One of the first things that we visited upon our return to Corregidor was the primary command post of Fort Mills. Its location gave it full visibility of any ships coming into Manila Bay. It is located on the south part of the head of the island, near Battery Wheeler. Quite some time ago Paul Whitman, founder and webmaster of www.correidor.org, suggested that it would be nice to be able to see what the lookouts could see, but jungle growth had obscured the view. While we were in the States a number of security personnel on their off-duty time cleared some of the scrub brush from the view line, as well as clearing the top of the command post itself. You can now see why the command post was located there, with a good view from Fort Drum (the “Concrete Battleship”) to the left across to the very tip of Bataan on the right. This is a location that we love to show to visitors, but because of its remote location it is only seen by a handful of guests a year.
In our continuing effort to size up Typhoon Basyang’s effects on the more remote trails, we took a walk from our house to Battery James and from there to Bottomside. The first part was clear, as we expected, since island personnel have to use that road to get to the pump house in James Ravine. However, once we reached Battery James it immediately became clear that rest of the walk, along what is called “the north access road,” would be slower going.
There are actually two reasons for this. The first is of course that there were trees downed along the way. We were pleasantly surprised that there were not more, bigger trees. We estimate that there were about eight places where trees were blocking the road, but in no case did they present us a problem greater than walking around or under them. The second reason for slower going is that rainy season has had its effect. Where before the trail was relatively clear of tall grass, now grass and new trees are springing up at an astounding rate. We had noticed that same thing when we visited Battery Wheeler. You may remember back in March when we told you that if you were going to visit now was the time because so many of the trails and battery entrances were cleared. Not any more. All we can do now is to wait for rainy season to end and hope that there is enough manpower and budget to once again clear those areas for peak tourist season.
We like to eat some kind of fruit each day. Besides bananas, that is, which we have almost every morning for breakfast when we can get them, which is most of the time. The challenge is that we are still learning when certain fruits are available, and what new-to-us fruits are available at any given time of the year. We are used to having mangoes from February through May, but other than that, it’s still a guessing game for us.
The other day we just asked the bancero to buy us some fruit. He brought back dalandans and lansones. The best way to imagine dalandans (pronounced with the a’s sounding like “aah” as in, “Open wide and say aah.”) would be green-skinned oranges, with a thinner skin like a tangerine. The fruit is very similar to an orange, but less flavorful, kind of like an orange that is a little too old. Lansones grow in clusters almost like big beige grapes. They have a thin, inedible skin, and the flesh inside tastes remarkably like grapefruit, although not quite as sour. The texture of the fruit is very similar to grapes, but it is sectioned almost like citrus fruits. The smaller ones contain minute seeds which you can eat, but the bigger ones contain large seeds that are as bitter as anything if you bite into them.
Our first time to see lansones was just last week while riding the bus after a grocery trip to Balanga. At one of the bus stops, a roadside vendor had a small table set up. From the bus, his produce looked a lot like small tan-yellow potatoes. The woman seated behind Steve waved the vendor to the bus window, and purchased a small sack-full from him. Marcia asked our helper, Roy, what it was – fruit or vegetable – and its name. The woman offered some to us, so we both tried them and liked them.
Another new-to-us food that we are enjoying is embutido. We first tasted some in June when we were having dinner at Ronilo’s, a gift from Nilo, who is currently living with Ronilo and Jhun the plumber. Embutido, according to our dictionary, is pork-loaf sausage. Nilo’s sister, who lives in Bataan, sells it in her store. It comes 10 sausages to a kilo, individually wrapped in aluminum foil.
Unless you’ve been living somewhere on a remote island with no TV or radio (sound like anyone you know?), you probably know about the horrible situation which occurred in Manila, in which tourists from Hong Kong were taken hostage in a bus by a former police office who had lost his job. In the end, eight tourists were dead, and there has been much talk of how things were – and should have been – handled. Some of our former Valor Tours’ guests were concerned that maybe Tommie, Emil, and OG were with that tour bus. We contacted Tommie and he assured us that no one from Rajah Tours was part of this situation, which involved Hong Thai Travel. The incident, by the way, took place in front of the Quirino grandstand in Rizal Park, just a few hundred yards from the Manila Hotel.
It has resulted in Hong Kong pulling out all of their tourist business, causing great financial damage to the industry here in the Philippines. We pray for the families of the victims, and hope that relationships between the nations can be restored. This is viewed as a stand-alone incident, and the American Embassy has seen no need to raise alert levels for travelers coming here. With the exception of certain areas in the south, the Philippine islands remain a tourist-friendly site for Americans.