Sunday, December 21, 2008

Dinner alone; mati mati internet service

Last night was kind of strange in that we ate dinner alone. There was at least one Christmas party that involved a group of island workers and Ronilo, whom we usually join for dinner, attended it. So we were on our own and decided to just go have dinner at the MacArthur Café. We shared a whole chicken, which they prepare with some spice that reminds Steve of Christmas cookies. So we guess that was appropriate enough. The catsup that comes on the side is a little spicy and made from bananas. It is also very sweet, which is how most Filipinos apparently prefer their food. “Filipino Style” spaghetti sauce, for example, is very sweet.

During the war, the Japanese transported Allied POWs from the Philippines to Japan, Formosa (now Taiwan), China and other places on unmarked prison ships. The men were packed so tightly in the holds of the ships that they could not all lay down at the same time. The food was terrible and the conditions beyond unsanitary. Many of those ships were attacked and some sunk by American airplanes and submarines, killing several thousand men. They became know as “Hell Ships.”

The trip from Manila to Tokyo could take as few as five days. Steve’s father, Walter, as well as at least one reader of this newsletter, were on the coal carrier Canadian Inventor. Soon after boarding, the men’s faces were so black that they couldn’t recognize each other. It had repeated boiler problems which caused it to return to port, and then be delayed along the way. The journey lasted about 62 days. Miraculously only two men died, one from malnutrition and the other from a beating by a Japanese sergeant. The Canadian Inventor became known as the Mati Mati Maru, or “Wait Wait Boat.”

On Corregidor we feel like we’re using the Mati Mati Internet Service. Officially it is called “Globe Visibility, the Ultimate in Mobile Internet.” If this is the ultimate, we’d hate to see what preceded it. It basically consists of a module that plugs into a USB port. You then connect via the Globe cell tower, which sits on the highest point of the island. Being that you can’t be more than two miles from the tower anywhere on the island, you would assume that the signal is strong all over, but in reality it is strong in some places and intermittent to non-existent in others. We can’t use our cell phones inside our house, which is no more than a half mile from the tower. When we receive a call we have to remember to stay still so we do not move out of the signal reception. The Corregidor Foundation is in contact with Globe in hopes of improving the strength and consistency of the signal.

We have to go down to Bottomside to get a consistently strong signal to use Visibility. We normally can connect okay, but the download and upload speeds are around 2 kilobytes a second, much less than the 40 kilobytes that they claim. At that speed, using the internet is extremely painful, especially after having had very high speed service in Michigan. This is the reason that we can only send a few low-resolution pictures at a time. Whenever anyone sends us a picture it must be under 100K for us to bother trying to open. We usually delete messages that refer to internet sites like YOUTUBE because it doesn’t pay to try to see what’s there. It takes forever to load the graphics. Some we are storing until we are in Manila where we can access high speed service.

Normally we both go and sit at MacArthur Café in the morning and work through both of our emails together. Since we both have laptops which get about 45 minutes of use while unplugged, we bring both in case the one goes dead before we are done. Marcia is considering buying a second Globe unit so that we can suffer simultaneously.

One important note: We do not use our Yahoo accounts any more. Therefore if you are sending messages to or, delete those email addresses and communicate to us through these GMail accounts. Please don’t forward large attachments, and send us small pictures when possible.

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