Sunday, August 30, 2009
You can read her August 27 front-page article at the following web page:
No doubt after reading this tremendous review you will want to get your own copy. Unfortunately, Ms. Tyssen was reading a preliminary version of the manuscript. We are hoping to have We Managed to Survive published within the next year.
From time to time, we send along a few comments from our readers. Today’s comments have to do with our statement in our last newsletter which said, “Now that we are back, realizing the conveniences that we are sacrificing to live here, living once again temporarily without electricity, not having all the foods we are used to, it’s not hard to wonder, did we make the right decision? We still believe so, but only time will tell.”
Believe us when we say that we are in no way discouraged. In fact, later the same day our solar energy system was repaired and we once again have electricity at the house. We think it’s just a natural reaction to having returned from the lap of comparative luxury to all of a sudden being confronted by the realities of living remotely and much more simply. Here we have to rely so heavily on each other and our newfound friends, making the first few days of readjusting a bit intense. Add a hefty dose of post-travel exhaustion, and you can see how it increases the challenges.
The following letters are unedited with the exception that names have been removed to protect privacy.
Hi Marcia & Steve,
I could imagine how hard it is for the two of you to readjust to the present condition there at Corregidor after sometime in the States considering the hot temperature we have now here in the Philippines despite being a rainy season still. Steve is right when he said that oregano is being used here mainly as a medicine. I still have to hear one who uses it as a food item. Based on the attached picture of the herb, it is really the oregano I know since we used to have one in the yard before.
All the best,
Steve & Marcia,
You both made the right decision. Years ago I was in Alaska fishing from a rowboat with an MD, from Chicago. This was he and his wife's first day and he said to me "this is the life, no phones and no one to bother you". This was over 50 years ago and he knew about stress. Don't know if they were as concerned then with it as they are now, though. Then it was make the big bucks.
With what the MD said, you did make the right decision.
Well the re-adjustments on living in Philippines specially if you are accustomed to the American way of life can be frustrating but it is just a state of mind. Like me, even if I'm living here in the UK in their so called 'first world' boring country, yet I always feel like I'm not at all belong here and my heart is in the Philippines. Sometime sooner, I'll be going back to my country for good. Maybe you guys just get bored because you are just concentrating on the Island. Why not try the other WII historic sites as well and for sure there are other sights and sounds the Philippines will be able to surely offer.
Know what, I can't imagine how the defenders of Corregidor were able to stand their ground taken out of context the hardships. If they had known in advance that a lot more will die during the Death March, for sure they will choose martyrdom and never surrender.
Nevertheless, I envy you guys because you are standing on a hallowed ground consecrated by blood of both armies. Keep it up and don't give up. You are just sowing the seeds for future awareness of what they've called the best preserved WWII relics. That task is a no joke, daunting, but it is a legacy.
When I'll get back to the Philippines sometime sooner, this time I will drop by at Corregidor.
Fight the good fight then.
Steve and Marcia,
Welcome Back. Don't you worry because acclimitizing in the Islands (6,700 during high tide) will be easy as I had experiencedl I stayed with the family for almost 10 years back from New Jersey to California. When I decided to return "home" after the kids were already grown up (high school juniors), it began so difficult after all the conveniences back home. But later, I got used to the traffic in MetroManila, the humidity ( I sleep without an aircon and fan) and the bugs. Now, I am 60 and I enjoy the quality time I get here with my 85 year old mom, my cousings and friends. Michael, the young univ. of Michigan doctor, stayed with me for a vacation before he went back to Texas for his hospital work at the University of Texas Medical Center said to me: Dad, stay here in the Phil. becvause I see that you are enjoying your life here. You know how it is back home.
Both of you will surely enjoy and love the life here with or without the conveniences of the US life. As you both grow old, you will be assisted with help in doing things and you have to do it back home and cutting your quality time. You need not always see a doctor to extend your maintenance medicine unlike in the U.S. you have to shell out about $100 unless you have an expensive medical insurance. (That Cobra coverage can "kill" you immediately (ha ha ha).
