Sunday, October 21, 2012

Recent landslides on Corregidor

Whoever came up with the adages, “The exception proves the rule,” and, “The more things change, the more they stay the same.”  We know there’s supposed to be a question mark at the end of the last sentence, but where do you put it?  Let’s get real: the exception disproves the rule, and the more things change, the more they change.
Here on Corregidor things do visibly change every once in a while, although changes may not always be noticed.  On the large scale, the change is between rainy season and dry season, or what we call hot and hotter.  During rainy season things are greener, you can’t see as far into the jungle, and many of the out-of-the-way structures become hidden by rapid jungle growth.  Then dry season comes along, and the groundskeepers go out to remote sites such as Battery Morrison and MacArthur’s one-time house on Tailside to clear the overgrowth, which will pretty much remain under control until the following June or July.
This yearly cycle is fairly predictable.  It appears that we are now out of the southwest monsoon, called Habagat or rainy season.  We have moved into the northeast monsoon, Amihan, the dry season, summer.  Now we can expect appreciable rain only if a typhoon passes close enough to affect us.  Here in the Philippines “monsoon” means either of the cyclic prevailing winds, and not exclusively the heavy rain that often accompanies the Habagat.  Other places in the world use “monsoon” to indicate their rainy seasons.
So what significant physical changes have we noticed in the four years we’ve lived here?  One answer is: landslides that have had a direct impact on plans for the island.  Two or three years ago there was discussion about paving two long-existing roads so that the tourist vehicles could travel around the island on different routes.  There is only one paved road from Tailside to Middleside, where it then makes a counterclockwise loop around Topside.  There was a proposal to pave the “North Access Road” which runs from the power plant near the Engineer’s Dock to Battery James and around to Middleside Barracks.   In addition, there was talk of paving the “South Access Road,” which curves around Malinta Hill opposite the existing road and provides an outstanding view of Caballo Island a couple thousand meters to the south.  In fact, guard rails were installed on the South Access Road in anticipation.  This road, in its unpaved condition, has been used as part of the route for the annual running race held here in December.
We reported a little over a year ago about the landslide on the North Access Road.  We recently went back to see how things have changed since then.  We’ve included two pictures, one taken three months after the landslide occurred, and one taken during our recent hike – about one year later.  Compare the two pictures and notice how different it looks near the shoreline.  A year ago the landslide was obvious from the water, but so much growth has already occurred that it is now very difficult to spot.  However, the landslide was so immense that paving the road now appears to be out of the question.  Essentially a bridge would have to be built to support the road for at least fifty feet.  Notice the picture with Marcia standing on the old roadbed overlooking the landslide – which washed away a significant portion of the road’s former width.  Imagine trying to safely put a road there.  Not practical, without a huge budget.
The South Access Road around Malinta Hill turned out to be an even bigger shock.  When we were brought into the discussion about paving that road and routing the tranvias on it, we strongly recommended against the idea, pointing out that the rock above the road is unstable and could fall at any time.  Time has validated that input.  We heard that there had been a rockslide resulting in roadway blockage, but were not prepared for what we encountered when we decided to walk the route.  Since the last time we went through, there have been four major rockslides and several minor ones.  You can see from the first pictures of the area (starting at photo number 4) that the road is buried beneath many feet of small stones.  The guard rails have been destroyed.  Further along the road, we encountered falls of large rocks.  These are the combination limestone-hematite rocks that we wrote about last time, that fall into the ocean, get tumbled together until they become smooth, and wash ashore as what we call here “bloodstones.”
We are glad that money was not spent on saving either one of these roads, believing that there are better ways to invest in the future of the island as a war memorial and tourist destination.
Our friend Chris Pforr was lucky enough to get a great photo of Corregidor while on a recent flight.  On top (to the south) is Cavite Province.  The tadpole-shaped island is, of course, Corregidor.  Just above its tail is Caballo Island.  The Bataan shoreline is across the bottom of the photo; to the left is the pier for the LP gas depot, just to its right is Kamaya Point with a smaller pier that we have used a number of times going to-and-from Bataan, and to the right of center you can see the coal power plant that is still under construction.  Thank you, Chris, for permitting us to share this photo.  In the 20+ times we have flown in and out of the Manila airport, we have never gotten a view of Corregidor.
Finally, while on a walk last week, Steve got another good picture of a Philippine long-tailed macaque.  It is a bit unusual to have one pose like this, rather than quickly scrambling off into the vegetation and up the nearest tree.
Steve and Marcia on the Rock

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