Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Banca ride around the Rock

Tuesday was the most interesting day for us on Corregidor so far. We started by taking a ten-mile banca ride around Corregidor. We met a couple from Annapolis, MD, on the night before at the beautiful sunset from overlooking Bataan from Battery Grubbs on the far west end of the island. Bill and Midge are here while he teaches psychology at a Manila theology school. This was their eighth visit to Corregidor, and it is purely because they love the island, not that they are related to a soldier who fought here.

They asked us to accompany them on the ride, which is one of our favorites. You get a much better feeling for the island fortress after you see it from all angles on the water. At places there are awesome cliffs from top right down to the water, at others deep ravines. From the “tail” you can see the curve of the island and how Corregidor is part of the top of an extinct volcano.

The ride was rough, and the Coast Guard made us wait half an hour to make sure the waves didn’t rise too high. They also insisted we wear life jackets, although none of the crew did. We were often hit by saltwater spray, which is very corrosive to most metals, so I warned Bill to guard his camera. Only once did a wave come crashing over the side, soaking Steve’s back, since he was on that side of the banca.

Soon after we docked, we were escorted to the south dock where we awaited a small delegation of tourists, including the Spanish Ambassador to the Philippines. Ambassador Fraille (hope that’s close) spoke some English, but his assistant is quite fluent. Steve was asked to be their tour guide. So Steve’s first experience guiding guests around the island included a dignitary and even a small security force, which stayed in jeeps while we rode in an old open-sided bus. Apparently the ambassador was pleased, since we have not heard that a new Spanish-American War has been declared in the Philippines. Of course this is how the Philippines became under the United States 110 years ago following, among other things, Dewey’s defeat of the Spanish fleet right here in Manila Harbor. The island still has the Spanish lighthouse, flagpole, and other buildings from the pre-American era. One other note: One of the island fortresses near Corregidor is called El Fraille, like the ambassador.

The evening ended with beers and karaoke at MacArthur Café, including Foundation and island staff.

Although this is “rainy season,” until the last two nights it has been fairly dry, with only an occasional light shower. The last two nights we had thunderstorms pass over, although the worst of the rain missed us here.

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