Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Letters about the Manila flood of 2009

We know that this is supposed to be a newsletter mostly about Corregidor, but the havoc wreaked by Typhoon Ondoy last weekend continues to be our focus. Ironically, with our slow-speed internet, many of you probably are better able to keep up with the latest news than are we. However, we wish to pass on a few of the emails we have received.

As we have previously written, we experienced very little of Ondoy’s wrath here on Corregidor. Other than high waves, which have continued for the past week, and the debris that they continue to pile onto the south beach, things on the island are pretty normal. Sun Cruises has been unable to bring tourists because of the high seas, which is not good news, of course.

We mentioned that our friend, Paul Whitman, found out from America that his house was seriously affected. Since then, we have learned that the water reached two feet high on his second floor, which destroyed most of his possessions, including very many Corregidor keepsakes. One photo shows an American flag, presumably his 48-star one. The good news is that he and all of his family were safe. The death toll continues to rise and the last we heard it was nearing 250, with the number of homes destroyed in the 250,000 range.

Our first letter is from Tony Feredo, Paul’s good friend. He sent many pictures of Paul’s house and property. Steve reminded Paul that most possessions can be replaced, but people are irreplaceable. However, we are still deeply saddened when we think of the tremendous loss suffered, and the heavy emotions that follow. What a help that Paul has Tony as a friend and neighbor.


Yes, Steve it was terrible indeed and I am also at a loss of words and was really sad when I was going around. At least material things can be replaced. Am just glad that none of the relatives were there when it happened.



A mutual friend of ours sent this note. Because we lack hi=speed internet here, at this time we are unable to view the video which he recommends, but trust his recommendation.


The Filipino News Program we get here in Australia on SBS (Special Broadcasting Service), courtesy of ABS-CBN News, is horrific. I was choking back tears today when a friend at work asked me if my in-laws were affected by the flood disaster. The in-laws were not affected, but after seeing the images on TV, describing to my friend the situation in and around Manila is difficult to relate without becoming emotional.

It is easy to see what Paul and Rosie have lost in the house and in the way [of] fittings. I guess it will be some time before we know what Paul has lost in the way of electronic data related to Corregidor.

The rainfall that caused the flood appears to have been more intense [than] that which caused the flooding in 1967.

The slide show at this site is worth a look as it illustrates the depth of the flow, but shows also the spirit of the clean up. There is a small photo on the left side of the page (photo of the week) – take a look, it’s brilliant

Kindest regards



This letter is from another friend of ours. It shows the faith and courage of so many of the Filipinos. Manila was devastated during the war (second only to Warsaw in percent of buildings destroyed) and came back. It will come back again, because of people like this.


hi steve and marcia,

just want to confirm the truth behind the pictures. i live in cinco hermanos subdivision of the industrial valley, in a 3-storey townhouse just 2 houses apart from the rear of the church in the photos. in fact, that church is my parish church.

my house was inundated too (only on the first floor, thank God) and everything on the ground floor is lost, and extremely dirty now with mud and ruined articles, including the precious mementos photos papers of my parents which i had been trying to preserve in a most meticulous manner. I consider those as my only, but the greatest loss in my life. everything else is replaceable, but not those items which started from 1945....nature sure has a way of reminding us that we are no match for her power, and that we should always consistently behave when it comes to handling her environment....

Stay well


One last letter, which speaks for itself.


Dear Steve and Marcia,

Thank you for sharing your photo gallery!

