Sunday, December 21, 2014

Some of our favorite guests and photos from 2014

We are fast approaching our seventh and final Christmas and New Years here on "the Rock," and we decided to share a few of our favorite memories from 2014.
Chris Hill, former United States Ambassador to Macedonia, Poland, Korea, and Iraq, with wife Julie at the MacArthur statue at Bottomside, Corregidor

Our Ex-Pat friend Lee Bumgarner and his friend, Andrew Barber, who was visiting from Kuala Lumpur, with us at Battery Way

United States Chief of Navel Operations, Admiral Jonathan W. Greenert and wife Darleen, Cine Corregidor in background

One of the hundreds of pictures Marcia took of "our" white-bellied sea eagles, who nested and reared two babies on the island earlier this year

 The April "Valor Tours Ghost Soldiers of Bataan Tour" group at the traditional starting point of the Death March, Mariveles, Bataan

Fred, Carol, Marion, and Liz with Assistant Superintendent Bert Caloud at the American Cemetery in Manila.   Using DNA from the closest relatives, the family is currently in the process of determining whether or not this is the final resting place of Marion's brother, Karl Loesche, who died at the Cabanatuan POW camp and had been buried in a mass grave before being moved to Manila and put into a "Known but to God" grave. Liz and Carol are nieces of Karl and Marion.

Having lunch with United States Ambassador to the Philippines Philip Goldberg at the Corregidor Inn swimming pool deck

Ruel Cubid (the big guy) and family in front of Malinta Tunnel.  We met Ruel on an overseas flight and encouraged him then to visit us and see Corregidor.  As you can see, and much to our delight, he did!

We asked our readers whom Jose, seen here at MacArthur Cafe, resembles.  Several correctly guessed Andy Kaufman.

An American veteran who fought during the liberation of the Philippines in 1945 (but not Corregidor itself), Leon Cooper, visited with a film crew documenting his experiences and impressions as he revisited the islands.

This young boy has a t-shirt proclaiming him "World's Best Mom"

One of our most entertaining visitors ever, "Lady Violet" has worn her hair shaded purple, and worn only purple clothing, since the Cory Aquino days.  (She used to be "Lady Yellow" but she changed when Mrs. Aquino cornered the trademark on yellow.)

Ambassador Goldberg talking to Sally Moege (father killed during fighting on Leyte), Leyte Landing veterans Bub Simmons and Dwain Bell, and Steve, following the 70th Anniversary
Ceremony commemorating MacArthur's Return to the Philippines, the highlight event of our October excursion with Valor Tours.

This picture was not taken on Corregidor; it was sent to us from the United States.  On the left is Walter Straka, the last Bataan Death March survivor of Brainerd, Minnesota's 194th Tank Battalion, A Company.  Wearing the Corregidor t-shirt is our friend Wally McKay, whose sister Hortense served as a U.S. Army nurse on Bataan and Corregidor.  Wally is also a WW II U.S. Navy veteran, as well as being a veteran of Valor Tours.

Okay, this picture isn't from Corregidor, either, but we just had to include this handsome couple, Marlene and "Geezer" Jack Duncan.  They were with us and Valor Tours in 2009 for the 65th anniversary of the Leyte Landing and have kept in touch ever since.  Jack served in the Navy Seals for about 500 years (including WWII, of course) and the couple are retired in Arizona.  As you can see, they are lots of fun!

God Bless all of our American and Filipino veterans, living and dead, and all who love them.

A Blessed and Merry Christmas and a Wonderful 2015!

Steve and Marcia on the Rock

Monday, December 8, 2014

Goodbye, Ruby: Tuesday on Corregidor

Typhoon Ruby (Int'l name Hagupit) hit the Samar/Leyte area beginning on Saturday, Dec. 6.  It was a very strong storm, but did less damage in the areas worst affected by last year’s Yolanda.  Ruby was a somewhat weaker storm, it hit north of the major city of Tacloban rather than targeting it directly, and most importantly, everyone took preparations much more seriously, having learned the hard way thirteen months ago.
Last Friday we sent an email with a map from PAGASA showing the projected path right over Corregidor Island.  From that time on, the projections slowly moved Ruby’s path southward, and you can see from the photo below that Corregidor and Manila were spared the brunt of the storm, which had also weakened considerably since its initial Philippine landfall on Saturday.
Here on Corregidor, the weekend weather was normal for this time of year, with moderate temperatures accompanied by occasional wind gusts, aside from the decision by Sun Cruises to cancel their Sunday trip.  We took a walk on Sunday afternoon, and another early Monday morning, which is when we started to feel that stormy weather might actually be headed our way.  “Storm signals,” which indicate high winds and choppy to violent seas, had finally been posted for our location in Manila Bay.  Monday morning was gloomy, and, as on Sunday, Sun Cruises did not bring tourists to the island.
This has easily been the driest and hottest September through early December that we’ve experienced since our move here in October, 2008.  There were times this October when it felt as hot as April.  The only appreciable rain we’ve had since early October was a brief, heavy rain last Thursday night, which – at the time – we associated with the typhoon, only later realizing that it was probably unrelated.
Around 11 AM Monday it started to really feel like rain, and it fell very gently for a few minutes at a time all afternoon.  Still not the rain we expected, but finally rain from the outer bands of the storm.  A heavy rain would do us good, putting much-needed fresh water into Corregidor’s aquifer system, and helping to guarantee an adequate supply throughout the months until next rainy season.
Now, Tuesday morning, the eye of the storm is past us and we are in Ruby’s trailing outer bands.  The bats were active before dawn, the birds are now beginning to chatter, and we’ve heard a bit of ‘monkey business’ too.  It rained off and on overnight, and is continuing that pattern so far this morning. There are still some wind gusts, too, but we expect to find little to no damage on the island – very good news, indeed.
Steve and Marcia on the Rock

