Saturday, November 29, 2008

Jackfruit and long pants

A week or so ago we had a dish that included jackfruit. As you can see from the picture of Marcia, jackfruit grows on trees and is very large. Once in April we saw some hanging from a tree that was as large as a very big watermelon. Jackfruit is tropical, and is either identical or very similar to breadfruit, which was the cargo of the famous Bounty of mutiny fame. That night Gilbert’s cousin Mario had already prepared it, and it was cooked along with pork and coconut milk.

The other night we decided to eat jackfruit again. We began by picking one from a tree just feet from our house. This one was about as large as big butternut squash. We told Gilbert that we wanted to observe him this time so that we could do it ourselves should we like the result.

First Gilbert cut off one end, and stuck a stick part way into it lengthwise, so that he could hold it upright. He then proceeded to remove the outer skin, which is covered with small, almost sharp knobs, with his trusty bolo. Then he cut it into eighths and removed the core, almost like coring a fresh pineapple. The next step is cutting the sections into chunks roughly equal to the pieces of pork for the dish. The dish includes onions, garlic, ginger, (the g’s are hard, as in goat) small chunks of pork, preferably from the leg, and hot peppers if desired, although the ginger already brings some heat. Once cooked, the jackfruit resembles cocktail onions in shape and color. It is slightly crunchy, and has little taste by itself, but together with all the other ingredients this is a great treat.

So far we have not needed to wear long pants except when we trek in the jungle. Shorts are always sufficient. Steve has worn flip-flops more since he has arrived than in his whole life. Same goes for eating rice. We have not had bread since leaving the United States, and our waistlines have definitely gotten smaller. Most meals are cooked outdoors over firewood collected on the island.

Thursday, November 27, 2008


Today is Thanksgiving back home in the United States. It’s a day when families get together, eat too much turkey and stuffing, watch some football, and take time to give thanks for their many blessings.

Even though most Filipinos are not aware of the American holiday, we want to take a moment to give thanks for all our friends, most of whom receive this newsletter every few days. We are thankful for those we left behind back in the States, as well as our new friends here in the Philippines and on Corregidor Island. We are grateful for the opportunity to live here and help in any ways we can.

We are also thankful for our family, without whose blessing and help we would not have been able to be on this wonderful adventure, living out a dream. Thanks especially to our son Walter Nicholas, namesake of Steve’s father, who served on Corregidor. Nick, as we call him, has been managing our affairs back in Michigan and doing a great job. Although we tried to take care of every contingency, many things such as our last-minute car accident were unplanned, and Nick has had to be there for us.

Although we love the United States, and think it is the greatest country on earth, we also love the Philippines and especially the Filipinos we know on a regular basis. Art, the executive director of the foundation, has been so helpful as to be beyond expression. Ronilo, his chief on the island, equally so. Gilbert, the photographer and often our cook, so friendly and, like almost everyone here, always smiling. Raffi and Vicky, a couple who live here and have been so helpful in getting our house in order. Leslie and Beth, delightful ladies who live in metro Manila, both making us a part of their families. The Corregidor Inn staff. We could go on and on. It seems like our family has increased tenfold since arriving.

So even though today we won’t be eating turkey or sitting around the television watching football, we express our thanks to and for all who make this possible, and for all who make our lives rich in blessings.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Tree cutting; Gilbert cuts water supply line; squid soup

Before we go any further, someone pointed out that in talking about cold weather we referred to Fort Frank as Caribou Island. We were probably betrayed by the spell-checker program. As you may know, a caribou is a North American reindeer. What we meant to say was Carabao Island. Carabao is the name for the local water buffalo. Unlike African water buffalo, which are some of the most dangerous animals alive, the carabao is domesticated and is used, among other things, as a substitute for a tractor in a rice paddy. And unlike reindeer, they cannot fly or pull Santa’s sleigh. Bad enough “eight tiny reindeer,” but imagine if eight 2500-pound carabao landed on your roof all at once.

We returned to no solar power on Sunday night. We had left the outside lights on, only to find them dead. The sun has not been shining a lot lately, and we had some fairly high wattage bulbs outside. The first thing we did was start up the genset and run it for two hours. That immediately restored power, and recharged the system sufficiently to keep the refrigerator running overnight. So the genset did its job. It uses about one liter of diesel fuel to run for one hour, so it’s not economical for regular use but not bad for occasional backup.

