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

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