Friday, April 24, 2009

John Hogue

Steve’s first trip to the Philippines was in 2002 when he was accompanied by his sister Paula on a Valor Tours trip. They met many interesting people such as Malcolm Amos, a Death March survivor who has been with us on five tours already. One of the other fascinating “characters” who became a friend was John Hogue.

John was born on Corregidor, as were his mother and siblings. He looks a lot like the late Pat Morita, who played Mr. Miyagi in the Karate Kid series, and therefore John is often mistaken as half Filipino. Actually he is the son of an American Army officer, and his mother, the daughter of an American serviceman, had blue eyes and reddish hair. John attributes his oriental look to the fact that his father had some Chickasaw Indian ancestry.

John, who will be 80 in July, was 12 when the war broke out, and he and his mother and siblings were eventually interned at Santo Tomas University in metro Manila for the remainder of the war. As a result of growing up here, plus the fact that he later took a one-year course in conversational Tagalog, John speaks to the Filipinos in their language whenever he gets the chance.

John’s father spent the war in POW camps, ending up on the island of Honshu, Japan, before being reunited with his family in San Francisco four months after his wife and children had arrived there. San Francisco became their home. His uncle Roy, actually his mother’s sister’s husband, died on the Hell Ship Arisan Maru, an unmarked Japanese prison ship sunk by Americans and resulting in all but eight of the approximately 1800 POW’s on board being killed.

In 2003 Marcia came for her first time on Steve’s second visit. This time there were only six including John and tour leader Bob Reynolds. The schedule was to spend one day seeing the WW II sites in Manila and then spend four days walking the trails of Corregidor. On the first evening while we were walking to a restaurant near our Manila hotel, a few beggar children approached us. John said, in Tagalog, “Go away. What do we look like, TOURISTS?” Surprised, the kids ran off looking for easier marks.

John also toured with us in 2007. During that visit two years ago his roommate was a single Japanese-American named Myles. They have kept in touch, and Myles recently married a Filipina, so we’re hoping to see him and his new bride sometime as well.

Because John spent his childhood here on the island, when he comes he always wants to stay here longer than the one or two days allowed by the tour. This year he came with his nephew Frank to spend an additional week here after a three-day excursion to the air-conditioned city of Baguio.

John was able to point out the exact spot in Barrio San Jose on Bottomside where their first house was, and where Frank’s mother was born. Their second house, on Middleside, was less than 150 yards from our front door. It was one of the first houses destroyed by Japanese airplanes, and all that is left is a giant bomb crater. Their third house was near the first and is currently being used for a maintenance area and short term dump, which has John understandably upset. He also showed us where his school was, near the hospital building, and some of the road and business establishment locations at Bottomside.

John likes to tell the story of Frank’s mother at Sto. Tomas. She had a tropical ulcer in her foot that wouldn’t heal. The Japanese “doctor” wanted to amputate the leg. John’s mother would not let him do it, screaming at him in such a way that she was successful. When the American liberation came the first thing they wanted to do was amputate as well, but she insisted that they try drugs and as a result the leg was saved. To this day the foot bothers his sister, but John always reminds her that she could have gone through life without a leg if not for her strong and devoted mother.

John has a sharp wit. One night at the MacArthur Café in 2003 we were trying to drink beers in peace, only to be serenaded by some of the worst Karaoke singing you have ever heard in your life. John kept saying, “If I give them 50 pesos do you think they’d sit down and shut up?” When he was kept awake by hotel guests’ loud music until at least midnight on this most recent stay, he told a staff member of the Corregidor Inn, “Let me know the next time there’s going to be singing like that so I can go to Bataan and get some sleep.”

One day during this trip we were eating at Pirate’s Cove on the south beach when karaoke broke out. John told us that this reminded him that he once had taken voice lessons. He wanted to sing baritone, but his teacher said, “You ought to sing tenor. Ten or twenty miles away from here.” She also told him, “With your voice, you ought to be on stage. The one that leaves Dodge City at midnight.”

John and Frank left on Thursday, and we hope to see them again. John has his doubts whether he’ll ever be able to make the trip again, although he says that if we can talk Judy M into coming he’ll be back. Are you seeing this, Judy? Frank says that he hopes to come back some day with his children. We are going to miss them.

People who have a connection with Corregidor often get the blues when they leave here. Here’s hoping and guessing that they will both be back some day soon.

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