Friday, March 11, 2011

The little girl who lost her shoe

Steve recently guided a group of Filipino students. While they were off taking pictures at Battery Way, he met an older American balikbayan (a native Filipino who is returning for a visit) from another group who was standing off by himself. When Steve told his father’s story of being the last sergeant on the last mortar at the battery, the man introduced himself as Jose Liberato, age 75. He said that he was born on Corregidor in 1935 while his father was serving here in the U.S. Army. He lived here for the first six years of his life, until the military dependants were evacuated from the island as war approached. He said that this is the first time he has returned to The Rock since that time.

On another tour Steve had a mix of guests from all over the world. One little girl was with her Filipino family on top of the Spanish Lighthouse when one of her shoes fell off, dropping onto the lower roof. When her mother told Steve about it he could see that the girl was quite upset, so he promised to get someone to retrieve the shoe before the end of the tour. The mother wisely bought her daughter a pair of flip-flops at a lighthouse gift shop which relieved the distress. After lunch Steve was able to return the shoe to the girl, thanks to two men from the hotel staff. Later she and a Korean girl of about the same age posed with Steve at the Japanese memorial. At the end of the tour, the tiny Filipina came up to Steve and boldly proclaimed, “Thank you!” Steve asked, “What’s your name?” “Allysa Noel!” “You lost one of your front teeth.” “That’s when I was little!” Steve smiled because he knew that the tooth had to have fallen out quite recently, and he couldn’t imagine her much littler. When Steve asked the other little girl (the Korean) her name, she held up five fingers. When he asked her mother, she had no idea what she was being asked. It did not occur to him at the time to try to ask her name in Tagalog, but in all likelihood it would have invoked the same response. We hope that they enjoyed the tour despite the language barrier.

On another occasion when Steve was guiding a group of Filipino high school students, he struck up a conversation with a man in the buffet lunch line. It turned out that he was from Iowa, and so he was very interested to talk with Steve, who grew up in the neighboring state of Minnesota. Frank Morgan invited him to join him and his fellow traveler for lunch. As it turned out, they were with the Kiwanis, and his travel mate was none other than Sylvester Neal, the International President of the Kiwanis. The three had an interesting conversation, with Frank especially picking Steve’s brain about his knowledge of the war on Corregidor. They met up again later at Pacific War Museum on Topside, where Steve and Sylvester posed under the photos of Steve’s father Walter which are on display.

The remains of a three-million gallon concrete water reservoir are very near our house. Since tour buses often stop to explain its significance, we occasionally have our helper Roy sweep its surface. The acacia (monkey pod) leaves had really begun to accumulate, so we asked Roy to clear them. Before he began, we heard him working on something behind the bodega. After a while we noticed a scraping sound, and we wondered if Roy had come up with a device to make his work easier. Sure enough, he had put together something closely resembling a snow shovel, using extra roofing metal for a blade. When we asked him if he had gotten the idea from watching movies with snow scenes, he just kind of laughed and said, “No.” Very inventive, very effective.

Finally, one of our devoted readers sent the following about the composition of the rock and ash wall we described in our last newsletter:

Not being there and seeing [the wall] first hand, I am making a guess from the picture. It is an old ash flow. The army cut through it to make a road. When a volcano blows, tons of this ash comes down like hot cinders with rocks and blobs of lava mixed in, it can flow in a way similar to lava. When it compacts over millennia it is like a soft stone with all the bits of rocks built in. This happens on more than one occasion, and layers can be very thin or thick. The mix of rocks/lava/ash differs for each blow. Some are more ash, some more chunks of rock. This creates distinct layers. The layer in the middle of the picture looks like a mostly ash layer that was softer than the layers above and below, due to lack of stabilizing rocks. It has eroded by wind and rain more than the other layers. It is not from scaring due to equipment running alongside.

Volcanoes (like Mount St. Helens) can blow the entire top off, and then the expelled lava/ash/rock creates a void and the center collapses down forming a bowl. You see better from the air, where you see a circular ridge, the caldera of an old volcano. Looking at the size of the caldera that left the ridge islands of Corregidor and Caballo, it was a huge ancient volcano. You are seeing firsthand the old volcanic action that created this ancient Caldera rim. The top was blown off, probably many times. The rocks hurled up along with the hot ash fell back and compressed into the concrete like substance you see. When the US Army cut through it to make a road it was left open to fall away bit by bit depending on each layer's hardness, leaving a structure that looks like a retaining wall.

We thank the reader for her response. We are still hoping for someone who can tell us the types of equipment that were used to form the wall and road that we talked about and that are shown in the attached picture.

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