Sunday, January 25, 2009

First thunderstorm; Gilbert's new printer

We have been here on Corregidor for just over three months, and although we arrived during the end of rainy season, we never experienced a thunderstorm here. During our first few weeks we witnessed many thunderstorms over Bataan and Cavite. In fact, there always seem to be clouds over the mountains of both provinces. Many of our first evenings here, we would sit by the bay and watch beautiful lightening in the clouds, too distant to hear any thunder.

On Friday we had a perfectly clear day here. The temperature was about 90 at midday. However, very large clouds dominated the provinces on either side all day. It should be noted that Corregidor lies at the mouth of Manila Bay, which is shaped like an inverted C opening to the southeast. Gilbert was busy with work and Ronilo is still on vacation, so we decided to have dinner at MacArthur Café.

Since it gets dark here around 6:00, the surrounding area was pitch black while Marcia ate her bowl of soup and Steve had the Karlos special, which is named after our German explorer friend Karl. It consists of two or three fried eggs, pork and beans, and rice. A couple of times we noticed flashes against the mountainside. We were pretty sure it was lightning but conceded it could be someone with a powerful flash on his camera. As we went to our jeep we noticed the bright star to the west, probably the planet Mars, since it was kind of orange. We could see it again as we got home.

We played some gin rummy and then went to bed, staying up reading until the rather late hour for us of 10:30. Just as we turned out the lights and were about to go to sleep, a bright flash was followed ten seconds later by a loud rumbling boom, and our first thunderstorm on Corregidor was underway. Up until now the only rains we have had here have been relatively minor. The evening rains have sometimes been so light that there was no water in the stone bird baths in the former aviary.

During the night it often sounds like rain when it is only the wind. We are still not 100% sure when it’s a light rain or the wind rustling the leaves in the trees. On Friday night there was no mistaking: it was raining cats and dogs, as they say. The wind never got violent, but the lightning, thunder, and heavy rain continued for at least an hour. We just lay in each other’s arms, as it was entirely too loud to sleep. Eventually the rain subsided and the thunder was gone, and we got to sleep. That is, until the second round hit around 4:00 AM. Once again it was too loud to sleep, and this continued at least another 30 minutes. We’re sure we will become accustomed to sleeping through the rain eventually, but the thunder will be another story.

Since it had not rained enough here to wet the ground recently, the soil had become very hard and the grass very yellow in sunny areas. It will be interesting to see if this was enough rain – it was at least three inches – to green things up for a while. Many of the young trees and bushes in the yard look very happy today. Rainy season doesn’t begin until mid-May, so it’s possible we won’t see another serious rain until then.

Speaking of Gilbert, he is very busy with his new printer. Bert, as he is known, is employed as a free lance photographer by Sun Cruises. Bert and his coworker Sylvia take pictures of tourists each day in hopes of selling a picture to each one. They ride along with the tramvias until noon, when the guests go to lunch. Then Bert has to develop all of the pictures and get them mounted and ready to sell by the time the guests leave on the 2:30 ferry. Usually Sylvia sells the pictures during the ferry ride, and Bert stays on Corregidor. Occasionally Bert would take the ferry back to sell pictures or to buy materials for their darkroom.

Sylvia and Bert are just now starting to take pictures with digital rather than film cameras. So Bert is busy trying to master the process: getting the images captured on their cameras into the digital printer, printed, and mounted in the same amount of time as he had before. He and presumably Sylvia are paid a standard rate per day, but they are eligible for bonuses if they exceed a certain amount in sales for the day. We think the pictures with cardboard frames cost 100 pesos, or about 2 dollars, so they are quite reasonable. The biggest obstacle is that everyone has a digital camera these days, so they have to be convinced that the picture being offered isn’t one that they’ve already taken, or that the framed picture is souvenir enough.

One thing about Bert, though, and it is typical of so many Filipinos. No matter how things are going, he is always smiling. There are times when it is impossible for him to make his commission quota, since there are days when there are only 40 or so guests. We are now heading into peak tourist season, so we hope that fact and the new digital prints will enable Sylvia and Bert to hit their quotas.

Steve and Marcia

From Marcia’s sister Mary, who has lived in the Bahamas for her adult life:

Your sweeper story reminded me of this - A couple months ago I helped [our daughter] Anne Marie set up a party for a family that had a young Filipina nanny. The mother took the children somewhere to get them out of the way and left the nanny to tidy up inside the house while Anne Marie and I worked around the pool outside. The nanny had a short (like half the usual height) natural straw broom, not typical in the Bahamas, with which she was sweeping what had proven to be a very impractical dark hardwood floor while at the same time having one foot in a disposable duster from a Swiffer dust mop with which she was polishing the area she had just swept. She worked her way across the floor in a very graceful and rhythmic fashion as I stood in awe. The floor looked brand new when she finished. At first I thought the duster was designed to be used on a foot but she laughed and told me what it was. Quite clever, I thought.

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