Sunday, December 30, 2012

Children's Christmas parties

Well, the Mayan calendar came to its end and we are still here, safe and sound.  No end of the world, despite the dire predictions.
That’s a good thing, as we’ve enjoyed looking back through a memorable 2012.  Here are just a few of the highlights:
We hosted four historical tours for Valor Tours of San Francisco, California.  Among them were six POW veterans; four who were captured on Corregidor, one who was on the Bataan Death March, and another who was captured in Davao, all in 1942. We also hosted three veterans who participated in the retaking of the Philippines in 1944-45.  Given their ages, we don’t expect to ever again see this many returning veterans in any given year.  The tour groups also included many descendants of WW II veterans, a group of students and staff from the College of the Ozarks, and a number of history buffs.
In April, Steve’s book about his father was published.  In May, we were blessed with our seventh grandchild, and Steve turned 60 years old.  We spent July and August in the States, highlighted by lots of time (R&R for us after the four tours) with Steve’s mother in Virginia, Minnesota, the wedding of our only Kwiecinski-side-of-the-family niece in Minneapolis, and much-enjoyed visits with family and friends in Minnesota and Michigan.
The children of the Corregidor employees were treated to three Christmas parties this year.  As we have written in the past, Lynn Lafever has been the island’s Santa Claus for many years.  This year he and his family were unable to travel to the island, but instead sent money to be used to purchase presents.  The gifts were passed out at MacArthur CafĂ© last Friday afternoon.
Also, one of the men of the island took it upon himself to organize a party on Christmas Eve.  Derek provided spaghetti and pork kabobs, and invited us to come and partake.  He also had planned a number of games for the children, most of which we had never seen before.  One game was sort of like musical chairs, but instead of chairs pairs of kids had to walk around a piece of newspaper until the music stopped, then jump onto the paper.  What made it especially entertaining was that only one pair of the kids understood what to do, though participants and observers alike had fun.  Another game seemed to be an elimination game like “Simon Says,” but we really couldn’t fully understand what was happening, and the children were so quick that the ‘game-master’ wasn’t able to eliminate players.  A very challenging game involved tilting one’s face up, placing a 1-peso coin on the forehead, and then trying to wiggle the coin from forehead to chin – either over or around the nose – without letting the coin drop to the floor.  No winner, lots of laughter!
Another game involved seeing who could drink a bottle of Cola the most quickly through a straw.  What made it more challenging was that each player had a second straw which hung outside the bottle, meaning that straw mostly pulled air.  Perhaps the most entertaining game included several apples that were suspended by string.  Each pair of kids had to face one another with the apple between them, and eat their apple without using their hands.  Of course as soon they tried to bite the apples they were swinging around, but eventually one pair of boys managed to win the game.  The youngest pair gave up, and we laughed as the little girl partner grabbed the apple and ate it while the rest of the kids continued the competition.  We were sorry that we had not brought our camera, and thus we cannot show you photos of these games.
Because of Derek’s party on Christmas Eve we decided to hold our party the night of the 23rd.  Like last year, we made up bags of candies and pesos to give to the children.  Ron had a “Christmas Tree” at his house this year, not our traditional pine but a small potted balete tree strung with lights.  We had told the kids to come at 5:30 so that we could eat a quick meal first, but there must have been a lot of anticipation because most were there by 4:45 and all by 5:00.  That was okay with us – we were glad that they were so eagerly looking forward to the party.
We had some dance contests and other activities, and then we passed out the bags of candy.  As we have said before, it’s amazing how many great smiles you can get here for so relatively little money compared to in the States.  It was a bit chilly that evening, and if you look closely you will see that Steve is dressed “Minnesota style,” meaning that he had on long sleeves (often hooded sweatshirts back home) and shorts.
We have included a number of photos from the party and hope that you enjoy them.
On Christmas day we had our traditional spit-turned roasted chicken at Ron’s house.  We hope you all enjoyed your Christmas celebrations as much as we did.
Then earlier this week we spent some time hiking around Corregidor with an American family, Vaughan and Aleda, and their youngest daughter Sonya, who have lived in Metro-Manila for about 18 years.  They were particularly interested in hiking all the way along the “Tail,” something we had not done for a couple of years.  We took our helper Gilbert along to clear the trails, which was a good thing, since the old trail had ceased to exist.  We are sure that we varied from the old trail from time to time, simply trying to find any route through the jungle.
At one point, Gilbert suddenly stopped, crouched down, and signaled for us to also stop and quietly move back along the trail.  He had worked his way under a large swarm of honey bees before he heard them, and he was afraid they might feel threatened and attack.  (The swarm was close to two feet high and almost that wide.)  Gilbert slowly worked his way back; the bees remaining calm and focused on their own business.  We were able to get a picture.  We then bypassed that area and continued hiking toward the tip of the Tail.
Wishing each of you a very Happy New Year!
Steve and Marcia on the Rock

