Sunday, August 28, 2011

We relax in "rainy season"

Our flight from Detroit to Manila, via Chicago and Beijing, went well. We had been concerned about our scheduled two-hour layover in Beijing, since it had taken us two-and-a-half hours to get from one terminal to another on our initial trip, this without even having to transfer our luggage by hand. We were excited to hear the American Airlines pilot announce that he would get us to Beijing a half-hour early from Chicago, which might give us just enough time. The first thing after landing was an entry point consisting of approximately ten lines – at 11:30 P.M. When we finally reached the front of our line, we were directed to another line, which, had we only known – no signs indicated why we needed this different line, our guess was because we were only passing through – was very short. Passports and itinerary were thoroughly scrutinized, and then we were told to proceed.

This time we had to collect our four checked bags and board a shuttle-bus for a terminal transfer. Late at night they only run every half hour, and – wouldn’t you know it – we’d just missed the midnight bus. At 12:30 we were on our way in a typically overcrowded bus. Steve was seated next to a very friendly Chinese man who encouraged us to visit China one day. By the time we reached the terminal it was already boarding time for our Philippine Airlines flight. The lady at the check-in counter printed our boarding passes, but told us that it was too late to leave our bags with her, so we were directed to roll them to the oversized baggage crew who also function as the “late-night-baggage team.” Then we speed-walked to the gate – not the farthest one, but close enough – where we made it aboard with a good two minutes to spare. First priority once we stashed our carry-on bags was to beg permission to use the restrooms before take-off, since we did not dare ‘waste’ precious time during the airport processes! Then we settled into our seats. The crew served us an excellent dinner, not the breakfast that we expected considering the time was two in the morning. Upon arrival in Manila at 6 A.M. Saturday, we phoned for a ride from the driver of our wonderful friends, Ray and Esther, who had graciously offered us a place to stay until our Sunday morning return to Corregidor.

The transition between late June and late August on Corregidor is always a bit of a shock to us. We leave the Rock at the end of dry season and return in the heart of rainy season. When we left, there had been enough rain to begin to turn the dry grassy patches slightly green, but after two months of near-daily rain – they told us it was almost continuous rain during July – the island is now lush and almost glowing green everywhere when the sun is out, which hasn’t been too often. It has been so humid that the sides of the old concrete buildings are more black than gray. We got home on Sunday morning, and it was sunny until 1:30 P.M. Since then the sun has not been trying very hard to shine here, with one to six inches of rain every day.

Despite it being rainy, we are happy to be back. Our U.S. vacation was wonderful, and we are so very thankful to all of our family and friends who hosted, fed, and entertained us, but it always feels good to get home. While in the States, we enjoyed feasting on the American foods we do not get here, and now that we’ve returned, we are catching up on our favorite Filipino foods we missed while on vacation.

Because of the weather, this is the most relaxing time of the year for us. There are far fewer visitors, so Steve is seldom called upon to guide, and we tend to stay out of the jungle unless someone wants us to take them to a specific place. The trails are overgrown and slippery, so we stick to the main roads for our walks. We have been trying to walk every day, and the edges of the roads are covered in moss. There is also black “slime” that can be very slippery when it is wet, and it does not have the most pleasant odor. There are a number of trees that are blooming now, with most pleasant fragrances. So, as we walk along, the smells in the air often switch between the two.

This time of year you don’t want to go anywhere, even a short walk, without an umbrella. Rain can suddenly pop up, and then stop just as quickly. As Steve was initially writing this he was sitting outside in our dirty kitchen area, but had to move inside when a wave of heavy rain began blowing under the metal roof extension. It was the perfect time for our helper, Roy, to do his annual sidewalk-scrubbing to clear the slippery black slime. When the rain and wind calmed down, Steve took the laptop back outside – but was forced right back inside by the next wave of rain. This pattern is very typical when you are in the outer bands of a typhoon; five-to-ten minutes of strong wind and rain, fifteen-or-so minutes of respite, and then repeat the cycle indefinitely. When we lived in Michigan, we very occasionally were in the outer bands of a hurricane from the Gulf of Mexico, which gave us a tiny foretaste of this sort of weather pattern.

Next year is the 70th anniversary of the Fall of the Philippines in WWII. Because of that fact, we expect that some of you will join one of the two anniversary tours that we will lead for Valor Tours of San Francisco. Although the tours will have virtually identical itineraries, the one in early April will center on the April 9th Fall of Bataan, including the annual ceremony at Mt. Samat. The tour in early May will include a noontime ceremony on May 6 at the Pacific War Memorial on Topside, commemorating the Surrender of Corregidor and the rest of the Philippines. Although these tours originate in the States, Vicky Middagh of Valor Tours will gladly make arrangements for you should you wish to join one of the groups at Manila. If you have questions you can ask us, contact Vicky by email at, or visit her website at

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Steve and Marcia in Michigan

One of our plans for this summer was to get together with the Adams, who live near Detroit in Michigan, and with the Reamers, who live near Cincinnati, Ohio. As of now, Everett Reamer is the most recent American Defender of Corregidor to return, having been there with us in January, 2006. Dick Adams is the last liberator to return, having been there with his wife and one of their daughters this past January. He is planning to return with his family next January. We thought it would be great to meet with both couples, but timing was against us. The Reamers were going to be in Michigan while we were in Minnesota and in Minnesota after we returned to Michigan. However, the two couples were still interested in meeting one another, and on July 17 the meeting took place without us, which was way better than not having happened at all. The following is their report.