I have never seen such human tragedy in pictures as the 2009 flood in Manila! Though I have experienced a lot of deadly typhoons, floods, eruption before I went abroad. Yes, we feel for the people as well. We sent donations direct to the 2 families we knew who lost 100 % of their possessions ( things they have been saving for all their lives) They are happy their house is still standing with a lot of damage of course and they are still alive! . One of their sons (10 year old) nearly lost his life in the super strong current of water. He was rescued by a neighbor! All the family members went to the rooftop with their young children (including a 1 year old baby) They were so wet the whole 2 days .They went on top of the roof when the flood water was going up.. They started to pray .It was good the rain stopped before their roof gave way. But they have lost everything! We sent them 2 Balikbayan boxes of clothes ,slippers, shoes ,bed sheets, sweaters etc. Unfortunately, it will only reach them in 6 weeks. But Western Union operates faster. They don’t have to go hungry for at least 2 weeks!

Not everyone has friends/families abroad who can help immediately. They have to fend for themselves alone. One can never rely on government support. It does not really matter much to me (this government support). I’m just afraid very little foreign aid will trickle to the really needy!

In 2006, my province Albay in the region of Bicol, was covered with lahar, mud, volcanic ash, rocks, debris from Mayon followed by the super typhoons Reming & Millenium. All the infrastructure collapsed( bridges, roads houses, electric and telephone posts) etc..or went under water. Neighbors with 2 or 3 story houses let in other people in the neighborhood to save their lives. A whole community was buried. 1000 people died in that place and 3 million were affected. It took more than a year before 80% of the communities can have electricity and more than 2 years before the place was cleaned up. Even up to now, the City of Legazpi and surrounding municipalities of Albay never became like it was before! Much of the rehabilitation was done by the private sector in spite of the millions that poured into the government coffers. Several hundred thousands Filipinos abroad donated funds and goods to private agencies /families which can manage donations more effectively. We donated thru the Social Action Center which is managed by the Bishop of the Catholic church in Albay province.

Today, President Arroyo went to my town Camalig to inaugurate the almost 185 houses constructed & donated to those who lost their homes nearby my place. She came for the so-called official turn-over and for the pictures of course for election campaign. Why is this publicity necessary (using a lot of manpower and fuel to transport a President and her entourage? She should be in Manila to be on top of the rescue and rehabilitation of the capital city.

What I really admire are the simple folks , security guards, soldiers or just anyone who help others save lives (even though some lost their own as well). . Crisis bring out the best in people you know.. The Filipinos will overcome this big tragedy as usual. But there will be lots of suffering and sacrifice as well. Expect more criminality in the coming years because of poverty and the lack of opportunities to go on thru life. But I am also positive some things can still go right..

Your photo gallery is so beautiful! They need to be kept safe for future history!

Thank you and regards to both of you.

Linda & Rudi


Keep the Philippines in your prayers, since the next typhoon is about to hit. Parma is already a category 3 storm, and although the eye is tracking on a line to miss Luzon, its outlying rain bands could dump an awful lot of water on areas that are already saturated.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Pictures of the Manila Flood 2009

The pictures that we have put on line were sent to us from various sources. We do not know who the photographer(s) is/are. They show the devastation and the ensuing human tragedy.

Steve and Marcia on the Rock

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Typhoon Ondoy; Vince Ferguson

We have just experienced a typhoon near-miss, so to speak, here on Corregidor. The center of the storm passed about 100 miles north of Metro Manila, which in turn is only 25 miles northeast of us. We were sparred Ondoy’s wrath, both in rainfall and wind damage. Many of you have been concerned for us, and we can assure you that we are safe and well.

The surf got higher than we have ever seen it, so we are including a picture taken at the South Dock, with the tail of Corregidor, Hooker Point (which is part of Corregidor during low tide) and Caballo Island visible on the horizon. The picture does not do justice to the size and sound of the waves as they roll and crash ashore. We can hear them from our house, about a mile from the beach. They are bringing lots of garbage from Manila onto the south beach, so there will be a major cleanup coming. It’s amazing what the difference of 25 miles can mean in terms of rainfall and wind. We received only 7.8 inches of rain, with 5 inches of that total coming between 6:00 AM and 6:00 PM on Saturday.

Manila did not fare nearly as well.

