additional insight on the international politics at that time. But I was moved by Jimmy Lee’s personal account on how he experienced and witnessed the attack as an 11-year old boy. This later on prompted him to pursue a military career. Now he volunteers at the Pearl Harbor Navy Exchange where he lives to tell his story.

IMG_0016My eyes scoured the lush park while listening intently to Lee’s story…imagining how this peaceful harbor was disfigured during the horrors of war…

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The site is now a quiet reminder of the crewmen and their shipmates who died during the attack. After watching a 30-minute film on WW2, we boarded the navy shuttle that brought us inside the USS Arizona Memorial.

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IMG_0039Just looking at the long list of men who died and are entombed on this sunken USS Arizona sends a shiver down my spine. I offered a silent prayer while taking pictures of the destroyed vessel beneath the platform.

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Afterwards, we went inside the museum which offered unique insights about the war…

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Honestly, there were a lot of what ifs and whys going through my mind during our PH tour. I grew up learning about the cruelty and horrors of Japanese colonization in the Philippines and until now, even after years of independence and democracy, the issue remains unresolved. Though the tide has changed and power now seems to be gravitating towards China, and Japan has been a major trading partner of the Philippines, there is still that nagging sense of “history repeating itself.” I do hope it won’t happen. Nobody wants war.

After this tour, my belief in humanity was reinforced. Who wants war anyway? But at a time we are experiencing a surge of unrest in the Middle East, a growing unease at China’s aggression on the South China Sea and a global economic uncertainty, who can really tell? And so I pray and sincerely hope that nations, especially in Southeast Asia, would learn from the mistakes of WWs 1 and 2.

Before we wrapped up our tour and buy some souvenirs, Heintz told me he is certain the US will respond to any aggressive moves that could happen in the near future within the Southeast Asian region. His reason: the US is a Pacific ally and is committed to stabilize any crisis that may arise. I had mixed feelings about that.

I left Pearl Harbor thinking about Henry Ford’s quote: “History is more or less bunk. It’s tradition. We don’t want tradition. We want to live in the present and the only history that is worth a tinker’s dam is the history we made today.” #

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