Friday, October 28, 2011

2011 Corregidor Basketball League

The 2011 Corregidor Basketball League Tournament got underway this week. As is traditional, the teams lined up at the administration building and paraded to the basketball court. Then they were introduced in their new uniforms, some of which were not delivered until an hour before opening ceremonies. Another tradition is the team “muse.” Each team has a young lady in her ladies’ style uniform, and the muses perform individually for the audience. One muse presented an a capella vocal number, two did solo dances, and two performed partnered dances.

Then it was time for the ceremonial opening toss. Steve, the CBL commissioner – i.e., the one who raises the money to fund the tournament – was at center court with inn manager Ed, island manager Ron, and the captions of the first-game teams. By luck of the draw, the opening game pitted Battery Way, captained by our helper Roy, and Battery Geary, led by the 2008 tournament’s MVP Jerry. By the way, many Filipinos pronounce Geary more like JEER-ee, so that is why Jerry decided to go with Battery Geary for his team name.

The opening game was probably the most exciting of the first week, with Battery Way edging Battery Geary in “The Battle of Mortars” 60-58. Because it was opening day the players had asked to schedule two games, and in the second, Battery Grubbs beat Battery Crockett in “The Battle of Disappearing Guns” by 53-47. Steve worked out a five-team schedule so that no team would have to play two consecutive days if only one game per day was played. However, because of the two games held on opening day, Battery Way had to play again on day two, facing Battery Hearn – the lone “Long Gun.” On top of being scheduled on consecutive days, only five of their players were suited up at game time, versus all eleven players for Battery Hearn. This was partly due to men who had previously scheduled vacation and were off-island, an unavoidable challenge for every team. Battery Way fell behind early, with a sixth teammate not arriving until the 4th quarter. Battery Hearn won 70-62.

On the third evening, Battery Geary defeated Battery Crockett 64-52. On the next night, completing the first week’s schedule, Battery Grubbs beat Battery Hearn 68-54, having gained a 21-4 lead early in the game. Battery Hearn was never able to draw closer than ten points, and this left Battery Grubbs as the only team to be undefeated after playing two games. Next week includes Halloween, All-Saints Day and All-Souls Day, important days here in the Philippines, so it will be a short week for basketball. The five teams will ultimately play each other twice, followed by championship playoff games.

By the way, the uniforms look very nice, and each team has a slightly different style. Battery Way is a royal blue with white trim, Battery Geary is canary yellow with green, Battery Hearn is white with blue, Battery Grubbs is black with red and white, and Battery Crockett is dark green with white and black. The total cost – for fifty-six player uniforms, five muse uniforms, four committee shirts, and two referee shirts – was p37,200 (about $855). Compare that to a recent Michigan State University game in which Nike reportedly paid $200,000 (almost nine-million pesos) to outfit MSU with what some stated were the ugliest uniforms on the planet (one man called them “jammies”)…to be worn for one only game, against the University of Michigan, who also wore reputedly ugly one-game “throw-back” uniforms.

Hikers occasionally still discover pre-war relics. While our friend Karl was here he happened upon a large pitcher, the kind you often see with old-fashioned pitcher-and-basin sets. It is white enameled metal, and not in great shape – until you recall that it has lain in the jungle for about 70 years. It actually cleaned up fairly well, but has several holes and the handle is missing. The initials, “U. S. A.” and “M. D.” appear to be stamped on the bottom. Perhaps one of you readers can tell us what the “M. D.” stands for.

We wish to bring your attention to an artifact which is slowly disintegrating here on the island, and want to know your opinions on whether or not anything can and/or should be done about it. On February 16, 1945, the Americans landed on Corregidor to recapture the island from the Japanese. Members of the 503rd Parachute Regimental Combat Team first landed at Topside. We have learned that the first American flag raised that day was not at the historic Spanish Flagpole, the site of the ceremonial flag raising upon MacArthur’s return on March 2nd, which stands at the southeast corner of the Topside Parade Ground. It occurred on a flagpole that stood near the Post Improvement Building, down the hill and across the trolley line which ran west of the Parade Grounds.

