Saturday, October 31, 2009

We survive Typhoon Santi

We are writing this short notice to assure you that we are safe and sound after having the Typhoon Mirinae (Santi in the Philippines) pass just north of Metro Manila, which is 25 miles northeast of Corregidor. It was calm all day Friday – clearly the calm before the storm – until evening. The rains began at 9:45 PM and continued off and on for about 13 hours, totaling 2.75 inches. (Our friend Fatty Arbuckle in Lake Havasu, Arizona tells us that they have received just 2.34 inches of rain so far this year.)

We are guessing that the winds here at Middleside never exceeded 40-50 MPH. We are including two pictures of a tree in our front yard to show the wind affects. This particular eucalyptus tree normally leans a great deal, but you can see how much the top was bending in the wind.

Fortunately, there is only minor tree damage on Corregidor. We are awaiting word, hoping that the affects were minimal in Manila and the rest of Central Luzon.

Once again bad weather hit on the weekend, this time cancelling Sun Cruises’ planned Halloween outing.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Eli, Taxi drivers in Metro Manila, Back on the Rock

While in Leyte for the 65th Anniversary celebrations, twice Marcia heard Filipinos refer to her in reference to Ambassador Kristie Kenney. The first was after the events on the morning of the 20th. Two security men were speaking together in rapid Tagalog, so she couldn’t tell if they were saying she resembles the ambassador, or wondering if she might be related to her. On Wednesday, as we were exiting the bus at the airport for our return to Manila, she heard several Filipinas call out, “Safe flight, Ambassador Kenney!” It certainly seemed that they were sincere, although Marcia did not stop to ask them. With Marcia’s hair cut in a similar style, and having similar height and facial bone structure, it’s not surprising that some Filipinos make the mistaken connection. We’ve included a group picture which contains the two of them for your comparison.

We had made plans to spend Thursday and Friday in Makati following the tour, to renew our medical insurance and visas for the next year. It was much speedier than the initial application routines a year ago, with both completed by lunchtime Thursday. That left time for some other lower priority errands in the afternoon, and a relaxed day Friday. We discovered a free wireless internet station right across the street from our hotel, so we took advantage of it for software upgrades, a bit of browsing, and email at a much higher speed than on Corregidor.

An email friend had wanted to meet us when we were in Metro Manila, so we arranged to have lunch together Friday. Eli was already at the restaurant when we approached, and came to greet us. Since we have sent photos of ourselves with our emails, he had the advantage of knowing our faces – and Steve’s height, which really stands out here. It was a pleasure to visit face-to-face, and learn a little more about one another. He was so excited to meet us that we told him he might be our #1 fan! He presented us with several gifts, including books and cell phone reload cards. Eli often sends us comments about our newsletters, and has shared many travel experiences of his own, some of which we included in one of our newsletters recently. Other candidates for #1 fan are Rafaelito and Fidencio in Saudi Arabia and Linda in Belgium. If only we heard from our kids half as often.

Because we wanted to go to several places in a short time, we decided to take taxis. The drivers usually rent their cars by the day for a set fee. After paying that and their gas expenses, they get to keep the rest. More than one driver said that they can expect to net about 300 pesos (a bit over $6) a day, less than the 385 minimum wage they would make if they could find regular day jobs. They often drive 12 and even 24-hour shifts.

Our first of four drivers said that when he returned to his home during Typhoon Ondoy three weeks ago, he found his 55-year old mother dead in their house which had been temporarily under water. The second driver found his family safe, but on the roof of their submerged house. The third driver is from Samar (south near Leyte) so his family had no problems, but the fourth driver also returned to a submerged house. He described having his family live in a shelter while they waited to return to their home, only to find everything they had owned destroyed by the muddy water. Our hearts go out to the Metro Manila drivers.

We stayed two nights in the BSA Towers opposite Makati’s Greenbelt 5, as posh a shopping area as we have seen except possibly in Caesar’s Palace in Las Vegas. The gap between the haves and have-nots is incredible. BSA is 38 stories, and not luxurious by any standard, much less Makati’s, but more than adequate for us. Its cost of about $52 a night is a mere fraction of what one would pay at the nearby 5-star hotels such as the Shangri-La or Peninsula. It is mostly owner-residential, but they keep a few rooms open to rent out as needed.

