My thoughts as an immigrant, Filipina-American woman in Washington DC
The Washington Monument was a beacon that silently and persuasively called my name — not taking “no” for an answer. Standing prominent against the blue and white sky it slowly guided me to its base despite my reluctance. I was not planning to visit the National Mall during my trip to Washington DC last June. I have been to the National Mall already during a previous visit in 2013 and was not planning to go again.
Washington Monument was the gateway to the National Mall. It was about 50 minutes away by foot from Eaton Workshop, the hotel where I was staying during my trip. It was a light day of work for me on that day and I had the rest of the afternoon for exploring after my meeting. I just walked aimlessly towards downtown but the monument was looming tall and large in front me. It seemed so near yet so far. And as if hypnotized I kept on walking towards it — passing downtown, Ford’s Theater, the house where Lincoln died, Wax Museum, majestic imposing architecture such as the State Capitol to my left (if I remember correctly), a glimpse of the White House….
An hour and half later with stops to take photos and read historic building markers, I have arrived. I was tired but excited. I was glad that I made the trip because I could finally see it in its full glory. When I was in DC in 2013, the monument was under construction and surrounded by scaffoldings.
Being an immigrant in the presence of historic landmarks such as the Washington Monument, Golden Gate Bridge and Statue of Liberty, I always feel their overwhelming magnitude deep in my soul. I can only imagine how US born Americans would feel a deep sense of pride and patriotism when in front of these symbols of our country. Being a Filipina-American, these symbols are the metaphors of my life as an immigrant. I have arrived. Gazing at the Washington Monument while drenched in sweat from walking, I was in awe. I was full of gratitude and pride, yet perturbed at the same time. I have lived longer in the US than I have lived in the Philippines. For me US is home and has been home since I first came here as young adult. The Philippines is my faraway home that is embedded in my memory like a faded photograph. Philippines is the home of my childhood while the US is where I have been forged and educated to be who I am today — one who believes that every man and woman are created equal, and my rights as a woman. With the current harsh US anti-immigrant political climate that is perpetrated and immorally encouraged by the president, it is deeply disturbing and unfortunate that standing on the soils where the forefathers tread, I feel as if I no longer belong in this land that has adopted me. In my decades of living in the US, I have not felt being a stranger until this presidency. Although no one not has shown me any hostility or unkindness while in DC, I could not brush off the feeling of being the “other” while walking in Washington DC and seeing people walking around in Make America Great Again shirts among the sea of tourists from all over the world. I went to a souvenir shop and a woman could barely hold the Trump souvenirs in her arms. One of them was a doll that kept on saying “Make America Great Again” over and over again. Words that are meant to exclude brown people like me who do not fit into the image of what a “real American” should look like. I heard her voice and I had to go around the display rack in order to look at the owner of the voice — the face of a racist — who was holding the souvenirs and unabashedly telling her husband, “I just really love this man (Trump) so much! See if these are cheaper to get on the internet.” We looked at each other. In my mind, I was telling her, “Lady, this is a woman who is in DC to speak in front of over a hundred people to educate them about compassion and democracy. A strong, US-educated woman with an advanced degree and who changes the lives of many people everyday. It does not matter where they came from or the color of their skin. If you or your loved one need my help, I will help you as well.” Aren’t these what America is really founded on — opportunities, inclusion and democracy?” Exclusion, bigotry and ignorance, I thought, were shameful parts of our country’s past and a legacy that we were fighting to not pass on to our children. Not anymore. Sadly, we are slowly sliding back to the era of intolerance, divisiveness and cruelty.
Back to Washington Monument, I took so many pictures as the light changed. I decided to dedicate one post to Washington Monument alone.