Several of our explorer/history-nut friends are certain that they have located that flagpole. Or at least what little remains of it. As you can see from the picture, it now consists of several pieces of wood in the concrete-lined 14-inch hole which formed the flagpole base. Our friend Karl is standing next to it. It appears to have been burned down to around two-feet high. Assuming that this is in fact the actual base of this less-known but very historic flagpole, should something be done to preserve what is left of the pole? One suggestion would be to remove the few pieces of wood that are left and exhibit them, maybe in the museum or near the Spanish Flagpole. We also wonder if folks with ties to the 503rd PRCT might wish to sponsor a permanent marker to be placed in or beside the actual flagpole base.

Finally, about the pastry gift we received from Hitomi: Father John Nariai said, “The Japanese goody in the photo that you ate is ‘Shun no nama Yatsuhashi’ that is ‘dry cookie made of sweet potato, pumpkin and Japanese chestnut.’ It is baked only in spring and autumn.” Juan M. wrote, “My Japanese colleague here at work tells me it’s a type of Japanese ‘Hopia’ called Manju in Nihonggo.”

Monday, October 17, 2011

Various things and another passing

Over the years we have made a number of Japanese friends. These are people who feel that there should be more emphasis on informing the Japanese public about what really happened in WWII, rather than to ignore that part of their history. On occasion one or more will visit the Philippines, often asking Steve to show them around Corregidor. Recently we were contacted by a young student by the name of Hitomi, referred to us by mutual acquaintances in Japan.

It just so happened that we were returning from a quick trip to Manila on the same day that Hitomi was coming to Corregidor. All we knew was that she was young and female, and Japanese. Going on that information, we looked for her on the uncrowded Sun Cruises ferry. By coincidence the first two young ladies that Steve approached were not Hitomi, but he soon found her. The other two decided to also join Steve’s bus. Hitomi was prepared to hear about some of the Japanese atrocities associated with Corregidor and Bataan, but Steve had no idea about the other two women, so he spent a couple of minutes addressing the three of them, assuring them and the other guests that the material he would present over the next few hours was no reflection on them or the present-day Japanese people, but was intrinsic to the story of Corregidor.

Joining the three of them for lunch, Steve discovered that, indeed, the other two young women were somewhat surprised, but were also very open to hearing the truth. They parted as friends, thankful for the opportunity to learn about Japan’s WW II role in this area of the Philippines. As is customary among many Asians, Hitomi gave us a popular Japanese treat. We are including a picture of the ornate box cover. Inside were three each of three different kinds of sweet, paste-filled pastries. The outer layer was similar to the wrappers used in making wontons and egg-rolls. Maybe someone can tell us what we were eating. They were very unlike any of the pastries we are accustomed to eating in the US. One filling was like confections made here in the Philippines using the purple sweet potato called “ube” (Tagalog for the color purple.) Another was chocolate, and the third was a yellow-orange color with a flavor similar to mango or apricot.

On Sunday Steve was asked to escort a family from Manila around the island. He knew that the group included at least one VIP, having been told that there would be a congressman from Bataan. In actuality the person in reference was Congresswoman Tricia Bonoan David, who represents the 4th Congressional District in Manila. Her district includes Santo Tomas University, a place with its own very significant WW II story.

Steve had lunch with Tricia and her mother Zany (ZAH-nee). Zany’s husband, who passed away about eighteen months ago, had served preceded his daughter in Congress. Tricia is the sixth of their twelve children, and Zany also has over 40 grandchildren! Steve asked Tricia to send best wishes along to fellow congressman and world-great boxer Manny Pacquiao. Tricia complimented Steve on his “excellent” presentation, and who knows, maybe one day Steve can also show “Pacman” around the “Rock.”

Our friends and fellow island-lovers Paul and Karl came again to explore Corregidor for a few days. Since Steve had never been to the ruins of the NCO (Non-Commissioned Officers) Club, Paul offered to take him there. They started at Battery Hearn, but had a difficult time finding the road that leads from there to the club ruins. The problem may very well have been that Battery Hearn had come under intense bombing by the Japanese, so finding the road level was more difficult than it is in the less-bombed-out areas. They ended up going too far down the hill. The good thing is that if you are lost here you can usually find your way out by heading uphill, the idea being that you if you are familiar with the island, you should know the high points. So they headed up the hill. Quite by accident they ran smack dab into one corner of the NCO Club. The building mostly consists now of one long wall, with the old roadway right above it. They spent a few minutes taking in the sheer size of the building. They found one of the largest collections of mostly-broken beer bottles on what used to be the bottom floor. Imagine, soldiers who liked to drink cold beer! From the club they worked their way to the radio room and out to Topside Parade Grounds.