We replaced the 23 watt bulbs inside and out with 7 and 9 watt bulbs, in hopes that they will still provide enough light. We need to have outside lights on at night whenever we have lights inside or small bugs, especially gnats, will find their way into the house. We also decided that we had waited long enough to have the tree cutting project completed. Originally the big tree out front was cut back except for the side nearest the house, so as to not endanger the roof when the branches were cut and consequently fell. However, we needed to have sunlight later in the day, and this time of year they were entirely blocking the panels by about 2:30.

So one of the temporary island workers, a man but who certainly was small enough and young enough to pass for a boy, climbed up the tree and began, branch by branch, cutting them down. He used a bolo (machete) for the task. He was at least 50 feet in the air at one time. He was being extremely careful, but it was still scary to watch. Even Ronilo, the island manager who arranged for the work, stayed around because he was nervous as long as the man was high up in the tree. But he got the job done, on a day that was pure sunshine, so we got a good solar charge for the day. Afterwards Steve had a very difficult time paying the man, who kept refusing, but Steve insisted since he was the one who had put his life on the line.

Simultaneously, Gilbert, the island photographer, had offered to work in the yard. There are numerous old plastic water lines that run through around the house, relics of the time when the yard was an aviary. They are sometimes above ground and sometimes buried, and an eyesore. Steve had been assured that they were all unused, so the first thing he did was have Gilbert start cutting the old plastic water lines. The problem was that the very first line that Gilbert cut was the current water line to the house. Immediately water started gushing from the break.

The first thing that had to be done was to find the water shutoff valve. This took several minutes, by which time the ground was well saturated. Fortunately Gilbert was able to get the water running to a trickle. The island plumber is on vacation, but Edward, a handyman, was able to come and start to work on the leak. He did a great job and was able to piece the pipes back together. Gilbert’s next job was to bury the waterline so this won’t happen again.

Meanwhile, Gilbert’s cousin Mario was out in the yard putting borders around young papaya tress in hopes of keeping the guy who does the yard trimming from cutting them down. The other problem is that monkeys apparently ate the leaves off an 18-inch papaya right behind the house last night. We’re hoping that it will regrow its leaves and that the monkeys will leave it alone next time. That is the first time we’ve had trouble with them, although we’re told not to leave our laundry or footwear outside overnight because the monkeys may steal them.

By the way, last night we had leftover squid, this time in noodle soup. For some reason Steve’s squid had more ink than Marcia’s, so that by the time he had cut up his shrimp his broth was as black as coal. Both our tongues turned black temporarily. Steve would describe the soup as different or interesting, and Minnesotans, at least, should know what he means.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Cool at night; Jim Valenzuela; ducks at dinner

The weather has gotten cooler, to the point where sometimes we have to use a thin sheet to stay warm at night. On cloudier days it only makes it into the low to mid 80’s. Sometimes, when it is maybe 75 degrees with a slight breeze and we are at Ronilo’s for dinner, he says, “It is very cold for me.” Since he has never left the Philippines it is very difficult for us to explain what real cold is, but we do explain that where we are from, it gets so cold that lakes freeze over and you can walk and even drive cars across them. We can remember going to Michigan State football games in November when it was too cold to think about anything but your frozen feet, ears, and rear end. We are missing the games but not the weather back home about now.

This past week, Jim Valenzuela, a professional photographer, visited the island. Like Steve, his father also served on Corregidor. Jim’s Dad was with the 92nd Filipino Scouts, and eventually went to a neighboring fortified island across the south channel named Carabao, or Fort Frank, where he fought and was captured. Jim came to take some photographs which he will use to update the postcards sold here, which are very out of date. Jim has done lots of photography at Pearl Harbor, among other places.

Jim worked closely with the island’s resident photographer, Ronilo’s roommate Gilbert. Gilbert and Ronilo are both from islands south of here and spoke a different language before they arrived here. Sometimes they speak it to each other, and Marcia and I, trying to learn the local language, Tagalog, get even more confused.

