Sunday, January 4, 2009

Wind; Dial family

For the first few days of 2009 we are being hit with heavy winds as a result of a tropical depression southeast of here. The wind has broken some trees and left the beach area on the north part of Bottomside a real mess. The trash from the Pasig River into Manila Bay is a constant source of frustration for the management here, since wind and current carry it to Corregidor. It is a never-ending source of garbage along the beach. But when it gets windy, like it has been the past few days, the trash flies over the breakwater, and even over a new fence intended to keep it off the shore. Coupled with the fact that many from the maintenance crew were on vacation, there is a lot of trash everywhere you look.

We have a four panel room divider that we usually place between the front windows and our bed, but it kept getting blown over in the middle of the night. With the high wind this week, we tried setting a chair against it to keep it upright, but a strong gust of wind was enough to force the divider to slide the chair and then knock it over, causing a bang which woke us. We have even closed some of the windows in our bedroom, which are normally always open, just to keep things from blowing around in the house.

We are keeping track of the storm, a “low pressure area, or LPA,” at the Coast Guard station on the island. So far what they have plotted makes it look like it will come close to us, but these storms have a mind of their own, so it’s anyone’s guess at this point. It is not strong enough to be a tropical storm or typhoon, which would be unusual indeed this time of year. The CG determines whether boats under certain sizes should be allowed to traverse the bay.

As a result of this weather, a family that we met on New Year’s Day was presented with a problem. Minter Dial and his family came to the island from Bataan by banca. Since Minter is the grandson of a WWII boat captain (Minter Dial as well) who served here and was captured on Corregidor, we were given a heads-up that they were coming. We met them for dinner and told our mutual stories. They were planning to take the normal Sun Cruises ferry back to Manila and then head to the airport on January 2nd. However, winds were such that the CG advised against travel and the ferry trip was cancelled. They were on non-refundable tickets, and the next available flight was nine days later, on the 11th.

Minter and Yendi, who is French, currently live in Paris. If we understood her correctly, her grandmother had six boys and two girls. Two of the sons were killed fighting Germans in WWI, and three more were killed by the Germans in WWII. Understandably, she seemed to have as much love for Germans as Steve’s father had for the Japanese. Their son, Oscar, who is in sixth grade, goes to a boarding school in England. Both he and his younger sister Alexandra are bilingual. When we met them they confidently and politely looked us in the eyes, shook our hands and introduced themselves.

On the morning of the 2nd they decided to tour the island while waiting to hear if it was feasible to get a helicopter to take them to Manila. We decided to accompany them on the tour, since we had struck up a friendship the night before. The first stop we made was at the former three million gallon water reservoir near our house. Fortunately for the children a couple of monkeys came to take a look. We finished with the Sound and Light Show in Malinta Tunnel. Later we found out that they were evacuated two at a time.

Minter’s grandfather died in Subic Bay on December 15, 1944. He was a passenger aboard the Hell Ship Oryoku Maru, notorious because it was sunk in Subic Bay Harbor by American planes, not knowing that it was being used by the Japanese as a prison carrier. Many American soldiers, mostly officers, died on board and are buried in the hull only 500 feet from shore. The remaining passengers including Minter’s grandfather, tried to swim to shore. Of those, some may have been strafed by the planes. Minter’s grandfather died in the arms of another man on the nearby tennis court where the survivors were herded. He had two bullet wounds which could have been caused by either side. His dying words were a request to the man holding him, to find his wife after the war and tell her he loved her. He also entrusted the man with his Naval Academy class ring to give to her, which the man lost before the war was over. Through an amazing set of circumstances, the ring eventually ended up with Minter’s father, but he had it stolen from a French hotel room five years later.

Days of the week mean little to most workers on the island, since cruises are scheduled every day. Sun Cruises personnel wear a special shirt on Fridays, but other than that it would be virtually impossible to know what day of the week it was if you lost track. We have fallen into a weekly pattern ourselves. Every Saturday we count out pills and vitamins for the week ahead. On Sundays we get up and go down to the old church to say a rosary and read the day’s Bible passages. Come to think of it, at this point that’s about all we schedule ourselves to do each week.
The tropical storm took a turn south and away from here, and Saturday was calmer, although this Sunday morning it is very windy again. It was windy enough for Sun Cruises to cancel their trips on Friday and Saturday, and today was still in question until this morning. They are not only responsible for their passenger’s safety, but in the event that the CG cancels travel, they have to house and feed the guests until travel can be resumed, so it is best to err on the side of caution.

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