At one point during the trek, Steve and Paul found a hole in the ground – over a meter in diameter – of which they had been completely unaware. Lowering a flashlight down the hole, it is about 18-feet deep, unlined, and appears to have been there since war-time. Without going down, it is impossible to tell if the it goes anywhere but straight down, but if not, it doesn’t make a ‘hole’ lot of sense.

Just last newsletter we reported the passing of friend and Bataan Death March survivor Malcolm Amos. Believe it or not, we just received word that fellow BDM survivor Richard (Dick) Francies also passed away just days after Malcolm. Both were travelers with Steve on his initial Philippines tour in 2002, and they were both with us on the Hellships Memorial Dedication Tour of 2006. Dick was a gentle man who had many interesting stories to tell, and we are sad to hear of his parting.

As you may know, there are memorial markers every kilometer along the BDM route. KM 110 was dedicated to Malcolm Amos, and the very last one, KM 112, was dedicated to Dick Francies. We have included pictures of both of them. Notice that Malcolm’s marker is the modern type, while Dick’s is one of a small handful of the older style.

Should any of you wish to write up something about either or both of these recently departed veterans, please send it along to us. If you’d like, we can share some of your memories with our readers.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Typhoon clean-up

Last week we wrote about Typhoon Pedring. We hope that we did not leave you with the impression that Corregidor sustained such damage that travel here is not advisable. Just the opposite is true: we are coming out of rainy season, and the island is fully open for business. In fact, we’d encourage you to hop aboard a Sun Cruises ferry and visit the island, and to stay overnight if you can make the time. Just remember that if you want Steve to be your guide you must make arrangements ahead of time.

Despite all of the tree damage that we described, life pretty much went on as usual once cleanup was underway. The majority of the wind and rain occurred on Tuesday. There were Philippine Coast Guard storm signals out for Tuesday and Wednesday, which meant that Sun Cruises was not able to bring tourists here those days, not that they would have wanted to. Roadway clearing was beginning by early morning on Wednesday, with all major routes passable by nightfall. On Thursday, regular tourist trips were resumed and more widespread clean-up continued. We want to point out what an outstanding job was done by the workers, led by Corregidor’s Resident Manager Ron, and Building & Grounds Manager Tony.

We have included several before-and-after pictures. Again, we say that it is remarkable what one man with a chainsaw and several using only their bolos (Filipino version of machetes) and muscle power could accomplish in such a short time.

Sadly, one of the historic buildings sustained notable damage: Middleside Barracks, home of the 60th Coast Artillery (American Army) and 91st Philippine Scouts (Filipinos in American service). The northwest corner of the southern building had a single pillar that had stood unsupported for almost seventy years. Now it is lying on the ground, most likely a victim of the high winds. We have provided the best before picture we could find, along with one of what it looks like now. The pillar was on the left side of the near building.

Those of you familiar with Middleside Barracks will recall the bracing added to certain parts of the southern building under the direction of the National Historical Institute, hoping to preserve some of the structure for as long as possible. There were some who opposed this initiative, people who felt that nature and time ought to be allowed to take their toll. We understand the sentiment, but have a different perspective as history buffs. The supports, although unnatural, will allow future generations to come to Corregidor and be able to get some idea of the buildings that were in use before and during WW II. So we fully support maintenance/preservation projects of this type. Over time, we realize we will see more and more sections of buildings fall. Fortunately, the steel-reinforced concrete is in remarkably good shape in most gun batteries and in parts of the main barracks and hospital, so they should be around for many centuries to come.

This past April our Valor Tours group included Matt Payne, who writes a travel column for the Washington Times. Matt recently wrote an article about his trip. You can read it at: Matt, we thank you for remembering us in your column. Hope to see you here again!

On a sad note, we were just informed that Malcolm Amos, a Bataan Death March survivor, a regular visitor to the Philippines, and a dear friend, has passed away. We have attached a couple of pictures of Malcolm that his son-in-law John Shively sent out. We will surely miss Malcolm.