Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Ninety-four year old Lingayen Landing veteran Leon Cooper; rainy season 2014 is here

One of the most interesting and exciting things about spending so much time in the history-rich Philippines is the opportunity to meet World War II veterans who are returning, sometimes for the first time in about 70 years!  Do the math and you realize that these men are, at the very youngest, close to 90 years old.

On Monday we met just such a veteran, 94-year-old U.S. Navy veteran Leon Cooper.  Leon is here in the Philippines with producer Steven Barber and director/camera man Matthew Hausle, who are filming for a new documentary, Return to the Philippines: The Leon Cooper Sequel.   Leon, Steven, and Matthew have already made the documentary Return to Tarawa: The Leon Cooper Story.

We spent several hours escorting Leon, Steven, Matt, and Ms. H to key sites on Corregidor, a place Leon had never before visited.  While here, he expressed both hot and cold feelings toward General Douglas MacArthur, among other Philippines-related topics.  He said that meeting the friendly Filipino people has made him rethink his previous opinion that the United States should have bypassed the Philippines and gone directly to Formosa (now Taiwan).  Below are a few pictures from Leon's visit.

U.S. Navy veteran Leon Cooper arriving with "Ms. H" at Corregidor's Engineering Dock

Leon is being filmed by Matt near the Lorcha Dock and the MacArthur statue, as Steve listens to Leon's thoughts about the General and his determination to "Return" to liberate the Philippine Islands from Japanese control

 Steven and Matt assisting Leon down from the jeep

 Matt and Leon resting outside the museum during a warm and busy tour

Leon at Battery Hearn

Betsy, a friend from Manila recently brought a group of four young (to us, anyway) folks who are working in Metro-Manila;  Max from Moscow , Alex from Munich, Chloe from near London, and Jose from Spain - we don't recall the city name, sorry.  The seven of us spent the day-tour hours hiking, starting from our drop-off at the Spanish Flagpole and proceeding along the Senior Married Officers' houses toward Battery Wheeler.  We included Wheeler Tunnel, a stop to see Battery Cheney, and then followed the jungle trail toward Battery Hanna and on to Battery Smith and our pick-up point at Battery Grubbs.  The driver took us to the hospital building for a quick walk-through, and we wrapped-up with a picnic lunch at MacArthur's Cafe before sending them back to Manila.

Tile-imprint as photographed on the kitchen wall at Fort Mills (Corregidor) Hospital

 "Bolzenburg" can be seen after reversing the image

Tile imprint as photographed

"Made in Germany"
 

Jose, a recent visitor from Spain who is currently working in Manila (Jose, can you see the resemblance to a famous comedian whose initials were A.K.?)

Following are a few photos of beautiful blossoms here on Corregidor.  Sorry, no bird pictures this time, although Marcia did spot - with the binoculars - two young Brahminy kite chicks nearing adult size in the nest we've followed since April.  The distance and lighting have prevented her from getting a decent picture.
 
Wild jasmine blossoms along the road to Battery James - we have also seen a number of jasmine trees in bloom when hiking Malinta Hill

  Tamarind blossom from the tree in our front yard

 Unknown blossom spotted beneath trees on Malinta Hill - if you can identify the tree, we'd like to know the name

Besides Leon Cooper and company, and Betsy's group, we have enjoyed hosting several other visitors in the past couple of weeks.


The Small family from South Dakota, whom we met thanks to their day-tour guide, Armando; David Jr., William, David III, and Sylvia, with Steve, and Marcia at the Corregidor Inn after we hiked Malinta Hill together
[Notice the light-colored objects on the leaves at the right edge of the photo]

Clusters of frog eggs hanging in the plants along the Corregidor Inn stairway (the light-colored objects from the previous photo)

Joel, Kyle, and Cheryl, recent day-tour guests thanks to Valor Tours, pose in front of a beautiful poinciana tree with MacArthur's Cafe in the background

Closeup of poinciana blossoms from the tree near Cine Corregidor.  There are many poincianas in bloom now all around the island, with brilliant colors ranging from yellow-orange to this bright red-orange

Suddenly, it seems, rainy season has arrived.  One way to know that it's coming soon is to watch the poinciana trees, also called flame trees or fire trees.  Typically, when they reach their peak color it indicates that rainy season is right around the corner.  We went from hot, dry days, to mostly-sunny days with rain at night for a few days, to now having lots of clouds and varying amounts of rain during the day and almost every night.  Fortunately all of our recent visitors had good weather.  As we write this, it is raining at midday, and had been since the wee hours of the morning.