On Saturday we arose early and took another taxi to the Sun Cruises departure point. This driver, an older gentleman, told us that his house was completely washed away, and that when he wasn’t in his taxi he was living on the street. He admitted to being a squatter along the Bulacan River. We wonder how many taxi drivers are reduced to living as squatters due to inadequate income. The fact that so many of our drivers said they were victims of the flood made us wonder if one or more were simply saying this to gain sympathy in hopes of a larger tip. On the other hand, none of them brought up the subject, and certainly large numbers were affected in greater Manila. There is just no way for us to be sure.

We knew we were home when, after our unpacking, a monkey started serenading us by banging a loose pipe in the metal fence on the nearby underground water reservoir. After several months of seeing and hearing very few monkeys near our house, they are clearly back in our neighborhood. It almost certainly has to do with their food supply. As vegetarians, they are always looking for ripe fruit or vegetables, and the new-growth leaves of many trees are part of their diet as well – not just those from our little papayas.

The wind appears to have shifted back to the northeast, or summer, monsoon. It has been sunny here for the past week. We are happy to have laundry dry in a few hours on the clothes line again. Another typhoon is headed our way, and we wonder if the prevailing winds will push it our direction rather than send it north as has been the case with the last few which came from the Marianas. We should know by this weekend.

Steve and Marcia on the Rock – comment and see our previous newsletters at:

PS We received this email from Linda Lupton, one of our loyal readers:

Steve and Marcia,

The statues of MacArthur and his party landing at the beach was by my uncle, Anastacio T. Caedo, now deceased.


Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Leyte Tour part 4 - Leyte Landing, San Juanico Bridge

Tuesday, Oct. 20

We received an interesting email which we want to share. Steve had been asked to take pictures of the Hill 120 Monument in Dulag by Don Dencker, who in turn will send them to the grandson of Lt. Mills. Here is Don’s email after he received the photos:

Thank you for the wonderful pictures of Hill 120 - 96th Infantry Division Veterans Memorial Park on Leyte. I see the Park is being well kept up by the City of Dulag. I will send the pictures of the Lt. Mills Memorial to his grandson.

It is now 65 years since I landed on Blue Beach 1 at 10AM October 20th, 700 yards east of Hill 120. Until about 7 years ago, the land from Hill 120 to the waterline was vacant and one could walk down to Leyte Gulf.

As I had heard, in repainting the various concrete components of the Memorial Park, many of the proper colors have been changed. For example, the 96th Infantry Division p
atch has a white diamond on the left (Not red) and its 6 sided background is olive drab (not white). The blue diamond is correct.

A comment on your Report #!. About 1987 the group of 96th Infantry Division veterans got permission from the Philippine National Railroad to restore the deteriorated Capas Railroad Station and make it a Death March Memorial Library. The original roof had fallen in and the walls were in poor shape. The building was completely restored at a cost of abou
t $35,000 in donations, and stocked with books. I and quite a number of other 96th veterans attended the dedication two years later. If I remember the year right it was 1991 I led a tour group there and found that it was no longer a library, but empty. The story we got was that the National Railway had come and taken all the books away. About two years later when I let another group there, the building had become a Death March museum. I hope it is being kept up and gets more visitors that what appeared to be little use by you.

Thank you again for the photos.

Don Dencker

Don, we thank you for the informative email. As we stated, our April group was the last one with signatures in the Capas Train Station guest book, so we imagine that it is very infrequently visited. Whenever we go there, Tommy goes to find the lady with the keys, presumably the caretaker, so we wonder if other visitors ever get inside to see the small museum.

This was another busy day. Again, it will be easier to let pictures tell most of the story. We attended the 65th Anniversary of MacArthur’s return to the Philippines. The marker commemorating the event is in Palo, 20 minute’s drive from our hotel in Tacloban. This landing area was designated as Red Beach. One of the most famous photos of MacArthur is of him wading ashore alongside several other high-ranking Americans and Filipinos, including then-President Osmena.

Once again we were treated royally, having covered seats near, though behind, the stage. We were in place by 8:45, but knew that it would be a couple of hours, if we were lucky, before the program began. At first the weather was good, but thunderstorms were in the area. Because we had extra time, we got to talk with other guests, especially the Filipino veterans and American military personnel attached to the US Embassy. We were highly honored when the American Ambassador to the Philippines, Kristie Kenney, personally introduced the President of the Philippines, Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, to each member of our group soon after both arrived for the event.

