Tuesday, May 7, 2013
In our last newsletter we captioned each of the pictures. Because of the number of photos (37) we thought it would make it easier for you to understand each one. We do not expect to do this very often, as it turned out to be technically far more difficult than expected, and thus rather time-consuming. So we will save that for special occasions and go back to our normal format, which is to title the photos and refer to them in the text.
For those who have been enjoying our bird watching reports, we have some good news as well as a few more birds to share with you. The good news – we are very pleased to note that the sea-eagles are still in the cove where we first observed them. This gives us hope that they will have a more successful family-raising experience next time.
The photo of the Philippine serpent-eagle was taken as it soared over the house early one morning – quite a challenge for Marcia to track its flight path with the telephoto, but well worth the results. The white band you can see through wings and tail make it easy to identify. Serpent-eagles are not as large as sea-eagles, being about 20 inches/50 centimeters in length compared to 30 inches/75 centimeters.
Mangrove blue flycatchers have appeared in the blog once already, having had two pairs fly into the glass front door of the house several years ago. Marcia was excited to capture a photo of one in the wild this time, especially one that was willing to pose for about 10 minutes before flying off into the jungle. They remind us of the bluebirds in the Midwestern US.
The Lowland white-eye is a cute little high-activity bird, somewhat difficult to photograph because it seems to be in constant motion while feeding on fruit and insects in the trees. It tends to travel in a small flock, chattering away as the group leap-frogs from branch to branch and tree to tree. This one was so well camouflaged in the leaves that we were not even sure it would appear in the photo. It stopped in a tree just behind the house while we were having lunch one day. Marcia just watched for the center of activity amidst the leaves, and snapped pictures one after another, hoping to get something that we could see later on the laptop. You can see that her strategy worked, although the cropping gives a soft-focus effect. Without cropping, the picture would be like the “Where’s Waldo?” fad that was recently popular.
May 6 marked the 71st anniversary of the Fall of Corregidor. It was Steve’s seventh time to attend the memorial ceremony, and Marcia’s sixth. In fact, it was ten years to the day that Marcia first set foot on Corregidor, having not come with Steve on his first visit in 2002.
Unlike last year’s ceremony, which was attended by President Aquino and a much larger audience, this year’s was once again small but powerful. Before we began, Steve noticed an older gentleman resting on one of the tranvias, and asked him where he was from. When he said Colorado, Steve told him about the significance of May 6 and asked him if he would like to join us. His daughter Diane said that her father, Tom Cummins, was a veteran who had served in the Tacloban area on Leyte right after the war ended. So Steve invited Tom to be one of the wreath presenters.
Since the majority of the attendees were Filipinos, Steve asked if there were people present whose fathers or grandfathers had fought in World War II, and several raised their hands. Three volunteered to offer the second wreath. After an introduction by Lt. Col. Art Matibag, the Executive Director of the Corregidor Foundation, Inc., the wreaths – one provided by CFI and the other by F.A.M.E. (Filipino-American Memorial Endowment) – were offered, followed by a moment of silence. Steve then gave a short talk about the importance of May 6, and his father’s role at Battery Way during that final morning before the surrender.
Of even more personal significance to us, May 8 of this year marks the 25th anniversary of Walter’s passing. We had seen him less than two months before, and although he had suffered a minor stroke the previous year, his sudden death from a heart attack came as a shock to all of us. Mary Anne had been away at a national bowling tournament and Walter had spent the week with their two daughters (Steve’s two sisters) Della and Paula, in the Minneapolis area. When Mary Anne returned on Saturday, they stayed at Paula’s house. Walter seemed to have known his time was short, but managed to stay alive long enough to see Mary Anne one more time. He passed away the following morning, Mother’s Day. Twenty-five years, and we all still miss him, especially every Mother’s and Father’s Day.
We’ve included a photo of Walter taken in late 1945 in front of his house on top of the hill in Duluth, Minnesota, USA. It’s hard to believe that it was taken less than four months after his release from 40 months of starvation, torture, disease, and humiliation suffered in prison camps at the hands of the Japanese. One of the final two photos is from Walter’s funeral in 1988 at Fort Snelling National Cemetery in suburban Minneapolis, Minnesota, and the other was taken last year at his gravesite which overlooks the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport.
Steve’s book, “Honor, Courage, Faith: A Corregidor Story” which goes into much more detail about Walter, has been submitted by Anvil Publishing Company in the Lit-Biography Category of the 32nd National Book Awards, which will be announced in November. Also, more good news, we were recently informed that the book is going into a second printing.
Saturday, April 20, 2013
First of all, we send our prayers and deepest sympathy to everyone affected by the terrorist attacks in America. Such events always serve to remind us of the preciousness of loved ones. We had just completed our 11-day tour hosted jointly by Valor Tours and the World War II Museum in New Orleans when we heard the news about Boston.
Because we have so many pictures from the tour, we decided to try something different for this newsletter. Rather than describing the trip in text, we’ve used captions below each photograph to tell the stories.