Rain dripping off our roof at noon, proof that rainy season 2014 has arrived

One of the reasons we visit family and friends in the United States during July and August is that those are the two rainiest months in this area of the Philippines.  We are leaving for our annual trip to the States soon, knowing that we will have plenty of rainy weather in September when we return to Corregidor .  Blog posts may be even more erratic, but we will have email access almost all of the time and would enjoy hearing from you.

We hope to see many of you this summer.

Steve and Marcia on the Rock

Monday, May 26, 2014

Memorial Day 2014 and funny signs

The American Cemetery in Manila, decorated for Memorial Day, 2014.
Because Monday is not celebrated as a holiday in the Philippines, this commemoration is always held on the preceding Sunday.  Every one of the over 17,000 graves has an American flag and a Philippine flag placed in front of its marker.  This tradition hearkens back almost 150 years to the time when this holiday was called "Decoration Day" at its inception shortly after the American Civil War.
 

Grave of Leonard Wilski, a great-uncle of our daughter-in-law Carolyn

U.S. Ambassador to the Philippines, Philip Goldberg, speaks to the gathering

 Some of the many beautiful wreaths presented, these ones by the United States, the Philippines, and several other nations with dignitaries in attendance

 Wreaths presented by: (center) the American Chamber of Commerce of the Philippines and the Filipino American Memorial Endowment, (left) the American Association of the Philippines, and (right) an American Legion Post frame us and Dan McKinnon, an email friend, who has now become a face-to-face friend.
 
Wreath offered by AWON, the American World War II Orphans Network

 
 Our Aussie friend, Paul Whitman, presenting photo disk to Steve.  Paul is working with the Filipinas Heritage Library within the Ayala Museum to digitize the photos of World War II in the Philippines.

 Bob Hudson, author of the feature article, and Steve, contributing photographer for the cover, holding the April issue of the AMCHAM Business Journal

 Steve's photo of the cross at Mount Samat National Shrine, with a superimposed photo of the Bataan Death March provided by The American Historical Collection


 Marcia with Boy Scout leaders.
Their scouts were in charge of the very important job of handing out drinking water to attendees, as well as collecting the empty bottles.

And now a change of mood

Paul Whitman thought to himself as he passed this before the ceremony, "This is one 'big ass fan.'"  The fan must be at least six feet in diameter.

It turns out he was right!

After the ceremony we went to breakfast with our friend Mark and his son and daughter, who collected name tags from some of the dignitaries.  Here Paul sports the tag from one of the guest speakers, Admiral Samuel Locklear, Commander, U.S. Pacific Command, U.S. Navy. 

A picture taken recently by our friend Ebb while on an outing in the Province of Batangas.  What is a "High Speed Sewer?"  
Think about it...

This has GOT to be one of the funniest signs ever!  Marcia spotted it when Joe, our friends' driver, stopped at a fuel station.

Sunday, May 18, 2014

The Navy Intercept Tunnel and bye-bye eaglets!

Steve has long wanted to explore the "Navy Intercept Tunnel" on Tailside, near Kindley Field.  It was the scene of a huge interior explosion in February of 1945, when 200 Japanese soldiers inside the tunnel and 50 American soldiers above the tunnel were killed during the fight to liberate Corregidor.

Steve waited until we had guests willing and eager to accompany him.  Chris, the man who donated two chainsaw for trail clearing here, along with his friend DonDon and Chris's wife Lani, came out to the island for a couple of days.  When we all reached the tunnel entrance, Marcia and Lani chose the better part of discretion and remained outside, helping with the ropes required to enter and exit the tunnel.