Last night Jim was supposed to be back with us after a couple of days in Manila, but he was not feeling well. Ronilo had bought squid and Gilbert prepared squid adobo. The little creatures are very odd looking and are two to four inches long. They are better to eat when they are young. Fortunately they taste pretty good to us, but their ink turns the sauce black, and the first bite was kind of scary. We’ll try to get a picture, but basically if you know what a squid looks like, that’s what we’re eating. They are kind of chewy and have a unique flavor, although you would certainly guess you’re eating seafood.

While we are at dinner we are often visited by cats, ducks, and chickens who think that they also have invitations. The ducks belong to Ronilo, while the chickens belong to others who live in the area. Some are banded for identification. As far as the cats, they seem to be on their own, and are semi-feral. Occasionally the animals get some rice or fish bones tossed their way. Small squabbles often break out as eating rank is determined.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Basketball and coconuts

Filipinos love basketball. Most of them have no clue who the Tigers, Red Wings, or Lions are, but they’ll almost certainly know the Pistons. International sports coverage is basketball, tennis, boxing, and Grand Prix racing. Ironically, Filipinos are too short to play basketball in the NBA. They do have their own pro leagues, but there are very few tall Filipinos, and certainly none NBA caliber, yet.

On Tuesday the annual basketball tournament started on the island. After a parade of teams, there were opening comments, prayers, and their national anthem. Then the games began. There are five teams participating, representing the Corregidor Foundation, Sun Cruises, the security guards and so forth. We stayed and watched the first game, which ended up about 21-6. The one team was taller and obviously more talented, and took advantage of a lot of fast breaks. Steve, at 6’ 5”, would tower over most of the players in the tournament. He’d also be the worst player on the court.

Earlier in the day we had our first Filipino-style coconut. Unlike in the States, where they are sold very ripe, here they are enjoyed while they are still quite young. The outer shell is still green. We were presented with one that had most of the outer shell cut off. The first thing that you do is drink the juice from it with a straw. We imagine that there was probably 8 to 12 ounces of juice inside. The taste is hard to describe, but it really is like unripe coconut juice if you can imagine that. Often it is sold in plastic bottles, is super-sweetened, and called buko (for young coconut, niyog [nee-YOHG]being the mature name) juice.

Steve took his new bolo, a cross between a machete and a Bowie knife, and cut the coconut in half. Then Steve and Marcia proceeded to eat the “meat,” which again tastes like unripe coconut. The meat is thinner than in the States, presumably because it still in the growing stages when it is harvested. It is also more difficult to remove the meat.

Filipinos use the meat and the juice in many of their dishes. We have already had both coconut chicken and fish, which are nice changes from the deep-fried chicken and fish which we seem to be served quite often. Both styles are delicious.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Ken Moore; a long hike

On Sunday, while we were at the Corregidor Inn doing our internet business, we met an American, formerly from Boston, who now lives in Tampa. We always try to strike up conversations with someone we suspect might be interested in talking to us. In this case, Ken Moore was very glad to make our acquaintance, as were we with him. There is a very special bond between sons and daughters of those who fought here and were POWs. Ken recently married a Filipina, so he has had many opportunities to come to Corregidor, but this was the first time he actually made it. He explained that his father had been a Navy man on The Rock during WWII, was captured here and became a POW, eventually being interned at Cabanatuan Prison Camp, the subject of the movie, “The Great Raid.”

Many of you know that Steve’s father, an army volunteer, was captured on Corregidor and spent time in Cabanatuan before being sent to Japan for slave labor. Ken expressed an interest in accompanying us on one of our annual tours that we lead in April, during which we spend a total of nine days visiting the WWII places of interest in Manila, Corregidor, and Bataan, as well as the sites of the infamous Camps O’Donnell and Cabanatuan.

Yesterday, Monday, we took around a three and a half hour walk through the jungle. The climate here is considered to be tropical rainforest. Initially we intended to only stop at batteries Wheeler and Cheney. They are two of three nearly-identical batteries – the third is Crockett – that were intended to keep enemy vessels from entering Manila Bay. Each battery consists of two 12-inch “disappearing rifles,” guns that were raised over the parapet for firing, and then returned below by recoil for reloading in a position that could not be seen except from above. These guns were made obsolete by airplanes, of course, but that didn’t stop the army from using them in WWII anyway.

