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.

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