I used to have a friend, Mr. L M from Trenton, New Jersey, who spent almost his entire life here in the Philippines. He was one of the first Americans who came here and worked with several US companies as liasson with the Embassy. I asked him sometime in 1976 when he was still liveing (at the age of 80), "L, why don't you return to Trenton and just live your life out there?" He aptly answered me: "J, where would I get a nice young wife like C, and a beautiful daughter. I will die here in the Philippines." C was then about 30 years old who was so caring as a wife.
Enjoy the sunset, the greenery and the hospitality of the guys there. Sometimes, try to visit the civilized jungle of metromanila. If I were you, try to enjoy bathing nude in the Island and perhaps, you both will add more experience here. Who needs a nudist camp in Redondo Beach anyway? ha ha ha.
Note: We don’t think that “Redondo Beach” style bathing would be too acceptable here. On the other hand, it would be a sure way to increase tourism! Sorry, J, it’s not gonna happen. You’ll have to have another excuse to come visit us. As you say, ha ha ha.
Steve and Marcia on the Rock – www.steveandmarciaontherock.blogspot.com
Thursday, August 27, 2009
We are in the throes of readjusting to life on Corregidor. Despite the fact that it is rainy season, the first few days have been rain-free. There have been medium to heavy showers with lots of thunder and lightning most nights. Although the temperatures are only hitting the mid-to-high 80’s, the humidity must be a constant 100%. Since the weather was mostly cool during our stay in the States, we are having to re-acclimate. Marcia was so tired from the long days of travel that on the first day back here she skipped dinner, went to bed at 4:00 PM, and slept until 5:30 the next morning.
We were disappointed to find that, despite nine weeks to fix the solar system, it is still not functioning. Apparently the problem was deeper than originally thought, so the engineer responsible for maintenance came without all of the parts that he needed, and has not since returned, apparently waiting for a critical part. So we are back to using flashlights at night, and despite the very high temperatures overnight, we are not able to run our bedroom fan. We do have the diesel genset, but it is far too noisy and expensive to run all the time. This means we are also without a refrigerator. We are running the genset only to wash clothes, and while it is running, we are also charging all of the rechargeable batteries that we can think of, and it is a good time use the computer as well. On other days we do our computer work and charge our phones at the Corregidor Foundation, Inc. (CFI) office.
The island is very green and lush now, as you might expect after the weeks of heavy rain. We have Roy busy trimming the garden pathways which were totally clear when we left, and the hibiscus hedge needs work as well. The areas in the yard which were bare soil have filled in with grass and other ground cover, and the plants that have been started are looking well established in an amazingly short time.
You may remember our story about asking Carmelo to transplant an oregano plant for us late last year. When we returned to the house after a walk we saw that he had planted an entire row of oregano at the edge of the yard. For several months of dry season the plants grew very slowly, and the bed had to be frequently weeded. When we returned from our recent U.S. trip, we were astonished to see that the oregano had grown into a hedge! It is now four feet wide and two to three feet high. At this rate we may be facing “The Attack of the Killer Herbs” in another year. Oregano here is used medicinally, but we have not encountered it used for cooking. When we sent out the original pictures several people thought that it was actually basil, but we are sure from taste, smell, and the fact that the locals call it oregano that it is in fact some form of oregano.
No one likes to be asked for money and we certainly don’t like to ask. However, since many new readers have been added recently, we are going to once again give our readers the opportunity, if they so choose, to help both the Island of Corregidor and four young, hard-working men. With the generous contributions from some of our long-time readers, “Benny and the Bolos” were able to work at special projects the past eight weeks. You can read about them at:
Benny and the Bolos were able to clear the scrub brush around Battery Crockett so that you can now see that it is in fact on a point of land and had a strategic location. Also, they were able to begin clearing around the houses used by General MacArthur and President Quezon on Tailside. Funds are almost used up, and there is still work to do. The cost of employing all four workers for a day is only about $25, so you can see how even a small donation can go a long way. If you would like to contribute, here is the information you need. Designate your check as being for “Corregidor Special Projects.”
Donations to the Filipino-American Memorial Endowment (FAME) are tax deductible in the United States. Checks should be made out to FAME, Inc. and mailed to:
c/o Alex H. Keller
535 Rolling Rock Lane
Cincinnati, OH 45255-3919
In the Philippines mail your check to:
c/o the American Chamber of Commerce of the Philippines, Inc.
