Sunday, April 20, 2014

Ambassador Philip Goldberg visits; brahminy kites and sea-eagles with chicks

We've been busy since our return from our annual "Ghost Soldiers" tour a week ago.  We were very honored to be asked to host the newly appointed U.S. Ambassador to the Philippines, Philip S. Goldberg, for his first visit to Corregidor.  It was wonderful to have a more relaxed time together, unlike the busy atmosphere of his quick meeting with members of our Valor Tours group on April 9th at Mt. Samat.

In our most recent newsletter we included two photos of a newly-spotted White-bellied Sea-eagle and its nest.  Since coming home to the island, we have been able to return to the nesting site for pictures of both adults and their two chicks.  Also, we have been keeping tabs - and camera - on a Brahminy Kite nest which is very close to the site used last year by the sea-eagles.

Lunch poolside at the Corregidor Inn with Ambassador Goldberg, arranged by Sun Cruises staff members

Steve, Island Manager Ronilo Benadero, Ambassador Goldberg, and Marcia pose with General MacArthur, photo courtesy of Sylvia Bondoc

Two Brahminy Kite eggs in tree-top nest below hiking trail

Adult kite on nest (closeup below)

Closeup; notice chick in foreground below parent's beak, and egg in shadow of adult's body
Kite parent soaring over nesting area, well below our viewing spot atop the cliff

Two White-bellied Sea-eagle chicks (see closeup below) in nest, about eye-level to our viewing spot from hiking trail

Closeup; the face of the second chick (directly above the word "facing" in lower text) is somewhat hidden by a stick from the nest as well as being camouflaged because of being in front of its sibling's body
Parent 1, the smaller of the two

Parent 2, the larger of the pair

Adult eagle soaring near nesting area

We'll be keeping eyes on both the kite and eagle nests and hope for better luck than last year, when neither eaglet survived to adulthood.

Steve and Marcia on the Rock

Monday, April 14, 2014

Valor Tours Ghosts Soldiers of Bataan and Hellships Memorial Tour 2014

For nine days, we accompanied twelve Americans and one Australian on our annual Ghosts Soldiers of Bataan and Hellships Memorial Tour, run through Valor Tours of San Francisco, California, and handled locally by Rajah Tours.

The group was unique for us, in that for the first time, three families had direct connections to the Bataan Death March, Camp O'Donnell, and Cabanatuan, where each of the three soldiers had perished.  For those tourists, it was probably bittersweet, but all were ultimately glad that they came and paid their respects.

Day 1, April 5:
Manila, including Intramuros and the American Cemetery 

Walking through the gate at Fort Santiago, Intramuros, Manila

Gurney listening to Pres. Quezon while Gen. MacArthur pretends not to eavesdrop

Day 2, April 6:
Corregidor, Sun Cruises regular tour

Dan, Peter, and Abe (L-R) leaving the Sun Cruises ferry after we arrived at Corregidor

Jerry Ann, Dan, and Peter on the tranvia during the tour

Day 3, April 7:
Inter-island tour and jungle hike on Corregidor

Banca ride around the fortified islands of Manila Bay

White-bellied sea-eagle circling nest on Corregidor (picture captured by Gurney while eight of us were hiking one of the jungle trails)

The eagle's nest, actually near eye-level, in a tree that was rooted far below the trail

Day 4, April 8:
Bataan, including Mariveles and Balanga

The group at Death March KM 0, (L-R) Fred, Dan, Marion, Carol, Liz, Anna, Mike, Gurney, Tom, Steve, Jerry Ann, Peter, Dena, Marcia, Abe

Staff members at the newly-opened Bataan WWII Museum behind the Balanga Elementary School

Some of the artifacts we donated to the museum

Death March diorama (center) and some of the photo panels (right) in museum

Day 5, April 9:
Mt. Samat Ceremony
Day of Valor (Araw ng Kagatigan)

Wreaths as presented at the Mt Samat Memorial Altar on April 9

Color guard

Crowd at ceremony

U.S. Ambassador Goldberg and Philippine President Aquino (far left), while Japanese Ambassador Urabe is speaking

Ambassador Goldberg with most of our Valor Tours group

Marcia with Filipina from Veterans organization

Steve with Filipino Death March survivor

Day 6, April 10
Subic Bay

Some members of a fruit bat colony near Subic International Airport; this was by far the largest colony we have ever seen in this area.

