Thursday, January 28, 2010

We meet some interesting people

Living on Corregidor has given us opportunities to meet some interesting folks. While having lunch recently at the Corregidor Inn, Armando the tour guide introduced us to one of his guests. Paul Phillips then joined us at our table, and told us a little about his father who had been at Clark Field when war broke out and was captured in Mindanao five months later. As with most POWs captured in the Philippines, he was eventually transported out of the country by means of unmarked Japanese ships. When we asked him which Hellship transported his father, Paul said he didn’t know for sure but it was one that had been sunk by the Americans. Steve asked him if it was possibly the Oryoku Maru, to which Paul replied, “I’m not really sure, I’ll ask him.” Paul pulled out his Blackberry, sent an email to his father in Denver, Colorado, and minutes later, he received the response that his father had indeed been on that notorious ship. We commented to Paul how amazing it is that his father survived the voyage and that Paul had ever been born, and encouraged him to learn more about the Oryoku Maru story. We recommended the book Father Found by the late Duane Heisinger, which tells about Duane’s search for information about his own father who died days before reaching Japan. He’d been one of the 1,609 POWs who left Manila on the Oryoku Maru. Fewer than 500 of them reached Japan alive, and about half of those men died before liberation eight months later. We are only guessing, but feel that Paul’s father is probably one of no more that 10 or 20 men still living from that group.

Another interesting man is Harvey Dean. Harvey’s father had been captured on Bataan and began the Death March. However, on the second day he slipped away from the march – not uncommon since there were so many captives and relatively few guards – and managed to get to the shore at Cabcaben. After dark on April 10, he swam the six miles to Corregidor and was then assigned to Ft. Frank/Carabao Island which is also in Manila Bay, just off the coast of Cavite. He was captured there and brought back to Corregidor after the surrender of the Philippines about a month later. Before his death, he returned to the Philippines with Harvey, and showed him the spot from which he’d begun his swim.

Later Harvey repeated his father’s feat, and this year did it once again. We discourage swimming across the North Channel of Manila Bay, but if - like Harvey - you ever feel compelled to do it, please make arrangements with the Philippine Coast Guard to be accompanied by a boat the entire way. Harvey had the privilege of spending some time on Corregidor with his father, and he wanted to return to some of the places they’d gone together. So Steve and Harvey, who are less than a year apart in age, spent a day wandering around to some of the island’s gun batteries and tunnels. As we have reported before, Carabao Island is very difficult to access, and scrappers have removed all of the guns that were there. However, Harvey managed to get onto the island years ago to see it for himself. See if you agree that Harvey might be able to pass for Steve’s slightly older and shorter brother.

Bill and Midge Kirwan, regular visitors to the Rock, came back to spend a week. Their son Jason and his wife Jill joined them for a few days. On Thursday the six of us took a trip to Bataan to visit the Death March marker that Bill and Midge sponsored a year or so ago. We took a banca across the bay, then took a hired van to the marker, which lies on the road from Bagac to Balanga, considered the secondary route of the beginning of the march. A couple of miles from their marker is the Pantingan Bridge. The Pantingan massacre – where 400 mostly Filipino officers were beheaded at the whim of the Japanese – occurred within a few hundred yards of that bridge. We then headed up to the National Shrine on nearby Mt. Samat, which is located along the last line of defense in Bataan, and which is home to the 300-foot tall cross. Unfortunately the elevator in the cross was out of order so we were not able to go up inside the cross structure, but the view from the foot of the cross on this crystal clear day was still great. One of the panels on the base of the cross bears several images from Corregidor, including a two guns and the landing of the 503rd Parachute Regimental Combat Team. Later we went to Balanga where we visited the site of General King’s surrender and then had lunch at Jollibee.

After returning to Corregidor, Steve took Jason and Jill on a couple-hour excursion around Battery Wheeler, an area where he has taken several guests in the past couple weeks. All of a sudden, Jill, who was walking behind Steve, stopped and asked, “What’s this?” She bent over and picked up a small black and red object that she’d heard emitting a very high-pitched squeal, something Steve had not heard. It was some sort of ultrasonic insect repeller, something that another guest had lost about 10 days ago during a trek - still squealing away. The previous guest was quite upset about losing it, since his wife had just given it to him as a gift. We never thought we’d see it again, since the guest had searched the area diligently. We are hoping to return it.

While inside Wheeler Tunnel, Jill spotted a weird bug on a wall. Steve took a picture and has including it. It sort of looks like a spider but we don’t think that’s what it is. Surely one of our readers should be able to tell us what it is, or refer our question to an entomologist. It is rather large, at least three to four inches across its leg span.

Steve and Marcia on the Rock

P.S. We have just passed the 700 mark on our reader list. Some people pass it on and some people probably just chuck it in the trash, so who knows how many people actually read it each week?

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