2/F, Corinthian Plaza Building
Paseo de Roxas, Makati City
We thank you for anything you can do.
Steve and Marcia on the Rock – comment at www.steveandmarciaontherock.blogspot.com
P.S. We have mentioned our niece, Angie Keseley, and the fact that she was a member of the Wisconsin Women’s Hockey Team the past four years, and that Angie contributed to their winning three national championships, with a second place her junior year. We also mentioned that we got to see her try out last week for the United Stated Olympic Team. We have just received word that she, along with seven other ladies with U of Wisconsin ties, will be representing the United States in Vancouver next February. Big “Way to Go” to Angie. Angie’s mother Paula, who is Steve’s sister, visited Corregidor with him in May, 2002. You can read our original comments about Angie at:
Saturday, August 22, 2009
On Thursday Scott took us to the airport the recommended three hours before our scheduled departure of 3:20 P.M. Of course we sailed right through check-in and security and were left with two hours of “sit and wait.” At least that’s what we thought was in store. We ate at the in-airport—and highly overpriced—MacDonald’s. While we were in line waiting to order we noticed a sign which appeared to be advertising Angus Filet-o-Fish! What next, walleyed Big Macs?
About the time we were expecting the call to board, an announcement came over the loudspeakers informing us that our flight would be delayed ever so slightly in order to accommodate other connecting flights that were ever so slightly delayed due to bad weather elsewhere in the country. About the time we were scheduled to depart we were informed that the flight was now delayed due to a faulty baggage door, and that the maintenance crew was working on it. Every few minutes we were told we would be boarding in a few minutes. Finally, almost three hours after the scheduled departure time, we were told to board. We took off almost four hours late on our 12-hour flight to Tokyo/Narita Airport. On board we were told that we would find out about our connections when we arrived in Japan, but we were pretty sure that our flight to Manila, which was scheduled to depart two hours before we would land in Tokyo, would be long gone. As we were approaching for landing we were informed that all connections had already departed and that we would be spending the night in Tokyo.
To Northwest Airlines’ (now Delta) credit all arrangements were already made for the approximately 300 passengers who, like us, were stranded in Tokyo for the night. We had all been assigned new flights. For some, that meant a long day waiting for the same flight for which they’d been scheduled, but many, including us, were given flights in the morning. In our case we were transferred to a Japanese Airlines flight. It took us two hours to clear customs and immigration, get on board our bus, and get to the Excel Narita Hotel.
We were traveling with two large bags each, and they were automatically taken care of by the airlines. That meant that we only had our carry-ons, which were our computers and our backpacks, which mostly contained toiletries, medications, and books. Marcia always carries an extra pair of undies in her backpack, but Steve was left with no clean socks or underwear. Marcia’s nightgown was also packed away, but the hotel provided something resembling a hospital gown so that was okay. By the time we checked into our room it was 11:00 at night, 21 hours since leaving Scott and Della’s, and about the time we should have been landing in Manila. We found out that others on our flight had already been traveling before arriving in Minneapolis, so their days were even longer. The airlines provided us meal vouchers, so we had a thin but tasty steak for dinner and were in bed by midnight, giving us six hours to sleep.
We got up, showered and shaved, and ate a very good buffet breakfast. Then it was back on the bus for the half-hour trip to the airport. There was some confusion as to which terminal to use, as several of the other Manila-bound passengers were told Terminal 1 and others like us were told Terminal 2. The bus driver dropped us off correctly at 2, and we got our seats at the check-in counter. As we were about to go through security Marcia pulled the hotel key from her pocket; it had been years since we had been issued an actual key. She told Steve to find someone to return it to. Steve asked a bunch of airport personnel, all of whom spoke passable English, but none of whom was willing to take responsibility for the key. A young lady at the information booth told him that the Excel bus would be at drop-off point 26 in 15 minutes, so he went off in search of 26, which was down two floors and outside the building. When he got outside, 10 was on his right and 11 on his left. Being a left-brained-only kind of guy, he headed left looking for 26. After a few hundred yards he got to 18, and realized that 26 was across the street and the other direction. Toting his loaded backpack and heavy laptop computer, he trudged down to the other side of the terminal and was just in time to give the key to the Excel bus driver, who graciously accepted it. Then he went back up to the third floor, found Marcia, and they were able to pass through security and reverse customs and immigration in plenty of time to sit and wait to board their plane for Manila.