It began to rain soon after the program actually started. The speakers included the Japanese and US Ambassadors, representatives from the embassies of Australia and Canada, and the Philippine President. All gave short speeches, so the ceremony lasted less than an hour. Afterward, Ambassador Kenney posed for photos with our group and our special veterans.

We were then transported to the “Price Mansion” in Tacloban, used as headquarters by General MacArthur upon his return. A string orchestra performed outside for lesser VIPs (IPs ??), while inside the mansion we were serenaded by choirs and entertained by highly skilled and somewhat daring native dancers. Some pranced between clacking bamboo sticks, while others danced with lit candles balanced on their heads. We had a great buffet lunch, maybe the best we’ve ever had in the Philippines. We were once again treated like royalty, with the Vice Governor Maria Mimietta Bagulaya and Remedios Petilla, a former Governor of Leyte and mother to current Governor Carlos Jericho Petilla.

After lunch we took a bus ride across the San Juanico Bridge, which connects Leyte and Samar which are separated by the San Juanico Strait. This strait claims the fastest currents of any strait in the world. The bridge is the longest bridge in the Philippines, technically a compression arch bridge, whatever that is. The design can look like an “S” as you approach Samar and an “L” as you approach Leyte. The traffic was light enough that the bus driver was given permission to stop at a couple of places to allow us to get out and take pictures. Of course our security personnel were very watchful for our safety.

Earlier our group was informed of the closing ceremony in Palo, and urged to attend by the organizer. Eight of us, including the two veterans who had been part of the Leyte landings, went back to the Red Beach. One of our veterans spoke of his experiences, and we also heard from local Filipinos who want to keep alive the memories of the sacrifices made by their forefathers and mothers. Lastly, we took part in the annual candle-lighting ceremony. The candles are then floated on bamboo rafts to illuminate the famous MacArthur landing statues which stand in a shallow reflecting pool to simulate the famous photo.

Tomorrow we will fly back to Manila. Most of our guests will continue on to San Francisco. We will be staying in Makati for a couple of days for business. We hope to be back on The Rock on Saturday.

See the Picasa photo album on the web at:

In the photos you will see, among others, Gilbert C. Teodoro, Jr., Secretary of the Department of National Defense and candidate for President wearing a white barong, Ambassador Kenney in a black dress, Captain Vic Jones, Defense Attaché for the Embassy of Australia in Navy dress whites, President Arroyo in a light-aqua pant suit, and our two Leyte landing veterans, and Otha D. Jackson (left) and Thomas Clark standing in front of the MacArthur landing memorial.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Leyte Tour part 3 - Dulag ceremony, Blue Beach

Sunday, Oct. 18

The day started with the most impressive buffet breakfast we have ever seen. Aside from the normal breakfast foods, they served sushi, pizza, and many kinds of fish and meat dishes usually seen as lunch or dinner. It was much more extensive than the Manila Hotel buffet, but their servers were not nearly as attentive.

One of our tourists was not feeling well and decided, for safety’s sake, to skip the Leyte portion of the trip. He has already been to Leyte and was going to assist Steve, who has not, with commentary. However, our Philippine guide Tommy is well versed enough that, with him, Phil’s documentation, and our local helpers, we will be okay. The flight to Leyte was uneventful, lasting just over an hour in the air. We were able to identify some of the islands by their shapes as we flew over, comparing the view with a map from Tommy.

We were greeted by a small entourage, including Department of Foreign Affairs personnel, a governor’s office representative, and a security team assigned to us for all group outings. Our WWII veterans posed for pictures – lots of pictures! Two of them landed here 65 years ago this week, and this is their first time to be in the Philippines since war-time. Then we boarded a bus and took a trip to Burauen to see a library paid for in part by the members of the 96th Infantry Division (US). Being Sunday, however, we could not go inside.

Monday, Oct. 19

Today was a very busy day, and would require writing for hours to fully cover. Since we are tired, and we are staying in a hotel with free wireless internet, we will hit the high points and invite you to go to our Picasa website for the majority of the pictures.

We began with an early breakfast at our hotel in Tacloban, Leyte. The view from the dining room is north over the swimming pool and across the Straight of San Juanico toward Samar, the fourth-largest island in the Philippines.

Then we boarded the bus and drove south to the town of Dulag to attend its annual Leyte Gulf celebration. The first thing we saw was a plaque honoring the soldier who raised the first American flag here in 1944. The plaque does not mention that Lt. Mills was killed only one or two days later.