Friday, December 5, 2014

Awaiting Typhoon Ruby (Int'l Hagupit)

We are sitting in our “dirty kitchen” reading reports that a very powerful typhoon, Hagupit (locally called Ruby) is going to make landfall in the Philippines on Saturday, Philippine time.  The latest path projection shows it passing right over us.  Notice in the picture from Typhoon 2000 that the arrow on the left is pointing to the entrance of Manila Bay, where Corregidor is situated. 
Monday is three days away, and Ruby can, and some experts say she will, veer northward off this projected course.  In any case, understand that it will have to travel over land to get here, and typhoons always lose power when over land.  This is not to say that it will not pack a punch, not only to us but also to nearby Manila, but it cannot possibly do the damage to this area as Typhoon Yolanda did to Leyte a little over a year ago.  We are glad to hear that people are taking this storm much more seriously in the Leyte/Samar area, a lesson learned the hard way from Yolanda.
People in the east-central Visayas and/or extreme southern Luzon will get the worst of this storm, to be sure, and all we can do here is close up the house and wait it out.  Our house is 300 feet above sea level so we will not be affected by any storm surge, and the house is solidly built and has withstood many typhoons in the past.  We will update you regarding the effects early next week after Ruby passes, wherever that may be.
Steve and Marcia on the Rock

Saturday, November 8, 2014

Typhoon Yolanda destruction in area of Tacloban, Leyte, Philippines

Aftermath of Typhoon Yolanda
(International name Haiyan)

Butz (pronounced Boots) Eguia, our tour guide during our recent trip to Leyte, has shared 370 of his own photos, taken in the aftermath of Typhoon Yolanda.  Photos can only begin to show the horrors of what is believed to be the strongest recorded tropical storm to ever make landfall, with sustained winds of 195 mph (314 kph).  We sifted through these photos and came up with 30 from the day of the storm, 30 from the next few days, and 30 more from about a month later.

Nov. 8, 2013
The Day of the Storm

The following photos show Tacloban on the afternoon of November 8, just hours after the storm practically destroyed the largest city on the island of Leyte in the eastern Visayas, the central region of the PhilippinesImagine what is must have been like to come out of your shelter or hiding place and to see what, if anything, was left of your life, loved ones, and earthly possessions.

The first two photos are of a large cargo ship that is now on land.  We showed you a recent photo of this same vessel in our last newsletter.  The area is somewhat rebuilt but the ship is still there.  Imagine the strength and height of the storm surge that could pick up such a ship and move it up a hill.


The final two photos above show "Calle Zaragosa," the residence and restaurant of Ludette Ruiz and her family.  It is the building in the center-left, with the yellow-gold oval shaped sign. She also owns the tour company that handled all of our logistics during our time in Leyte.  We ate dinner there on our final night with them, and Ludette told us that their property sustained damage, but thanks to Butz's photos we can see and be astonished for ourselves.

Nov. 9-11, days 2 through 4

Nov. 23 thru Dec. 17: Two to five weeks after Yolanda

 From the following photos, it is evident that very little had changed from immediately after the disaster.  Life was still in survival mode.  When we visited in October, less than a year after these photos were taken, life had seemingly returned to normal, with the most obvious evidence being that many large buildings, which had sustained damage, were still neither repaired nor demolished.  In contrast, almost all of the debris you will see in the following photos is now gone, small kubo-style huts have been erected for shelter and small businesses, most bigger businesses including the malls are reopened, and the greenery has returned.  What a contrast from these photos.

The final three photos are of the Palo Cathedral, which we had visited several times in the past five years. In April of 2013, they were finally near the end of a lengthy renovation process, and the church was gorgeous.  Our friend, U. S. Army veteran Don Dencker of the 96th, writes: "It is nice to see the Palo Cathedral roof being restored. Quite a number of 96th Infantry Division wounded were treated there in late October thru December 1944. On one tour I took for Valor Tours to Leyte, we had a 96th veteran who told of his life being saved there after being wounded. He went into the church, found a priest and gave him a sizable donation."

As we have previously mentioned, Pope Francis is scheduled to celebrate a mass at this cathedral in January, so the locals are doing everything they can to finish the restorations by then; we can see they have a long way to go, but believe that they'll finish in time.

We hope you took the time to go through these unbelievable and heart-breaking photos.  We whittled 370 down to 90, not an easy task.  If you were touched, take a minute and let us know how by posting a comment or sending us an email. We cannot respond directly to comments unless you provide your email address, which we promise not to publish or share.  Feel free to share it on your preferred social media.
Our most sincere thanks to Butz Eguia for all of these photos.

Romino S. Eguia, who goes by his pen name of Butz Eguia, is a retired electrical engineer and academician living now back in his home city of Tacloban. He has worked outside of his country for the last 17 years.  Following the storm, Butz took hundreds of photos and has kindly allowed us to share them with you.  He wrote a 150-page coffee table book about Typhoon Yolanda, (before and after scenes)  which contains his photos each with sidays, which are poems written in his native tongue Waray-waray, with corresponding English translations. The book, entitled "The Yolanda Encounter, Of Hope and More..."  is a fund-raising project of three umbrella manpower services providers all based in Metro Manila – ANZAEP (Australia and New Zealand Association of Employment Providers), PILMAT (Philippine Manpower Agencies to Taiwan) and PHILAAK (Philippine Agents Association for Kuwait). The proceeds from the book will help build a modern laboratory school building in an interior village in western Leyte.

Look for the book throughout the Philippines.  It is expected to be available in later this month.

Steve and Marcia on the Rock