We certainly did not get to see much of Tokyo—spelled Tokyu there—but did notice that all signs were in Japanese and English, with many also having Chinese and Korean characters. Japanese books and newspapers are read from right to left, so they open on the right side. Also, drivers sit on the right side of their vehicles and drive on the left side of the road. Narita is a very big airport, serving the most populated metropolitan area in the world, so we weren’t sure if we would see any grass, or if all we would see was asphalt. This morning we could see that the Excel Hotel has a beautiful garden and very nice lawn and landscaping.
The flight to Manila seemed short at only four hours. We suppose that was due to the fact that the previous day was so long, but also that were seated next to a very interesting gentleman. His name is Ruel, and he is a Filipino who has been living with his family in Calgary, Alberta, Canada for many years. Ruel was very happy to learn about what we do on Corregidor. He currently works as a travel agent in Canada, but is in the process of setting up a number of businesses in the Philippines with the intention of eventually moving back home. Among other things, he is a hockey player, something we believe not many Filipinos can claim. Ruel promised to visit us on Corregidor when he returns in December, and we will be very pleased to see him.
By the way, the flight from Tokyo to Manila serves people who speak English, Japanese, and Tagalog (Filipino), so announcements were made in all three languages. A native Japanese made the announcement, “Welcome to Manila,” which sounded more like “where come to mah KNEE rah.” Although it sounded a little funny, it sure sounded nice. We have a few things to take care of in Manila today, and then we take the ferry to Corregidor in the morning. It will feel good to be settled again.
We especially want to thank those who offered their homes and beds to us the last eight weeks. First off, to our friends in Makati, Brian and Leslie, who put us up or put up with us while we waited for our flight to America. Then to Steve’s mother, Steve’s sister Paula and her husband Terry, our friend Sandi and her son K.C., our friends Paul and Marcia, Marcia’s brother Dave and his wife Karen, Steve’s sister Della and her husband Scott, and last but not least, our son Nick and his wife Carrie, who hosted us at the beginning, middle, and end of our stay, and also provided transportation to and from Detroit Metro Airport.
Steve and Marcia on the Rock
P.S. We return to Corregidor tomorrow (Sunday) morning on the Sun Cruises ferry as long as weather permits. Otherwise we may have to stay in Manila until Thursday. Pray for good weather.
P.S.S. A friendly reminder that we are back to extremely slow internet servioce. Please do not send us emails with attachments of any significant size. If you must send us a an attachment over 50KB send it to firstname.lastname@example.org and we will read it at some later date when we have access to hi-speed internet.
Thursday, August 20, 2009
Many people have asked us in the past eight weeks: “Have you noticed any changes in the United States in the time you were gone?” The answer is, not really. It is still a great country and we’re proud to be Americans. However, we are now more conscious of certain things that we just took for granted in the past, but having been immersed in a new culture for close to a year, we do see some things a little differently. Face it, the United States and the Philippines are worlds apart in many ways, and similar in many others. The following observations are just that, observations. They are not judgments and we are not trying to offend anyone. Who knows, maybe we’re wrong.
There’s just so much more room in the cities that we’ve been in America compared to the Philippines. Minneapolis is loaded with lakes and parks, lots of grass and lots of trees. The parks we see in Manila are smaller and much more crowded, sometimes all the more striking for having to be squeezed into an unexpected spot in the city.
People in the States are more in a hurry in general, at least in the Upper Midwest. Things start on time and people often set their clocks ahead to avoid being late. In contrast, we are learning patience in the Philippines. We often hear the words, “Filipino time.” We recall one time where we boarded a tour bus at the given departure time only to wait for over an hour until the others finally trickled on. It’s just a more laid-back attitude generally, from which many Americans could benefit.
