Thursday, May 20, 2010

We go exploring, return to monkey business

Since the second of November we have had less than two inches of rain, with virtually all of that coming in two consecutive nights in late April. This Tuesday we woke up to cloudy skies, something that we have seldom seen this year. May has been very hot, easily hotter than April, with temperatures reaching 97F (36C) every day. At six each morning the temperature has been right around 87F (30.5C). We were hoping that the morning clouds would mean a slightly cooler day, but no such luck. Same as every other day, high of 97. Even better would have been some rain.

We decided to take advantage of the morning clouds by trying to find two locations near our house that we had not yet explored. The first is a large NCO barracks that, according to the map, is located just below a pair of buildings that are identified as Corregidor High School. Just west of the high school were the American Legion Hall barracks and the Radio Training building. These are the buildings, originally built as barracks, that we believe were assigned to the 91st Philippine Scouts when American troop levels increased in 1941, requiring all of the Middleside Barracks for the 60th CAC, as detailed in our Nov. 5, 2009 newsletter. Looking at the map, we decided to use the high school as our starting point. We had to work our way further west than we had anticipated, due to a steep drop-off. Marcia spotted a drainage ditch, and we were able to use it to safely descend the 50 feet to the lower level. Before we got there we could already see the ruins through the vegetation to our right. Unlike the school buildings, where only ground-level flooring and corner-post footings remain, this building clearly has the skeleton of a large, two story building.

It didn’t take us long to realize that the building is unique among the many we’ve seen here. There is absolutely no evidence of stairways to the second floor, nor is there a trace of what would have been the combined first level ceiling/second level floor. The missing roof, however, is the norm here, the one exception being the two Middleside Barracks buildings, which have concrete roofs. We spent a great deal of time looking around but saw nothing except fallen wall materials and corner posts. All we can conclude is that the missing stairways and the ceiling/floor/roof were wood or similar material which burned during the war or rotted over time. Also it should be noted that, despite all of the huge buildings here, there is no evidence of a single window having contained a pane of glass. The only window-type glass we have ever found here was from the 60-inch Sperry searchlights, and it is much thicker than window glass. We’ve read that capiz shell windows were used, hung on rails to slide open or closed easily. Some of the hardware is still evident in the hospital and other building ruins.

There are large bomb craters on two sides of the building, and the building itself was heavily damaged in the war. Notice in the first photo that the entire northwest corner of the building has collapsed. The building had three chimneys built into interior walls, with openings for stove vent-pipes on front and back at the ground floor level and at the second level. Rummaging around, we found many San Miguel beer bottles, many of them with necks broken off as if the soldiers were in a hurry to drink the beer. Some bottles were unbroken, but all were misshapen, obviously victims of very hot fire.

From the west end of the barracks we again worked our way downhill to the road from Middleside to Battery James wasn’t far. We were thinking we might find a staircase that we had seen many times before while walking that road, but didn’t spot it. (Later as we walked back up to our house we saw and climbed the staircase, learning that it indeed led to that building as we suspected, but near its eastern end, so we had missed the stairway by a couple hundred feet.)

Our second goal was to find the double mine control station above Battery James. From the map we could see that if we started at James and worked our way up a ridge, staying near its peak, we should find the object of our search. Unlike the first part of our trek, where we had to make our own way through jungle growth, someone had recently cut a fairly good trail. We had to crawl a bit in one area where the trail tunneled through a thick stand of bamboo, but other than that, it led us right to the control station. Being a double station, this may very well be the widest and longest of the command posts on the island. Such control structures were built mostly underground, with ground-level observation openings just below their rooflines. Because of the surrounding bamboo, the front is extremely difficult to photograph, and photos cannot show this building’s extensive dimensions.

The entire trek took us just two hours, but by the time we got home around 11 A.M., we were both sweat-soaked. Of course, now that we would enjoy cooler showers we are getting warm ones due to sun on the water lines.

When we got home we were in for a surprise. We normally spend most of our time behind our house in our dirty kitchen. Islanders think of Corregidor as a “crime free” island, so although we put our computer inside before our walk, we left a few things on our table, including a paperback and a plastic glass mostwhich it had been lying. When Steve went to use it he realized that the roller wheel was sticking. We saw a small gouge in the rubber wheel, which was restricting its motion. Putting two and two together, we realized that while we were hiking a monkey must have jumped up on our table, knocked over the water glass – was he looking for a drink? – and then stolen the mouse. We are fortunate that monkeys are vegetarians, because after trying one bite he apparently set it down. Despite the nip and after a little minor surgery ly full of water. We found that the glass had been knocked over, heavily soaking the book that Steve was close to finishing. We could not imagine a gust of wind knocking over the glass, but what else could have happened? When Steve brought his computer back outside, he realized that his wireless computer mouse was missing. He told Marcia, and then we searched the house, thinking that maybe Steve had set it down somewhere and then forgotten where. Age, you know. Finally, Marcia spotted the mouse on the walkway out back, several yards from the table on by Marcia, the mouse is fully recuperated. The book, on the other hand …

By the way, Thursday was Steve’s 58th birthday. He sends thanks to all who sent him birthday greetings. Steve looks forward to his birthdays. He figures it beats the alternative.

P.S. Memorial Day will be observed at the American Cemetery in Manila on Sunday, May 30. The short program starts at 8:00 A.M. but guests are asked to be seated by 7:30. Harry Thomas, the new American Ambassador to the Philippines, is expected to attend.

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