The Best Things About My Mexico+US Trip

November 2. I’m glad it’s a holiday here in the Philippines so I have time to reflect on my recent trips to Mexico and the U.S. I’m fond of Top-3 or Top-5 lists, so here are the three best things that happened to me during this recent trip abroad.

3. Fun and adventure

POTS 2In Mexico, my greatest adventure was climbing up the Teotihuacan Pyramid of the Sun, said to be the third largest pyramid in the world. I chickened out at first due to acrophobia. Looking at the steps in front of me, which were uneven in height and width, and then looking up at the seemingly countless steps to get to the summit, I simply froze after climbing up half a dozen or so steps, and had to go back down, shaking. But my tour mates, Joe and Gary from the U.S. (whom I instantly connected with because of their hippie history), encouraged me to try again, and so I did. I thought of wearing my cap, so that I couldn’t see the top and could concentrate instead on each step. And that’s how I made it to the peak of the pyramid… one step at a time! (Joe’s calling my name out loud while I was resting midway up the pyramid was also a big confidence booster.)

Giddily happy at the top of the Pyramid of the Sun
Giddily happy at the top of the Pyramid of the Sun

20131025_182422In New York, I had the most fun at (1) the Metropolitan Museum of Art, which for me ties with the British Museum + National Gallery as the second best museum in the world (the best for me would be the Louvre), and (2) watching Broadway musicals. Unlike my first visit to the Met more than a decade ago, I took several pictures this time, some of which I immediately posted on FB. I spent close to seven hours in it, and the only time I really sat down to more fully enjoy specific works of art was when I was in the Monet galleries. I love Monet’s impressionism, as well as Seurat’s neo-impressionism called pointillism, as evidenced by the pointillist painting that greets me each time I enter my condo (a photo of which is in this blog’s About page).

Standing happily next to one of Monet's Waterlilies at the Met
Standing blissfully next to one of Monet’s Waterlilies at the Met

20131029_203715Thanks to my long-time buddies Alex and Carlo, I was able to watch three Broadway musicals on this visit to  NYC: Phantom of the Opera, which is the longest running musical of all time, celebrating its 25th year; Wicked, which is celebrating its 10th year; and Kinky Boots, 2013’s Best Musical. Of the three I liked POTO best, and I’ll write a separate blog explaining why.

POTO is Number 2 on my list of favorite musicals. Les Miz is Number 1.
POTO is Number 2 on my list of favorite musicals. Les Miz is Number 1.

7th Stop - Lincoln MemorialCarlo also took me to Washington, DC one weekend. While I enjoyed looking at the major monuments (especially the Lincoln Memorial) and other buildings,  I had the most fun at the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History. I especially loved being with the fossil marine mammals (early whales, seals, sea lions, dolphins). Of course I was awe-struck at the fossil dinosaurs, especially the 70-foot Diplodocus!

With the ancestors of the sea lion, the dolphin, and the seal
With the ancestors of the sea lion, the dolphin, and the seal at the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History

2. Friends and Family

The second best thing that happened to me during my trip involved friends and family. I not only met new friends in Mexico and in the U.S., but also renewed relationships with old friends.

Among my new friends are:

Group 4 (IALU Forum 2013): Roger, Rebecca, Br. Alfonso, and Cynthia
Group 4 (IALU Forum 2013): Roger, Rebecca, Raymund, Br. Alfonso, and Cynthia
"Philippine Delegation" (IALU Forum 2013): Dina (HSC), Dino (CSB), Juni (LCA), and Luis (Dasma)
The Philippine “Delegation” (IALU Forum 2013): Dina (HSC), Raymund (DLSU), Dino (CSB), Juni (LCA), and Luis (Dasma)
De La Salle Brothers (IALU Forum 2013): Br. Armand, Br. Larry, Br. Alvimar, with Raymund and Roger
De La Salle Brothers (IALU Forum 2013): Br. Armand, Br. Larry, Br. Alvimar, with Raymund and Roger
Tablemates at the IALU 2013 Farewell Dinner: Sr. Mary (USA), Pascale (France), Oneida (Mexico), Guillermo (Colombia), Raymund (Philippines), Sebastien (France), Dina (Philippines), Carolina (Mexico), Jesus (Spain), and Angelina (Brazil)
Tablemates at the IALU 2013 Farewell Dinner: Sr. Mary (USA), Pascale (France), Oneida (Mexico), Guillermo (Colombia), Raymund (Philippines), Sebastien (France), Dina (Philippines), Carolina (Mexico), Jesus (Spain), and Angelina (Brazil)
"Last Men (and Woman) Standing" IALU Forum 2013): Nestor, Cynthia, and me
The “Last Men and Woman Standing” (We were the last IALU Forum 2013 participants to leave Mexico): Raymund, Cynthia (USA), and Nestor (Nicaragua)

and Alex (educational technologist at ULSA, Mexico), Mario (Concierge head at Hotel Sevilla Palace, Mexico), Joe, Gary, and Udo (my Teotihuacan tour mates), and Tom (a Met fan who studied Philosophy of Science at Cambridge, UK).

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It was also great to meet again some old friends, including:

IALU Forum 2010 (Rome) Alumni: Br. Alfonso, Rebecca, Lluis, and Raymund
IALU Forum 2010 (Rome) Alumni: Br. Alfonso, Rebecca, Lluis, and Raymund
Raymund and Danon, friends since 2006, when Danon joined FORMDEV as a faci
Danon and Raymund, friends since 2006, when Danon joined FORMDEV as a faci
Jezz, Raymund, and Manny, who was my stat teacher in college
Jezz, Raymund, and Manny, who was my stat teacher in college
Raymund and Catherine, friends since second year high school
Catherine and Raymund, friends since second year high school

and, last but not the least:

Raymund and Carlo, close friends since second year high school
Carlo and Raymund, close friends since second year high school

I also knew that my pastor, family, and friends were praying for me back home, and so they were also with me in their prayers, and I look forward to meeting them again soon.

