Tuesday, January 31, 2012

The Michigan connection

As you may know, we spent over 28 years living in the Lansing, Michigan area, most of the years that our children were in school. Just next door is East Lansing, home to Michigan State University, known nationally as “State” or “MSU.” (In the Philippines, MSU is Mindanao State University.) Because of our proximity, and since most of our friends had attended State, we naturally became fans. Green and White were good, and all things related to the University of Michigan’s Maize (golden yellow) and Blue were evil, mean and nasty.

So, who should contact us and ask to spend some time here on Corregidor but Tom and Susie, who attended U of M and MSU respectively. It wasn’t too difficult to spot them as they came off the boat, since they were wearing their school colors. Actually, Steve met Tom a couple of years ago, a chance meeting when Tom was assigned to one of Steve’s tours. For some reason, Tom had taken an interest in Battery Way, and he had been wearing a cap that he’d had made for himself. When he realized how important Battery Way was to Steve, he promised to have a cap made for him as well, and on this, his fifth trip to the Rock, he presented Steve with it. Although Steve is most grateful, he joked that it would have looked a lot better in Green and White than, that’s right, Blue and Gold.

Tom had emailed weeks in advance and said that, since he had been on the regular Sun Cruises tour a number of times, he would prefer that he and Susie simply spend the time with us hiking in the more remote places that most of the island’s guests never get to see. We were more than happy to oblige. On the afternoon of their arrival, we took them to Kindley Field, which, among other things, is the Omaha Beach of Corregidor as far as the Japanese are concerned, but is usually not seen by guests due to time constraints limiting the regular tour. Then we walked with them up Malinta Hill to see the observation area and searchlight position. They treated us to lunch at MacArthur CafĂ©. In the afternoon, we took them out to the westernmost part of the island, visiting the Batteries Smith and Hannah areas. As you can see in the photo, Susie literally walked the soles off her shoes! They treated us to dinner in the Corregidor Inn. The following morning we all walked around at Topside, spent some time in the museum, and wrapped up our time together with another lunch at MacArthur’s before they boarded the ferry to return to Manila.

Again, we encourage people who have been here before as day-tourists and want to see more of the island to consider doing what Tom and Susie did: come to Corregidor and spend a night or two, and take the time to explore more of the island’s historic and natural attractions. We assure you that the Sun Cruises standard tour packs in a lot in a few short hours, and we always encourage people to see the island in that way for their first time.

It is jackfruit time again, and that means daily visits by our furry neighbors. Actually, they usually stop by once or twice a day to see if we’ve discarded banana or citrus peels, but this time of year they are on the prowl for jackfruit. We have one tree only a few yards from the house that produces more and more fruit every year. For those of you unfamiliar with it, jackfruit is a very large fruit that grows on trees. By large, we are saying that some approach the size of large watermelons, close to 18 inches in length and 8-12 inches in diameter. When the fruits are green, they can substitute for potatoes, vegetables, or beans in soups. When they ripen, the fruit is extremely sweet, sometimes used in the popular dessert halo-halo. The monkeys have not let one ripen on the tree since our first year here, either eating them while sitting in the tree, or chewing through the stems to drop the fruits to the ground.

The monkeys usually come through the yard as a tribe, and we have come to learn that they are selfish individuals. One large male that we see all the time we’ve nicknamed “Big Red,” since he seems to have a red rather than grey-brown pelt. If Big Red is the first one here, the others are usually out of luck. Due to its size, jackfruit time is the exception, since there is enough fruit to share.

What usually happens is something like this. We are in our dirty kitchen out back when we hear rustling leaves indicating activity in the jackfruit tree. Sometimes we’ve already spotted the monkeys, especially if they run across our bodega roof, which is tin and noisy. Other times they can approach stealthily through the trees or across the grass. In any case, the next thing we hear is a loud “thunk” as another jackfruit hits the ground. And right away a monkey is sitting by the jackfruit and starting to tear it apart. Sometimes several of the younger monkeys will eat together, but there is an apparent ranking that usually determines who eats first, second, and so on. The squabbles when someone ‘cuts in line’ can be very loud, sounding a lot like a mixture of dogs and cats fighting. Eventually, after enough of the fruit is gone, a monkey will drag the remainder a little further away, we assume because they know we are watching them and they feel guilty for once again eating the fruit before we get our turn.

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