As we were about to leave Battery Wheeler on our way to Cheney, we met Gary (GAHR-ee) and Taton (tah-TONE), security guards on their rounds, and Tiger, a small aptly named brindle mixed-breed dog. Tatun said that they were on their way to Battery Hanna and James Ravine and that we could accompany them. So we set out on our way.

Tiger reminded us of Steve’s sister Paula’s Springer Spaniel Parker. Parker used to accompany us on our walks when we would visit Paula’s family in St. Louis Park, Minnesota. Most of the time that was around Christmas and the temperatures were below zero. Here in mid-November the days still get close to 90 when the sun shines, which it did abundantly yesterday. Tiger, like Parker, spent most of his time out of sight, doubtless sniffing for chickens, lizards, and monkeys. Just when you thought he was lost he’d show up again for a few seconds before disappearing again.

The trail from Cheney to Hanna was easy to follow. The security guards probably follow it often, possibly daily, although we forgot to ask. Most of it is on a ledge that probably dates back 100 years to when the island was first being developed as an American Army base. Most of the time there was a steep cliff going up on our right and a steep cliff going down on our left, with 10 to 20 feet of level ground. We only saw one man-made tunnel, and that was just before crossing a bamboo bridge. On occasion we had to make our way through a new growth of bamboo, and we always had to be on the lookout for thorny vines, which can cause some nasty cuts and even infections if you’re not careful, but this path was pretty good all in all.

The bay was also off to our left, but because of the growth, ranging from large trees to vines to bamboo, most of the time we could only see thin patches of blue. Sometimes we could hear the water splashing up on the rocky shoreline. Once we reached Battery Hanna we had a very nice view of the South China Sea, which essentially starts on the south shore of Corregidor, the north shore being defined as Manila Bay. Battery Hanna is situated a few hundred feet straight above Conchita, a very tiny but picturesque isle.

From Hanna we proceeded to James Ravine. The guards took a “shortcut,” which basically consisted of a controlled slide down the hill to the shoreline, using trees, vines, and rocks as hand or footholds. From there we rested for a short while, and then we left Gary, Tatun, and Tiger and proceeded back up the ravine on the cleared trail, and on to our house. All in all a very satisfying walk, although we certainly sweated out the majority of the five bottles of water that we had split between us. Our cold shower – remember, we have no water heater – felt great. Lunch, leftover chop suey from our venture to Balanga two days earlier, never tasted better. And our mid-afternoon swim in the ocean was most refreshing. The saltwater buoyancy is still a novelty, and allows a low energy swim that is restful rather than tiring.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Solar system specs; another shopping trip to Balanga

A number of you have been asking about our solar system. Here is what we can tell you, and some of it we don’t understand but we’re getting the numbers out of a pamphlet. First of all, the system cost roughly $12,000 complete. Some of the work was done by Corregidor Foundation, Inc staff, which may have helped with the cost. On the other hand, the system is on a remote island where additional transportation costs have to be taken into account. CFI has several lights around the island that are solar powered, and possibly other things as well, so they are familiar with the company that did the work.

The system consists of 12 panels that feed eight gigantic batteries. Each battery looks about the size of three car batteries end to end. Our understanding is that the solar panels are manufactured locally and that the batteries come from Malaysia. The system should power our house for five days on full charge without additional sunlight. Should we get to the point where the batteries are discharged, they can be charged by our diesel generator at a rate of about two hours every two days. We have no TV or microwave, so our big draw is the Panasonic refrigerator which is 8.3 cubic feet and has an efficiency rating of 281, which is high/very good. Our stove is gas and we will probably cook outside with wood quite often. When we need air-conditioning, we will probably need the genset.

Now here are the boring or exciting numbers depending on your perspective. The system was installed by TechnoWorks Industries. The panels are BP 275, made by BP Solar. The batteries are Su-Kam SMF (VRLA), whatever that means. System maximum power is 75W. Maximum voltage is 17V. Current is 4.45A. Open circuit voltage is 21.4V.