From the Typhoon 2000 newsletter:
Meanwhile, a massive flooding has occurred yesterday across Metro Manila, Southern Tagalog Provinces and Central Luzon. PAGASA Science Garden in Quezon City recorded a new record rainfall accumulation of 16.7 inches (424 mm.) in just 12 hours, breaking the previous record of 13.2 inches (335 mm) which fell during a 24-hour period in June 1967.

Our friend Tony Feredo sent us this report, which we include along with a couple of his flood pictures.


Tragedy struck Marikina as Typhoon Ondoy's heavy rains and the release of the water at the dams caused the Marikina River to overflow. This is the worst flooding in 42 years. 80% of Marikina is submerged and no power. Yesterday we helped some of the trapped residents get out of the low lying areas. The lower part of Quezon St.(our street) was flooded and Paul's house was hit. The flood, as seen in the attached photos was too deep. Even the Church and the Barangay hall was not spared. More so at Riverbanks. As of this morning people in other parts of Marikina are trapped on their roofs without rescue and food.

This morning the flood has subsided but mud is all around the area. I will try to go back there this afternoon. No power in Marikina so I am in Quezon City right now.


We also heard from Paul Whitman, creator of the web’s biggest and best source of Corregidor information, Paul, who lives just down the hill from Tony in Marikina, is currently in the United States. He has plans to have his wife join him there in a couple of weeks. Now he is not sure what is going to happen as he tries to assess potentially devastating damage to his house, and what to do about it from afar. Fortunately for Paul, his good friend Tony is already helping him as best he can.

One final note: Marcia’s brother-in-law, Vince Ferguson, husband of her sister, Mary, passed away suddenly last week at their home in Nassau, Bahamas, from a massive heart attack. He was 71. We are thankful for time spent with Vince while we were in Minnesota this summer. You can see from his picture that he was a handsome man. He could sing like Harry Belafonte and dance like Fred Astaire.

Vince lived a very busy life, devoted to his faith, his family, and his native Bahamas. He was involved in many aspects of church, community and national affairs. He is also survived by his daughter, Anne Marie, his son and daughter-in-law, Alex and Danielle, and grandchildren, Kylie and Caden.

For you baseball fans, Vince was always proud of the fact that he played in the Braves organization and was friends with men such as Hank Aaron and Joe Torre. Vince won a AAA championship at Richmond but never made it to the big leagues. He was the fourth best outfielder after Aaron, Rico Carty, and Felipe Alou. He was certainly one of the best athletes ever to come out of the Bahamas.

He was an amazing man, and we will miss him dearly. If you would like to know more you can read about him at:

Thursday, September 24, 2009

A Filipino talks about travel

We received an outstanding letter and thought that we would share a part of it with you. Eli’s insights show how at least one native Filipino perceives traveling. We shortened it to his comments on this topic, but left it otherwise unedited. Eli’s English is very good for a non-native writer. We may incorporate his other comments later. S&M

Hi Marcia & Steve,

I can’t help but smile while reading your interesting and colorful experiences during your trips to buy provisions since I am also familiar to such things in the course of my regular visits to the farm. Of the two routes to the province, the one I usually take when I commute entails no transfer rides but on the other hand, it also involves a lot of stops in waiting for passengers. Despite the fact that only two bus companies monopolize the line there, passengers barely fill a third of the bus’ capacity most of the time so the driver has to wait for the riders even while they are still ‘taking a bath in their respective homes’ as I always joke about it, thus resulting to longer travel time. Luckily, the conductors issue tickets but what amazes me no end is their ability to recall the destination of each passenger (because they are few?) so that when one pays his fare, the exact change is also given. So unlike me who at times would go upstairs to get something only to ask myself later what I was there for in the first place?

But yes Marcia, name it and the ambulant vendors sell it-- from bottled water to duck embryos inside its shells, junk foods, and others. Interestingly, I noticed too that before getting off the bus, each one will leave a piece of their wares (a pack of peanuts or fish crackers, etc.) to the driver as a ‘fee’ for being allowed to board and sell which made me wonder how many of such items the driver would have accumulated at the end of the day considering the number of vendors that hawk daily.