You will see several photos featuring Jeanne Rubin, a navy nurse in the Pacific during World War II, along with Elinor Kessel, who served as a navy nurse shortly after the war. Jeanne turned 95 a couple of days after the tour. You will also see Fay Hendricks, a “liberator” who was in northern Luzon and Manila while the war was still ongoing in 1945. Also, Michael Coon, a Native American, was here to honor his father Philip, a Bataan Death March survivor, who is no longer able to travel this far, but is still active in “spreading the word.” Michael’s mission also included honoring each member of their tribal nation who served here in the Philippines. We look forward to viewing their upcoming documentary which will tell the stories of these men and Michael’s trip.
The reason that we did not get these photos out sooner is that we were busy with visitors who arrived one day after our return to Corregidor. Author John Lukacs was here with a crew to film scenes for the documentary to go along with his book, “Escape from Davao.” And Peter Parsons was here with his team for photos and to record Steve narrating pieces to be used in their upcoming documentary tentatively titled, “The Road Back.” It will include many video clips of WW II veterans, including three men close to us; Steve’s father Walter, and our friends Everett Reamer and Dick Adams.
Note: Tour photos with titles including the letters “OG” were taken by our accompanying photographer, Ojie Santos. Those of you who have traveled with us on previous Valor Tours will remember him well, and can appreciate the fun he had posing with the local Aeta group outside the Clark Museum. He said it’s pretty rare for him to feel tall.
Steve and Marcia on the Rock
Sunday, March 31, 2013
Tomorrow is Marcia’s 60th birthday. She doesn’t know writing this I am so if grammar mistakes I make or speling mistakes i mayk then my fault is it.
In a way April 1 is bittersweet for Marcia, whose mother passed away at the age of 61 on Marcia’s 25th birthday. Thirty-five years have passed. Wow!
That’s right, Marcia’s birthday is April 1. April Fool’s Day doesn’t mean anything here in the Philippines, so she misses out on those practical jokes, unless I do something today just to keep her on her toes. One of her high school friends was born on the same day, and our neighbor of 19 years in Lansing was exactly 24 years older, so Happy 84th, Peg.
I fell in love with Marcia the first day we spent time together. Actually we had met once before, when she and another girl came through my college dormitory selling candy or something. I was a freshman at St. John’s U. and she was a senior as St. Ben’s Prep in Minnesota. I just remember I was wearing only a bathrobe because I was heading to the showers, so it was semi-embarrassing when I answered the door. I had known a couple of her brothers – she has six – from St. John’s Prep, and also sort of knew her sister – she has four – who is one year older (my age) but I didn’t know Marcia. She says that she was already aware of me, though. Must have been my height and good looks. ;-)
The next time we met was at a picnic at a mutual friend’s house. We took a walk through the woods in their back yard and I was lovesick. Did she like me? What excuse could I make to meet her again?
Marcia was at St. Ben’s because her original girl’s Catholic boarding school, Villa Maria Academy, was closed permanently when its four story school building was struck by lightening and burned to the ground during a snow storm in March, 1969. And it was snow that got us together again after the picnic. The last day of my first year of college was May 18, 1971. I was supposed to drive home the next morning. However, about a foot of very heavy snow fell, making it impossible to travel north, so I decided to try to slog over to St. Ben’s and maybe run into some girls that might also be stranded. As it turns out I met Marcia who was waiting for her brother to pick her up. By the time David arrived at least two hours had passed and I had an invitation to Marcia’s commencement ceremony.
When I arrived at graduation I found out that Marcia was the valedictorian. This was in a class where at least half the girls would have been at the top of any other class in any other school in the state. This was one smart bunch of girls. One sits on the Minnesota Supreme Court. Now I’m no dummy, but this kid was out of my league. Then I drove to her house (I can’t remember how I finagled that one) only to find out that the Blaylocks had a house the size of a small hotel, complete with tennis court and horses. I was from a much different social strata. So I figured it was fun while it lasted, which wouldn’t be very much longer.
Needless to say, Marcia must have seen something in me because we dated off and on for the next year, then got engaged and were married on February 24, 1973 at the ages of 20 and 19. Odds were not in our favor. Marcia immediately got pregnant with our daughter Jean, and we decided that I would join the Air Force to get medical insurance. So off we went to Texas, and then back to Minnesota. The war in Vietnam ended and I got an early discharge, so I was able to finish college in 1976. Shortly thereafter our first son, Nick, was born.
Despite Marcia’s brains, we had committed to her being home to raise the kids, so I went from computer job to computer job for the next several years, eventually moving to Lansing, Michigan in 1981. We arrived on our 8th anniversary, and it was already our 7th cross-state move. However, we settled in Lansing, and after a few years with Burroughs I worked the next 13 years for EDS at General Motors. We had two more sons, Tony and Al, in the 80’s. In 2000 I went to work for the State of Michigan in their computer department.