Dan drinking from 'water vine' at Jungle Environment Survival Training Center (JEST)

Oriental Honey Buzzard at JEST

Philippine Eagle-owl at JEST

Bamboo bat at JEST, said to be "world's smallest bat"

A monkey is having breakfast outside our room at Kamana Sanctuary at Subic Bay.  Philippine long-tailed Macaques do not use their tails as a hand-like appendage, but Marcia observed this one loosely wrapping its tail around branches for balance.

Swifts hunting for insects in pampas grass fronds near Kamana

The group gathers at the Hell Ships Memorial, Subic Bay

Australian, Peter, stands beside the wreath he presented to honor all who were transported in Japanese Hell Ships as he describes the Montevideo Maru disaster.

Day 7, April 11:

Welcome banner at the Capas Microtel; a Japanese guard is shown in the foreground, and
Death Marchers in the background, unfortunately obscured by text.

Abe, Dena, and Fred ponder the Filipino Walls of the Dead at the Capas National Shrine
(Camp O'Donnell).

Day 8, April 12:

A Cattle egret in breeding-season plumage stands on top of a carabao near Cabanatuan.

Steve describes the battle that took place Cabu (Pajota's) Bridge near the location of the Cabanatuan POW camp. Pajota's men held that Japanese troops from crossing the bridge while US Army Rangers effected the rescue  of the POWs at the prison camp.

Gurney points to her father's name, Major Edmund W. Wilkes, at the West Point marker inside the Cabanatuan Memorial grounds.

Thomas Smothers Jr. to the left of Edmund Wilkes. Gurney recalls her mother saying that the two families shared an 'over-and-under' duplex while both men were stationed on Corregidor.

Marion, Liz, and Carol look at the last panel to be removed from the walls at Cabanatuan, which contains Karl Loesche's name. The memorial is - as you can see - in the midst of an extensive renovation project.

Marion signs the visitors' log at the Cabanatuan Memorial.

Marcia and Mike search through tablets from the old wall. Mike's uncle, Phil R. Downey, as well as Gurney's father were both listed on panels that had already been removed in preparation for the new walls.

Day 9, April 13:
American Cemetery in Manila

Tom, Gurney, and American Cemetery Asst. Superintendent Bert Caloud

Family members of SSgt Karl Loesche with Bert Caloud at probable grave site

We hope you enjoyed the photos, and encourage you to join us and Valor Tours one day for the unforgettable tour.

Some of the photos included are courtesy of photographer Ojie Santos.

Steve and Marcia on the Rock

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Birds, nests, seed pods, and old bottles

Before we head to Manila to greet the incoming Valor Tours group for our annual “Ghost Soldiers of Bataan” tour, we’d like to share a few more recent photographs.  Several surprises include three different bird families in their unique-looking nests, a huge butterfly, a thunderstorm that seemed to pop up out of nowhere, and war-era bottles found near our house.

Sulphur-crested cockatoo just after lift-off

Mated pair of collared kingfishers

Pair of white-breasted woodswallows

Philippine bulbul in taluto tree

Brahminy kite on its nest in sea-eagle cove; notice adult is shading the egg from the hot afternoon sun

Lowland white-eye by its nest

Yellow-vented bulbul harassing the white-eye's nest

Olive-backed sunbird chick peeking out of its nest

Closeup of olive-backed sunbird chick peeking out of nest

Adult sunbird leaving nest after feeding chick.  Notice the long, scraggly looking nest, which reminded Marcia of the limerick:

There was an Old Man with a beard,
Who said, "It is just as I feared!
Two Owls and a Hen,
four Larks and a Wren,
Have all built their nests in my beard.

Butterfly so large that Marcia first thought it was a bird

Same butterfly with folded wings.  Marcia believes that the wing span was at least six inches!

Pink seed pods high up in the trees.  They look like flowers from a distance

Taluto seeds with built-in parachutes

Clouds forming in the early afternoon before a surprise late-afternoon thunderstorm

Newly-discovered bottles

We found all of these bottles on a walk down the old trolley tracks just above James road, quite near our house.  From left to right are a small Japanese sake bottle, a San Miguel beer bottle, a large sake bottle, another beer bottle, and an American glass hip flask.  The sake bottles are typical of the ones found here, in that they were probably opened by a bayonet or other hard object.  Both beer bottles are greatly heat-deformed, undoubtedly from fire during the war.

Steve and Marcia on the Rock