I consider myself lucky if during my provincial trips, the bus would not encounter some funeral processions along the way. Since the bereaved families bring their dead to the cemeteries (which are located at the sides of the main roads) together with the bands ON FOOT, the smooth flow of traffic is always greatly hampered. This is also aggravated by the fact that those coming from the opposite direction would like to pass thru the entourage ahead of the rest and the traffic enforcers seem to be at a loss on how to handle the situation each time.

Such last gesture of respect for the departed started in the olden times when there were still very few vehicles plying the streets but has since become an impractical practice especially at present times. In fact, a local official of a nearby city was able to put a stop to it when same started to adversely affect the conduct of business in the place. But still, others have yet to follow suit.

I was also reminded of the time when I used to travel to the remote areas of Visayas and Mindanao during my audits of the company’s copra (dried coconut meat) buying stations near the different plantations. Ours by the way, was a group of coconut oil mills which exported coconut oil and copra meal/pellets for animals feeds to USA and Europe, respectively. There were times when I had to take the only available means of transport in the area (‘jeepneys’ as we call them) which were always loaded to over-capacity, even including fowls and hogs, sacks of corn and rice up to the top of the vehicle at that, where the passengers also enjoyed the trip in ‘al fresco’ ambience. (Please see attached relevant clipped picture).

We had an American station managermarried to a local), who likewise experienced Steve’s ordeals and more. Every time he took the motorized banca in going to the rural bank to get the money transferred by our Makati office for the copra buying operations, a good part of his long legs extending beyond the far end of the banca were also ‘making waves’. In the staff house when I took a bath one night after the day’s audit, I shouted in surprise when I realized that the water was ice-cold. He laughingly told me that the water came directly from the spring at the nearby mountain and that he himself used to get ‘frozen’ by it. Being tall, the jeepney rides must have been too inconvenient for him as well, like Steve. Would you believe that Arnold, the station manager, even asked a carpenter to make a sort of a divan so he could put it at the end of his bed to accommodate his feet? And talking about height, I am sure that when I finally get to meet Steve in person later, and standing beside him, I would be tempted to ask “how is the weather up there like?” since there is exactly a foot height difference between the two of us.

It was in Cebu, being my jumping port then to our various copra buying stations, where I also experienced taking an air-conditioned cabin only to find out later that the ACU was not working at all and since the only ventilation was thru a small port hole, I ended up sleeping on a cot outside and thereby enjoyed the refreshing sea breeze. I found out that it has been out of order since before but the same was still being booked out as air-conditioned!

On the other hand, going to the company’s cocoa plantation (a sister company) also to audit, a four-sitter plane (pilot included) had to be taken to reach the place. But what was strange though was that if it was communicated that there were no waiting passengers at my destination for its return flight, I had to pay for the seats’ corresponding fares otherwise, I won’t be flown to my destination. This operating procedure often resulted to my going to the rough and narrow airstrip between the stands of coconut trees several times at the end of the audit, only to return to the staff house again later since there were still some vacant seats at the plane’s point of origin, the equivalent fares of which I was not willing or prepared to shoulder. A better arrangement would have been the less onerous and equitable sharing of the differential fare among the prospective passengers but I didn’t know if such proposal was ever initiated.

Those were my days of field work and looking back, I am sure that the company would no longer send nor allow me to go to those remote places if I am still employed, because of the unfavorable conditions now prevailing in some of the areas involved.

My warm regards,


Eli’s description of funeral processions reminded us of the first time we toured the provinces together. It was around noon, and we were in a small town less than a mile from the expressway, but traffic was not moving. After two hours literally parked on the street traffic finally began to flow. After seeing dozens of water buffalo, some with their giant sides ornately painted, we realized that we just happened to pass through the town during its annual Carabao Festival.

