Thursday, November 5, 2009

MNiddleside Barracks, Mt. Himmelbjerg, moonset and monkeys

In our last newsletter we said that Typhoon Santi caused only minor tree damage on the island. That was true for the trees around our house. Once we made a drive down to Bottomside, however, we realized that Santi was more destructive to Corregidor than Typhoon Ondoy, which had caused so much flooding in Manila. Santi snapped quite a few trees at 6-12 feet above the ground, broke many major branches, and some trees were uprooted by the winds which came in unobstructed from Manila Bay.

Now that the northeast monsoon has returned, heralding the end of rainy season, we can once again think about trekking through the jungle to do more exploring. The first two buildings that we chose were essentially in line with Middleside Barracks. The only remains are the foundations of the two large buildings, easily found by walking a couple hundred yards northwest from the north end of Middleside Barracks. We have attached a picture from our maps to show you these buildings. All four are marked with 7’s, which indicates barracks.

Signs in front of the two Middleside Barracks buildings indicate that the southeastern one was used by the 60th Coast Artillery and the northwestern one by the 91st Philippine Scouts. However, Everett Reamer of the 60th CAC emailed us the following: “After basic training, we were assigned as Battery "F" and we remained at the north end section of Middleside Barracks. Adjacent to Battery "F" was Headquarters Battery 60th CA. [Note: This is the wider section in the middle of the northwestern building, labeled 107.] Middleside Barracks housed only Americans before the start of WWII. I noticed on my visit to Corregidor in 1992, that [signs by the] Battery "F" areas indicated that the 92nd Philippine unit was housed there.” Everett told Steve, when they first met on tour in 2002, that Battery E, Steve’s father’s unit, was quartered in the south end of that same northwestern barracks building.

We believe that, despite the signage, those two buildings were both used for Americans. Besides Everett Reamer’s assertion, Ray Makepeace, who served with Steve’s father in Battery E of the 60th CAC, identified a catwalk in one of our tour photographs, saying that it led to their quarters. The catwalk, which Ray said he and Steve’s father slept upon during extremely hot nights, is attached to the northwestern building, the one currently identified as quartering the Philippine Scouts. Since Topside Barracks, which were occupied by the smaller 59th CAC, were slightly larger than Middleside Barracks, it is reasonable to assume that the larger 60th CAC occupied all of Middleside Barracks. Add to that the fact of the troop separation that existed in the U.S. Army at the time, and we are fairly confident in our conclusions. We thus surmise that the two buildings which we explored, and which we have identified in the attached photo as “additional barracks buildings,” were actually assigned to the 91st Philippine Scouts. They are clearly separated by a steep hill from officers’ and field officers’ quarters (indicated on the map by 3’s and 2’s).

As you probably all know, at the beginning of World War II, segregation was the norm, not only in public life but also in the Army. Race was not the only reason, however, that American and Filipino soldiers were kept apart. Filipino troops came from all over the Philippine Islands. Unlike today, with most Filipinos having two common languages, Tagalog (now often called “Filipino”) and English, people from the many different regional groups usually could not communicate with each other. Tagalog, Ilocano, Ilongo, and Cebuano, for example, are distinct languages with unique accents and few words in common. Therefore, the Philippine Scout Units were also separated into language groups. Their commanding officers were typically American, and had to communicate with troops using interpreters.

Monday, November 2nd, was All Souls Day, a major Holy Day and a work and school holiday here in the Philippines. Sun Cruises asked Steve to guide for members of an extended Danish family who are in the Philippines for a wedding. While on Topside, Steve asked one of them who spoke fluent English if he knew the highest point in Denmark. The man replied, “I think it is Mt. Himmelbjerg, only 172 meters (564 feet) above sea level.” He explained that Himmelbjerg, pronounced roughly HIM-el-byow, literally translates to “Sky Mountain.” He was not surprised to learn that we were standing on higher ground, at Topside’s 628 feet above sea level, than anywhere in his country. Sky Mountain, at less than 600 feet, sounds to us like Mt. Pleasant, Michigan, where the only changes in elevation appear to be the freeway overpasses.

We want to emphasize that Steve only guides for Sun Cruises upon special request, or on days when they are short of guides, as was the case Monday. So, if you plan to come to Corregidor on the Sun Cruises Ferry from Manila and you would like Steve as your guide, this must be arranged with him and the Sun Cruises office at least one week in advance.

On Tuesday Steve awoke early and decided that he would try to photograph the moonset from Battery Grubbs. The moon was just past full, so it was setting at almost the same time as sunrise. He was able to witness the moonset over the southern tip of Bataan, with colorful clouds being lighted by the sun rising behind him. Sun and moonsets typically offer better viewing here than sun and moonrises, the reason being that Metro Manila lies to our east, and its smog and haze tend to obscure the horizon. To the west we overlook the South China Sea, part of the Pacific Ocean, giving a clearer view.

As we’ve said, the monkeys are back around our house in abundance. We are always amazed at how they can jump from tree to tree and never miss. Well, that is, until Tuesday morning. Steve was working on the computer while sitting in our “dirty kitchen” area, and was hearing normal monkey chatter. Marcia had just come outside, and saw monkeys jumping branch-to-branch in a tree. All of a sudden Steve heard a screech followed immediately by a thud. At the same time, Marcia saw a smaller monkey jump for his next branch. He either missed it or lost his grip. Splat! She saw him hit the ground – amazingly, he landed feet first - after a drop of about 20 feet. Then he ran off, maybe embarrassed!

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