1. God

Finally, the most important thing that happened to me on trip was experiencing God’s kindness.

Five days before I left for Mexico I was diagnosed with asthmatic bronchitis (aka bronchial asthma) and had to take antibiotics. I even felt my throat becoming sore a couple of days before the flight, and had to call my doctor. But by God’s grace, and with the help of prayers of family and friends, I felt miraculously strong throughout the trip, despite the lack of sleep due to the many things to do and see. 🙂

By God’s grace, I was also able to meet with professors from NYU and Columbia who have been working for some time now in the field of games for learning (which I have recently come to believe to have great potential locally) and who are among the co-PIs of the Games for Learning Institute, a collaboration of 7 universities originally funded by Microsoft Research.

With Professor Jan Plass of NYU
With Professor Jan Plass of NYU
With Professor Chuck Kinzer of Columbia
With Professor Chuck Kinzer of Columbia

By God’s grace, and through my friend Nestor Castro Arauz, I was also able to meet with the rector, vice-rector, deans of the engineering and business faculties, and director and staff of the distance education office of ULSA Mexico, and realized the many ways through which ULSA and DLSU could collaborate.

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I also met Lasallian professors who have expressed interest in the scholarship of teaching and learning (SoTL), one of my initiatives as AVCAA of DLSU. At the IALU Forum in Mexico, I gave a presentation on SoTL and argued that SoTL was really quite Lasallian. Roger Peckover (St. Mary’s University, Minnesota) and I eventually thought that SoTL might need to be Lasallian (i.e., done in close collaboration with a community of SoTL practitioners worldwide) to be truly successful.

Giving a talk on the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning (SoTL) and Lasallian Higher Education, IALU Forum 2013
Giving a talk on the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning (SoTL) and Lasallian Higher Education, IALU Forum 2013

20131026_175835Aside from experiencing the presence of God in and through everything I have mentioned above, I was also enabled to spend time with God in worship services (I was able to attend 5 in 15 days!), and in silent conversation when I’m alone, including special quiet time at St. Malachy’s (also known as the Actors’ Chapel) on Broadway. That chapel is an oasis amid the hustle and bustle of Broadway, and I will never forget it.

Altar in St. Malachy's Chapel dedicated to the Sacred Heart of Jesus
Altar in St. Malachy’s Chapel dedicated to the Sacred Heart of Jesus

What a truly wonderful time with God, with friends, and with beautiful and enduring creations!

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Mexico City First Impressions

Arrived in Mexico City at 6:20 am, after almost 24 hours of air travel and waiting in airports. On the way to my hotel, while stuck in traffic, I was intrigued by the many sculptures and monuments along the Paseo de la Reforma, including this one.

Monument at the Glorieta Peralvilla, where the yearly procession to the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe begins.
Monument at the Glorieta Peralvilla, where the yearly procession to the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe begins.

The Paseo de la Reforma is a long and wide avenue running through Mexico City, patterned upon the Champs-Elysees and other grand boulevards in Europe.

What I like about it are the monuments and sculptures throughout the avenue (and the city actually). Foremost among these would be the Monumento a la Independencia (nicknamed El Angel because of the 22-feet statue of Nike, the winged goddess of victory, on top of the column), around which Mexicans congregate during World Cup victories.

The Monumento a la Independencia, with a modern sculpture in the foreground.
The Monumento a la Independencia, with a modern sculpture in the foreground.
Monumento a la Independencia (detail). Can you see the people below the statue of Winged Victory?
Monumento a la Independencia (detail). Can you see the people below the statue of Winged Victory?

Next in prominence would be the statue of Cuauhtemoc, the 25-year-old ruler of the Aztec triple alliance, who fought against the Spanish invaders in 1521. He reminds me of Datu Lapu-Lapu, the first Philippine hero, who also fought against the Spanish invaders in 1521. Unlike Lapu-Lapu, who defeated Fernando Magellan in the Battle of Mactan, Cuauhtemoc lost to Hernando Cortez and was tortured to death.

Monument to Cuauhtemoc, possibly the first Mexican hero
Monument to Cuauhtemoc, possibly the first Mexican hero

Mexico City’s Centro Historico and its environs remind me of the major cities of Europe, what with Gothic, Baroque, and Neoclassical buildings all over, such as the Palacio de Bellas Artes (Neoclassical, Art Nouveau) and the Metropolitan Cathedral (Baroque, Gothic).

Palacio de Bellas Artes and Palacio del Correo
Palacio de Bellas Artes and Palacio del Correo
Museo de Bellas Artes (detail)
Museo de Bellas Artes (detail)

There are also lots of modern sculptures and buildings all over the city, such at these:

El Caballito, in front of the Torre del Caballito
El Caballito, in front of the Torre del Caballito
Cards
Cards
Museo Soumaya, which contains a lot of sculptures by Rodin
Museo Soumaya, which contains a lot of sculptures by Rodin

This afternoon, we are going to Cuernavaca for the IALU conference, but when I come back to Mexico City, I will take a closer look at the beauty of these edifices, since I’ve always loved the medieval, Rennaisance, and neoclassical cathedrals and buildings of Europe. But I also look forward to visiting the ruins of the Aztec empire in the city, as well as Teotihuacan.