We present you with newsletter/blog number 301, or as Huck Finn would say, "Chapter the Last." Since our announcement that we would be leaving the Rock, we have received hundreds of emails which all say some variation of the following: thanks for everything you've done, we will miss your newsletters, Corregidor benefited by your presence, and you will be missed. Many said they were in tears after our last blog. To each of you well-wishers, we wish to say thanks.
We want to recognize many people who made our stay on Corregidor possible and memorable. We can't possibly mention everyone and are sure we're going to be embarrassed to find that we left out someone important, so we apologize in advance if we fail to mention you in particular. It's tough to go back through six and a half years of memories and remember everything.
There are so many memories of occasions, but we want to concentrate on the people and leave the events and the hikes and the birds and "all that" to previous blogs.
First of all: Bob Reynolds. Steve's parents visited Corregidor in 1980 with Bob and his company, Valor Tours. Since 2007 Steve has taken Bob's place as tour host for the annual April "Ghost Soldiers of Bataan Tour." Without Bob, we would have never gone to Corregidor in the first place.
For a short time Bob lived in Kalamazoo, Michigan. We lived in Lansing at the time and were able to get together with Bob and his wife Betty before they moved to Texas.
Steve with Bob in a Kalamazoo restaurant
Victoria "Vicky" Middagh, Bob's daughter, who took over as operator of Valor Tours when her father was ready to "turn over the reins"
Steve's father Walter was sergeant of the last big gun firing on Corregidor, one of the mortars of Battery Way. When Steve went in 2002, and when we both went in 2003, both times with Valor Tours and Bob as host, we were under the mistaken impression that a different mortar was the one in question, which led us to pose in front of the wrong gun. It all stems from a misreading of a plaque at Battery Way (a missing period). When we found out that we had gone to the island - twice - to pose in front of the wrong gun - yes, twice - we determined to return one last time. That "one last time" soon led to Vicky asking Steve to take Bob's role as tour host, which led to our asking for permission to live on the island. So one missing period on a plaque changed our lives.
Two men we want to recognize never visited us on Corregidor, but sent frequent informational emails about plants and animals, which we often cited in follow-up blogs. We spent time with both of them in Manila. Philip Thompson works for the U.S. Government and is now stationed back in the States. Eli de Santo is retired but still stays busy with his property outside Manila.
Now for some of the important people that we met as a result of living on Corregidor. We made several Japanese friends. These people work to try to get the Japanese government to acknowledge that it was responsible for atrocities in WWII against the Filipinos, Americans, Chinese and others. Below is a group from "Bridge for Peace," founded by Naoko Jin.
Naoko (left) and Yuka Ibuki (third from right)
Yuka's husband Juji, who visited with Yuka on a different occasion, is inset at upper left
One of our recent acquaintances happened quite by accident. We were walking in the dark between MacArthur Cafe and the Corregidor Inn when another couple was walking the other way. We struck up a conversation and since have become good friends. Mike Ross works for USAID and has been quite busy for the last year and a half with relief efforts for the Tacloban area which was so ravaged by Typhoon Yolanda in November, 2013.
Jhen and Mike Ross
When we have traveled to Tacloban, our host has been Ludette Ruiz and our tour guide Butz Eguia. They were so hospitable that they made us feel like family. Speaking of family, Ludette's grandson Cody is the boy geography genius that we talked about a month ago.
Madison, Cody, Miki, Ludette, and Butz
We met Bill and Midge Kirwan early on, one of our first evenings on the island. We went to watch one of the beautiful sunsets at Battery Grubbs and met this American couple who was staying several days at the Corregidor Inn. Bill and Midge regularly come to the Philippines to teach, and usually come to the island for ten or more days at a time twice a year, and have come to be our good friends.
Midge and Bill. Bill was a member of a National Champion lacrosse team at Johns Hopkins, thus the shirt
Some of the most important people, in our estimation, are the ones who come to Corregidor over and over to explore the island. The website www.corregidor.org is run by Paul Whitman, and has a surprising amount of detail and photos both past and present. We've written about all of the following people before, but they deserve special recognition.
Peter Parsons and John Moffitt
Paul Whitman and Karl Welteke
Steve and Glen Williford (2nd from right) at the table
Tom Aring and wife Remy
Earl Grimes, a fireman from Texas, became one of our closest friends in the past couple of years. Earl comes to relax and enjoy Corregidor, but he also comes to work. In March he cleared two gun batteries (Wheeler and Cheney) of overgrowth with help from his fiancee Lhen. Budget cutbacks have left those and other more remote batteries at the mercy of the jungle, something we were sad to see. These two look great now.