Friday, December 14, 2012

Corregidor Christmas party

The annual all-island Christmas party was held on 12/12/12.  It was lots of fun, with many wonderful Filipino foods to eat, including a whole roasted pig, several very brief casual and inspirational speeches, entertainment and games, and dancing for all well into the night.  We’ve included some choice photos that were taken by our helper, Gilbert, who worked for a number of years as a professional photographer.  We hope you enjoy them! 
Last December a supposedly once-in-every-12-years (their statistically ‘normal’ weather pattern) tropical storm hit Mindanao.  This December a much stronger storm, reaching well into typhoon strength and called a “Howler” on the news, also hit Mindanao, and, tragically, again hundreds of Filipinos died.  We know several of you were concerned about our safety.  Our area of the Philippines was not affected adversely.  Mindanao is several hundred miles south of us, and the storm had no effect on Corregidor or Manila other than bringing us about an hour of heavy rainfall around noon last Sunday – shortly after Marcia had filled our clotheslines with clean laundry, for a “Mother Nature” laugh, and while we were having lunch at MacArthur’s Cafe.  Most of the lines are beneath the roof extension, but we did have a couple re-rinsed towels and rugs.  By about 2 P.M. the sun was again shining.
We’ve had a number of responses to our most recent newsletters.  Here are a few we hope you find interesting.
Thanks for another interesting newsletter.  Having grown up in Jackson I’m very familiar with New Tribes Mission, as I’d worked with and come to know a number of students through the years and often drove past their building when I worked downtown. Because the Burnhams were from New Tribes the kidnapping was big news in the Jackson area at the time. It was similar to one of those stories we’d see on the news occasionally but paid no attention to because it seemed so far away, so distant. But this time the victims were from the Bible mission in our own home town and it became all too real. 
I succinctly remember the coverage of the kidnapping when it occurred. After a period of time, however, the story was forgotten by most of us until a year later when we learned of the attempted rescue and death of Mr. Burnham. That’s when it really hit home. I had no idea Mrs. Burnham had written a book about her experience, but I intend to purchase it. Perhaps it can sit on the bookshelf right next to yours?
Hope you had a wonderful Thanksgiving.  Take care,
Kerry (a co-worker of Steve’s some years ago)

Hi Marcia & Steve,
I agree with US Ambassador Harry Thomas that Steve’s book HONOR, COURAGE, FAITH: A Corregidor Story was a “labor of love” considering the extensive research involved and the very informative details in it especially that of the enemies’ (Japanese soldiers) atrocities during the war.  
All the best always, eli

Thanks for another (as usual) interesting update. I've added the
(weather station) link to my Internet bookmarks and will be checking the Corregidor weather sometimes. Sorry your Internet access is so bad, but I bet it gets you outdoors more often! Heh he

Is Steve the tallest person in the Philippines?  I love all the pictures he is in - I have no trouble finding him.
Take care!
He’s probably not the tallest, but stands taller than the tallest native Filipino we have met, by several inches.

