Monday, February 2, 2009

Tour guiding; garlic

On Friday Steve led a “mock tour” for two of the Sun Cruises Inc (SCI) employees, in preparation for the tour that he conducted on Saturday. Tours must run on a strict schedule so that the guests are at the hotel for their appointed lunch time, at Malinta Tunnel on time for the “Light and Sound Show,” and at the boat to board in time to depart. There are designated stops along the way, with suggested time to spend at each one, in order to help keep the tours on schedule.

Steve is making himself available to SCI now that it is peak season, in case they are in need of a guide when there are two full boats. Off season there is only one boat a day, and during the off-off season, only four tours a week. But now the weather is wonderful and many school groups are booking tours, filling up the boats. Other than when SCI is short a guide, Steve will only lead one of their tours if a special group asks specifically for him, as was the case on Saturday.

None of the guides give exactly the same tour, of course. Steve’s tours will contain information specifically about his father’s experiences here, since Steve knows the barracks that Walter was in, along with the exact mortar that his father commanded. In small private tours that he has given to walk-ons, they seem very interested in what he has to share, and are excited to see the pictures of Steve’s father in the museum. The term “walk-on” refers to those people who arrive by means other than by an SCI ferry, so they’re more like “sail-ons,” although technically they do walk onto the island after arriving by boat.

On Saturday, Steve led his first official SCI tour. He didn’t know anything about the group beforehand, except that our friend Leslie had recommended Steve as guide. As it turned out, it consisted of 30 adults and four young boys, including only one or two Filipinos. Most were of European extraction, and most live in Manila, but interestingly, not one of them was from the U.S. There were Scotch, Dutch, Canadians, and even two Japanese ladies. Steve asked a seven year old and he said, “German, but I live in Manila [mah-NEE-lah],” pronounced perfectly. Everyone seemed to enjoy the tour, and many expressed an interest in coming back and staying overnight. Steve made the point that although the five-hour day tour covers the main points of interest, there are many more places to visit and things to see on the island. Overnighters also have time for some interesting hikes.

On Friday we had left an order for 2 chickens, a pineapple, 6 pongkan (like large tangerines, very good,) ¼ K onions, and 1 garlic. We have to calculate what we think the items will cost and add a little more for error and a little more for the bancero [banca/boat driver]. There are two banceros, Maynard and Mangmelio, who make one or two trips a day to and from Bataan. Maynard, with whom we rode to attend Christmas Mass, is younger and speaks English fairly well. Mangmelio is much older, doesn’t speak or understand much English, and is practically deaf. So guess whom we try to deal with if he’s available. Guess who ended up with our order? The answer to guess number one, Maynard, had engine trouble on Friday.

As it turns out, Mangmelio did not deliver our order until Saturday morning, just before Steve’s tour. It seemed kind of large to Steve, since Mangmellio told him, “Walang pina,” no pineapple. Since Steve was now busy preparing for the tour, he had it taken up to the house by one of the security guys. When he got home later in the day, Marcia told him that instead of getting one head of garlic, we apparently got one kilo of garlic! That, by the way, is 21 heads of garlic, which might be enough to last us close to half year if it would keep that long, which in this climate, it won’t. It’s a good thing we didn’t ask for our usual two or three heads! Marcia peeled the cloves from five or six heads, and put them into a bottle with vinegar. That is also how we preserve our hot peppers, when we have more than we can eat. We had plenty of garlic to share with friends.

A long time ago, just after we were married and Steve was in the Air Force, we ended up living in an apartment complex near Kelly Air Force Base in San Antonio. As it turned out, Steve’s boyhood next door neighbor got married at that time and moved into the same complex, reuniting them by sheer coincidence. Steve was actually stationed at nearby Lackland AFB and had no idea Jim was even in the service. Jim was a supply sergeant at Kelly AFB, and one time he placed an order for a gross of a particular electronic component, since they were packaged in gross (144 piece) lots. Jim noted that the order was taking longer than usual to arrive, and couldn’t understand why one large box should take so long to appear. His confusion lasted until a semi backed into the loading dock and delivered a gross of large boxes, a gross of a gross.

One other thing, Ronilo returned after a very rewarding two weeks with his family in Iloilo. Ron’s family lives in the middle of three houses on his father’s property, where Ron grew up. His father and mother live on one side and a brother and family live on the other. Ron painted his house pink while he was on vacation…inside and out! Marcia’s Dad would love it!

We were very happy to have him back, but also realize what a sacrifice he and so many others make in this country by working away from home because there are no jobs that pay enough to survive where their families reside. Ron has worked himself up from a starting security guard position to Island Manager over the past 21+ years, while only getting to be with his family no more than two weeks at a time twice a year. During that time his two daughters and one son have grown up, with the oldest a senior in college and the youngest a senior in high school. Ron is very committed to seeing all three children graduate from college, which will greatly help their job prospects.

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