by Jessie Fernandez Ivins ‘69
Our days always started with thank you and safe-trip prayers, an information and orientation from our tour guide, followed by sing-a-longs and joke –sharing. Yuupp, we learned to sing Black Eye Peas’ Today is Gonna Be a Good Day (a take from their signature song) and was inspired by the life story of its Filipino-American member, aple.d.ap. And wow, the jokes ! Many of our travel buddies should seriously consider a second career as standup comedians. With the appropriate permission, perhaps, I can post the jokes that I videotaped.
Our tour started in Williamsburg, Virginia, a historical city which witnessed the creation of USA democracy and then on to Virginia Natural Bridge. It’s a marvel - a freeway crossing the bridge! The Vanderbilt’s Biltmore Estate in North Carolina, was impressive. This is the largest private home in America with an eight thousand acre garden in French and English style. Camote tops, talong and ampalaya were grown in the garden! We attributed this to a Filipino gardener. We took in the beauty of nature as we drove through the Blue Ridge Mountains and the country roads. In Tennessee, the Smoky Mountains was even more exciting when we spotted black bears from a distance. In the resort town of Gatlinburg, we sampled Southern cuisine and toured a moonshine distillery. The adventurous among us jugged in a bit of moonshine and then enjoyed Bluegrass music. We got more Southern exposure at Dixie Stampede Show, a Dolly Parton production. We missed her, though. The Lookout Mountain in the boarder of Tennessee, Alabama and Georgia is a major destination. We enjoyed its many attractions - The Lost Sea, Incline Railway, Ruby Falls and Rock City. In Atlanta, we learned how news is broadcasted in our CNN tour, saw Soledad O’Brien with her up-to-the-minute news forecast but were not given privy to the secret Coca-Cola formula in our Coca-Cola tour, darn!
True to the UPNAAI spirit, our tour met UPNAAI objectives. While fellowship and camaraderie among alumni and their family was strong, we got a superb presentation from Delia Reyes ’68 on the practical management of diabetes, a top disease among Filipinos. Our tour group also raised funds to add to UPNAAI’s donation to the Sendong flood victims. Huge thanks to Nati, Delia and to Marlon Saria ’98 for arranging our CEU units and much thanks to all tour participants for sharing their ‘joie de vivre.’
Nati is again coordinating a tour of the Canadian Rockies after the 34th reunion in Anaheim next year. Make plans to join her group for another ligaya at samahan ... the UPNAAI way!