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

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Our fourth anniversary

You might have noticed that we have not been sending out as many newsletters as in the past.  The reason is simple: we’ve now lived four years here, and it’s getting a bit more difficult to come up with new ideas about which to write.
We were both a bit “under the weather” when our fourth anniversary came and went on October 22, so there was no celebration.  As you can see from our arrival picture, Marcia hasn’t changed much.  Steve’s about 30 pounds lighter.  Maybe we’re both a bit wiser, who knows?  And who knows how much longer we’ll be here?  Maybe a long time yet, maybe not.
We were asked to speak about our move to Corregidor at the monthly meeting of the MVP, “Museum Volunteers Philippines” on Thursday, October 24.  We almost didn’t make it, not only because of how we were feeling, but also because a typhoon was in the area.  We managed to get a ride on Wednesday afternoon’s ferry, riding the roughest seas we have ever experienced with Sun Cruises, and they canceled their trip for the next day because of a “signal” issued by the Philippine Coast Guard for Manila Bay.  Our friend Collis Davis took some pictures, and we share two of them with you.  Later we were treated to a very good lunch at a restaurant in the nearby Greenbelt Mall in Makati.
On this past Friday, our helper Gilbert surprised us by showing up about 8:30 at night, announcing that a sea turtle was coming ashore to lay her eggs on the south beach.  We were already settled in bed, so Marcia decided to stay put.  Steve, however, grabbed his camera and headed to Bottomside.  When he arrived with Gilbert, a couple of the security guards were already on the beach.  The moon was almost full, but its direct light was blocked by Malinta Hill.  They used flashlights to observe the mother turtle.
The turtle’s shell was about 28 inches long and 22 inches wide.  A rough guess would put her weight at 70 to 80 pounds.  Mama first began to dig a hole for her eggs too near the shore, and soon abandoned it as the waves kept filling it up.  She moved higher up the sand and started again.  It must be noted that of the approximately ten miles of shoreline on Corregidor, the south beach area of Bottomside is about the only area which is not predominantly boulders, thus making it the one ideal spot for the egg laying.  It must also be said that the turtle paid absolutely no attention to the observers.  If Steve had suspected that they were causing her stress he would have insisted that they leave her alone. 
When she first began digging her hole, she was sending sand flying over their feet, a good three or four yards behind her.  She dug with her back flippers, clearing an area about a foot across.  Then the rear flippers dug down into the sand, and she alternated left, right, left, right, slowly scooping out the sand deeper and deeper.  The motion kind of reminded Steve of using your tongue to work your way down the middle of a bowl of ice cream, if that makes any sense.  The top diameter of the hole was about six inches, while it appeared that lower down the hole was maybe a foot deep and a foot across, basically shaped like the inside of a piece of pottery.
Once she was done digging, a process that last about 20 minutes, she started depositing her eggs.  The initial eggs fell about a foot onto the soft sand, one, two, sometimes even three at a time.  Before long the eggs were dropping on top of other eggs, but none of them appeared to break.  The eggs were rounder and slightly smaller than average chicken eggs.  Steve could only image that chicken eggs would probably break were they subjected to the same treatment. 
The egg-laying continued for about twenty minutes, and Steve guessed that she laid between 200 and 300 eggs during that time.  As soon as she was finished, she began to cover the eggs with the sand.  She not only filled in the hole, she tamped it down with her flippers hard enough that you could feel the vibration through your feet.  Once the hole was filled and tightly packed, she circled around it several times, presumably to hide the hole even further.  Then she turned toward the sea and slowly went down to the water, soon disappearing below the waves.
We hope that sometime in the near future, hundreds of baby sea turtles will hatch, dig their way to the surface, waddle to the sea, and begin the cycle of life all over.  Who knows how many other mother sea turtles have or will come to lay their eggs in the south beach sands of Corregidor this year?
A year or two ago we had a Czech TV reporter and film crew visit us on Corregidor, and Steve was interviewed.  We received the following email from the reporter, Pavel Zvol├ínek.  We encourage you to check out the video, where Steve is shown at some of the Corregidor sites.  There is also a small section filmed in Palo, Leyte, where MacArthur returned in 1944.
hal STeve, how are u. i have ben at Corregidor making some short movie for Czech television, it too time but finaly they played that . u can see it here
its the last one, Filipiny, thx one more time. best regards pavel zvolánek
thx to ur wife for lunch
Steve and Marcia on the Rock