Excitement is growing as everyone on the island anticipates the upcoming basketball tournament. To say that some of the players “can’t wait” would be an understatement. Soon after the announcement was made, 56 players had registered, and the 5 captains held a draft. The teams will be named after the five most-visited gun batteries on the island, namely Batteries Way, Hearn, Grubbs, Crockett, and Geary.
On Tuesday, our helper Roy and I took the 10-kilometer banca ride to Cabcaben, the first leg of our journey to Orion to order team uniforms. Off to the northwest, the Bataan Mountains were bright and beautiful in the morning sun as we departed, and the sea was calm and blue. We hadn’t traveled very far before we could see the aftereffects of a landslide that occurred recently along the old, now unmaintained north access road. Just the other day Marcia and I had walked that route with fellow Corregidor-lover Julia, and we were shocked to see the huge gaping void that now leads down to the shoreline. The landslide covered such a large area that it was impossible to get a decent photograph. Fortunately the road is still partially in place, but it may not take very much more rain – maybe the next major typhoon – for 100 feet or so of the road to disappear completely.
In Cabcaben we picked up Jerry and Rowena, who have a home there but reside most of the time on Corregidor. Because Orion is on the old highway (where the Death March took place) we had to travel partway by bus and then switch to a jeepney. I made the mistake of getting in the front seat which was made for Filipino legs. I had to sit sideways, and my left knee kept bumping into the metal dashboard, or more specifically, into a thin piece of metal running horizontally along the dash. I could not see out the front, the top third of the windshield being covered with a “Lord Guide Us” banner. Needless to say, the driver, about 18-inches shorter than I, had no trouble seeing the road. It was interesting from one standpoint: in the past we have observed how a man collects money on the local bus trips, somehow keeping track of all of the passengers and knowing exactly how many pesos to charge each one. In this case the driver not only has to maneuver his jeepney through often wild traffic, he has to collect fares and make change all at the same time! I handed him a 100 peso note for our foursome, and he returned a twenty peso note and four one peso coins, so I guess the Jeepney fare from Lamao to Orion is 19 pesos, or about 45 cents, each. Not bad.
Orion is a small town with a typically crowded main street, one MSE (medium-small enterprise) after another. My fellow travelers knew where to get off, and we proceeded to the uniform-making shop. It is a small store with knock-off team jerseys hanging on the wall. One man was cutting out jerseys, and several others were sewing them together on very old machines, one a Singer, another a Juki, and some on which I couldn’t see names. They were all treadle machines with electric conversions. One, which I have included in a picture, was like something I’d never seen before. The photo may make it appear quite large, but in fact it is probably only 8 by 10 inches surface-area and six inches in height. Just looking at the photo, Marcia thinks it may be some sort of serger.
We spent a couple of hours there, working with the proprietress and making sure that she understood exactly how each team’s uniforms were to appear, since they offer many options. I am not into NBA teams like folks are here, but I guess that they could say, “I want this uniform to look like the Chicago Bulls uniform,” and they would make it. For Jerry and Roy – captains for two of the teams – it was almost like watching them dreaming about what Santa was going to bring them for Christmas.
I think that the uniforms are a big part of the excitement of the upcoming tournament. Only one team is going to win the trophy, and only one player will be named tournament MVP. But every participant is going to get his very own jersey with his name on the back and the player number of his choice. Once this tournament is over, these young men will sport their uniforms until they wear them out, getting many years of use out of them. They are a source of pride that we are happy to be able to furnish them, with generous help from a number of our readers.
Once we were done, we headed to Balanga for lunch. I gave them their choice of where to eat, and they decided on a restaurant called Inasal, which is Ilongo for “barbecue.” Inasal has meals for around p90 ($2.00) which include limitless white rice. There’s nothing liked unlimited white rice to get you excited. Me not so much, although I must say that the food – I had a barbecued chicken leg quarter – was very good. Unlike Filipinos I can’t get excited about plain white rice, but the meal included a small bowl of sinigang, a soup with a sour broth, and that made the rice quite tasty. I had one extra half scoop of rice, the others each had two more full scoops. I was glad that they enjoyed their meals, too.
We took a tricycle to the restaurant and another after lunch to the bus terminal. Since there were four of us, we decided that the other three would share the sidecar while I would ride on the back of the motorcycle. The sidecar makes it impossible to sit astride the bike, so I sat sideways behind the driver. Some of the pedestrians must have been able to spot me a ways off. A number of them looked curiously in our direction, no doubt spotting my long, gangly, whiter-than-a-Filipino’s legs appearing from behind the driver’s rear end, with my head hidden behind the driver’s under the canopy. They smiled and laughed with me when they realized what they were actually seeing. Although I do not have a picture of myself in this position, I have included one of Keith, a guest on this year’s April tour.
We took the bus back to Cabcaben. Unlike conditions in the morning, the water was now grey and choppy. In fact, we didn’t head straight for the north dock, but started out heading more west toward Mariveles on the southern tip of Bataan before turning toward the north dock. The bancero knew what he was doing, because once we changed direction the going got rough. Some of the swells may have approached five feet, and we got a good splash each time the outrigger dug into a wave. It wasn’t dangerous, what with experienced boatmen and their sturdy boat. It was actually kind of fun being out on the open sea and at the mercy of Mother Nature. As we approached, Corregidor acted as a breakwater, but then it began to rain. Luckily I had my rain-jacket…safely tucked away inside my backpack, so it stayed dry, but most of the rest of me arrived back on the Rock soaked to the skin.
I never get tired of taking this trip, knowing it is the same one that Gen. Jonathan Wainwright took many times in early 1942 to visit Gen. Douglas MacArthur on Corregidor – Mac only went in the other direction once to visit the troops, and that was in early January before the fighting in Bataan had gotten underway. I can only imagine, and not very well, I’m sure, what it must have been like to cross the North Channel, as Wainwright did more than once, with bombs falling and artillery shells flying overhead smashing into the Rock with such force that they are said to have reshaped the silhouette of the island. Can you imagine approaching Corregidor, seeing it under heavy siege, and then knowing you’d be spending the next few hours there? Kind of gives one a chill to even think about it.