On the other hand, drivers in the Philippines seem to change personalities behind the steering wheel. Being a pedestrian in Manila is taking your life into your own hands. Even though many crosswalks in Makati – the financial district of Metro Manila – have pedestrian Walk and Don’t Walk lights, you must still be on your guard as virtually no one in a motor vehicle can be trusted to yield the right of way. In Minneapolis, drivers come to a halt when you approach a crosswalk. They usually even wave as you cross in front of them. The redeeming factor in Manila is that the traffic is usually going so slowly that you can cross the streets safely as you weave in and out through cars that are temporarily stopped.
Most Filipinos are short and slim. Occasionally you see children that are obviously overweight, but it not the norm, and very unusual away from the big city. Here in the United States, obesity is a – pardon the pun – growing problem. Maybe we are just more conscious of it now, we aren’t sure. But we were sadly astonished by the number of extremely overweight adults we saw on this trip. The worst place was Steve’s home area of northern Minnesota. We’re not talking about people who are merely 30 or 50 pounds overweight, but people who are literally hundreds of pounds overweight. It seemed that almost every woman we saw was either grossly fat or a smoker, and often both. (Steve’s mom is neither, by the way.) Maybe the long winters and high unemployment are contributing factors, but whatever the causes, health problems are waiting to happen.
Of course, the food we were offered by our generous hosts was nothing like the food to which we had become accustomed in the Philippines. The obvious example is the Filipino staple of rice. Steve told Marcia before the trip that he doubted that anyone would serve us rice at a meal – the exception being a little rice in a dish called “sarma,” or “pig-in-the-blanket,” which contains a modicum of rice, and he was right until this past Sunday. Most people that we know in the Philippines eat rice for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. It just isn’t a meal without it. Of course we also were served much less fish than we were used to, as expected, although we had salmon several times and it was wonderful. And we were never served fish with the heads still attached and the eyes staring at us, which is the norm for Filipinos.
We have had a very good time while in Minnesota and Michigan, and are already talking about plans for next year. There were friends we were unable to see and places we did not visit in spite of the many weeks we spent here, so they are on the list for next trip. It will feel good to feel settled and see an end to living from suitcases for awhile.
We have been assured that our solar system is back in working order, and that the genset’s battery has been replaced by a maintenance-free one, so we’re confident that we will have electricity upon our return. And we certainly look forward to our “no hot water” shower. Not!
Thursday, August 13, 2009
We have discussed the situation with Northwest Airlines – now Delta – and may be able to use their bereavement policy to flex our return date to Manila. We are awaiting developments in Mike’s status before making our decisions and possibly changing plans.
We are including a picture of my family taken in 2005. I am in the front row along with Mike and my father, who passed away two years ago. My other four sisters and five brothers are in the back row.
P.S. Mike passed away 2:30 AM Central Daylight Time (3:30 PM Philippine Time) today, August 13, just 12 hours after Marcia wrote this.
Wednesday, August 12, 2009
My second hero would have to be the late William Massello. He was dad’s commanding officer, and was highly decorated for his performances on Bataan and Corregidor. He was the then US Army Major and West Point graduate responsible for reviving Battery Way, the only large gun battery that was still in action and thus opposed the Japanese landing on the night of May 5 and early morning of May 6, 1942. My dad told me of “Wild Bill” Massello when I was a boy. I had the pleasure of meeting his two daughters on my first trip to the Philippines and they told me of their father’s admiration for my dad as well.
I want to introduce you to my hero number three: Bob Reynolds. I first heard of Bob when my parents returned from a trip that they made to the Philippines in 1980 with Valor Tours of San Francisco. At the time there was no Corregidor Inn, so they were only able to spend a few hours there. Nevertheless, the return trip to the Philippines seemed to change dad’s life. His nightmares stopped, and he began to open up about his war experiences, which included his 39 months as a prisoner of war of the Japanese.
Corregidor was the one thing my dad would talk about when I was a boy. When I finally set foot on Corregidor’s Engineering Dock on my first visit in May, 2002, I was barely able to stand up, I was so overcome by emotions. A few days later, when we were at a resort in Bataan, I called my wife Marcia and told her how great Corregidor was. A sense of relief came over me as Marcia said she would like to see it the following year, since I was already depressed at the thought of never returning. I told Bob Reynolds right then that we would be the first two to sign up for the 2003 tour.