Steve and Marcia on the Rock

Thursday, September 17, 2009

End of the rain and a beautiful sunset

On Monday the sun came out for the first time in over a week. The weather suddenly changed from lots of rain—thanks to a series of three typhoons—to lots of sun. Our solar panels prefer the sun, as do we.

One of our readers, an American WWII veteran, made the following comments about rainy season:

Steve and Marcia,

When we landed on Leyte October 20, 1944 it started raining that evening and we had over 30 inches of rain the next 30 days. Being outside, my fatigue uniform almost rotted off me. What we called Jungle Rot became a serious problem.

Don D.

First of all, Don, we want to thank you for serving your country. Secondly, thirty inches is a lot of rain in a month. That amount of precipitation is fairly normal for an entire year in Minnesota and in the lower peninsula of Michigan. We had a total of 26 inches on Corregidor during those nine days! It got so drenched here that the run-off is still evident. In fact, the former three-million gallon water reservoir, which is very near our house, has become a waterfall for the first time we’ve noticed in the almost-year we have lived here. It and one other on Topside were built of concrete, including their surfaces, which were used for tennis courts, presumably as a disguise to conceal their true purpose. In fact, they simply may have been convenient places to put tennis courts, since the gun batteries and other strategic structures were never camouflaged. In any case, where the surface has collapsed, run-off water now cascades over the edge and into the ruins of the former storage chambers.

We have probably mentioned previously that it is quite common for it to be sunny on Corregidor while there are storm clouds over the Bataan peninsula to the north and Cavite province to the south. We have observed an interesting phenomenon since we have returned here. For the first couple of weeks, when we had mostly sunny skies and little in the way of rain, we would regularly hear thunder off in the distance, more often during the day but at nighttime as well. In contrast, during the entire nine-day rainy period, we heard thunder at most once or twice. As soon as the skies cleared over the island, the thunder started up again. Here on Corregidor, the last four days have been absolutely beautiful for sun-lovers such as we are, although there certainly have been heavy thunderstorms in the vicinity.

Last November we met Jeff C., his wife, and their three children while viewing a sunset from Battery Grubbs. Recently he asked Steve to give him and two of his friends a private tour of the island. The three of them traveled via Sun Cruises on Friday. Since his friends are presently active duty American military here in the Philippines, we won’t name them or show you their pictures, but we are including a photo that Jeff sent us of himself standing by the statue of General MacArthur. Unfortunately it rained the entire time they were here, but nonetheless Jeff emailed us and said that they said they really enjoyed the private tour. We hope for and expect others of you to join us over the coming years. Jeff says that he and his wife are saddened by the prospect that his employer is probably going to transfer him out of the islands by the end of the year, which we take as a tribute to the Filipinos for making their stay here so enjoyable.

On Saturday, Steve gave a private tour to seven young professional Filipinos who arrived by private yacht. When he introduced himself as the tour guide, one of the young ladies said, “I read that there is an old couple from America staying on Corregidor,” to which Steve replied, “That’s my wife and me. Do I look old?” she quickly recovered, saying, “Oh, no, you’re not old.” (Steve is 57, Marcia 56. We guess it’s a matter of perspective.) She then went on to correctly recall several of the things about us that were in the Philippine Daily Inquirer article. But did Ross call us old? We’ll have to go back and take another look! It reminds Steve of a story about Admiral William Halsey, commander of the U.S. Third Fleet during the Battle for Leyte Gulf, the 65th anniversary of which is only a month away. One of his sailors once confided to a crewmate, “I’d go through hell for that old son-of-a-b---h.” Halsey, who was out of sight—but within earshot—walked up to him and said, “Young man, I’m not so old!”