After being introduced to a few of the local dignitaries including the mayor, we were ushered to seats in the front two rows, as a Catholic Mass was just beginning on the stage. Afterward, a long but well-planned program began. Part of the ceremony was raising the colors, and the two veterans who landed at Leyte were honored with an invitation to raise the American flag. There were several speakers, including Mayor Manuel Sia Que (pronounced shocky), a Chinese Filipino, Leyte Governor Carlos Jericho Petilla (both of whom can be seen pictured with Steve) and a Filipino veteran. We were also entertained by a couple of student groups, high school teachers who performed two native dances, and the most impressive SM Mall of Asia Marching Band, which danced while playing American patriotic and swing music. Two of our veterans even played God Bless America, unrehearsed, over the microphone, on their harmonicas.

An interesting guest showed up after Mass; General Douglas MacArthur. Actually it was a costumed man who portrayed the general, moving in slow motion to avoid interrupting the program, and he would freeze in classic “Mac” poses, similar to actors you see on the sidewalks in San Francisco.

Later we climbed Hill 120, named for its height. It was the scene of a small fight between Japanese and American troops, with the flag-raising by Lt. Mills signaling the American victory. There were several children on the hilltop, since it was a local holiday.

Mayor Sia Que invited us all to lunch at the Municipal Hall. The buffet included carabao (water buffalo) meat, which tastes like beef, but is tough like brisket. There were several Filipino vets in attendance, including one Death March and Camp O’Donnell survivor.

The “Blue Beach,” one of the Leyte landing sites, was only a few blocks away, so most of us walked there. A couple of our more senior citizens took tricycle rides, as much to aid the local economy as anything else. We had to pass between small houses, and got to see a woman hand pumping water, a young girl washing clothes the old-fashioned way, and several fishermen and women mending fishing nets. Children here are fascinated by having their pictures taken and then immediately seeing the results on the camera screen.

Finally we went to the Santo Nino Shrine near our hotel in Tacloban. It consists of a chapel, 13 guest rooms, a 20 seat dining room, and several other rooms on the main floor. Bedrooms built for the Marcos family are on the second floor, along with a massive ballroom and a dining room seating up to 30. Built between 1979 and 1981 at an undisclosed cost, it is essentially a museum of items given to President Ferdinand Marcos and First Lady Imelda. Sadly, according to our guide, no one ever actually stayed there. Santo Nino refers to Baby Jesus, and the shrine was built here because this is the hometown of Mrs. Marcos.

In the evening the group was invited to a special dinner in Tacloban. It was attended by several dignitaries, and included Leyte Governor Petilla.

See the Picasa photo album on the web at:

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Leyte Tour part 2 - Subic, Clark, Prison Camps

Wednesday, Oct. 14

In the morning we went to JEST, the Jungle Environmental Survival Training Camp. It includes a scenic overlook of Subic Bay and an aviary. The highlight is always a man demonstrating how to use a bolo knife to make a spoon, fork, eating dish, cup, rice and viand cookers - all from bamboo. He also shows how to build a roaring fire in less than five minutes, also using only his bolo and bamboo. Afterward we had seafood spaghetti at an Italian restaurant near the bay, and some of our guests went shopping at the duty-free stores.

Thursday, Oct. 15

During our April tour, this day is very busy. Because we had to restructure this itinerary, we can take our time getting back to Manila before our trip to Leyte. The first stop was San Guillermo Church, which was buried in 20 feet of ash from Mt. Pinatubo. Every time we return, the church is in better shape, and now it looks like it is functioning well again. The altar area is fully restored and beautiful.

Next, we stopped at the old San Fernando (Pampanga) train station. We were shocked to see that the houses along the street leading to the train station are in the process of being torn down. They were put up by squatters 30 and 40 years ago, and the railroad finally decided to get rid of them along their right-of-way. To be honest, most of them were more shack than house, but nonetheless they were homes to many families. Whereas Steve used to buy sodas for 20 or so children each time we stopped, this time there were no children near the station. The historical significance of the building, which was used by the Japanese as a staging point to load prisoners onto railroad cars, will keep it from being torn down. Because the cars were packed so tightly, many of the POWs suffocated during their 20-mile, four-hour ride to Capas, Tarlac.

