Saturday, May 30, 2009

Benny and the Bolos

FAME, the Filipino-American Memorial Endowment, is an affiliate of the American Chamber of Commerce of the Philippines. It works to preserve and maintain World War II monuments and memorials in the Philippines. One of the organizations under FAME is the Corregidor Foundation, Inc, (CFI), which maintains the island of Corregidor.

CFI gets the vast majority of its funds from the tourists who come here, most notably the guests of Sun Cruises, which runs one or more ferries every day throughout the summer, and as weather permits during rainy season, which will start any day now. A small portion of the fares go to CFI. Most guests also attend the “Light and Sound Show” in Malinta Tunnel with the majority of each entrance fee going to CFI. Tourism here is down about 20% so far this year due to the worldwide recession. As a direct result, CFI’s income is down.

Due to this decrease, CFI has had to make some tough decisions. They have been forced to further tighten a budget that was already bare bones. We can assure you that staffing is at a bare minimum and that those who remain work very hard.

A small group of contractors work on specific projects when money is available. One of the issues involved is the constant encroachment of the jungle. Cleared areas become overgrown. When funds are available for the contractors, those areas can be maintained. They have done excellent work at some of the gun batteries and the roads leading to them. Notice the before and after photos of Battery James.

Presently Benny and his small group, which we call “Benny and the Bolos,” are clearing out Battery James, which has been neglected for many years. We want to point out that the clearing involves removing vines and undergrowth; mature trees are preserved except where they are destroying buildings. It is absolutely amazing what Benny’s group can do with nothing more than bolos. Battery James is on the north side of the head of the island and overlooks Manila Bay and the Bataan Peninsula. Before their clearing you could barely see the concrete buildings which are just a few feet from the road. Now you can clearly see them, as well as the view which demonstrates why the battery was situated there.

Benny and the Bolos work long hours six days a week. For their efforts they are paid 282 pesos (p282) a day. At the current exchange rate of about p47 to the dollar, that amounts to only $6.00 a day. For that they toil away in heat often exceeding 90 degrees with close to 100% humidity, and work even in pouring rain. Without an infusion of funds Benny and the Bolos will have to be laid off as of July 1.

There are several projects that CFI would like to pursue:

1. The view of Cavite and the other fortified islands of the bay from Battery Crockett has been obscured over time. This significance of this impressive 12-inch disappearing gun battery will be obvious when guests can see why its location was chosen.

2. Driving the winding roads of Corregidor with no reference to where you are can be confusing. There are a few select areas along the roadside that could be reopened so that guests riding on the Sun Cruises tranvias would be able to see the Cavite and Bataan provinces and be oriented to their present location.

3. As you know, we recently rediscovered the houses of General MacArthur and President Quezon. The path leading to them and the overgrowth in the houses themselves needs to be taken care of, allowing visitors a chance to see where these men lived while on the island.

We know that many of you are just casual readers of our newsletter. This appeal is not to you. However, if you have a place in your heart for Corregidor, then we ask that you consider helping sponsor one of these projects. As we said, $6.00 will pay one worker for one day. If we can raise a mere $500 that will keep Benny’s group working for an entire month. That is an awful lot of work for $500.

We were members of the Lions Club for the past few years in Michigan. Some of you may belong to groups such as the Lions, the VFW, the American Legion, or the Rotary, and maybe your group would consider a donation. Individuals may wish to contribute in honor of WW II veterans who were important to them.

Donations to FAME are tax deductible in the United States. Checks should be made out to FAME, Inc. and mailed to:

FAME, Inc.
c/o Alex H. Keller
535 Rolling Rock Lane
Cincinnati, OH 45255-3919

In the Philippines mail your check to:

FAME, Inc.
c/o the American Chamber of Commerce of the Philippines, Inc.
2/F, Corinthian Plaza Building
Paseo de Roxas, Makati City
Philippines 1229

Please indicate that the funds are to be used for Corregidor Special Projects, and designate which one if you so choose. We can assure you that 100% of the money will go to the projects. There will be no administrative costs associated with these donations.


Steve and Marcia

P.S. This weekend the American Defenders of Bataan and Corregidor are meeting in San Antonio, Texas. We believe that the ADBC has been gathering every year since 1946. Member attendance has dropped off significantly in the past few years to the point where the group decided that this would be their last convention. However, a group of their descendants has stepped up and will run the conventions in the future. We wish them success and want them to know we are with them in spirit.

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