Monday, August 23, 2010

Back on Corregidor!

We are safely back on Corregidor after a long but otherwise uneventful journey back. We expected to find evidence of Typhoon Basyang, which, as we told you previously, hit the island in mid July. It turns out to have been one of the most destructive in recent Corregidor memory, maybe the worst in 16 years. It required a month to get things looking halfway decent. Amazingly no tours were missed, although we are told that during the first day tour some areas could not yet be visited due to downed trees across the roads.

We were very glad to find out that our house survived intact. We did find evidence of a small roof leak, but fortunately it was over an area of bare floor, so the water did not affect any possessions. The solar power system was fully charged and waiting for us to turn on the refrigerator. All over the yard there are piles of wood which were gathered and stacked by our helper Roy, who has spent all of his working hours for us the past six weeks just trying to get the yard looking good again. The top of a eucalyptus tree near our sidewalk was snapped off, as was a very large mango tree in the front yard. All-in-all it could have been a lot worse for us. We can only wonder what might have happened had we not had the large tree in the front yard chopped down almost two years ago to allow the sun to hit our solar panels in the afternoon. At the time, many of its large branches hung over the house and they had to be removed very carefully to prevent them from hitting the house. Any one of them would have smashed the roof-tiles, or maybe much more, had it fallen during a typhoon.

We are a bit apprehensive as to what we will see once we return to the out-of-the-way trails which we so dearly love to hike. The only one we’ve tried so far is the “aviary shortcut” near our house. It doesn’t seem like the same trail we used barely two months ago. There are now several trees across the path. At one point a large stand of bamboo has fallen, blocking the trail completely. Only time will tell what we will encounter elsewhere.

Despite it being “rainy season” it has rained almost entirely during the night so far since our return. During our first night on the island it rained hard, but then the sun came out off-and-on starting around 10:00 A.M., and this seems to be the pattern. The island is very green following all the rain which came after seven months of essentially drought. Before we left we could see well into the jungle areas from the road, but not any more. We tend to stick to the main roads until it starts to dry out in October or November, since it is pretty muddy and slippery on the jungle paths. We may head out earlier this year since we are curious as to the storm damage we will encounter.

One other note about Typhoon Basyang; we were told that about two dozen fishermen from the Mariveles area died during the storm. They go out each night into Manila Bay to fish, and being poor, tend to go out of necessity even when warned not to by the Coast Guard. The storm’s greatest fury was between one and three in the morning, making the fishermen very vulnerable and almost impossible to rescue. Our hearts go out to their families. (For those of you who don’t know, the port of Mariveles, the starting point of the Bataan Death March, is only a few miles from the western end of Corregidor.)

When we returned our jeep was in the process of being repaired – again – this time because of electrical problems – again. However, when the technician got done fixing that problem, the diesel engine would only start by being primed with gasoline. Eventually Michael the mechanic found a malfunctioning engine shutoff valve. When he removed it the engine started just fine. However, then it would not shut off without purposely leaving the jeep in gear and slowly letting out the clutch until it clunked dead. A trip to Balanga for a new valve fixed that problem, but now the headlights aren’t working. On an island that is dark 10 to 12 hours every day of the year, headlights can come in handy. Until we figure out the problem we either drive during sunlight hours only or shine our big flashlights through the windshield.

Despite the fact that our yard is a mess, we are very happy to be back on the Rock. After two months in America it is nice to return to the peacefulness of this remote jungle island. To fall asleep in the deep dark and near-total silence, to awaken to the tropical birds, chirping crickets, and croaking bullfrogs. We love our families and very much enjoyed our time at “home,” and were especially grateful that we could spend so much time with our grandchildren. But we also have a new “family” here with whom we enjoy spending time. Our first night eating chicken adobo prepared over an open fire, accompanied by Red Horse made us feel so much at home again.

It is the opposite of tourist season now, so we don’t expect to be very busy leading tours or meeting many new people here. Don’t hesitate to let us know if you are coming to the island, as we always love to spend time with fellow Corregidor lovers. Also remember that if you want Steve to be your official Sun Cruises tour guide you must make arrangements with Sun Cruises, Inc. at least a week in advance of your visit.

We are beginning our third year of writing about Corregidor. Our goal the last couple of years was to try to put out one newsletter every week. We were amazed that we were able to come up with something new pretty much every week last year, but suspect that eventually we risk becoming repetitious. So our goal this year is to put out newsletters as events warrant. We usually aim for about 1,000 words, feeling that any more than that and most people won’t bother to read it. So starting now we will be story-driven instead of time-driven. We’ll just have to see how that works out.

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