In other news, we spent our Saturday making another shopping trip to Balanga. Again we chartered a large banca. This time we rented a jeepney, a diesel-fume spewing jalopy with long bench seats that face each other in a closed back. Fortunately the weather was cloudy and not hot, so it was quite nice riding in the back except for when we had to stop, and then a couple of times it got kind of hot. Since our initial trip we realized that there were still a number of things that we needed, so we went through a rather extensive but less expensive list. We bought an outdoor table and chairs, a desk for the computer and files, lots of small hardware items, outdoor cooking supplies, and then we stopped at a grocery store for food.

Now that we have a fridge we can buy fresh chicken, pork, and fish, and store our leftovers. We can also have cold drinks and beer on hand. By the way, we had ice cubes four hours after turning on the fridge, which doesn’t seem to run very often in this cooler November climate.

Some of you have asked for pictures of the inside of the house, When we get things put away and straightened out we should be able to give you a better idea of our very nice living arrangements. So far, our linen closet is a suitcase, which works fine but is less convenient than shelves in the appropriate rooms.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Veteran;s Day at the American Cemetery in Manila

Today we attended a Veteran's Day ceremony at the American Cemetery in Manila. Here are some pictures. The woman in the blue dress is American Embassador to the Philippines and our newest friend Kristie A. Kinney. The cemetery has over 17,000 graves along with the names of over 36,000 others who were missing in action or lost at sea. In one of the pictures is the name of Charles E. Thomas, a name we were asked to look for. In the following picture Steve is pointing at the name.

In the picture with two women wearing red, Marcia is on the left and Leslie Murray, our host, is on the right. In a closeup of the Ambassador the gentleman is Raffi Evangelista, the current Commander of the Philippine Defenders of Bataan and Corregidor. Some of the very old men in the front row are veterans, while Raffi is now second generation.

We visit this cemetery every April on our Ghost Soldiers tour. Often we are asked to photograph names or graves. Our daughter-in-law has a great uncle buried here. Chances are you know someone who is related to someone in the cemetery. We would be happy to take pictures if you know someone here.

To see all of the pictures we took, go to:

Monday, November 10, 2008

We go to Manila; Paul and Karl part 2

On Sunday afternoon we took the speed catamaran operated by Sun Cruises on our way to Manila. It was strange to be leaving our house and our friends, even though we had only lived on Corregidor for two and a half weeks. The thought of returning to the overcrowded, air-polluted, and noisy metro Manila was less than exciting. We really enjoy our new lightly populated, clean, quite island home. We have already had people question how we could live all by ourselves, without a TV or even a radio. Of course the internet does keep us in contact with our friends and family.

Earlier in the day we did more exploring with Karl and Paul, although for them it was more of them imparting their vast knowledge to us. Because of our impending departure we had a short morning walk down trails that are at times easy to follow and at others nearly impassible. The trails we took were on flat areas between cliffs for the most part, so it was easy to see that they had been roads cut into the steep banks. Karl and Paul used machetes to cut through overgrown areas, especially new bamboo growth. You must be very careful not to grab thorny vines and the trunks of some trees which are spiked. The only other part which was difficult was descending to the first road, since we had to descend a steep bank.

All along the way we saw evidence of human presence from long ago. We saw huge culverts, tiny observation stations, and other concrete structures. In several places there were caves cut into the bank. Most caves were big and inter-connected. Karl went into a couple, and except for forgetting his backpack and having to go back for it, everything went smoothly. We can’t help but wonder how many other tropical places you can go into a cave or tunnel and not have to fear running into snakes, spiders, or scorpions. Certainly these all exist here, but most are on the less-fortified tail of the island, and even there they are not common.

At one point we came across a deep ravine, which must be even more breathtaking after a heavy rain, since there must be a temporary waterfall of 200 feet or more. Right around the corner from there was a large stand of bamboo, with each shoot measuring four inches or more in diameter. Unfortunately pictures cannot do justice to scenes like these, since you need the three-dimensional aspect to truly appreciate the vastness. We hope to retrace our steps soon enough that we can find the trails and get more acquainted with them.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

We explore the Rock with Paul and Karl

Paul and Karl arrived on Friday after a choppy, rainy banca ride across the North Channel between Bataan and Corregidor. Because of the rain, we decided to explore Malinta Tunnel. This intricate tunnel was built between the years of 1922 and 1932. The main shaft is 836 feet long and 24 feet across, with two trolley lines running through it. Off to the north and south are 24 180-foot laterals, and off one of the north laterals are 12 more which used to be the hospital. Beyond the south laterals are additional tunnels that the navy used. Some of the laterals are collapsed, but there are still enough places to explore to make for a fun afternoon.

