Della and Paula are Steve’s two sisters. Paula visited the Philippines once before, when she and Steve came with Valor Tours to commemorate the 60th Anniversary of the Fall of Corregidor in 2002. Della was not able to come at that time due to commitments at home. The two of them arrived last week for an eight-day visit, spending four nights on Corregidor.
We spent the first Saturday touring some of the sights of Metro Manila. Our main goals were the old walled city, Intramuros, and the American Cemetery. After viewing some of the Spanish-era buildings in Intramuros we stopped at the new Bayleaf Hotel, going up to their roof-top deck for drinks and a great view of the city. Later we walked to the gate of Bilibid, the old Manila City Jail, where their father, Walter, spent ten months in captivity. Then we went to Santo Tomas University, where over 3,000 civilians were imprisoned by the Japanese in WW II. We attended Mass at Greenbelt Chapel in Makati, followed by dinner with our friend Leslie Murray, a childhood civilian POW at Santo Tomas. Heavy traffic caused us to postpone the cemetery visit to the following Saturday.
On Sunday we arranged for a driver to take us to Bataan, where we visited the Mount Samat shrine. We also went to Mariveles to view the monument commemorating the start of the Bataan Death March, and then stopped at Kilometer Seven, where Walter was stationed when the war came to the U.S. and the Philippines. From there Della got her first good view of the Rock. We had enough time that we decided to go on to Subic Bay and visit the Hellships Memorial.
Of course the main purpose of their visit was to spend time on Corregidor, the historic island where we have lived for over four years, and where Walter, along with 9,000 American and 3,000 Filipinos fought in the spring of 1942, and where the survivors were captured. As we tell in our book, Walter loved Corregidor and passed that love on to his children.
After taking the Sun Cruises ferry to the Rock on Monday morning, Della and Paula checked in for four nights at the Corregidor Inn. Our main purpose that first day was an overview of the island, as well as a visit to Battery Way, Walter’s gun battery during the Japanese assault on the island. In 1980, Walter returned and posed for a photo by “his gun,” one of the four 12-inch mortars in this battery. As readers of the book will recall, when Paula and Steve were here in 2002 their photos were taken at the wrong gun due to misinformation, since they had not yet seen Walter’s 1980 picture. During the course of Della and Paula’s Corregidor stay, we stopped by Battery Way several times. Walter had also posed near the west entrance to Malinta Tunnel. We walked through the tunnel and laterals during the daytime, while it was not being used for the “Light and Sound Show.”
One day we walked to the top of Malinta Hill, for the beautiful view, but also because it was the position of one of the island’s searchlights – by far the easiest one to reach today. Walter had been assigned to a searchlight crew before the war, so we assume that he spent time on top of Malinta Hill. (The other seven main searchlight positions are on points that now require jungle treks, or boat rides and climbs from the beaches, and are for the very vigorous and avid seekers.)
Breakfasts were at the Corregidor Inn, while lunches were at the MacArthur Café. Most evenings we had dinner at our friend Ron’s, with our helper Gilbert cooking delicious traditional Filipino dishes.
We spent a lot of time exploring Middleside Barracks, only a few hundred feet from our home, since this is where Walter was billeted before the war. We also spent time in the Pacific War Museum on Topside. It has recently been reroofed, expanded to include another room, and exhibits have been rearranged to decrease crowding. A “hats off” to the Corregidor Foundation, Inc., for these improvements.
In the museum is a pre-war picture of Walter posing for a Life Magazine photographer at one of the mortars of Battery Geary. Steve explained to Della, Paula, and a family group of day-tourists, the significance of the picture in which Walter is seen standing in the upper right with his back to the camera, as if ready to pull the lanyard to fire the mortar. It was mere coincidence that Walter was eventually assigned to a mortar at Battery Way, since, as we explained, Walter was originally in searchlights.
After five wonderful days on Corregidor we went back to Manila. The sisters stayed at the beautiful Manila Hotel, where we were able to take a tour of the historic, replicated MacArthur Suite. On Saturday we made it to the American Cemetery. We showed Della and Paula the grave of Reino Kallio, a native of our hometown of Virginia, Minnesota, and then proceeded to view the chapel and the Walls of the Missing. We wrapped up our last together day with a visit to the Mall of Asia for a bit of shopping, dinner outdoors at a second floor balcony restaurant, and the mall’s fireworks show – essentially a five-minute “grand finale.” Then back to the hotel, where Della and Paula had to prepare for a 6 AM flight, which meant leaving for the airport before 3 in the morning! They left the warm, sunny Philippines with its highs in the 80’s for Minneapolis, with its temperatures expected to hover around zero degrees Fahrenheit. Brr!
For more information on what we have previously written about such places as Intramuros, Mariveles, Corregidor, and the Hellships Memorial at Subic Bay, visit our website at www.steveandmarciaontherock.blogspot.com. The easiest way to find a particular blog topic is to search for our names and the subject. For example, if you want to read the blog about Reino Kallio, put “Steve and Marcia Kallio” in the search field and the correct blog should come up.
Better yet, if you have not yet read our book, Paula brought home a carry-on bag of “Honor, Courage, Faith: A Corregidor Story.” These books are autographed and available in the U.S. for $18 including shipping. Please contact us and we will forward the information to Paula.
Steve and Marcia on the Rock