Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Pythons; Japanese guests

On Thursday we were walking across the old Middleside Paradegrounds when we came across a dead python. Pythons are common on Corregidor, though almost never seen in tourist areas. The biggest one we have heard about lives near here and it supposed to be at least 22 feet long, big enough to swallow a goat whole. This one had been about five to six feet long, and someone had cut its throat. The skins are very beautiful, and are used like leather for everything from purses to cowboy boots. We don’t know if the skins of Philippine pythons are valuable and thus if they are hunted. On Corregidor, they are not desirable near residential areas because they eat the young chickens and eggs.

On Monday night we were at Ron’s and heard that someone had seen a python slither into an old tree, which was hollow at the base, just a few doors down. Because there are chickens and small children around, and since this was a formidable snake, the men lit a fire of coconut husks at the base. After what seemed a long enough time to either suffocate or cook the beast, all of a sudden out of the tree came a seven to eight foot python. Jhun the Plumber immediately chopped off its head. The snake was at least twice the weight of the other, and could have easily crushed a small child.

On Friday Steve led a group from the United States that was here for an Internee Tour. Four or five of the members were actually in internment camps, and we assume most of the others were relatives. Steve met a couple of brothers that were looking forward to meeting him, since the night before they had had dinner with our friends Brian and Leslie, Leslie having also been interned while very young. The group that Steve led was about half of the entire group, since they could not all fit on one tranvia.

On Sunday we were on our way to Bottomside to take a walk along Tailside. But before we got very far down the hill we came upon a jeepney that had broken down. The driver had the hood up, and several young ladies and a little boy were obviously without a ride. So we turned around and gave them a ride to their souvenir stores by the lighthouse on Topside. Marcia took the computer cases and got out to make more room, although in reality this was unnecessary.

Asians seem to have an innate ability to always get one more person into a vehicle. Maybe this is why the Japanese had no trouble packing the POWs tightly into railroad cars during the Bataan Death March and also on the “Hellships.” In any case, as the fifth girl started to crawl into the back of our small jeep, Steve informed her that she could sit in Marcia’s seat. On the ride up, the little boy, probably about two years old and sitting on one side in the back, giggled loudly each time Steve had to make a sharp turn, swaying him in the opposite direction. Then the girls would laugh. This happened over and over on the curvy route, and each time the giggling started all over again.

On Monday we were honored to have five Japanese guests. Naoko, Akane, and Chitose belong to an organization called Bridge for Peace. Koji is a filmmaker, and Toru, a retired history teacher, is with the POW Research Network Japan. They are all committed to educating the Japanese people about their countries militant ways that led to WW II in the hopes of avoiding future Japanese militarism. These are five of the nicest people that you would ever meet. It is incomprehensible how a culture that produced these folks could have been so militant so recently.

We spent the day with them, taking the Corregidor tour with a Japanese-speaking guide. At noon we joined them for lunch as well. Since we do not understand Japanese, Naoko, Koji, and Akane translated important passages of the guide’s commentary. We invited Naoko to summarize her opinions of the presentation, which we hope to share to with you at a later date.

Naoko is going to be a presenter at a forum being held at De La Salle University in Manila on February 26. During lunch she told us that she is going around interviewing Japanese soldiers of WW II, most of whom are 85 and older. She says that many now feel that they were brainwashed. They cannot understand or justify their own actions. Other veterans decline to be interviewed for whatever reason. She gave us a DVD of a 20-minute film that she made.

Asians are gift-givers. Besides the DVD from Naoko, they also gave us a box of Japanese chocolates, a mirror compact with Chokin artwork on top, some very fancy rice crackers with wrappers decorated as tiny people, and a Japanese sweet treat in an elaborately decorated basket. We said goodbye on the pier Minnesota-style, over and over again. Finally, they walked toward the boat, where we each took another picture of each other and said goodbye one last time. We had only know each other five hours and parted as best of friends.

It is ironic to realize that had the United States not ended the war with atomic bombs when it did, this meeting could not have taken place. Steve’s father, in Japan at the end of the war, would have been executed by executive order, as would all POWs. Historians claim that millions of Japanese would have died defending against an invasion that would have made D-Day pale in comparison. In all likelihood one or two of our guests would never have been born as well.

On Tuesday, February 24, we are celebrating our 36th wedding anniversary. Plans include a low-key party at the Baywalk.

Steve and Marcia

Another follow-up on the Japanese story, first from a local Filipina:

Hello Steve,
THANK YOU for this last email Steve.....I immediately forwarded this to my three adult children. ....I want to educate them (especially my eldest daughter who went to university in Tokyo and lived there for five years) about the realities of WWII in the Philippines....

You are doing a great job in continuing the heroic legacy of your father...Needless to say, he is "living" through you and you are somehow continuing his fight for the good, and the just cause that he believed and bravely fought for...

MORE POWER and all the best and warmest regards to you and Marcia!!!

LOVE reading your newsletters...... the Museum Volunteers (the best club in Manila : - ) has a website:
and a monthly newsletter about our interesting cultural and historical activities/works/researches/tours on the Phils and elsewhere in Asia (I know you did one on Mt. Pinatubo recently) ....., and thanks for the interesting pictures you sent on Pinatubo BTW)

One correction: Yuka pointed out that although she is a board member of the US-Japanese Dialogue website, that it was actually established by Kinue.

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