Coming to USA & Purdue

I was glad that this chapter of my life was completed and was looking forward with trepidation and anxiety in facing the next challenge and tribulation.  I was homebound to Davao again. While at home, I started to gather all the documentations required by the US Embassy in connection with my application for a student visa. These documents consisted of certificates from the City Police, City Court, and National Bureau of Investigation to show that I was a good abiding citizen and was not convicted of any crime. I was checked in to a hospital for an overnight stay to be de-wormed. A complete medical examination was conducted to verify that I was not harboring any contagious diseases, that nothing was physically abnormal, and was free from tuberculosis. I also mailed to Purdue my educational transcript of records of my high school, liberal arts college credits, and engineering educations. In the mean time, Juan and I went to the coconut farm in Tagabuli to operate the tractor and harrow machines, just like we did before during the long recess between school years. I felt a little sad because that would be my last time to ran the tractor with Juan’s company and the idea that I would be gone for awhile and not able to provide the help in maintaining the coconut farm and to be far away from home .

After a long wait, I received a letter from Purdue wanting to know, before I could be accepted for admission, how I could utilized and apply my advanced education in jet propulsion in the Philippines. In 1954 the jet propulsion technology was at its infancy in the US. The US commercial airlines were still powered by piston engines. Boeing just flew the prototype 707, which ushered the jet age in commercial aviation, and was powered by jet engines. Back in the Philippines, only a handful of people knew about jet propulsion technology. So, Purdue was probably curious as to how I could utilize this specialized education in a third world country when I returned to the Philippines upon completion of my studies. In Purdue’s thinking, would I just be wasting my education since the jet propulsion technology was non-existent in the Philippines? I knew that my admission or rejection depended on how I crafted my response. I explained in my letter to Purdue some ambitious goal about introducing this new technology through education to the commercial and military aviation and added some B.S. to make it convincing. Needless to say, I was admitted to the Graduate School for a master degree program in Aeronautical Engineering and was notified that classes would start in September 1954.
In July 1954, I said good bye to my and father and mother when I left Davao bound for Manila and I could tell from their faces that they were sad for I am leaving them to make this long journey to the unknown and not knowing if I would ever see them again. My mother mentioned later in her letter to me that my father cried when I left. My mother kept reminding me not to marry an American woman because of the divorce issue prevalent in the US. This had something to do with my mother’s three uncles who went abroad to pursue their medical studies. The two uncles studied in the US and married American women that ended in divorces while the other uncle pursued his medical studies in Germany, married a German woman, raised their family in the Philippines and remained married till the end of their lives. So, my mother had learned from the experiences of her two uncles and made sure that she admonished me not to follow in their footsteps.
In August 1954, I  boarded a boat tender to take us to the ship, M/S Pine Tree Mariner, a freighter ship, which was parked in Manila Bay to send me off. After a few pleasantries said and bidding each other good bye and good luck, my well-wishers boarded the tender and headed back to port. All of a sudden I was alone and felt lonely and sad to leave behind the land and the people I was familiar with. And I began to realize at this time, more so than before, that this was serious business and there was no turning around, it was a one way passage to a foreign country and I was on my own. I was 24 years old. I was the only passenger that boarded the ship in Manila; the ship picked up two Chinese male students and a pair of white old ladies from Hong Kong; and these were all the passengers although the ship can accommodate 12 passengers. It took 18 days from Manila to San Francisco. The ship docked in Kobe, Japan to load some cargo. From Kobe to San Francisco, the fog was so bad I didn’t see the horizon or the water we were on. On top of this, I hardly saw the other passengers throughout the trip. Between Manila and Taiwan, the ship ran into a typhoon and I thought the ship would break into two. I could not lie in bed as the ship rolled from side to side, as well as  rocking from bow to stern. It was miserable experience accompanied by throwing up all the good food and heaving till the stomach ached because there was no more food in it.

On the 19th day since we left Manila, the shipped finally docked in San Francisco. I hailed a taxi and stuffed my luggage and some of my FEATI notebooks into the taxi and asked the driver to take me to the YMCA. I stayed in the Y for one night, not even venturing to go sight-seeing in San Francisco because the surrounding seems strange and unfamiliar to me. The next day, I boarded a Greyhound bus, as was suggested to me, bound for Purdue in West Lafayette, Indiana. The journey took three long days and nights and I had a lot of time day dreaming, planning my future in America, thinking about home, and meeting American girls, although my mother’s admonition kept resounding in my mind. Finally I arrived at the Purdue campus and the Purdue Foreign Students Organization arranged and helped us foreign students to our ‘new home’.
My new home is a two story white house and is located on 100 Sylvia St. The Felix family owned the place but don’t lived there and the rooms were rented only to the Purdue students. For our meals, we walked to the university cafeteria, a distance of about 6 blocks. These students came from France, Germany, Illinois, Nigeria, Philippines. Except for the American, all were graduate students. In a large room upstair, I roomed with Fabian Tiongson, a Filipino who was sent by the Philippine Government to take up advance studies in agriculture. He was a cry baby and made known to everyone that he was always homesick. He talked to his parents constantly and cried. It was irritating that I finally moved out and roomed downstair with Leonardo Gutierrez, another Filipino who was doing graduate studies in civil engineering- specializing in how to make sewer water clear with no foreign solid matters in it. There were few students from the Philippines, probably around 14 at the most.
In my first year, I was required to take two pre-requisite undergraduate courses in mechanical engineering in addition to my graduate courses because these courses were not offered in the aeronautical engineering at FEATI. These undergraduate courses were helpful introductory foundation to my other graduate courses. I noticed that the teaching methods at Purdue relied heavily on the textbooks and solving the assigned problems given in the textbook, and supplementing the instruction with lecture and/or chalkboard illustrations. At FEATI, the method of instruction was the European style by which it relied heavily on lectures with minimal use of textbook and less problem solving exercises. This was foreign to me and it took some time of getting used to it and required considerable study time. I was struggling just to get a passing grade.
I befriended two Filipina sisters, Beth and Joy Lim, and sometimes they invited me for lunch or dinner that they cooked in their apartment. Occasionally, a bunch of us from the Philippines walked to town to have lunch at the Chinese restaurant because we got tired of eating cafeteria food. During my first summer vacation, the American housemate was able to arranged for me to work in his Dad’s company, the Production Instrument Co., in Chicago. The company was making mechanical counting devices. I stayed at the YMCA on Wabash Avenue. Some of the Filipinos at Purdue had gone home since they were able to complete their studies in one year. My roommate finished his graduate study and moved to Ann Arbor Michigan to enroll at the University of Michigan for further studies.
After the summer vacation, I went back to Purdue to resume my studies and I also rented a room from a family whose house was closer to the student union in which the university cafeteria was located. The course of studies were more advanced harder. For seven days a week, I stayed up until 2 o’clock in the morning studying the different courses scheduled for the next day, the only breaks I had were when I attended the classes in the morning and the time I had for meals. It was a do or die routine if I had to graduate on June 1956. Time went by fast and graduation was just around the corner. Pre-requisite to my being able to graduate was to undergo an oral exam conducted by three professors, each one of them took turn to grill me on the subjects they taught. I must had done alright to satisfy them and was approved to participate in the graduation ceremony. On June 6, 1956, during the university graduation ceremony, I was conferred with a Master of Science Degree in Aeronautical Engineering.