Saturday, January 17, 2015

Our first days at the Corregidor Inn and the tree-climbing python

Pope Francis is in the Philippines, the first papal visit in twenty years to this, the third largest Catholic Country in the world.  Security for his visit is beyond imagination; cell and internet service is occasionally and purposely being interrupted, and sections of Manila where the pope travels are inconvenienced to say the least.  Many flights have been cancelled.  The Philippine Coast Guard has restricted boat traffic on Manila Bay, so most of the Sun Cruises staff left for five days while the boat is not allowed to travel to the island, and as a result we are almost all alone in our temporary home in the Corregidor Inn.  (Except for Norming the Acting Manager, two rotating security men, and two rotating generator operators who are providing power in four-hours-on-and-two-hours-off cycles...)  Unfortunately for the country’s Catholic faithful, Tropical Storm Mekkhala  (Locally called Amang, the first named storm of the year in the Philippine Area of Responsibility) has caused the Holy Father to shorten his long-anticipated visit to Yolanda-ravaged Tacloban and Palo, Leyte.  See for our post-typhoon photo-essay if you haven’t already.

As we previously mentioned, we sold many of our possessions.  It didn't take long for things to change once we were out of the house.  Notice that the solar panels are already gone. (not stolen, taken down by the new owner)

 We are very grateful for a room in the Corregidor Inn, but as you can see it is "just a bit" smaller than our house.  We've had to make good use of every little storage nook, and have already had a couple "now where did we put that?" moments!

Many of you are familiar with MacArthur's Cafe.  The business is closing and reopening (on paper only - no interruption of services) with a new name, Freedom Cafe, and we have been promised that they will continue to offer their "World-Famous MacArthur Specialty Fried Chicken."

One of the MacArthur Cafe concessionaires bought many of our household furnishings.  Here is our living-room furniture set up for use as a nice little lounge at the cafe.

Visitors to Corregidor are familiar with the trash that destroys the natural beauty of the north shore, near Mac's Cafe.  This is especially prevalent this time of year when the wind flow is predominantly from the north, bringing these unwanted "gifts" from Manila.

This is the windy season, and we are lucky when Menard (Maynard) - Marcia calls him our "personal shopper" - can travel back and forth to deliver food and other supplies from Cabcaben, Bataan.  He can be seen second from the right and wearing an orange T-shirt - if you enlarge the photo.  There is a good possibility that the Philippine Coast Guard will issue a signal in a day or two due to TS Amang, which will mean no food or passenger deliveries temporarily.

A well-known weed blooms amidst the red-orange Santa Anna blossoms.  The prolific and pesky Bindweed vine has a very pretty flower.  If you enlarge it (see below) the fold lines in the  flower form a distinct yellow star.

Closeup of the Bindweed flower

This is the feathery blossom of the Botong tree.

A variant on the Spider Lily?  We are awaiting an opened flower to find out!  It's much larger than the Spider Lily plants by our former house - which are actually in the Amaryllis family.

Marcia got several pictures - most of them not too good because of distance and haze - of this bird, which she believes to be a Pacific Reef Heron, aka Easter Reef Egret.  It was perched in hunting pose on the Lorcha Dock, and took flight toward Malinta Hill when it spotted her.  If you enlarge the photo you can see the distinctive charcoal gray beak.  It's not actually touching the water, but rather flying just above the waves.

This young Philippine macaque (muh-KAWK) was right outside our hotel room window.  We have to be careful to always close our windows before leaving the room.

 This is about as close as Steve has every gotten to one of the Corregidor monkeys.  Because they are forced to forage - per island regulations no one here feeds them - they stay wary of humans and are not a threat.  (Steve is on the ground on the left, squinting into the sun, and the monkey is up the pole trying to crack a nut shell with his teeth - in case you were wondering!  Another hint, the monkey has hair ;-)

 The same Mr. Monkey.

Presently the trails that we so dearly love are not being maintained.  One of our goals before we leave Corregidor is to work with Sun Cruises to establish a set of trails that can become a regular part of the Corregidor experience for those who want to hike, explore, and "get off the beaten path."  The other day we attempted to walk one of our favorite trails to determine how much work needed to be done to clear the trail and to make it safe for visitors.  Following are just a few pictures from our expedition.  You'll see why in a minute.

This is Marcia going down a rugged slope to the tunnel/bunker which is just above Battery Smith.  As you can see, there is no safety rope.  We are not sure where it went, but for safety's sake, another rope is needed there before this becomes a regular trail.

Steve standing next to the large gun at Battery Smith.  He's holding his Ifugao hiking staff, a very handy piece of gear when on the jungle trails, especially on down-slopes.  You can also see Marcia's in use in the previous photo.

Marcia coming through shoulder high grass just beyond Battery Smith.  The tip of the gun barrel can be seen at the upper right.

Little did we know that this would be the very last picture we would take with this particular camera.  Two minutes later Steve took it out to document a tree that was blocking the trail and the camera was dead.  Not "battery dead" but DEAD dead!  We tried everything, but the lens assembly would not extend from the camera body.  A fresh battery, prying on the lens, WD40 (a very last-ditch effort) but no matter what, the lens assembly would not come back out.  Since we had been on this trail numerous times and taken many pictures before, we thought, well no big deal, we'll just replace it when we get back to the States.  We still had the larger camera back at the room - the one Marcia uses for 'shooting' the birds.

Wouldn't you know it, we missed the shot of a lifetime.  No kidding.  About a half hour later, Steve walked right over a large python.  Again!  See

Here was another rather large python lying right on the trail, at least 10 feet in length and as thick as Marcia's bideps/triceps portion of her arm.  These snakes are not venomous and therefore we want to stress, not threats to humans.  Nonetheless Marcia wanted to get past it at a point where the trail was very narrow.  After we were both at a safe distance, Steve gently prodded the back end with his walking stick... and here's where we missed the fantastic photo op.  The snake, up til now acting very nonchalant, headed for a thin tree next to the trail and began to climb.  It curled around the tree, just as you'd expect, but the way it climbed was something neither of us anticipated.  Imagine a tight spring releasing.  The snake made three fairly tight coils with the lower part of its tail, back-folded its body on top of the coil, and then "unsprung" so to speak, leveraging against the secured coils, which pushed the head end of its body much further up the tree.  Then it anchored the head end of its body in a similar way, pulled the lower body upwards, re-secured its tail end, and then repeated the whole process.  We so wish that we could have video-recorded or photographed the procedure.  (It would also be so much easier than trying to describe it!)  We both stood by, open-mouthed, admiring the God-given ingenuity of this beautiful creature.  What a privilege!  This is something neither of us will ever forget, and we'll always regret that we missed a better way to preserve the memory and share it with you.

We want to reiterate that seeing the wildlife here, the birds, the monkeys, even the snakes and lizards, is something to be cherished, not feared.  We hope that the trail project is a success and is maintained well after we are gone.  We would consider a fitting and wonderful legacy of the time we spent here.

Steve and Marcia on the Rock

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for sharing this. I'm looking forward to spending some time on the island trying my hand at nature photography. However, that python would scare me to bits. I would be at least 25 feet from it and ready to run.