Bob, who turned 88 in June, flew bombers for the British in World War II, targeting German war assets. After the war he never flew again. Instead, he began to lead tour groups to European Battle sites. Then he developed an interest in the Pacific Theatre.
One of the sites he visited on his own was Corregidor. He was impressed at the potential, but also in the fact that nobody had thought to develop the island. He managed to set up a meeting with some top people in the Philippine government. In his own words he says, "They seemed amazed at my suggestion that Corregidor be reopened as a shrine. They all had this look on their faces of, ‘Who is this nut?' Then I saw their feet resting on the table and realized they'd already made up their minds." Reynolds quickly figured out the reason for their reluctance: "Corregidor's batteries still had guns, which they planned to scavenge."
This was 1968. Bob was able to meet with then Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos. Bob was able to persuade him that there was much more long term potential in opening up Corregidor as a WWII battle site than in the short term gain of scrapping the magnificent guns that were still on the island. As a result, the guns were saved and Corregidor is now, in Bob’s words, “the best preserved battle field of World War II.”
I can only imagine how my life would have been changed had Bob not been able to help save Corregidor. Without him, who knows if it would be a tourist attraction at all? Chances are I would have never gone to Corregidor in the first place, and certainly we would not have the great privilege of being allowed to live there to promote tourism to the island.
Bob began leading tours from the United States over 30 years ago. Others, such as my friends Jamie Wiedhahn of “Military Historical Tours” and Sascha Jean Weinzheimer Jansen of “Return to the Philippines” have followed suit, and we have written about each of them in earlier newsletters. Bob still leads tours, but he has relegated the April “Ghost Soldiers of Bataan and Corregidor” tour to me. I remember him telling me once that he had been to Corregidor 65 times!
We had the great fortune to have lunch with Bob this week in Battle Creek, Michigan. Bob lives with his new bride, Betty, in Kalamazoo. They met on previous tours before Bob became a widower. Although we have met and love Betty, she was not able to join us for lunch.
Thursday, August 6, 2009
We’ve been spending the last week with a great friend who offered us space in her house while we are in
Also, we want to thank the many people who have met us for lunches and dinners over the past week. It’s been great to get reacquainted and share stories. People from the
We were also fortunate to be in
If you are ever thinking of coming to visit us, there are two options. One is to contact Vicky at www.valortours.com. We lead a nine-day tour for her every April which includes two days on
If you would rather come on your own to visit us on “The Rock,” the months of December, January, and February usually have the best weather – if you can stand to miss a week or two of winter. November isn’t bad but can still be wet, and March through May are mostly dry but more likely will have higher temperatures and humidity. Depending on your point of origin, Delta/Northwest may be a good option, or Philippine Air. Speaking from experience, watch for those with staffed airline counters in
The weather in
The Great Lakes Folk Festival is this weekend in
We are still in mid-Michigan another week and are still waiting to hear from some of you. If you have a little time to get together or even just want to say hello on the phone, call us at 517-250-2075.
A little humor from Steve:
When we were in
Later, I started thinking further: was this the only one or are there others? So I looked up the name on the internet and found 13 other Lincoln Abrahams in the
Now no one with the last name of Albert would ever name their son Einstein, right? Wrong. There are dozens of them. They’re probably in a race to see who can be the first to discover the Relativity of Theory.
I believe that all the Grant Carys, Gable Clarks, and Cooper Garys out there might be terrible actors. I suppose all Aaron Hanks, Cobb Tys, and Ruth Babes stink on the baseball diamond. I found seven Martin Billys scattered throughout the
I offer some friendly and free advice. If you name your son Custer George, don’t worry about his last stand, because he won’t survive the first one. If you name your son Armstrong Neil, don’t be surprised when he is arrested for mooning on the walk. And if you were to name your son MacArthur Douglas, don’t be surprised when he goes away and never returns.
I’m sure that I’ve just scratched the surface of “creative names,” and if any of you have equally strange minds, send me your own discoveries and I’ll be happy to give them a gander. Either send me your comments or post them here.
Blog comments will be moderated.