We ate lunch at the VFW in Angeles City near the old Clark Air Force Base. We all enjoyed great filet mignon dinners, with the exception of two guests who are vegetarians. Afterwards our veterans posed with a couple of the veterans from the club. We then visited a cemetery which is the only one in the Philippines that has a significant number of American civilians buried in it. Finally we visited Ft. Stotsenberg, the original army base which is more or less an extension of Clark Field. We went through the museum and also took a look at the house of the base commander, the most famous of whom was Jonathan “Skinny” Wainwright, the general who surrendered the Philippines in May of 1942.

This morning’s Philippine Daily Inquirer had an interesting headline: “Dam managers called liars”. Some people might say the first word is missing an “n”. The story has to do with managers of dams, of course, which have been difficult to manage since the recent typhoons. Just one example of how easy it is to use English entertainingly in a country in which most people are at least somewhat fluent in the language.

Another example occurred when the two of us tried to settle into our room in the new Fontana Resort at Clark. No matter where we set our air conditioner, we got cold air. It didn’t matter if we set it at 95 degrees. It didn’t matter if we turned it to “Heat.” We brought it to the attention of a maid but couldn’t get her to understand. After first assuming we wanted the room even colder, she then showed us how to turn the temperature dial warmer, as if we had not already tried that. Later we explained the problem to a male member of housekeeping, with the same result and no solution. We finally had to turn the system off, which meant having to listen to outside noises. It was frustrating because we were very clear, and even used the Tagalog words for hot (mainit) and cold (malamig), along with pantomime to indicate that we were shivering. The thermostat had only one temperature – arctic! (By the way, when the maintenance man finally showed up as we were checking out Friday morning, we went through the whole explanation yet again, with the same non-results.)

Friday, Oct. 16

We stopped at a Kamikaze airstrip monument. There are two Kamikaze memorials, one for takeoffs and one for landings. You ask, why would a Kamikaze pilot need a landing strip? Good question. The answer is that they landed here when arriving from Taiwan, then took off from here for their one-way missions. We visited only one because the other is off the road and is still flooded.

Next we saw the Capas train station, terminus for those POWs who were forced to make the train ride. They still had an 8km march to Camp O’Donnell. There is a small museum with a guest book. Marcia noticed that the last person to sign the book was a guest from our visit in April. How sad that such an historic site is so seldom visited. Then we went to Camp O’Donnell, where around 2,000 Americans and 20-25,000 Filipinos died in a few short months. The names of all those who died either during the Death March or at the prison are in two locations, depending on nationality. It is a very emotional experience to stand in such a place.

Lunch was at a small shopping area with multiple food choices. We ate with three guests at Max’s, a Filipino chain. We entered the back door, passing through a large empty dining area. Almost immediately we heard a sound which resembled athletic shoes squeaking on a basketball floor. We looked at each other trying to determine who had the squeaky shoes. The squeaks continued, even in the main dining area. Then we realized that it was low-battery chirps from smoke detectors overhead. This particular restaurant must have a smoke detector every few feet, because the chirps could be heard randomly from all parts of the building. We couldn’t believe that this was standard operating procedure. Maybe they think their guests are impressed. Our lunches were excellent, so putting up with the chirps makes for a good story.

Due to the age-group of our guests, and several minor ailments, we have had to make pharmacy stops almost every day. Steve can remember making one stop in 2002 for a guest who needed diarrhea medicine, and on one subsequent tour we remember one pharmacy stop. It seems that the most common complaints are always diarrhea and constipation. Pharmacies here are usually small, don’t all carry the same medications, and don’t stock in quantity due to the heat, so we walk down the street from pharmacy to pharmacy until we meet our guests’ needs.

Because the stops planned for yesterday and today are normally done in one day, we arrived in Cabanatuan much earlier than is typical. It was nice to see the city and the people before dark. Due to slowdowns from typhoon flooding and construction on one street, requiring a detour after finally getting our big bus turned around, we reached the hotel an hour or so later than expected.

Saturday, Oct. 17

This was mostly a travel day, as we had to go back to Manila from Cabanatuan. But before the return trip we visited the site of Cabanatuan Prison Camp Number One, the main camp. Steve’s father was imprisoned here for 16 months before being shipped to Japan. He arrived nine months after the camp opened, by which time the conditions had improved enough that prisoners were no longer dying every day. We also visited a bridge two miles down the road, where Philippine Scouts – without sustaining a single casualty – killed 1,000 Japanese soldiers while the raid was ongoing. If you are interested in the daring rescue mission to free the last 500+ prisoners, read the book, Ghost Soldiers, or see the movie, The Great Raid. One of the POWs at Cabanatuan was Major Thomas Smothers, Jr., who died on his was to the Mukden, Manchuria, prison camp. His sons later became a famous comedy team that we enjoyed 40 years ago.

