A friend of mine who is a journalist and a Palanca Award-winning writer from the Philippines visited us here in Iowa a few days ago. I have invited her over for many years, and finally she came. Maybe she got intrigued if Iowa really is as beautiful as I described it, or maybe she was just being gracious as a friend, and finally gave in to my open invitation.
Before she flew over, she scoured the bookstores in Metro Manila looking for a travel guide about Iowa. But she got disappointed. She did not find one. As far as Filipinos in Metro Manila, Iowa is not on their radar. It is not on the map. It does not even exist!
When I was about to move from Florida to Iowa many years ago, I told my friends about it. They asked me where the heck is Iowa, and the next question was if I was going crazy. Then I have to tell them where exactly is Iowa on the map. And as far as their second question is – I’ve been crazy for a long time, nothing new. When I told my folks in the Philippines that I will be moving to Iowa (after living in New Jersey, New York City, Los Angeles, and Florida), they asked me if Iowa is still part of the United States. Yes, many people think Iowa is in another planet!
After years of living here, many of our old friends still cannot recall where we really are. When we get in touch with them, they would ask, where we are living. Ohio? Idaho? Pluto? No. Listen, we live in I-O-W-A.
My friend stayed with us for only a couple of days, but it was enough to give her a lasting impact. After touring her around, she was impressed of the place we live in. After years of telling her of this place, and reading my blogs about this place, she finally saw it herself that Iowa is not just an artifact of my imagination. By the way, this is the friend of mine who encouraged me to start a blog in the first place.
My friend was so impressed that she even wrote an article in her newspaper column in the Manila Standard Today about this place, “A little patch of paradise.”* Maybe it was the sight of the horses, and the smell of earth that inspired her to write it, as she is a horse enthusiast. Maybe it was the deafening sound of silence, and the velvety blackness at night in our place, that inspired her and cleared her head to write this. Or maybe it was the white chili soup that my wife cooked that inspired her. Whatever the reason is, I thank her for putting Iowa on the map, at least for Filipinos.
Maybe next time someone is looking for an Iowa travel guide at National bookstore in Manila, he or she will find one.
(*link of “A little patch of paradise” is from on-line edition of Manila Standard Today)