Steve and Marcia
If you go to Manila again, and happen to stay at the Adriatico, you could please leave them a copy of your book--and please autograph it for me! I will treasure it. Especially so since I am growing more and more convinced that I gave water to your dad and a couple of his much shorter cohorts as they lay on the grass by our back lawn--the one facing the Bay. He leaned up on his elbows and said, "Thanks, buddy."
Peter refers to an incident that occurred on May 24, 1942.  At that time, the Japanese were marching the Corregidor prisoners of war along Dewey (now Roxas) Boulevard.  As we remember the story, Peter, who grew up in the Philippines and was living with his family in Manila at that time, offered water to three American POWs who were having a very difficult time in the dreadful heat.  He believes that the Japanese permitted his actions only because he was a small child.  Apparently those three POWs were allowed to rest for a short time.  Peter managed to give each of them a drink of water.  Only one, a “VERY tall man,” thanked Peter.  Since learning that Steve’s father Walter, at 6’6”, was among the tallest men – if not the tallest one – on Corregidor, and that Walter was a kind and well-mannered man, Peter has reached the above conclusion.  Walter has been gone from us many years now, so we can’t ask him.  We are thankful that Peter and others were able to give some aid to those POWs at a very difficult time in their lives.  We will gladly leave a book for you at Adriatico next time we are there, Peter.
Hello Steve and Marcia,
It was such a pleasure to meet you a couple of weeks ago in Corregidor, and I hope to meet you again someday. I know I promised to contact you once I get to Manila so I apologize, but I hope this e-mail is better late than never.
I've written about you, your book and your blog in this article ( under our Health and Family section and as of the moment it has over a thousand views. It's my first attempt at a feature story for the news site since I'm really a daily political reporter, but I enjoyed documenting our short meeting.
Hope you're doing well! And till next time.
Best regards,
Camille Diola
Philstar Writer and Philstar Live Lead
We have not been able to see Camille’s article yet due to our internet limitations on the island, but thoroughly enjoyed chatting with her over lunch after the weather station launch.  We’re excited to look for it on our next trip to Manila.  Readers, check it out if you wish, and let us know what you think.
Our most heart-felt wishes to each of you for a truly Merry Christmas!
Steve and Marcia on the Rock

Thursday, November 29, 2012

The new Corregidor weather station

We’re sure that many of you have used or heard the phrase, “If you don’t like the weather, wait ten minutes.”  Having lived most of our lives where this is often true, (Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Michigan,) we have had to adapt to life in the Philippines where the weather tomorrow will most often be virtually identical to today.  Usually, dry season is sunny most of the time, and when we get clouds they appear and disappear at similar times day after day.  During rainy season the rains are fairly predictable.  Only during storm patterns – LPAs, tropical storms, and typhoons, which predominantly occur during rainy season – does the weather become much less predictable.
Soon after our arrival in October, 2008, we hunted and hunted for a rain gauge, asking our friend Leslie Murray, a long-time Metro Manila resident, for advice.  The best we found was a laboratory beaker in the student section of National Bookstore, so we bought a cheap plastic rain gauge during our first extended visit to the States – July/August 2009.  Frankly, we were quite surprised that we couldn’t find a rain gauge in a country where rain is so prevalent.
Upon our return, we ‘planted’ it behind the house during the remainder of rainy season, the only rain gauge on the island.  We discovered that Metro Manila can experience significantly different amounts of rain from Corregidor, despite being only 25 miles away.  For example, Typhoon Ondoy dropped a record 16.7 inches of rain in Metro Manila in a 12-hour period, whereas we only received five inches during that same time period.  In our experience, Corregidor receives the majority of its rain during the night, soon after sunset and before or soon after sunrise, while we are told that rain begins in Manila much more commonly around four in the afternoon during rainy season.
Having helped us to look for a rain gauge, our friend Leslie was well aware of our interest in the island’s weather. About a year and a half ago, she suggested to her friend, Antonia Loyzaga, the Executive Director of the Manila Observatory, that they consider putting an Automated Weather Station (AWS) on Corregidor as part of the Metro Weather Project.  On Wednesday, November 28, that suggestion became a reality.
The participating partners, Chevron, Globe Telecom, Metro Manila Development Authority (MMDA), the Manila Observatory, and the Ateneo de Manila University, held an official launch at Corregidor’s Topside.  Sun Cruises did the setup and served a buffet lunch.  In attendance were such honorables as Former Ambassador Juan Rocha, Corregidor Foundation, Inc. Executive Director Artemio Matibag, Filipino-American Memorial Endowment Vice President Leslie Murray, and Fr. Jose Ramon Villarin, President of Ateneo University. Guest speakers included representatives of the partners and above mentioned organizations, as well as the Honorable Harry K. Thomas, Jr., United States Ambassador to the Philippines.  We were honored to be mentioned as having unintentionally sparked the idea of setting up this particular weather station.  Also, Ambassador Thomas took the time to praise our book about Steve’s father, saying that he had read it and that HONOR, COURAGE, FAITH: A Corregidor Story was “a labor of love.”
Ironically, most of you, who do not live on Corregidor, will have 24/7 access to the website.  So you can have a better idea of the exact conditions at any moment than we who live here but have very limited access to the internet.  Such are the wonders and woes of modern technology!
Now for some basic facts from the press release provided at the launch ceremony:
There are 30 AWS locations in Metro Manila.  The stations are roughly five kilometers (three miles) apart.  They provide free and near-real-time weather data that can be used to prepare for severe weather conditions such as typhoons, heavy rainfall and flooding.  It has a link app with MMDA to assist drivers in plotting alternate routes when they must be on the roadways during heavy rains.
Almost all of the weather stations are at Chevron service stations.  Data is transmitted via the Globe Telecom network.  Manila Observatory introduced the concept and provides technical and scientific support.  Ateneo University assists in research in the areas of climate change and disaster risk reduction.
Corregidor’s station, although apart from Metro Manila, will be especially important in that “1) It will provide the only source of weather information for the continued conservation of the island’s ecosystem, commemorating the long-history of the friendship between the Philippines and the United States of America; and, 2) It will provide the first source of information on extreme weather which may be approaching Metro Manila from the West Philippine Sea.”  We see this second point as being particularly significant since the prevailing weather travels from southwest to northeast during the rainy season, putting Corregidor squarely in the path of weather headed for Manila.
For the near future the weather station will be located at the Corregidor Inn.  Soon it is to be relocated to its permanent location on one of the towers on Topside, in conjunction with equipment from Globe Telecom.
To access Metro Weather, go to  Station sites can be clicked to view the graphs for a particular location.  By default, the maps for rainfall are shown.  However, radio buttons on the top of the page enable the selection of map views for rainfall, and minimum, average, and maximum temperatures.
On another topic, last weekend Corregidor received a visit from Tess Xerez-Burgos Loanzon and her family.  Tess is the daughter of former Corregidor Foundation, Inc. Executive Director Col. Alfredo Xerez-Burgos.  We wish that we would have been able to spend more time with them than the brief meet-and-greet on the North Dock.  Maybe next time.  We received a post-trip email from Tess stating how much they enjoyed their day, and how pleased she was to see island personnel who knew her father and to see the island so well maintained by the continued efforts of the Corregidor Foundation.
Steve and Marcia on the Rock

