Wednesday, December 16, 2009

The Basilio Brothers, "The Rocket", Christmas party

On Monday the “Basilio Brothers” invited us to join them for lunch at the MacArthur Café. Both in their early 50’s, their careers have been spent in advertising. Eros works as an advertising executive, with San Miguel Light as his primary client. Anlex left the corporate world and now teaches business at De La Salle University in Manila. Eros and Anlex were accompanied by their friend Aries, who also teaches business at De La Salle. They come fairly often to Corregidor, and said they always look forward to seeing us and reading our newsletters. They treated us like celebrities, and even though they paid for lunch, sent us text messages thanking us for joining them! We all enjoyed lively conversation about life and politics in the Philippines and the US, and the meal was a nice “advance Christmas” gift.

On Tuesday Sun Cruises invited us to participate in the inauguration of a new attraction for Corregidor. It is called a “Zip Line,” and this particular one was christened “The Rocket,” a rather clever name for something on “The Rock.” The Rocket is basically a 200-meter downhill cable ride, with the rider being suspended in a harness, beginning at the Corregidor Inn and ending on the south beach.

An orientation and ribbon cutting ceremony were attended by Sun Cruises personnel, representatives from the media and tour companies, and the two of us. Then free rides were given to those brave enough to give it a try. Steve was about the 10th to take a turn, and he enjoyed his ride. He thought that the best part was the end. About 20 feet from the landing zone, which consists of an elevated platform and a rubber backstop, it seemed like he was going to smash into the backstop. He was thinking, “Maybe they didn’t account for my size.” All of a sudden, the two-stage braking system kicked in and he made a fairly quick – though not too abrupt – stop. Some will find The Rocket too scary to attempt, while serious adventure seekers might find it too tame. But for the rest of us, it promises a good time. The regular cost for a ride will be 150 pesos, or just over $3.00.

We expect that some people who love Corregidor will have a hard time accepting something like this, intended for entertainment purposes only, on the consecrated island. We appreciate this concern. At the same time, we acknowledge the fact that the ride takes place over the former Barrio San Jose, which, as a civilian settlement, was not an intrinsic part of the Corregidor “war zone.” In other words, although the ride does not add to the island’s historical significance, neither does it detract from it. We know that some potential visitors are not initially interested in The Rock’s rich history, but we do hope that those attracted to the island for other reasons will then be drawn to explore its many ruins, trails, and tunnels. For this reason, we encourage suggestions and efforts to make Corregidor better known. If it takes expanded entertainment offerings - as long as they do not detract from the history or desecrate the hallowed ground - then so be it. The publicity from the major print media alone is highly significant, as is the expected and appreciated word of mouth exposure.

In a similar vein, Sun Cruises has been encouraging team-building activities here. These include options similar to scavenger or treasure hunts. On Monday and Tuesday, for example, Corregidor hosted the Coca-Cola Philippine professional basketball team. By pure chance, we decided to watch Monday’s sunset and the Coke team was there as well. This gave us the chance to meet some of the players, along with an assistant coach, a team physical therapist, and a physician on site “just in case.” Height-wise, most of the players looked like a rural high school team from Michigan or Minnesota. Only one, a player from America, was taller than Steve’s 6’ 5” height. In talking with several of them, we were able to tell that their Corregidor experience would go far beyond a simple team-building adventure; they seemed genuinely moved by what they saw and learned here.

The Corregidor Foundation’s all-island Christmas party was held Tuesday evening. Last year’s party was cancelled due to potentially threatening storms - which failed to materialize. On the other hand, we wouldn’t mind if every day had weather like Tuesday’s; sunny with a high of about 85 and a nice breeze off Manila Bay. Sure beats “back home!” Steve’s mom reported northern Minnesota’s Monday daytime temperature was unable to reach zero, with a wind chill of 17 below!

The party was held at the “Stockade Level,” which is halfway from Bottomside to Middleside, now the residence area for Corregidor Foundation staff. Picnic tables were brought from the south beach area, and temporary lighting was installed. A stage was set up for announcements and the semi-live band. The party was scheduled to begin at 5:00 PM, but those of you who have been paying attention know about “Filipino time.” At 5:00 the only people present were a few of the organizers and the sound-system technicians. As 6:00 approached, we were wondering how many of the 15 cases of beer that we contributed might go unopened. Shortly thereafter, folks began arriving in droves. Many wonderful Filipino foods were laid out, drinks passed around, the blessing offered, opening introductions and announcements made, and the party was on.

The semi-live band consisted of a karaoke machine, a male guitar player who sang occasionally, and two female vocalists. Once in awhile someone got up and sang with the band-members, who seemed happy to share the stage. The band appeared to prefer slower songs, which the Filipinos call “sweet songs” meant for couples, while the crowd was more into the high-energy rock and group participation songs. All the while, young children were chasing each other around the tables and across the dance floor. Nobody seemed to notice or care, all were enjoying the evening.

At 7:30 someone informed Steve that the 15 cases of Red Horse beer (approximately 24 gallons) were all gone. We have no idea how many cans of San Miguel Light and other alcoholic beverages were consumed, to say nothing of juice and juice-type drinks. We stayed until after 9:00, much later than our usual evening, and then quietly slipped away. We’re told that the party lasted until 1:00 or 1:30 in the morning, but by then we were into dreamland.

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