Once again, it rained the entire time that this group toured the island. They kindly invited Steve and Marcia to eat lunch with them. They had brought along pork adobo, prawns (jumbo shrimp), bangus (milk fish), vegetables, grapes, crackers and cheese, and of course, rice. One of the young men is a doctor practicing in OB/GYN at Makati Medical Center, the same hospital and clinic as our GP, so now Marcia has someone whom she can see when necessary.

Tuesday evening was probably the clearest that the skies have been at dusk since the onset of rainy season several months ago. So we decided to take a drive up to Battery Grubbs in hopes of witnessing a beautiful sunset, and indeed we did, with the sun disappearing from view precisely at 6:00 PM. Some bamboo shoots have started to grow in the viewing area, which may enhance the photos we took, but the rapid growth will soon make it necessary to do some clearing to recover the view. As you can see in the photos, we were treated to a very pretty scene.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Rainy season part two

It’s interesting the kinds of reactions that we receive when we describe some aspect of our new life in the Philippines. Americans often comment about how we are adapting or on how their understanding of life here is growing:

“The logistics of how you manage to meet your basic needs is very interesting to me.”

“I enjoyed your blog on the shopping trip. Gives your readers a very good perspective on life in the P.I.'s.”

Filipinos’ comments are more along the lines of how we are surviving in their culture or how we are pointing out every-day things that they take for granted:

“It is interesting to know how you cope with the new lifestyle and learn the country's culture.”

“I have never really paid too much attention to such details and yet, after reading your commentaries gave me a different perspective on life in the Philippines.”

Back in June we talked about how different “rainy season” here is from the weather we were used to in the Midwestern United States. We explained how it can rain day after day, and that the rain comes in waves. We had been experiencing this for the past week, due to a typhoon that passed by, followed by a stationary low pressure system about 100 miles north of here. Each day we were getting two to six inches of rain, usually in downpours with calm periods in between, day and night, with rare and very brief glimpses of the sun. (We bought a rain gauge when we were back in America. We could not find one here. The locals think we’re “gago” (crazy) to want to know how much it rained.) It’s just possible that we are in for some sun today. We received a total of 18 inches of rain in the past six days from Typhoons Labuyo and Maring.

The Philippine Coast Guard here on the island monitors the weather, and on days with high winds they issue alerts called “signals.” Depending on the level of signal, small bancas may or may not come from Bataan, and Sun Cruises may be forced to cancel their trip as well. This leaves us isolated from the rest of the world for a day or more, the record being 21 straight days, or so we’ve been told. That is why we stock up our storeroom with enough canned and dried food that we should be able to weather the storm, so to speak. In the event of an emergency, one of the on-island bancas will provide transport to Bataan.

Corregidor is an island that is part of the caldera of an extinct volcano. As such, there are almost no flat areas; it’s basically up and down—Topside and Middleside Parade Grounds and Kindley Field being the exceptions. This means that the U. S. Army Corps of Engineers had to design a series of channels and culverts which could handle massive amounts of rainfall in very short periods of time, sending the water to the bay without washing out the existing roads, railroad beds, and buildings that were being simultaneously constructed.

Water is not something easily diverted; it goes where it wants and takes the path of least resistance. The hills are steep so of course the water rushes downhill. No doubt the engineers spent a lot of time during heavy rains observing just exactly where the runoffs occurred, and then planned accordingly. The systems were so well designed that most of them still operate flawlessly today, almost 100 years after installation, as long as accumulated debris is regularly cleared.

One morning we decided to get out of the house and see what the island is like during a period of moderate rain. Wearing our rain jackets, we walked from our house at Middleside along the road up to Topside and back again in a loop that usually takes us about 45 minutes. Immediately we were impressed by the number of channels and culverts that are in place. We have observed them in the past but never seen them in operation, and of course they were now quite evident, whereas normally you wouldn’t pay much attention to them. We did spot a couple of blocked culverts, obvious because the water was running across the road.

