On Monday Ron brought us a new helper, Roy Baludbod, a young man who is currently on-call for work on the island. His nickname is Baroy, presumably a reverse contraction of his real names. Baroy was one of the best basketball players in the tournament, despite his being barely taller than the final trophy. His quickness drove other guards crazy as he kept stealing the ball. Baroy was born on Corregidor and went to school here for his first six grades, when they still had a school. Then he went to his home province to graduate from high school. He hopes to someday go to college. His father is caretaker of the island museum.
Since we have a number of projects that could use help from someone skilled in Filipino ways, we will try to use him as often as we can and to the best of his abilities, which we have yet to fully explore. Our yard obviously needed attention, so we had Baroy spend the day raking, piling, and burning leaves. In our back yard there is an area with pre-war and war time train tracks including a siding, so we had him rake there. We are also having him clear some of the dirt to better expose the tracks. In any case, they seem to be the best preserved tracks on the island. Our area was used to store ordnance, with this rail system used to supply nearby gun emplacements.
We decided that since we had our own temporary helper we might as well go to Balanga on Tuesday for groceries. Both previous trips we had gone with Raffi, who had pre-arranged rides. We wanted to learn the public transportation system. The first phase was the banca ride to Cabcaben, so we told Baroy to tell Maynard we would be down to the pier by 6:30 A.M. When we got there they were both waiting for us, so we soon were aboard.
Step one, departing from shore, is done manually. Maynard’s assistant pushed us away with a 15-foot bamboo pole. A number of the banca structures are bamboo, by the way, including the double outriggers and the shaft that attaches to the rudder and makes it possible to steer the boat from just about anywhere onboard.
The next step is to get the diesel engine, which was just repaired last Friday, running. That meant Steve had to stand up and move, since the engine was under his seat. It is started like an old-fashioned lawn mower, meaning that the cord has to be wrapped around the flywheel every time. It took a couple of pulls to get it chugging, only to have it die several more times before it seemed ready to run smoothly. The throttle is a piece of wire that runs from a nail on the side of the banca to the engine. Three inches from the nail a nylon cord is attached, and by controlling tension on the cord the pilot increases or decreases engine speed. Works reasonably well, except that Steve sat down, accidentally stretching the throttle line way too tight, which resulted in the engine racing for a second before it died. So Steve stood back up, Maynard tugged on the starting line again, Steve sat down a little more to the left, and off we went.
As usual this time of year, the trip to Cabcaben took about an hour while the return trip just before noon took barely more than half an hour, due to the wind out of the north. Of course, that also meant that the waves splashed us (only a little this trip) going across but not on the trip back. All in all, the trip was uneventful once we had the throttle thing established. Several large ocean-going vessels crossed our path, three during the trip over and one during the return trip.
From the Cabcaben pier we took a tricycle (mini-motorcycle with sidecar) to the main road. There we waited for the bus which runs to Balanga about every half hour, as best we could gather. When we first boarded we were packed like sardines, which is an acceptable way to travel in the orient. But soon about half the riders, school children, got off, and the rest of the way there were plenty of seats. The fares are collected by a man who rides along for that sole purpose. We paid 40 pesos, or about 85 cents, per person per way, which is very reasonable. In less than an hour we were dropped off at the bus terminal in the city.
Our first order of business was to try to find a jeep part. We had a rear wheel oil seal go bad on our jeep. The man who originally diagnosed the problem put it back with a slow leak, told us it would need to be replaced soon, and subsequently quit his job. So we have been waiting for his boss to deliver the part so that the regular motor pool guy, Budoy, could fix it. A part arrived last week. Budoy had removed the old seal, assuming that the part which the other man’s boss supplied was correct, so he drained the gear oil. Of course it was the wrong size, so our jeep has been sitting on blocks waiting for the right part. Hoping to avoid waiting another month, possibly for yet another wrong part, we tried to find it in the parts stores in Balanga. We had forgotten to bring the original along and were thus unsuccessful, despite having the part number. So we let the boss know we needed the part, plus one quart of gear oil. We hoped that he understood the urgency, which up until now he had not. Actually, we don’t mind walking except when we have heavy things to carry or need to be somewhere quickly.
Then, after breakfast at Jollibee’s, the Philippines equivalent to MacDonald’s, we took another tricycle to Elizabeth’s, a bodega (warehouse) grocery store. We bought things that are heavy and thus hard to transport from Manila, such as big jars of peanut butter, canned meats, and drinks. Another tricycle back to the bus terminal, and back we went to Cabcaben. While we waited at least 15 minutes in Cabcaben for the bus, this one was ready to go when we boarded. The only excitement during this ride was the constant peeping of chicks. A lady passenger had a crate of them on the seat beside her. They will eventually provide her business with eggs and chickens to sell. Maynard was waiting for us at the shore, and we were soon back on Corregidor. The whole excursion lasted just about five and a half hours, and now we feel confident that we could do this on our own, although the extra hands were very helpful carrying the groceries.
The rest of the week has been fairly quiet, for which we are grateful. Baroy has been coming every day to do tasks in the yard, and we will try to keep him employed until he is needed here again. Unfortunately, because of the economy tourism is down, and thus visitors to Corregidor are down as well. Since the majority of the money used to pay help come directly from admission fees, there may have to be even more cutbacks before things turn around. And we were able to get our Jeep back, parts having been delivered on Thursday.
One last thing: we are including two pictures. One is of flowers and leaves from a tree in our yard. Right now it is very fragrant. The tree is only about ten feet tall, and we don’t know if that is full grown or not. The other is a flower that just bloomed. It is white, very thin, and about six inches across. The flower stalks are about two feet long and the body of the plant is similar to tulips, but the leaves are fleshier. If anyone recognizes either and can let us know what they are, we would appreciate it.