The ride to our hotel in Manila was long, lengthened due to the traffic snarl that greeted us once we got off the expressway. We stayed in the Sofitel Philippine Plaza Hotel, a huge, upscale facility on Manila Bay. Collis Davis, co-author and photographer of Corregidor in Peace and War, joined several of us in the lobby to sign copies of his book, which is available on

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Leyte Tour Part 1 - Manila, Corregidor, Bataan

Thursday, Oct. 8

We took the Sun Cruises ferry from Corregidor to Manila, where we checked in at the Heritage Hotel. We went to the SM Mall of Asia to meet with Alvin Alfonso, who is organizing a Manila-area chapter of the Philippine Scouts Heritage Society. The Philippine Scouts were Filipino soldiers trained under the US Army. They fought as part of USAFFE troops in the Philippines, especially on Bataan and Corregidor. Apparently, most members of the Heritage Society live in the United States. Steve is becoming a member.

After eating dinner at Sbarro’s, we went back to the hotel. We asked at the desk if they had a reservation for Phil Peterson, who was expected to check in at around midnight. They found nothing. We were originally going to have Phil join us when we picked up the rest of the guests at the airport, but our Philippine guide Tommy said it would be best if the three of us waited at the hotel.

Friday, Oct. 9

Phil did not know the plan, and called us from the lobby at 4:20 in the morning. We thought about going back to sleep, but decided instead to get up and spend the time talking with Phil, who told us he’d arrived at 1:00 AM and never checked in. At 6:00 we ate breakfast, and then the three of us waited for the tour bus.

Although the plane arrived on time at 5:25, it took over an hour for the guests to get through customs, claim their bags, etc. We finally saw the bus pull into the Heritage driveway at 8:00. The guests were all tired, in part from the 16-hour flight from San Francisco, naturally, but also due to the fact that the majority of them have been senior citizens for awhile. We at 57 and 56 years old are the kids in the group, as far as the Americans go. We have four WWII vets on the tour, including one female, our first. She was stationed in the United States as a member of the Army Air Corps.

We all checked in at the Manila Hotel, toured the MacArthur suite, and then visited the American Cemetery in Manila. We were appalled to see the high-rises going up around the cemetery, especially one that ruins the previously beautiful view from the main gate. One of our guests was wounded by a Japanese bullet somewhere near the cemetery, Ft. McKinley at the time. The area is now called Ft. Bonifacio. We also made a brief stop at the old Nichols Field terminal, which has a library of Philippine History in the basement. It includes many books about the war in the Philippines. After lunch in the basement of Landmark, a department store in Makati, everyone was ready to return to the hotel and get some rest before our “official kick-off dinner” that evening.

Saturday, Oct. 10

We slept in until around 7:00. Steve showered first, expecting his first warm shower in six weeks. Instead, the water from the hot tap was so cool that he tried the cold tap to make sure that the two were not switched. While the hot water felt lukewarm, the water from the cold side felt like it was chilled. Marcia followed, and after another five minutes had scalding-hot water. Since it took 15 minutes for the hot water to arrive, we wondered if the water heater was located over in Intramuros across Roxas Boulevard.

After a superb buffet breakfast, we visited Santo Tomas University, site of a WWII civilian internment camp. Next, Steve offered the guests an opportunity to walk the back alley to the Manila City Jail, aka Bilibid, which was used as a Japanese POW camp. Steve’s father was imprisoned there for about 10 months, including five in the prison hospital. You can’t really see much of the jail but the walk is an eye-opener, since it passes through a very poor area that is surprisingly safe. Most of the people took the walk and were happy they did so, expressing dismay at the obvious poverty, but also awe at the politeness of the adults and children who lined the walkway.

We then proceeded to the old walled city of Intramuros, spending time at Ft. Santiago. Then we looked at a couple of the old Catholic churches, St. Mary’s Cathedral and St. Augustine’s, the latter having survived the massive war-time shelling better than most other large buildings in Manila. We next stopped at Central United Methodist Church just outside the wall, the oldest Protestant church in the country. It became a place of refuge for civilians, who were then moved to Santo Tomas. Finally we stopped at Tesoro’s, a Filipino handicrafts store.