Interestingly, two spots that rainwater pooled were at the mortar batteries. Battery Way had a small lake in front of it, and the road past Battery Geary was under water. We’re not sure if these are due to design flaws in the drainage system or if there are blocked runoffs; much more likely the latter, given the high-level engineering apparent all over the island. In either case, the water is shallow and will undoubtedly be gone before the tourists are back.

Even though Sun Cruises is not able to operate right now, normal work by maintenance staff goes on. Grass and vines grow very quickly this time of year, so clearing is a continual process. We observed grass cutters out with their weed-whackers not only cutting grass but sending water spraying as they cut. The rule here is “you don’t work you don’t get paid,” so whenever possible, work goes on no matter what the conditions. Who knows? Maybe the grass cutters prefer working in the rain, with its much more pleasant temperatures, than battling the heat and dust of other times in the year.

Due to the extremely high humidity, moss is particularly active right now. Rocks and rock walls are covered in the stuff. The walls at the entrance to Battery Crockett are particularly green this time of year. The moss is almost pretty, but does have an obvious odor to it. It also grows on shaded sections of the roads, making them very slippery when wet. There is a black form (dormant?) which is extremely slippery when wet; Steve fell—gently, thank goodness—just the other day on the steps of the bodega. It felt as if he had stepped on a sheet of ice.

As we’ve mentioned before, getting laundry to dry is a challenge: knowing when it is as dry as it is going to get, even more so. Our clothes line is now completely covered by the tin roof over our dirty kitchen. Even so, when the wind blows hard, mist manages to find the clothes. It is so humid that paper such as book pages absorbs moisture. So we are sure that even if we had a clothes dryer and that the clothes came out bone-dry, they would soon feel somewhat moist.

Also, most of the cooking on the island is done outdoors with firewood. It has been so wet that even firewood stored in a dry place sucks up enough moisture that it is hard to start a fire. We have an indoor gas stove in addition to our outdoor cooking area, so it is not as much of an issue for us as for others on the island.

By the way, the small town from which we moved a year ago is called Eaton Rapids, Michigan. The locals say that it is the only Eaton Rapids in the world. In front of our house is a temporary waterfall; it is only there during and right after heavy rain. Nevertheless, we are tempted to christen the area Eaton Rapids, Corregidor. What do you think?

Sunday, September 6, 2009

We get taken for a ride

We are often asked: How do you get supplies such as food to Corregidor? We have four choices. We can find certain foods on Corregidor, since MacArthur’s Café and Baywalk have small stores, and a few of the women who work on the island also stock common items such as eggs and canned meats in their household “sari-sari” stores. More often we order items from Maynard or Mang-Emilio, banceros who each make one or two daily round trips from Cabcaben, Bataan to Corregidor. We can wait until we are in Manila, which is typically once every four to six weeks. Or we can make our own shopping trip to Balanga, Bataan’s largest city.

Having recently returned from the United States, it was time to once again get stocked up, which we did earlier this week. Going to Balanga ourselves entails 45-minute banca rides, the hour-long bus rides, and however many tricycle trips it takes to buy what we need. The banca rides vary between smooth to quite bumpy, depending upon the seas at the time. Sometimes the waves are barely noticeable, while at other times they are two to three feet and we have to protect our backpacks and anything metal from the rain or saltwater. (This time the banca ride across was very smooth, but the return trip later in the day was bumpier with thunderstorms in the area.) The tricycle rides are just plain funny, as the sidecars in which we must ride are almost too small for 5’6” Marcia, and downright ridiculous for 6’5” Steve.

Today we will talk a little bit about the bus ride. The particular bus we take runs from Mariveles on the south to the Balanga bus depot on the north. It’s the same bus we took when we did the Mariveles to Cabcaben walk in March. Buses run at quite regular intervals, and we have never had to wait for one for more than a few minutes. Other buses along the same highway travel to other cities such as Manila and Baguio, so you have to be careful to get on the proper bus.