On Saturday we trekked though the jungle to a hidden searchlight emplacement overlooking the South China Sea, We also went into several tunnels, some short, some extensive. In one there were a number of adult geckos, which are about a foot long. Several jumped to the floor and scampered. One of them landed in such a way as to break off his tail. Amazingly, the tail thrashed on the ground for several minutes as if it were a very lively gigantic worm. Paul says that this is a defense mechanism so that their predators will go for the tail and leave the rest of the gecko alone. The tail will grow back. It was still twitching when Marcia took the picture with Steve holding it.

Today we are headed to Manila to finish up some business, and also to attend a Veteran’s Day ceremony at the American Cemetery in Manila, which is supposed to be the largest American cemetery in the world outside of the United States.

Friday, November 7, 2008

Our new solar system is installed

Our German friend Karl, who lives in Olongapo (Subic Bay) and our Australian friend Paul, who lives in Marikina (metro Manila) are planning to come to Corregidor for a three day visit starting on Friday. On Thursday Karl sent us a text message wondering about the weather. We sent back the message, “Current clouds, breezy, no precip, wed no clouds, wind.” He wanted more information so we sent him and Paul the following text message: “Sun is peeking out. However, forecast is typical for November with rain changing 2 snow espc @ hi elevation. 6 in. snow @ Topside by Sat.” Since the record low temperature on Corregidor is probably somewhere around 55 to 60, snow has never been seen here. If it were ever to snow, we’re sure we’d be blamed.

Our new solar system arrived late Tuesday, and installation began on Wednesday, with, as we said, plenty of sunshine. Thursday was cloudy, but this didn’t slow the installation. It actually made it cooler for the crew. By that night we had limited power, although the engineer in charge wanted us to allow the batteries to charge for three days before we put much stress on the system. It was strange to be able to flip on a light, turn on a fan, or charge cell phone batteries. Ironically on Friday morning, when they were finishing installation, and when Karl and Paul were on their way, we had light but steady rain.

Originally it was decided to put the solar panels across the road in an open field. Later the engineer decided, wisely, we think, to put the panels next to the house. This way the line running from the panels to the house is only 25 feet as opposed to a couple of hundred feet, plus there is no need to run the line under the road. The only problem that this caused was that the big tree in front of the house blocks the panel from the sun for a good part of the afternoon, meaning it will have to either be shortened or removed. We think this is actually a good thing, since there is a chance that the tree might fall on the house during a typhoon. It will mean less shade on the house, however, which is a bad thing.

The solar system is designed in such a way that it will run everything in the house except the air conditioner (aircon). Aircon is by far the biggest draw, so when we need it we will have to use the diesel genset. The good news is that excess power from the genset will go to charging the solar batteries. In the event that the batteries run too low, probably due to too many cloudy days in a row, we can run the genset about two hours every two days to charge the battery system, and then have power to run the house. We purposely bought a very efficient refrigerator, and do not plan to use a microwave or TV. So the engineer says when the batteries are fully charged we should have “five days of autonomous power.”

We have gotten so used to living without lights that it will take some time to remember that we can turn on lights when desired. We always take a flashlight when we’re out in the evening, because there are few “street” lights on the island, and it is dark like no dark you see in the States in most areas.

Dark settles in very quickly here because of how close we are to the equator, so when we walk up the hill (mountain) to watch the sunset, we need light by the time we’re getting back to the house in 20-25 minutes. We have been treated to some very colorful sunset views since our arrival, with some clouds near the horizon to scatter the light without obstructing it. Most days there are high cumulus clouds over the Luzon peninsulas which we can see to the north and south, 3 miles to Bataan, and about 8 to Cavite. Often we also get to watch lightening shows in the distance.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Our typical dinner

Ronilo Benadero, who is the resident island manager, lives with other CFI staffers in row houses just up the hill from Bottomside. The residences are extremely humble by American standards, but obviously adequate for their needs. Each consists of a small bedroom, bathroom (which is a combination stool and shower called “comfort room” here) plus a kitchen and living room in the 400 or so square foot range. Since they work from sunrise to sundown, and the power is only on after sunset, they are primarily sleeping quarters.

