Thursday, March 5, 2009

MacArthur Museum visitor

On Thursday our friend Carlos, a Sun Cruises tour guide, introduced us to a man named Joseph Monfiletto from Southern California. Joe is a collector of military artifacts, and Carlos gave him a private tour of the island. We made a date to see Joe the next morning, and as it turned out, we spent the rest of the day with him until he had to depart for Manila. We hiked with Joe to the top of Malinta Hill, and drove to a beach resort area that was used by the Japanese for a prison camp. It was referred to as the 92nd (Philippine Scouts) Garage Area. During our conversations, Joe indicated that he may have some items in his collection to someday donate to the Pacific War Museum on Topside.

Saturday found the two of us clearing a trail past seven house foundations on Infantry Point, which is located on “Tailside.” According to Amea Willoughby in “I Was on Corregidor,” page 114, these houses were occupied by such dignitaries as US. High Commissioner Francis Sayre, President of the Philippines Manuel Quezon, and General Douglas MacArthur, along with family members. William Graves, Sayre’s stepson, indicates that the house closest to the battery was the one he lived in, and that the second house was MacArthur’s, in a July 1986 National Geographic article and accompanying map. They used these homes during the period between their evacuation from Manila on Christmas Eve of 1941, and their departure for Australia in February and March of 1942.

This part of the island is not heavily overgrown, and the trail was already somewhat accessible, so it only took us a couple of hours with a bolo knife and snippers to clear a decent trail. The worst part is that most of the small scrub trees along the path are full of thorns. As careful as we were, we had a number of pricks and scrapes by the time we were done. The good part was that we did not run into very many ants, a nice variation from our usual experience in the jungle here.

On Sunday Steve was asked to lead a tour for a group that arrived on a “7107 Islands Shipping Corp.” cruise ship from Manila. Steve and several others were given a tour of the ship before the passengers disembarked. He was first told that the tour would begin at 7:00, but the passengers were apparently told 7:30 or 8:00. In any case, by the time “Filipino Time” was taken into account, it was closer to 8:30 before the Tranvias pulled off the south dock. Everything went well, with Steve receiving several business cards from tourists wanting to be added to this newsletter. He always encourages guests to come back and spend the night, and a number indicated that they just might take him up on the idea. The company has another trip scheduled for March 14.

Monday, March 2, marked the 64th Anniversary of General Douglas MacArthur returning to Corregidor, where he witnessed the raising of the American flag at Topside with these words: “I see the old flagpole still stands. Have your troops hoist the colors to its peak, and let no enemy ever haul them down.” About Corregidor he said, “Its long-protracted struggle enabled the Allies to gather strength. Had it not held out, Australia would have fallen, with incalculably disastrous results. Our triumphs today belong equally to that dead army.”

Corregidor Foundation Director Art Matibag honored Steve by asking him to present a wreath at the monument of the 503rd Parachute Regimental Combat Team. Steve asked Art if he was expected to say anything, and Art said, “No, just walk behind the wreath as it is carried by two men.” As Steve was leaving the wreath-laying, Art then surprised him by asking him to give a five minute speech on his father’s role on Corregidor during the war. Then the group walked a short distance to the old Spanish flagpole, where James Zobel, curator of the MacArthur Memorial Museum in Norfolk, VA, presented a 48-star flag to be “hoisted to its peak.” Fifty to sixty guests, coincidentally mostly Americans, arrived on Tranvias at just the perfect time to witness the entire ceremony.

Accompanying James Zobel on a two-day tour of Corregidor were Peter Parsons (son of guerilla leader Chick Parsons), Peter’s wife Tea [TAY-uh] who is from Spain, his cousin Lou Jurika, and professor/writer Robin Hemley. Also our friends Karl and Paul were here to accompany them while seeing the sights of the island. A major highlight was walking with the group to the houses where we had cleared the trail two days before. While we were there, we also went on to see Battery Kysor with its two 155mm gun mounts (sans guns) and a large tunnel built into the side of the hill that was Kysor’s ammunition bunker.

We spent the better part of Tuesday making sure that James in particular, who is on his first visit to the Philippines, got to see the most important sites. We wandered around Topside, seeing the museum and the main batteries. Later in the day we went to Tailside to see Kindley Field.

James, Lou, and Karl left for Bataan by banca on Wednesday morning. Lou has been planning this trip for James for seven years, and will make sure that he sees the most important sites in the Philippines. We are hoping to attend a talk that James will be giving later in the month in Makati.

Later in the morning, Marcia accompanied Robin up Malinta Hill and joined him for lunch. They were pretty excited to see a monitor lizard along the trail, just less than two feet long. It was too shy to let Marcia get a photo, though. In the afternoon Robin, Paul, Peter and Tea left on the SCI ferry for Manila. There were only 33 tourists on Wednesday, not enough for SCI to normally make the tour, except that they were obligated to get our guests back to Manila. We hope that this was a one-day aberration, since tourist attendance is necessary to keep the island running and to avoid further staff layoffs.

Steve was already starting up Malinta Hill with Marcia and Robin when Ronilo called him to guide a tour. He then met Knut, a Norwegian in his mid-sixties who is married to a Filipina and spends half his year in the Philippines and the other half in Norway. Although he was very interested in the Corregidor tour, he was also eager to share his story, which Steve enjoyed as well. He says that his aunt, who is living in Oslo, used to play cards with Douglas and Mrs. MacArthur at her house in Manila. He is not sure if his aunt has any pictures of that, but says she has a photo album that is three inches thick, full of pictures from her time in Manila. Knut is going to check if she has pictures that may be of interest to us historians here when he sees her this summer.

At the end Knut thanked Steve and said that it was his best tour in the Philippines since another that he received by an American in 1993, soon after Mt. Pinatubo erupted. He has trouble understanding the English of many Filipino tour guides, unfortunately a common complaint from English speakers. We have found that even those Filipinos who speak with perfect grammar and good vocabulary can be difficult for some to understand because of their accents, which apparently are very hard to lose.

In the meantime, our temporary helper Baroy is building a “dirty kitchen” for us. Filipinos will all know what we are talking about. The rest of you will either have to Google it or wait until we send photos when it is finished.

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