Many students take this bus during the school year, so we often are crowded into it for the first part of the trip. Asians accept this much more readily than Americans, but we are adjusting. They are used to filling the bus to capacity, then “finding room” for another 10 or 20 riders. Soon the students get off and then there is plenty of room. However the seats are placed so close together that Steve finds it impossible to sit straight in any seat, and must sit with his knees in the aisle. There is one exception: the last seat goes across the whole back of the bus, so he can sit in the middle of that seat. The rear seat is usually elevated, however, and the top halves of the windows are often covered to keep the sun out, so sitting in the back row does not offer any real view out the windows.

We have yet to ride on a bus that would seem to have springs or shock absorbers. Thus the ride along a fairly smooth highway is still painful, as your spine feels every single bump. Even the somewhat padded seats don’t help very much. Sitting in the back magnifies the intensity of the motion. The driver seems in a mad rush to get from point to point, which also doesn’t help. Along the way there are points where he must wait until a certain time to leave that particular stop, so we’re not quite sure why the mad rush between stops.

The fare depends upon how far you are going. The most you pay is 40 pesos, or less than 85 cents per person. There is a man who collects the fares. Interestingly he does not collect the money right when you board, so he must remember where people get on and their destinations. The first few times we rode we were much more anxious to pay than he was to collect. But he always collects before you get off. He keeps the paper money in his hands, with each type of bill separated and folded in half lengthwise. That way he can easily make change. He also has a pocket full of coins. Since there are no tickets, he must be a trusted employee of the bus company; otherwise it seems it would be very easy for him to pocket some of the profits.

At a few of the longer stops a man will board the bus selling single cigarettes, boiled peanuts in the shell (very odd taste) or corn on the cob. One man gets on announcing his wares by saying something in Tagalog at 100 miles an hour, always ending his spiel with something that sounds like “DEE-kuh-DEE-kuh-DEE-kuh-DEE.” He sells, among other things, one peso mints and pieces of gum and two peso cigarettes, smokes often being sold “by the stick” here. We see him ever time, now being greeted with a big smile and a wave, and assume that his survival depends on selling deeka deeka deeka dee — actually he is saying “candy, candy, candy” — at this bus stop and the one across the road day in and day out.

Most of the route is lined with the Death March markers erected by F.A.M.E. every kilometer, though at points the march skewed off into the local towns and so the markers are off the main route in those places. As we pass we think of the men who died along the way, but also wonder how many (or few) others who drive by here day after day are unaware or ignorant of the event, and if they ever ask themselves why these markers are present.

But apart from that, you see the same structures, houses that consist solely of concrete blocks and rusted, corrugated roofs. You see the same sari-sari stores, names like “Kristine Store,” “Tammy Store,” or “Queen Bee’s,” and wonder what kind of a living you could possibly make competing against every other similar store—it seems that every family along the route must own one. You see the women and children walking along the road, the old men on their tricycles, the same as the motorcycle kind except with tiny bicycles instead, and wonder if some have been pedaling these very same contraptions for the last 40 or 50 years.

There are small rice fields at various stages of maturity, men working with carabao or alone, banana farms, coconut farms, and cattle pastures. The bus route travels near mountains, including Mt. Samat where we go with our April tour guests to attend the annual “Day of Valor” ceremony. In one area the roadside is lined with bamboo furniture for sale, another area with mounds of coconuts at stand after stand, and yet another with beautiful cabañas. Another common sight, “Junk Shops,” somehow remaining in business selling what appears to be exactly what they say they are selling: junk. Maybe items are purchased from them for repair parts.

Steve first traveled this particular route, a national highway and the only true north/south road of any distance in Bataan, seven years ago, Marcia six. Apart from a few new houses and housing developments the sights appear to be unchanged. We realize that seven years is not a long time to evaluate, but it seems this provincial area is not evolving very much, and that seven years from now it and the people here will essentially be the same.