On Friday we were surprised to get a call from a friend of ours, John Schurtz. He told us that he and a group were on the island for the day tour, and he wondered if we could see them. We told him that if he would like, we could take him anywhere he wanted to go, since he had already taken the tour in 2007. So we met him and one of his friends and spent the day taking them around the island.
He introduced his friend as Colonel Klink and himself as Sergeant Shurtz, a reference to the comedy series Hogan’s Heroes. Actually his friend’s name is Lt. Col. Heino Klinck, and John is not a sergeant but an officer – sorry, we don’t know his rank – in the U.S. Army. They both work in the diplomatic corps, John in Beijing and Heino in Hong Kong, and they are both Chinese language specialists. We know John’s parents and two brothers from previous tours and were glad to have the opportunity to spend a few hours with him.
Later, we were getting ready to go to dinner at Ron’s when Steve received this text message: “Sir ds is d name of d sister of mrs ramos n sis law of FVR. MRS ERLINDA MCCABE plus 3 guests via sci boat tom. Pls have ur mr ron n steve kwiekiski meet them pier n steve join them tour bus. Thank you po. Ging gapud ofis Fvr.”
Steve texted Ron asking him who sent the message, and he answered, “I did.” Steve wrote back, “This had to have come from someone else,” and Ron replied that it had come from his boss, Col. Art. Since this obviously did not start with Art, we continued to be confused. On top of the origin, some of the message didn’t seem to make sense. What was this “FVR” mentioned more than once? What did “Ging gapud” mean? Neither “ging” nor “gapud” are in our Tagalog (Filipino) dictionary.
Text messaging is so common here that you will see men with $1000 suits walking down the streets of Makati texting instead of talking on their cell phones. It saves money, but often in the end you spend so much time texting back and forth to get your point across that it would have made more sense to simply call in the first place. When we first arrived here five months ago we didn’t know what it meant when a billboard said, “Text ‘love’ to 12345.” Now we’re becoming fluent simply because to communicate here you must be. And part of it is knowing that “d” is “the”, “n” is “and” and so forth.
At dinner we were able to get our answers. Ging is a common woman’s nickname, so ging gapud must be Ms. Ging Gapud. Also, Filipinos love to use acronyms. The current president is almost always simply GMA (for Gloria Magapagal Arroyo). Cha-cha, which is always in the papers, stands for “charter change.” In this case, FVR stands for former Philippine President Fidel V. Ramos. Therefore, the message in full would read: “Sir, this is the name of the sister of Mrs. Ramos and sister-in-law of Fidel V. Ramos. Mrs. Erlinda McCabe plus three guests [will arrive] via Sun Cruises boat tomorrow. Please have your Mr. Ron and Steve Kwiecinski meet them [at the] pier and [have] Steve join them [in the] tour bus. Thank you kindly. Ging Gapud office [of] FVR.”
Art decided that since Mrs. Erlinda McCabe is a VIP, she should have her own tour guide, and Marcia thought that she would enjoy coming along. So on Saturday morning we drove down to the pier to meet our guests. The only thing was, they were not expecting us to give them a personal tour. Ronilo was able to find them, already on a tour bus, so he escorted them to a small vehicle driven by “Steve said don’t cut down any tree’s” Rollie. With Mrs. McCabe, who goes by Linda, were her two American neighbors Scott and Cathy (hope we guessed correctly on spelling)West from Atlanta, Georgia, and her Filipino escort known simply as “Boy,” also very common nickname here.
Linda had been here many times before, and is in fact the sister-in-law of the ex-President, FVR. We were told that his friends call him “Eddie,” and that he has lived in the same house in Alabang (Metro Manila) for many years. She said that Eddie is a very nice man and very approachable, and that she hopes we can someday meet him. We look forward to it. It took Steve a little while, but he finally realized why he took to Linda so quickly. She reminds him of his aunt Gina [GEE-nuh] who was also his godmother.
Because of her previous Corregidor visits, Linda often stayed in the truck when we made our stops at the various points of interest. Scott and Cathy have never been to the Philippines before, and Scott especially really enjoyed seeing the historic sites. He said he reads a lot of history books. Cathy said many of their previous vacations have focused on his strong interest in history, combined with her interest in historic homes. At the end of the tour, Scott said what a pleasure it was to have Steve show him around, sharing both knowledge and enthusiasm, and answering all of his questions. We also really enjoyed the day with them. It’s one of our favorite ways to spend our time here.