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