I'm sorry it's taken so long to send these to you. We couldn't find our camera when we left to meet with Everett and Bernice Reamer on July 17th, so we only had our phone with us to take pictures. It's taken us three weeks to find the cable to connect the phone to the computer in order to upload the photos. They're not great pictures, especially the one with me in it (both subject matter and fuzziness)! Sorry about the quality. - Nancy Adams

The Adams and The Reamers
Brunch on July 17, 2011

Once again, Steve and Marcia brought together distant participants in Corregidor’s history: Everett Reamer (from Ohio), a Defender of Corregidor who fought the Japanese in 1941, and Richard Adams (from Michigan), a paratrooper who returned to The Rock with the 503rd PIR on 16 February 1945. Both had their baptismal fire on this island in Manila Harbor. Both were in Japan, Everett as a POW and Richard as a member of the occupation force.

While Steve and Marcia were visiting family in Minnesota, Everett and his wife, Bernice, drove up to Michigan to visit their daughter. Steve heard about this upcoming trip, and suggested that the Reamers and the Adams get together. They met for brunch on July 17th as total strangers, but after several hours of sharing war stories, quickly became friends.

Technology is a wonderful thing. Prior to meeting the Reamers, Richard and Nancy Googled “Everett Reamer”, and found lots of interesting information about his experiences on The Rock and as a POW. He’s quite a character, both then and now! Much to Richard’s surprise, he found lots of information about his own January return to Corregidor by Googling “Richard Adams, Corregidor”. Google has turned the concept of “private person” upside down! – Dick Adams

Our return trip from Minnesota was more eventful than we had hoped. In June, epic flooding made it impossible for Amtrak’s trains to pass through North Dakota, meaning that the “Empire Builder,” which normally runs from Chicago to Seattle, had to end its run at Minneapolis/St. Paul. This was no inconvenience to us at the time, since that was our destination. On the night before our return trip, Steve checked the Amtrak website. It said that the train would leave the station at 7:52 A.M. Unknown to us, but known well to Amtrak, the train, although it can now pass through North Dakota, was approximately SIX HOURS LATE every day, having to inch through the flood-damaged area. So we sat in the stations for an extra six hours before our departure to Chicago.

Of course, we also missed our connection in Chicago, so we were forced, along with dozens of other people (every night until this nightmare is over for Amtrak) to take a van/bus which would drop us off at the closed station in Jackson, Michigan, at 3 A.M. The alternative was to stay overnight in Chicago. We opted for the overnight stay to allow our son to sleep the night rather than trying to guess our arrival time to meet us. To make a long story short, we barely made it onto our train the next morning, and finally got into Jackson 19 hours later than “planned.” Even though the Amtrak website is misleading and should be corrected until the situation is rectified – we were not the only ones who showed up six hours early – all of the Amtrak employees were very nice and hospitable, even the ones in Chicago’s Union Station, who have had to manage hundreds of stranded travelers every night since this situation occurred in June.

We spent a few days in our former home-town of Eaton Rapids, Michigan, with our friend Sandi. We visited with numerous friends, lunched with Marcia’s coworkers, met Anushka and Anish who are twins born to friends Chinmay and Harsha, and we completed our shopping. On Sunday Steve introduced a Polish/American polka band from Muskegon at the Great Lakes Folk Festival in East Lansing. Then he had the privilege of presenting a Michigan Heritage Award to Annie Klancnik, honoring her deceased husband, polka accordionist and band leader Gaylord Klancnik. Gaylord’s son Eddie and new band member Brian O’Boyle entertained the audience with a couple of polkas and waltzes. Other award recipients were Deborah Caryl, a life-long sheep shearer, and Calvin Cooke, a steel-guitarist in a Pentecostal church.

For the last few days we stayed with our son Nick, his wife Carrie, and our six grandchildren. We played lots of card games with the children, having plenty of fun. Another highlight was seeing flocks of Sandhill Cranes, very large birds indeed, which come to spend the night in a small pond near their house in south-central Michigan. The mosquitoes are unbelievable this summer – huge numbers and very aggressive. They make it no fun at all to be outdoors, so we were not able to take advantage of the beautiful weather.

Our plans are to fly back on Thursday via Detroit, Chicago, and Beijing. We are hopeful that our two hour layover is sufficient to make our final connection to Manila. We will either return to Corregidor on Sunday or Thursday, since Sun Cruises does not usually run ferry service to the island on Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday during July and August.

As you know, Corregidor is only a few miles from the Bataan Peninsula, where the Bataan Death March began. A number of our readers have sent us links to assure that we are aware that the oldest U.S. march survivor recently passed away. Here is one of the links: