Thursday, June 17, 2010

We have a peaceful weekend

We are getting ready to fly to the United States next Wednesday. We tentatively plan to spend about three weeks in Minnesota, mostly with Steve’s mother up on “the Range,” then off to Rochester, New York to attend a nephew’s (Marcia’s side) wedding, a couple of weeks in central Michigan, and finally back to Minneapolis/St. Paul for another nephew’s (Steve’s side) wedding before returning in mid-August. We hope see some of you while we are there, and will be regularly checking email to keep in touch.

Several people wrote to make their best assessment of the flower/tree that we featured on May 13. Philip Thompson of the American Embassy in Manila wrote the following:

I increasingly think that the little tree in question is Murraya paniculata, commonly called either "Mock Orange" (not to be confused with the more temperate-region plants of the same common name: Philadelphus coronarius and Pittosporum tobira [that's the problem with common names!]), or "Orange Jasmine" (although it is not related to the true jasmines -- genus Jasminium; family Oleaceae). It's native to India and East Asia, but was probably introduced to cultivation here in the Philippines as an ornamental garden plant for the landscape.

The pictures on Wikipedia confirm Philip’s conclusion, and we thank him. Another mystery solved! Right now it is in the second round of nighttime blooming, again almost overwhelming us with its fragrance while we lie in bed 30 feet away.

Saturday was June 12, the 112th Anniversary of Philippine independence from Spain. Since rainy season is due to begin at any time, and it is a three-day holiday weekend, this was probably the last big weekend for visitors for several months. Pretty soon SCI will cut back to Thursday-through-Sunday service except for special bookings, subject to weather permitting travel in the bay. For the past nine months or so their ferries have run pretty much every day except when Typhoons Ondoy, Pepeng, and Santi came through last year.

Late on Friday, Steve received a call from Sun Cruises asking if he was available to guide on Saturday. Unless he is specifically requested in advance, Steve never knows what kind of group to expect. When the call is last minute, his guests can be a “surprise package.” Recently, you might recall, he wrote about having a bus full of Polish tourists combined with a group of young Filipinos, making for an interesting day. This time Steve was assigned one of two busloads of a group of professionals who belong to AMDA International, the Association of Medical Doctors of Asia. AMDA chose Corregidor as the site for their 9th Annual ASMP memorial, focusing on the connection between soul and medicine.

It was pretty much a normal tour, although the Topside component included a wreath-laying ceremony at the Parachute Dome. The “floral offering for peace” was formalized by a number of Knights of Columbus, complete with their fancy hats, capes, and shiny swords. A few members spoke briefly. The theme of the event, which was on their flyer for the weekend, was, “This memorial is a commemoration for the lost lives during the war. It is also a celebration of, and a prayer for, peace. It is a call for forgiveness and a petition that there will be no more war.”

Steve was invited to eat lunch with the International Advisor, Dr. Primitivo Chua, a retired Filipino-Chinese physician, and the AMDA International President, Dr. Shigeru Suganami of Japan. It was an interesting lunch. Steve commented to Dr. Chua, 75 and able to remember the Japanese atrocities that took place in Metro Manila 65 years ago, that many Filipinos his age would have a hard time sharing a meal with anyone from Japan. Dr. Chua’s philosophy is that we must learn to forgive but never forget. Dr. Suganami had many questions for Steve, but because the doctor’s English is heavily accented, Steve often had to ask him to repeat his questions, sometimes more than once. Dr. Suganami proved to be a very kind, gentle man, who was in no way offended by any of the comments that Steve made concerning the Japanese actions and America’s response in World War II.

After the tour Steve was invited to bring Marcia and join in their evening activities. The first consisted of planting six trees near the South Beach. We were simply observers until they got to the last one, when we were asked to participate. This particular tree was planted on behalf of Lions International. Unknown to them until that moment, we had been active members in the Lions for a few years before moving to Corregidor, where participation is impossible. Nevertheless, it was nice to be a part of the group again, if even for just a few moments.

Mass followed, which was co-officiated by a newly-ordained Filipino priest and a mostly-retired Belgian-American who has lived in the Philippines for over 35 years. Then we proceeded to a memorial service which began with inter-faith prayers. A Japanese Buddhist monk led off, punctuating his prayers with a bell and a piece of wood which he struck at times. This was followed by Catholic, two “flavors” of Evangelical, and Greco-Russian Orthodox prayers. Several talks followed, including one by James So, President of the Chinese Federation for Global Peace, Philippines. Steve was slightly embarrassed, as Mr. So talked about how, at first, he was kind of shocked that their tour guide was not a Filipino. He then praised Steve for the excellent job that he’d done with the group, emphasizing the knowledge and emotion that Steve pours into his guiding. Dr. Suganami expressed similar sentiments, and then spoke of his deep desire to see nations look for ways to build friendships and seek to support one another in crisis situations. Afterwards we all headed to the South Beach, where, after a blessing by one of the priests and a prayer offered by an Imam, we had a wonderful fish dinner served by the Corregidor Inn staff. What had begun as a five-hour tour for Steve ended up being a whole day, with dinner lasting until 9:30.

On Sunday we saw the group off at the hotel, and they once again expressed their appreciation for our participation in their Saturday festivities. We look forward to meeting some of them again, applaud their extensive international efforts to foster peace and cooperation between the nations of Asia, and join their prayers for no more wars.

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