Sunday, January 23, 2011

Snakes and caps

We got these comments in response to our last newsletter:

Thank you so much for this narration of your visit with my family! I'm … the daughter that was unable to come to Corregidor for this visit. I have been getting emails from my parents and sister telling me about how wonderful their trip has been. And the pictures of my Dad here and on my sister's page brings tears to my eyes. He looks SO HAPPY! I'm sure this was an emotional trip for him and it breaks my heart that I couldn't be there. But I will do my best to join them next year, and the year after that, and the year after that! My dad will be around for a long long time and I know he can't wait to join you again! Thanks so much for taking such wonderful care of my family!
Kimberly Adams C.


Dear Steve and Marcia, thank you so much for all your wonderful and amazing works there at the Rock. I greatly appreciate what you are doing there. I want to tell you that I am so move by the articles, stories and reports that I am receiving from your postings. Often, my tears would roll down before I notice it. This recent article created the most. While reading it, my heart kept on saying thank you defenders, do not know you personally, but I am so indebted to all of you for the freedom that we received.
Michael Z.


Somewhat overlapping the stay of the Adams Family, whom we talked about in the last newsletter, was a group of four from California, all of whom are WWII history buffs. They joined us on the banca ride to the fortified islands of Manila Bay and the trip up Malinta Hill where Dick Adams identified his 10-day bivouac area. Later on the three men in the group, who can be seen standing under the trunk of a tree in an accompanying photo, joined Steve for several island hikes, looking for out-of-the-way tunnels and gun installations. Melissa decided Malinta Hill had been enough for her knees, and opted to spend her time relaxing and making use of the massage certificate included in their booking package.

One of the most memorable moments for the trio came just after the Malinta Hill hike, which begins and ends at the intersection of the two roads that wrap around the hill, known as Road Junction Forty-three, or RJ43. A tunnel not on the old maps, indicating that it was probably dug in haste by American soldiers at the outset of the war, is found just downhill from RJ43. Since it was so handy, Steve took the guys into the tunnel.

They had not planned to go into any tunnels, so most of the men had smaller than usual flashlights. In Steve’s case, he borrowed a small gizmo that consists of three small lights, clipping onto the brim of a cap. It throws just enough light that you won’t trip over anything. Steve led the way into the 50-yard deep tunnel, not expecting to come across anything too nasty. Suddenly Steve stepped on something that made a crackling/crunching sound, as if he had stepped on a thin drinking glass. At that very instant, the man right behind Steve let out a “holy s—t” scream at least two octaves higher than any grown man should be able to produce. Steve jumped about six feet in the air, landed and ran a few feet forward to get away from whatever it was that had caused the shriek, assuming that it was whatever he had stepped on. When he turned around, several men had their flashlights pointed at a snake that Steve had just passed within inches of. He then realized that the crunch was actually caused by his stepping on a hermit crab at exactly the same time as the man behind him had seen the snake.

The snake itself was calmer than any one of the guys. It lay coiled on an abandoned railroad tie that was about eight inches across. It was coiled a full four times. Based upon this we estimate that the snake was eight to ten feet long. Since cobras don’t exceed six feet here, and the fact that the snake did not act the least bit threatened or threatening, we think that it was a type of python. Accompanying the group was John M. who, like Steve, has been in just about every major tunnel on the island multiple times. John and Steve had only ever seen one snake each in all of their previous explorations of the Corregidor tunnels, so it was indeed a rare event.
Something similar happened a day later, as Steve was leading the men along the Geary to Ramsey trail. When they were passing through a patch of bamboo, Steve’s hat must have brushed up against something hanging overhead. The same man was again right behind Steve. This time the same words came out, but in the more normal vocal range for a man, though loud enough to send Steve another six feet into the air. This time it was just a poor helpless bat, thrashing on the ground trying to get away. Later when Steve offered to take the men into Middleside Tunnel, AKA “Bat Cave,” that particular gentleman decided to photograph the nearby barracks instead. By the way, the Bat Cave once again lived up to its reputation.

One of the members of the group, having read about Steve’s love for Michigan State sports, brought him a Spartan cap and t-shirt. Steve thought this was really nice of him. The cap is made of stretchy mesh and for that reason is literally the coolest cap he has.

After those guests left the island, Marcia and Steve decided to go back into the RJ43 Tunnel a couple of days later hoping to find the snake and take even better pictures of it in order to positively identify it. That’s right: Marcia accompanied Steve on a snake-hunting expedition. Does this sound like the Marcia you know and love? Those who knew her growing up may remember her catching garter snakes on the farm. Anyway, we saw many hermit crabs, a nice land crab and a frog, but no snake. So we have to be satisfied with the picture we have.

Our friend Tom A. stopped by our house this week. Tom is another man who knows and loves Corregidor. He brought us two Texas university caps. Texas Aggies were responsible for a lot of the early construction that was done on the island 100 years ago, and a number held Aggie Musters here before and after the war. Our daughter is at the University of Texas in Austin. Caps from rival schools to add to our collection.

Currently we are in Manila in anticipation of a four-day excursion to Ilo Ilo and Pototan on the island of Panay in the Visayas (Central Philippines.)

1 comment:

  1. The snake looks like an olive python although I understand that the species is native to Australia which leaves me a bit confused... In any case, it seems to match the description given that the olive python's habitat tends to be rocky areas (which is true for the most part of Corregidor) and is known to shelter in caves and rock crevices.

    I must say, your blog has been quite an interesting and informative read... you've written about a few species that one would normally not expect to find in Corregidor, such as this one involving the python, the Palawan flycatcher (if I recall correctly), and that snake by the roadside with the strange motion you described... Keep it up and hope to continue to hear from you.