Earl with his fiancee Lhen
Escape from Davao author John Lukacs visited more than once and we got to be good friends.
John and his mother Anita
Bob Hudson's father survived the Bataan Death March and the prison camps. Bob moved to Bataan a few years ago. Bob and his fiancee Rosalie have come to mean as much to Bataan as we did to Corregidor, doing local research and assisting mightily with Death March marker maintenance.
Steve gave tours for eleven different U.S. congressmen, one of them (Jeff Miller from Florida) twice. Rep. Tim Walz from Minnesota was so impressed with the story of Steve's father that he took a minute in the House of Representatives to recognize Walter on the 25th anniversary of his passing. Go to www.youtube.com/watch?v=etJENM_6Eeg to see this very short yet very well-done tribute.
Rep. Walz giving his tribute to Walter Kwiecinski
Steve's book was printed in 2012. In 2013 it was selected as a finalist for Biography of the Year in the Philippines. We wish to thank Anvil representative Karina Bolasco for publishing the book, which is now available world wide on Amazon Kindle, as well as throughout the National Bookstore chain in the Philippines.
HONOR, COURAGE, FAITH: A Corregidor Story
We needed to go to Manila often to take care of business. Two families made their houses available to us time and again. Ray Ong was a 1963 graduate of West Point, and retired as a general from the Philippine Army. Lee Bumgarner is married to a Filipina and has lived in the Philippines for thirty years. There is no way to adequately express our thanks for the generosity of these two families.
Esther and Ray Ong- and Heidi
Lee Bumgarner (left) with his friend Andrew Barber in front of Malinta Tunnel
We often visited the University of Santo Tomas, site of a civilian POW camp. Maita Oebanda, UST Museum staff member, is super-informed about WW II in the Philippines, loves the former POWs and American Veterans, and has always been very helpful in assisting our guests. And a great friend!
Whenever we brought guests to the American Cemetery in Manila, we were greeted by Superintendent Larry Anderson and his assistant, Bert Caloud.
Bert Caloud (right) with Valor Tours guests Tom, and Gurney, whose father is buried in the cemetery
We had stayed at the Corregidor Inn on many previous visits to Corregidor, and became residents for the last four months. We wish to thank all of the staff who made our stays enjoyable, from the front desk to the waiters and cooks, to the housekeeping staff, too many to mention individually.
Once we were asked to leave our rental house, Sun Cruises, Inc. owner Doris Ho and Corregidor Operations Manager Roland Portes made us an offer we could not refuse. We spent our last four months housed in Room 101 of the Corregidor Inn. We sincerely thank Doris and Roland for that, and for everything that they did for us during our stay on the Rock.
Doris Ho in the Corregidor Inn restaurant
For over two years we relied heavily on Gilbert, who was our groundskeeper, fuel hauler, sometime cook, and oh so much more.
In our opinion the most important island resident is Corregidor Foundation, Inc. (CFI) Island Manager Ronilo Benadero. Ron watched over us and made sure our house and possessions were safe. We ate dinner at his house on too many occasions to count. In 2010 we visited Ron and his family near the city of IloIlo on Panay Island, and also visited Gilbert's home on Guimaras Island, one of our memorable trips while we lived in the Philippines. Today, Gilbert's family lives on Panay, too.
We've known Leslie Murray since before we moved to the Philippines in 2008. Leslie made our life easier by always being available to direct us to whatever or whomever we needed. She was a child POW interned at Santo Tomas University with her parents. We stayed often with Leslie and her late husband Brian before Brian became ill. Leslie is very important to the Filipino American Memorial Endowment (FAME).
Leslie Murray at the American Cemetery in Manila
Last and certainly not least among our Filipino friends is Lt. Col. (ret.) Artemio Matibag, Executive Director of CFI. Art granted us permission to live on Corregidor for six years at the old aviary caretakers' house at Middleside.
We never, ever could have done this without the support of family. We were so happy when Della and Paula were able to join us on Corregidor in January, 2013.
Paula, Mary Anne, and Della, at Della's home on Mother's Day
When people ask(ed) us why we live(d) on Corregidor, it always meant explaining that Steve's father, Walter, was a soldier stationed there, where he fought before being taken prisoner. Walter loved Corregidor, which led to Steve's longing to visit ever since his boyhood days. By the time our stay was over, we believe that we lived there longer than any other couple from the Western Hemisphere. What an experience!
Walter at Battery Way, with the picture that inspired us to return (we had been told "the gun" was the one in the back right), and ultimately led to our living on Corregidor
Finally, whether you were mentioned in this blog or not, thanks for being faithful readers by joining us in our adventures over the last six and a half years.
"Steve and Marcia on the Range"