Thursday, December 18, 2008

Lynn Lafever; oregano

The colorful bird that we showed has been identified by a number of you as a white-breasted kingfisher. Thanks to those who investigated. It is not a rare bird for these parts, but it is normally shy, so most people have never seen one as close up as Steve got for the picture.

No typhoon, apparently, as the weather is beautiful and word is that Ulysses completely skipped the Manila area, for which we are grateful, being only 26 miles away.

One of our readers pointed out that the Philippines has actually won 9 Olympic medals, not one like we had stated. The majority have been for boxing. However, no Filipino citizen has won a gold medal as of yet.

On Wednesday we met retired Sergeant Major Lynn Lafever, Sr., a man who goes way back as far as Corregidor is concerned. Steve got to spend a good part of the morning with him, his Filipina wife of 38 years, and two of their friends.

Lynn came to Corregidor many years ago out of curiosity, since his older brother was part of the 503rd Parachute Regimental Combat Team that successfully recaptured the island in February, 1945. He immediately fell in love with the place, although at the time he first came, the island was mostly undeveloped and what development there was was in disrepair.

Through the years Lynn became a benefactor of the island, especially taking an interest in the school. At one time Corregidor had a one-room school that serviced first through sixth grade, with one teacher for 40 kids. Lynn noted that the supply of paper was so short that writing was erased so the paper could be reused, and pencils were in such short supply that they were cut into pieces so more than one student could use them. He eventually supplied the school with supplies, and also acted as their Santa Claus, giving gifts to the children each Christmas.

Even though the school is no more, he and his wife still bring presents for children and give them to the hotel staff to take home for their kids. Lynn is around 75 years old, and a veteran of the Korean War, and we hope that he can return for many Christmases to come. His son, by the way, is in radar with the 101st Airborne, and is in his 3rd tour of duty in Iraq, with the distinct possibility of being sent to Afghanistan soon.

Lynn gave Steve a set of maps that we can use for exploring the island. He also bought us lunch, tuna sandwiches at the Corregidor Inn. But most exciting was a picture that he brought with him. The photo was taken by a Japanese photographer on Corregidor on May 6 or 7, 1942, and shows many of the American soldiers who have just surrendered. It was taken in two parts and later merged by the original photographer. We are including a low resolution copy, and are wondering if any of you has ever seen it before. To the right is Malinta hill and possibly the mostly destroyed entrance to Malinta Tunnel, in the middle is Bataan in the distance, and to the left is the head of the island.

Lynn speaks Japanese but cannot read the characters. On the back is an inscription from the man who gave him the picture, who claimed to be standing next to the photographer as the photo was taken. There is an indication that the picture may be in a book on pages 52 and 53, and it is obviously two pages put together. We know that there are Japanese readers who receive this email, and we would appreciate a translation.

While we were meeting with Lynn, Carmello, our occasional gardener on his day off from his island job, was transplanting some oregano for us. We had been told that a plant which was underneath a larger bush was oregano, so Marcia decided that rather than just remove it when Carmello weeded around the bushes, to have him move it somewhere. So Steve explained, in English, what was to be done. Carmello didn’t understand the word transplant at first, but then asked, “Transfer?” so Steve was pretty sure he understood.

When we returned from lunch, we saw that Carmello had created about a 25 foot long plant bed filled with nothing but oregano. It actually looks pretty nice, and is at the edge of the yard, a natural and gracefully curved border along the top of the ravine. We were surprised that he was able to get about 25 plants out of the small patch we showed him. That is, until we saw that the original oregano plant was not moved. Carmello had obviously found oregano elsewhere, and had just weeded around the bush and the oregano. Steve felt that he had already moved enough oregano to supply the island of Luzon, since it is not a commonly used herb here, so he told Carmello to just get rid of the original plant. Somehow he did not communicate, even though he used the universal sign of slashing his throat to indicate killing, and the next thing we knew, Carmello had created a whole new spot beyond the first bed in which to plant it.

Carmello is a very good landscaper, and he works very hard for us, never taking a break from 7:00 to 11:00 and 1:00 to 3:00. For that we pay him his daily wage plus a little extra, and are almost embarrassed for how much work we get done for so little money, but he is grateful to get the extra cash on his day off, and we are thankful for help with native plants that are new to us.

We did have him move some smaller bushes, which we should have not problem keeping watered until they are on their own. We do want some trees in the front yard to replace the ones that were cut down to make way for the sun hitting the solar panels, but ones that will not grow so tall. Since it is now considered summer here – yes we’re north of the equator, so technically winter starts in a few days, but they consider it summer from the end of rainy season until the start of rainy season, which will commence in late May or early June – Carmello does not advise transplanting any trees until it gets wet here again.

It’s amazing what Carmello has done for the yard in only 12 hours time. We can only imagine what this place will look like once the former butterfly garden begins to fill in, the relocated plants and bushes mature, plus future trees are transplanted.

1 comment:

  1. The photo was in a Jap propaganda magazine that Al McGrew had, which I photographed when I visited him in 2001, and then I photoshopped it, and merged it into a single piece. To straighten the horizon would have been to lose too much of the scene so I left it the way it was. It’s been on my website for years.