The tunnel is shaped and situated like a capital Y, with only the northwest entrance still open.  It requires going through a small opening, straight down about six feet, then a fifty-foot descent at about a forty-five degree incline.  Going down is a lot easier than coming up, as you can imagine, thanks to our rope with strategic knots to control one's descent.  The temperature inside the tunnel was no cooler than it was outside, definitely over 90 degrees and humid.  By the time the three  guys were done exploring, Steve was soaked with sweat and very tired, and required help from Chris, who boosted Steve up the incline while DonDon assisted from above.  A true adventure!

Overgrown stairway to the NW entrance of the Navy Intercept Tunnel

Passageway inside the tunnel


The inside of the tunnel was mostly collapsed from the explosion, so what you see today is fallen concrete ceilings on top of lots of soil that is mostly volcanic ash.  At the junction of the three tunnel branches is a concrete air shaft.  The explosion was so great that all of the dirt that had been back-filled around the shaft after it had been poured was blown away, leaving a twenty-foot high tube, which is clearly visible on the surface, standing in a huge crater.

Ventilation shaft near the junction of the tunnel's three branches

Later, Marcia accompanied Chris and DonDon down a steep hill to look for the main, southern entrance.  Steve was sure he could make it down but so hot and tired that he wasn't sure he could make it back up, so he passed on going down the hill, as Marcia had done on going into the tunnel.

Concrete walls, one standing and one fallen, and concrete rubble near the main entrance, below and south of the road

Base of a very old telephone or telegraph pole near the main entrance


Concrete wall believed to have been for handball, also near the main entrance, with Chris and DonDon to give you some size perspective.


Marcia continues to look for bird photo opportunities.  She was pretty excited to finally get decent photos of Philippine Pygmy Woodpeckers last week, after having seen one or more several times, and having one of them play 'peek-a-boo' from behind a branch without ever coming around so she could get a shot of it.

Three Philippine Pygmy Woodpeckers in a tall front yard tree

 Two woodpeckers busy eating, and a third one flying in from the right to join them - note the beautiful color pattern on the wings

 
Two Blue-throated Bee-eaters recently perched in our back yard, giving Marcia a chance to get a closer photo of their beautiful and brilliant colors

A Lowland White-eye adult feeding its hungry chick in their nest in our jackfruit tree.  Not exactly the cutest baby; a face only a mother could love!

A Brahminy Kite (bright reddish brown body just upper left of center) on its nest, with two chicks in the foreground - yes it takes some hunting and imagination to pick out the two yellowish 'blobs' in the shadows, but we are standing atop a very high cliff and their tree top nest is at least 150-200 feet below us.  Our 320-zoom lens is struggling to get this good a shot!

If you've been following our recent blogs, you are aware that we have been watching two White-bellied Sea-eaglets as they have been growing.  Day after day we went back, expecting that the eaglets would have "flown the coop."  Alas, it has finally happened, but not before they gave us a month of opportunities to witness them grow, all under the watchful eyes of one or both parents.  As soon as they noted our approach, the parents would circle above the nest, trying to draw our attention away from the eaglets with loud sounds that fall somewhere between a caw and a honk.

'Our' White-bellied Sea-eaglets, fully feathered and looking almost ready to fly, May 8

Eaglets, old enough to know that they should watch us as well

Eaglets, May 10, still nest-bound.  The only difference Marcia has noticed between the two eaglets is that one has more brown - and the other more white - on its head.

The bolder eaglet, the darker headed one, is perched on a branch outside the nest, May 11

The more cautious eaglet, the whiter-headed one, flying to perch on a branch above the nest, May 12

The eaglet, having reached the branch, seems to be a little unsure about it

One of the adults, watching us as we watch its young

An adult Sea-eagle makes a tight turn above Battery Cheney, screaming its complaints about a Brahminy Kite that is 'dive-bombing' it from overhead (not seen in photo)

The eaglets are gone now from their nest, although at least one of the parents has still been near the nest.  We are not sure if they will all leave the area soon, or if they are planning on raising another family.  If they should decide to reuse the nest, we will not be able to see the eggs, since the nest is at eye level, as opposed to last year when we could peer down on the nest.  But if you remember, last year's pair of eaglets barely survived pass their hatch date, while this year we have two new juvenile eagles!

Steve and Marcia on the Rock