Monday, November 19, 2012

Veterans Day, New Tribes Mission

One of the inconveniences that we abide is that cellphone service is inconsistent on most of Corregidor and very poor at our house.  As a result we are unable to take phone calls at the house and have to hope that texts are delivered in a timely manner, which is not always the case.  In addition, we have to go to the north beach area to reach the internet, despite living only a few hundred meters from a cell tower on the island.  We are convinced that we when we are on the north beach we are communicating with a cell tower on Bataan.  There are times when we have a good high-speed connection and at other times, like this past week, when, for whatever reason, we don’t.  This past week we have had worse than normal cell service, which we hope explains to you why this newsletter which includes a bit about Veterans Day is late, and also why we may not be answering our correspondence in a timely manner.
For the fifth consecutive year we attended the Veterans Day ceremony held Nov. 11 at the American Cemetery in Manila.  Among a number of friends who attended were Leslie Murray of the American Chamber of Commerce of the Philippines, and also the Filipino-American Memorial Endowment (FAME), Bob Hudson, an American who recently moved to Bataan and is helping to maintain many of the Death March markers in Bataan, and Mario Magat, who is working to establish a museum near the Balanga Elementary School, site of the General King April 9, 1942 surrender.
Peggy Castagna, whom we had met at the ceremony on Memorial Day, sat with us.  Unfortunately we have not yet met her husband, Tim, and may not get to, because they are returning to the U.S. in December for family reasons, not knowing if/when they might return to the Philippines.  Tim and Peggy are currently missionaries for New Tribes Mission.
Two of Tim and Peggy’s acquaintances are Ed and Debbie Jurimas, who were with Peggy at the American Cemetery in May.  Ed and Debbie came to Corregidor for a few days recently, and we had the privilege of spending a day with them.  We did our favorite three-to-four hour hiking route, beginning and ending near the Spanish Flag Pole.  During this time we visited four tunnels, (C1, Wheeler, Hannah, and Smith) as well as Batteries Boston, Wheeler, Cheney, Hannah, and Smith.  We are always happy to accompany visitors to these and other “out-of-the-way” places, so keep us in mind should you come to the Rock.

