We have spent most of our lives in the upper Midwest. We both grew up in Minnesota, Steve “up north” in Duluth and the Iron Range, and Marcia in areas that are now southern suburbs of Minneapolis. Later we lived in Wisconsin where Steve graduated from college after service at the Duluth Air Force Base. For 28 years we lived in the Lansing, Michigan area. It should come as no surprise that we are always happy to run into people from those areas. You just don’t expect to run into many, when living on the other side of the world on a remote island. Every once in a while, we are pleasantly surprised. During our early years of marriage we also lived briefly in Texas - San Antonio and Austin, in South Dakota, and in Rochester and West St. Paul, Minnesota.
Some of our encounters: While at Battery Way, Steve spotted a man wearing a University of Michigan cap. It turned out that the man is from Grand Rapids, Michigan, and was even familiar with Eaton Rapids, where his uncle had once owned a small restaurant a mile south of town. It had to be Robin’s Nest, where we occasionally joined friends for Sunday brunch. By pure chance one day, Steve was asked to guide for a bus that included a U.S. Embassy attorney who had earned her law degree in Minneapolis. We have become friends. She said that her favorite place to eat in the Twin Cities was Q-Cumber in Edina. When we attended our nephew’s wedding rehearsal dinner this past summer we parked right outside Q-Cumber’s, which is just a short distance from Steve’s sister and brother-in-law’s condominium. And of course there have been others from Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Michigan, including veterans of WWII and their relatives who have accompanied us on tours.
Just in the past two weeks we have been pleased to meet several Minnesotans. First, Steve happened to notice a couple of “American-looking” women while he was driving down the hill to get onto the internet. Later he again spotted them in the museum and introduced himself. At first the ladies, a mother and daughter, seemed a little reserved, but Steve found out that they were from Eden Prairie, Minnesota. He invited them to stop at the house on their way down the hill. To our great delight they stopped by. Laura, the daughter, had just finished a 27-month hitch with Peace Corps in the Philippines. Her mother Holly joined her and the two of them were touring areas in the Philippines on their own before returning to Minnesota. We ended up sharing soft drinks at our house, and then Steve gave them a personal tour of the Malinta Tunnel laterals before taking them to a banca for a ride to Cabcaben, Bataan. We recently heard from Holly, inviting us to join them at their home next summer. We’re hoping to do that.
During the weekend Steve guided a tour for some members of the American Women’s Club of the Philippines. The woman who organized the tour grew up in the Milwaukee, Wisconsin area. One of the husbands who had joined the tour had grown up in Coleraine, Minnesota, and is about our age. When Steve mentioned that he thought the best high school hockey player he ever saw was from Greenway High School in Coleraine, the man said, “Mike Antonovich. We were neighbors.” They had a good time talking hockey and also basketball, since Steve’s cousin Stan Krebs was one of the all-time great Minnesota players from that same 60’s -70’s era. Stan led Eveleth, a town rich in hockey history, to its first state basketball tournament.
As you know, we went to Manila for the Veterans Day ceremony. Upon our return Friday morning, we noticed two people standing on the dock talking with island manager Ron Benadero. We suspected that they might be waiting for us, and sure enough, Ron had told them that we were from Minnesota and were coming on the ferry. They had also spotted our jeep with its Minnesota license plate which belonged to Steve’s dad, Walter, and seen the plaque which tells his story at battery Way. (It wasn’t until years later that we realized that the date on that license plate is May, 1988, the same month and year that Walter passed away.) David and Carol are Baptist missionaries living in St. Paul, having worked in Japan for a number of years. It was fun to share stories over lunch.
Then, just the other day, Steve was guiding for a group of staff and children from an orphanage in Cavite, the province just south of Corregidor – technically Corregidor is part of Cavite, even though the post office is in Bataan. Two of the young workers were from near Grand Marais, which is in extreme northeastern Minnesota. They were quite excited to meet someone here who has ties to their frozen-north homeland.
We have a very old acacia (monkeypod) tree near our house. Since moving into the house here we have been concerned about the effect of the very large vines that climb up the tree; whether their weight might someday contribute to the tree’s demise. Since it is one of only a few trees on the island that definitely survived WWII, we really want it to survive as long as possible. So we had our helper Roy cut the vines at the ground and up the tree about four feet, thinking that soon they would be dead. Well, we had another think coming! Despite having their roots cut at least a month ago, and seeing a few leaves turn yellow in response, the vines now seem to be thriving. It turns out that they have fine sucker roots sunk into the acacia, obviously stealing water from the tree, and also firmly securing themselves. For all we know they are continuing to spread. We can only wait to see if the vines will wither and die during dry season. So much for our simple solution!