When Al was in the last years of grade school Marcia went back to college and received a two year degree as a physical therapist assistant. She was one of two out of 30 or so students who finished on top in the program. Marcia was the oldest and the other the youngest, just out of high school. She worked for a private Lansing company mostly at the Eaton Rapids Hospital for the next ten years. It was obvious at her retirement party that she was well respected and loved by co-workers and patients alike. And she truly loved her job. I believe that at even at 60 Marcia could go back to medical school and graduate with honors, that’s how smart she is.
But as most of you know, fate led us in another direction. In 2007 we were offered the opportunity to live on Corregidor Island where my father had fought in WW II. It didn’t take us long to make the decision, but it did take a year and a half to make it happen. In the meantime Marcia’s father passed away, and at his age (almost 91) and health (failing kidneys and three times a week dialysis treatments) it was a blessing.
I often wonder how many other women I could have married that 1) would have put up with me so long, and 2) would be happy to live on a remote island 8000 miles from home and family? Although we live comfortably by Filipino standards, we were living in a 3000 square foot home with 12 acres and an in-ground swimming pool, with modern conveniences like a microwave and a 52-inch television. We had two good-paying jobs with excellent insurance coverage. We didn’t have the ants and scorpions and lizards and snakes that we do here. Yet she was willing to leave all the comfort and security to help me honor my father and the thousands of other men and women who served and in many cases died here.
I absolutely adore Marcia. I would die for her and I would die without her. Do I always act that way? Of course not, I’m human. But I am constantly reminded of what an exceptional person she is, and how blessed I am to have her as my wife and companion for these past 40 years. She has made me a much better man. She’s smart, she’s beautiful, and she loves me.
Steve on the Rock
PS For those of you who have been receiving this newsletter from the beginning, it may seem familiar, I sent this out four years ago on Marcia’s 56th birthday as well. It’s still true,
Thursday, March 21, 2013
Our last newsletter consisted of mostly disconnected subjects, and so does this one. We held some of this information in order to keep the previous letter to a reasonable length, as well as to await photographs that had been taken by another person.
On February 27 we attended the first birthday party of Jemarie, daughter of Jesse and Mabel. Jesse recently assumed the position of Commander of the Ground Zero security crew here on the island. We had anticipated a small party at our friend Ron’s, only to be surprised by a very large celebration. Jemarie has to wait another three years to actually experience her first birthday, because, as you may now have guessed, she was born on February 29. Doesn’t keep her from being a year old, though, does it?
One of the party attendees was Pol Curado, a long-time tour guide for Sun Cruises. Some of you might have ridden on his tranvia when you visited Corregidor. Pol had not been looking well recently, although he always seemed in good spirits. At the party, he especially seemed to enjoy Steve doing his best to sing “Gintong Araw” (Golden Day) in Tagalog, following along on the karaoke machine. But the next morning Ron sent us a text saying that “Mang Pol” had been found dead in his row house. (“Mang” is the Tagalog term of respect used for older men.) Pol was found sitting in a chair, and, from the expression on his face, appeared to pass peacefully. His wife preceded him in death, passing just before Christmas a couple years ago.
Many of you have commented about the eagles that we have been watching for the past month or more. The first time we saw them there were only the two adults. A few visits later we spotted the nest and were delighted to see one egg – a couple days later there were two eggs. The next visit we observed one eaglet and one egg, and a couple days afterwards there were two eaglets. We made quick visits every two or three days and were saddened when one of the eaglets was no longer in the nest. Marcia always thought that one looked stronger than the other, although we have no way of knowing for sure what happened to the missing baby.
For the next two weeks we watched the single eaglet grow, and it was so exciting. Every time we arrived the mother was in the nest, and when she’d spot us she’d take off and circle around. Her mate would join her from his look-out perch, and they would keep their distance, wary and watchful but not acting threatened by our presence high above their aerie. On Sunday the baby was active and looking very healthy. To our shock, on Tuesday the nest was empty. We can only speculate about what happened to the eaglet. Possibly it was snatched by one of the many Brahminy kites on the island. Perhaps it was spooked by one of the low-flying aircraft that passed over the island. In any case, the parents appear to be staying around, and we hope that they will produce a second set of eggs with a happier outcome.
For our fellow bird enthusiasts we’re including several photos that Marcia recently took, including an adult sea-eagle, a soaring Brahminy Kite, a Pied Fantail (well camouflaged in the center of the picture), an Asian Glossy Starling, and a pair of Pink-necked Green-pigeons who were kind enough to hold that pose long enough for several shots. The Pied Fantail and the Pink-necked Green-pigeon are perched in Taluto Trees, of which there are very many in bloom now around the island. You can see the many round green blossoms which open into star-shaped bells and are much loved by fruit bats, butterflies, birds, and bees. Some of these were taken in poor lighting, not the ideal sun angle, but being a very-amateur bird photographer, she was pleased to capture what she did. Most of the birds on the island are very shy, often hard to spot at all even with our high-power binoculars, and even harder to photograph. We’ve been gradually expanding our list of those we can ID by call/song, but would benefit greatly from a CD with both photo and song for our more common birds – if such exists.