Later in the day three of us took a taxi to St. Augustine’s for Mass. A group of us finished the day by eating at the Blue Bay Restaurant which sits on Manila Bay. Due to the recent bad weather, however, the nice view to the bay was blocked by tarps.

Sunday, Oct. 11

We got up early and boarded the bus for the Sun Cruises ferry. There were a number of races including a marathon with the start/finish line at Quirino Grandstand, causing our bus driver to detour 12 kms to go the two kms to the CCP Terminal. We boarded the ferry and had a normal day tour of The Rock with Steve as guide. Later we toured the Topside Hospital, watched the sunset at Battery Grubbs, and went into Malinta Tunnel for the evening lateral tour.

Monday, Oct. 12

This was our first “adventure day,” as things did not quite go as planned. We boarded the Sun Cruises ferry at around 10:00 and headed to Mariveles, with an ETA of 10:30. As we approached the harbor, however, the ferry came to a stop and we just sat. We were told that the tide was too low, and that we could dock in 15 minutes. About a half hour later the captain must have decided that the water was rising too slowly, because all of a sudden we turned around and headed back into Manila Bay. We docked near Cabcaben, and then had to wait another half hour or so for Emil, our bus driver, to arrive. We had to backtrack the 20 kilometers to Mariveles.

So we were now running two hours late when we pulled into town. We visited the monument and marker at KM0, the traditional starting point of the Bataan Death March, then went next door and ate at Jollibee’s, the Filipino equivalent to McDonald’s. We stopped in Limay at a plaque dedicated to Filipino and American nurses. Then we went to the Balanga Elementary School and visited the monument memorializing General King’s surrender of his troops to General Homma on April 9, 1942. While walking along the school building, Steve heard some children calling to him. When he looked up, he saw them behind barred windows. He asked them if they were in prison and they said, “Yes!” So he took a picture of the “prisoners.” By the way, all school children here wear uniforms, with the girls all wearing skirts.

Because we were running late we decided to save Mt. Samat for the next morning, and went straight to Montemar Beach Resort, where some of us waded in the South China Sea before supper and bedtime.

Since beginning the tour, we’ve heard that we may be unable to go up north for the part of the trip that includes Lingayen Gulf, where the Japanese invaded in 1941 and the Americans returned in 1945. Going to Baguio was also questionable, where the first bombs were dropped in the Philippine islands and where General Yamashita surrendered. There has been so much rain and flooding due to stalled-out Typhoon Parma that the roads are barely passable and the Hotel in Lingayen suffered water damage. Going to Baguio, only one road of three is open, and it is only passable by small vehicles. Gasoline trucks cannot make their deliveries, so there is no gas available in the city. Quite a mess! So tonight we made the final decision to skip those locations and spend more time in central Luzon. The guests are disappointed, as are we, but they are also seasoned travelers and know that nothing is certain when nature exerts its power.

Tuesday, Oct. 13

About 30 minutes after we left Montemar Beach Resort the bus was climbing Mt. Samat, where a shrine honors the valor shown by soldiers of WWII. There is a cross, 400 ft. tall, at the top of the mountain, with an elevator that takes visitors through the upright to the arms of the cross. From there one can see for miles in each direction when the weather is clear. Steve went up with four guests. Then we drove to Subic Bay where we had a great lunch at a Chinese restaurant. Before checking into the hotel we visited the Hellships Memorial on the waterfront, and the Olongapo Museum.

En route we had one near incident. As our bus driver was in the process of making a left turn, a man on a motorcycle passed us on the left. Emil the driver jerked the bus back to the right and hit the brakes to avoid hitting the motorcycle. The jerking motion sent one passenger into the aisle of the bus, and it took a few minutes to work his feet free from the bar his feet were under, since he was sitting in the front seat. Another passenger seated in the center of the bus sustained a scraped knee and a scraped arm, both minor, as he was throw forward and left. We were all a bit startled, but finished the day with no further surprises.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Writing the book, getting ready for our tour

Typhoon Pepeng followed closely on the heels of Typhoon Ondoy, and was rated a much stronger storm. Whereas Ondoy was only at Category 1 as it approached Manila, Pepeng was at 5. Pepeng had much higher winds, which is how the category is determined, but Ondoy contained much more rain. It drenched Metro Manila, the most heavily populated area of Luzon, dropping a record-high quantity in a short time period. It raises the question whether the rating system should be revised to factor in potential rainfall amounts.

