Friday, February 25, 2011

The beautiful birds of Corregidor

We recently had a visit from five Japanese, including our friends Yuka and Naoko. They were joined by Yumiko, Kotaro, and Shino. They are all focused on educating the Japanese people about what actually occurred during World War II. Their projects have included video interviews with hundreds of American and Filipino POWs and Japanese soldiers from the period, in hopes of helping to bridge the gap between the groups. They were grateful to Steve for serving as their tour guide, telling the story from the point of view of a son of an American POW.

Since there were only five in their group, and because they all speak and understand at least some English, they joined us on an English-speaking bus which, by happenstance turned out to have a very international group. Included on this particular bus were “Steve and Marcia on the Rock” readers Edna (Filipina),and her husband Boone (Indonesian), who live in Holland, as well as guests from Australia, the United States, Canada, India, and of course the Philippines, plus a man who splits his time each year between the Philippines and his wife’s homeland of Spain.

The Japanese guests spent the night at the hotel, treating us to “MacArthur chicken” and other fine dishes at the MacArthur Café. The following day we escorted them to the Japanese Memorial Garden on Tailside. They were able to provide us with translations of the information on all of the markers there, something that we’d wanted for quite some time. There were no great surprises, and we even learned how to recognize “Corregidor” in the Japanese phonetic character set, which is used when there is no Kanji equivalent.

A couple nights ago we decided to have dinner at Mac’s Café. Instead of eating by ourselves, we encountered overnight visitors Hakan, Jan, and Cora, an interesting trio to say the least. Hakan, a native of Sweden, lived for years in Lebanon, and currently splits his time between, of all places, Cambodia and Bulgaria. His close friend Jan, a Danish citizen, is married to Cora, a Filipina. Jan and Cora live in Metro Manila and are involved with an organization called “Manila Street Kids.” The beer and conversation were flowing, and we all had a great time. The party expanded with the addition of another Swedish overnight guest named Rolf (who coincidentally stayed overnight as Hakan, whom he had never met), Corregidor Inn manager Ed, island manager Ron, and Nilo who also works on Corregidor. More beer, more talk, some pancit, and a bit of videoke.

At one point, Hakan commented that Jan used to play an instrument in an orchestra which performed in Denmark and Sweden. Steve asked the obvious, “What instrument did you play?” figuring that it was a string, reed, or brass instrument. Before Jan could answer, Hakan started moving his fists alternately together and apart and going, “BOOM! . . . . . . . . . . BOOM! . . . . . . . . . . BOOM! . . . . . . . . . . BOOM!” Yes, Jan played bass drum in a symphony orchestra! And Hakan was not going to let his best friend forget it. Every time that a new song came on the videoke machine, Hakan would repeat the “BOOM! . . . . . . . . . . BOOM! . . . . . . . . . . BOOM! . . . . . . . . . . BOOM!” and Jan would roll his eyes, and say, “It’s a lot tougher than it looks!” (He actually played multiple instruments in the percussion section.) Maybe you had to be there, but every time Hakan repeated, “BOOM! BOOM!” we all cracked up.

On Tuesday we were delighted to finally meet Doris Magsaysay Ho, the owner of Sun Cruises, Inc., the company that brings most of the visitors to the island. They run the day tours and the Corregidor Inn. Doris invited us to join her group for lunch at the inn. She has lots of plans for updating services and making inn renovations, and was looking for input from her staff, a renovations consultant, and the two of us. We liked what we heard, and hope that she will be able to implement many of the suggestions that were discussed. We believe that Sun Cruises already does a good job but also appreciate Doris’s vision for improving the facilities, as well as offering a wider variety of activity choices, such as walking tours of the off-the-beaten-path areas of the island. She mentioned that she has a personal interest in seeing Corregidor developed as a bird sanctuary, something of interest to us as well, which would entail habitat evaluations, planting of specific food-source trees, and possibly establishing feeder stations for some bird species.

On that topic, we mentioned in a January newsletter that bird watchers had identified 33 species of birds on Corregidor in less than three hours, while walking only along the main roads. Here is the list sent to us by Alex T. after his partner Marites put it together for an article in their birders’ newsletter. We assume that the number following each name indicates how many were spotted, with “x” being ‘too many to count’ and “HO” indicating ‘Heard Only.’

1. Eastern Reef-Egret - 1 (dark)
2. Brahminy Kite - 25
3. Chinese Goshawk - 1 (perched)
4. Red Jungle Fowl - 5 (3m, 2f)
5. Pink-necked Green-Pigeon - 12
6. White-eared Brown-Dove - 2
7. Amethyst Brown-Dove - HO
8. Green-Pigeon sp. - 1
9. Zebra Dove - x
10. Common Emerald-Dove - 30+
11. Philippine Coucal - 1 (heard more)
12. Island Swiftlet - x
13. Glossy Swiftlet - x
14. Pygmy Swiftlet - x
15. Collared Kingfisher - 40+
16. Pacific Swallow - x
17. Barn Swallow - x
18. Pied Triller - 4
19. Yellow-vented Bulbul - x
20. Philippine Bulbul - 10+
21. Black-naped Oriole - 11
22. Blue Rock Thrush - 2 (male)
23. Golden-bellied Flyeater - 1
24. Arctic Warbler - 3
25. Tawny Grassbird - 2 (heard more)
26. Grey-streaked Flycatcher - 5
27. Mangrove Blue-Flycatcher - HO
28. Pied Fantail - 4
29. Black-naped Monarch – HO
30. Brown Shrike - 8
31. Asian Glossy Starling - x
32. Olive-backed Sunbird - 6
33. Lowland White-eye – 30

There are a few species we have seen which are not on the list: Tabon Scrubfowl; White-throated Kingfisher; and Large-billed Crow. We don’t know about you, but we were really impressed with what they spotted, and hope that this will inspire many more bird watchers to come to Corregidor for a day or two. Our little pocket guide was great to help us get started, but we have reached the point where we’re ready for the more comprehensive bird book that Alex T. recommended, “A Guide to the Birds of the Philippines” by Kennedy, Gonzales, Dickinson, Miranda, and Fisher.

Here are some links:

About a month ago, amateur bird photographer Ely Teehankee came to Corregidor with his giant Canon 800mm fixed telephoto lens. He stopped by to introduce himself, much to our delight. All attached bird photos were taken by him over a two-day period. More of Ely’s pictures can be viewed at

On February 24th we quietly and gratefully celebrated our 38th wedding anniversary. On that snowy day in 1973, who would have dreamed that the year 2011 would find us living on a tropical island in the Philippines, still very happy together?

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