Out back there is a corrugated tin awning that extends ten feet or so. Here the staffers normally prepare their food on open fires to save on fuel costs and to avoid heating the indoors. The last few nights we have been experiencing and enjoying authentic Filipino food. Ron and others have made dinners for us. On Saturday we just had corn nuts and beer, Sunday we had corned beef, eggs, rice, and beer, and Monday we had deep-fried tilapia, pork adobo, rice, and beer.

The tilapia, a fresh-water fish, cost only P100 ($2.00) for a kilo, which amounted to six fish. They were delivered so fresh that Gilbert, the island photographer, said they were still flopping as he scaled them. About all he did was salt and mildly season them and then cooked them whole two at a time in boiling oil, over the open fire. Orientals like to eat their fish with the eyes looking at them. We would compare them to sunfish in size and taste. Delicious. Filipinos think that the flavor is better when the fish are smaller. We noticed that tilapia fillets in the U.S. are from much larger fish.

The pork was slightly more expensive, but even then around $3.00 for 2.2 pounds. Ron marinated the cubes in vinegar, soy sauce, hot peppers, salt, and sugar. He then browned the meat in oil, and added the marinade to the pan, again over the open fire. It simmers for a long time to tenderize the meat. We have had pork adobo many times in the Philippines but this was clearly the best yet.

As far as the beer, we have been drinking Red Horse, which is brewed locally by the San Miguel Co. Their signature beer is just called San Miguel, a pale pilsen, which devotees call San Mig. We are not sure of the alcohol content, but San Mig Light is listed as 5%. San Mig is obviously stronger, and Red Horse is extra strong. It doesn’t take a lot of Red Horse to “feel good,” but interestingly we have never had a hangover. Maybe that says something about additives in U.S. beer that don’t find their way into these brews.

Tonight we are again joining Ron and the guys for an authentic Filipino-made chicken dinner. In addition, work on our solar system is scheduled to begin today. It will be interesting to watch the progress.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Swimming and Halloween

Yesterday reminded us of south-central Michigan with lots of clouds. The difference is that it probably wasn’t 85 degrees there. The first two weeks that we were here we only got a few sprinkles. Then we received an email from a friend that the wind had shifted and we were now officially in dry season. Since then we’ve had significant rain every day, usually over night. High humidity isn’t so bad since the temperatures are enough lower that we even have to cover with a sheet some nights. All in all it has been very pleasant the past week.

When there are no clouds in the evening the stars are a sight to behold, almost bright enough to walk by. The moon is heading toward the phase where we will be seeing it for the first time since we’ve been in the Philippines, since we never saw it while we were in Manila. Last night we saw a crescent for moment before it followed the sun over the horizon.

We went swimming on the south beach on Friday morning. The locals thought that the temperature was cool but we found it perfect. Swimming in salt water is so different because the water is denser and therefore you float very easily. It’s quite relaxing to just lay back and float. You just have to be careful not to let the current take you out to sea, and not to get sunburned.

On Friday night we were invited to a dinner at the old Spanish lighthouse for Halloween. Halloween is a big day here in the Philippines but trick-or-treating is not common.

This morning being Sunday, we went to the small Catholic church, prayed a rosary and read the readings for All-Souls Day. We understand that on this day many faithful go to cemeteries and have picnics at the graves of their family members.

There were enough overnight guests to fill the Corregidor Inn the past two evenings. However, there will be no Sun Cruises boats from Manila Monday through Wednesday, so the next few days will be quiet.

Our solar equipment is supposed to arrive on Tuesday and be installed by Friday or Saturday. Until now we have been “camping out” in our home, using flashlights to get around and read at night. We have used the diesel generator (genset) occasionally but only to wash clothes. When we have it on we make sure to charge the phone and camera batteries. It will seem a little strange to actually be able to throw a switch and have lights.