Those living on the northeast coast of Luzon, the largest island in the Philippines, received the brunt of the wind and rain from Pepeng, with resultant landslides leading to more human distress. The night before Pepeng was anticipated to hit Metro Manila, some stores were sold out of candles, D-cell batteries, and canned goods such as tuna and sardines. Much to the relief of all involved in Manila’s recovery operations, Pepeng veered a little more northward just in time.

Here on Corregidor, we were stocked up with enough food for several days, and had shuttered all of our exposed windows, but it turned out that nothing much beyond ordinary occurred, with almost no wind and just a half inch of rain on Friday night, considered the most critical time period. Saturday we received gusty winds and a few downpours from Pepeng’s trailing bands, but added just another half inch of rain.

This is a difficult time of year to report news on Corregidor. Because it’s still rainy season, we don’t see many tourists, and this year September’s numbers were especially low. Corregidor only had around 2,000 visitors, down 1,000 from last year, which was also down from preceding years. Several weekends we saw trips cancelled due to unsafe boating conditions in the bay. It is also understandable for people to adopt a stay-at-home mindset when the weather is wet and windy, so Sun Cruises will sometimes see cancellations on days where storms are not expected but rain is probable.

As for us, we do little exploring or hiking in the jungle because it is just too wet and muddy, and our walks are mostly on the paved or cleared roads. So we sit around a bit more, and read, watch videos on our laptop computers, play cribbage, or work puzzles. Steve is especially fond of Sudokus, to which Marcia says, “No thanks!” She much prefers different types of word puzzles to logic-based ones.

We have also been spending a lot of time editing and revising Steve’s book about his Dad. We are being very thorough, trying to find every spelling error, and footnoting the manuscript extensively. If you’ve never done anything like this before, believe us, it’s a lot harder than it seems.

We both recently read The Chronicles of Narnia by C. S. Lewis. Its editing is impeccable, which you would expect both from Lewis himself and the fact that there have been decades to find and correct any problems. Afterward, we both read C. S. Lewis and Narnia for Dummies. Although the content is interesting and it is a fairly good reference, the editing is dreadful. The three proofreaders and the company which are named should be ashamed. For example, page 12 ends with a completed sentence. On the top of page 13 is a picture, which is followed by the second half of a sentence. The beginning of that sentence is nowhere to be found. Time and again there are instances of incorrect grammar, such as the use of “for him and I.” Even when we write this insignificant newsletter, we do our best to correct any grammatical mistakes, and are embarrassed if something slips through. Can you tell we were English majors in our many moons ago?

So it is with writing a book. You can read a sentence time and again, and very easily miss an obvious error because in your mind it says what you think it says rather than what it actually says. For this reason, we are reading the book out loud. When we do find a problem or a sentence that we want to rewrite, we have to be extra careful not to introduce a whole new error into the text. For example, say you have the sentence, “He was hiding by day and moving by night.” You might decide to change it from passive to active and end up with, “He hid by and moving by night.” Spellcheckers are a blessing and a curse. Anyone who has used one knows how easily it is to type form when you meant from, and the spellchecker is happy, in fact we think it may be grinning form ear to ear.

Thus we are taking our time, and trying as best we can to have the book grammatically correct as well as historically factual. Whether anyone will care and bother to read it if and when it gets published is beside the point. We want to do our very best, and then whatever happens, happens.

For the past several months we have not seen many monkeys right near the house. The colonies move with their food supply, and they seemed very fond of the tamarinds which were readily available until about mid-February, at which point the monkeys moved on. Now, the last few days, they are back in abundance, being seen and heard close to the house. They often spend time by the old underground water reservoir on the other side of the former butterfly garden. They are Philippine long-tailed Macaques, and, as the photos show, they’re not kidding about having long tails. The little rascals love to eat the leaves of young papaya trees, making it a challenge for us to get papayas started. Just the other day Steve saw a monkey just ten feet from the house starting to reach for a few tender leaves. He chased it away, but we know it will return to the scene of the crime, either at night or during the two weeks we are on tour.

We are preparing for a 12-day tour focused on MacArthur’s return to the Philippines 65 years ago this month. We have 15 guests coming from the United States. Besides our normal areas of Manila, Corregidor, Bataan, Subic Bay, and the prison camps, we will also be visiting places where we’ve never been, such as Lingayen Gulf, Baguio, and Leyte. We will try to keep in touch, and maybe even report on our trip along the way, depending upon time and internet availability.