Ed and Debbie are Americans who live in Manila and also work for New Tribes Mission.  As you will read below, one of their training centers is in Jackson Michigan, where our son Nick works, and less than an hour drive from where we lived for close to 30 years.  We asked them to tell us something about their ministry. They also include the true-life story of the kidnapping of two of their missionaries which we are sure many of you will recall as you read about it.

Dear Steve and Marcia,

So glad we have had the chance to spend some time together exploring some of the amazing history of Corregidor Island, we loved every minute of our time together.  Corregidor is our favorite place to go in the Philippines.  Below is some information on New Tribes Mission, Ed and Debbie, and Gracia Burnham.

New Tribes Mission works among people groups who have had little or no access to the Bible, mostly in remote locations in Africa, Latin America and the Asia-Pacific Region. While providing practical help such as medical care, community development and literacy education, missionaries share Bible lessons that allow the people to choose for themselves whether to believe on Jesus Christ and follow Him.

Those who believe are discipled, and trained as church leaders, teachers and missionaries themselves. The NTM missionaries’ goal is to equip people to lead their own church, while they provide support such as Bible translation and lesson development and advice.

In addition, missionaries train people so they can continue to provide basic medical care, literacy instruction and other practical helps to their own people.

New Tribes Mission was founded in the USA in 1942.   We work only among the world’s least-reached people groups, and equip those groups to lead their own churches

NTM is non-denominational, with 2,500 missionaries from a variety of evangelical churches serving in Africa, Latin America and the Asia-Pacific Region. It is international, with missionaries from nearly 30 countries. 

NTM USA has missionary training facilities in Waukesha, Wisconsin; Jackson, Michigan; and Camden County, Missouri, and a mobilization center in Jersey Shore, Pennsylvania.

Since 2006 we have been serving in the Philippines with New Tribes Mission. Our ministry at the Martin Burnham Mission Center is located in the heart of Manila.  The Mission Center is a major hub of mission activity in the Philippines.  We have the privilege of serving our missionaries, most ministering in very remote locations. We also host many other mission organizations.  There are many reasons the missionaries come to the mission center, such as; arriving or leaving the country, in need of medical/dental care, government paperwork, conferences, training workshops, etc...  We also host short term mission teams from all over the World.
Our children have been and continue to be very much a part of the ministry! Currently Eddie is attending Philadelphia Biblical University, Brianna is attending Bible College in WI and Ashley is in the US Air Force. 

Along with her jungle-pilot husband Martin, Gracia Burnham served for 17 years with New Tribes Mission in the Philippines. Martin was responsible for delivering mail, supplies and encouragement to other missionaries and transporting sick and injured patients to medical facilities. Gracia served in a variety of roles within the ministry as well as home-schooling their 3 children.
On May 27, 2001, while celebrating their 18th wedding anniversary at Dos Palmas Resort off Palawan Island, Gracia and Martin were kidnapped by the Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG), a militant group of Muslims. They were taken to Basilan Island, an ASG stronghold. Remaining in captivity for 376 days, the Burnhams faced near starvation, constant exhaustion, frequent gun battles, coldhearted murder and intense soul-searching about a God who sometimes seemed to have forgotten them.
On June 7, 2002, in a firefight between the Philippine military and the Abu Sayyaf Group, Martin was killed and Gracia, although wounded, was rescued. 

Since that time Gracia has become a popular speaker at churches, conferences and schools. Traveling across the country, Gracia shares her unique story of faith, forgiveness, and surviving captivity. Gracia has also launched the Martin & Gracia Burnham Foundation, which will support mission aviation and tribal mission work around the world.

Gracia has authored two books. “In The Presence Of My Enemies,” details their captivity experience. In her follow-up book, “To Fly Again,” Gracia reflects on the lessons and spiritual truths she learned in the jungle and how they apply to anyone's life.

The Gracia Burnham website:
Ed and Debbie
Our thanks to Ed and Debbie for this contribution to our newsletter.
Steve and Marcia on the Rock