Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Life Returns

I returned back from my trip to the Philippines in early July and over the course of the last month and a half, my blog has largely been running on autopilot with a glut of trip related posts and a few other miscellaneous posts that I had written and set them to automatically publish at a later date. Well my blog finally digested and published all those posts for me and I'm not having to come up with new material.

For most of July, I simply took care of my daughters and worked on my pen making hobby during nap times and while the girls were playing out by the garage. In early August my mother-in-law arrived back in the states for her second extended stay. She must go through five years of more or less being here most of the time in order to get her U.S. Citizenship some day. After a couple weeks of getting over jet lag, she is getting back into the swing of things by looking after her granddaughters while I accomplish bigger projects.

Because we have had such a mild summer thus far, we decided priority one while the cool summer holds would be to do some landscaping. The road face of our house definitely lacks in appeal. The flowerbeds along the front of the house were poorly done by previous occupants who simply covered them with landscape fabric and a thin layer of mulch. The landscape fabric disintegrated and the mulch decayed so that weeds grow freely in the beds accented by slivers of landscape fabric fluttering in the breeze. I could add a significant amount of mulch to solve this problem but I am already having to shovel the mulch off the sidewalk every time it rains and any more mulch would carry it up onto the siding which isn't a good thing. The only real solution is to remove it all, along with some dirt to get it back down to proper grade and then reapply a thick layer of mulch to prevent weeds from rearing their ugly heads.

In preparation for that, we removed the half dead tree shrubs that were planted along the front of the house in the beds. They were planted much too close to the house which meant that the heat of the house fried their backsides giving them a half dead appearance. This was actually a good thing because otherwise their branches would have worn at the siding. So we grubbed them all up and got rid of them. The only problem now is that with all that shrubbery gone, all that remains are weeds in the flower beds and a full on shot of our crappy Masonite siding. It is in pretty rough shape and needs to be replaced. I'm hoping perhaps next year on the siding but for now, I'm going to focus on the landscaping.

My next step is to tear out the old sidewalk which thanks to the moles is cantilevered towards the house and heaved in several spots. The new sidewalk will move out away from the house several feet allowing the flowerbeds to be larger and allow any plantings to be further away from the house. Once we get the front part done, my plan is to keep on working around the house as weather permits. When it gets too hot or eventually too cold, I have a whole laundry list of indoor projects on my plate. I will post some our landscaping pictures in a future post along with some of my indoor projects as they progress. After all, I need more new material these days.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Donnie: The Son of Wild Horses

My classmate Donnie lived on the east side of town in a house that is best described as a shack among a yard full of junk than someplace one might call his home. His parents were more interested in buying booze and cigarettes than holding jobs or raising children. Donnie and his two brothers always came to school wearing dirty clothes full of holes or thread bare and way too small for them. I remember Donnie being so excited when he came to school in the first throes of winters with new shoes that were the cheapest ones sold in the store. When we came back to school after summer vacation though, the toes were always cut off the shoes so that he could continue wearing them to school until it got cold and his parents finally broke down and bought him another pair of new shoes.

Despite the poverty he was brought up in, we all liked Donnie and got along well with him. He grew up tough surviving the abuse of his drunken parents and largely having to survive on his own and secretly I admired that toughness. When Donnie wasn't around though, conversation would soon turn to his father Wild Horses who we knew to be crazy. Wild Horses got his name because one day while in a drunken stupor, he got the notion that he was going to break a wild horse using a running chainsaw without the chain on it. I never saw any horses at Donnie's house and it didn't even have a barn or a fenced in area for them so looking back through wiser eyes, I suspect that tale to probably be fiction but at the time it was the gospel truth. The drunk part is definitely true though because years later, I would still see Wild Horses from time to time driving his lawnmower out to the truckstop on the highway outside of town in the morning to buy a quart of booze for the day's consumption. He had long ago lost his license to drive due to alcohol and eventually alcohol took his life with his liver.

I don't remember what grade we were in when Donnie left but it was probably between 6th and 8th grade. Someday I will have to dig out my old school picture annuals and see for sure but that range is close enough for now. Without explanation, he just up and disappeared for a couple weeks and none of us kids or the teachers knew why. After two weeks Donnie came back to school for just a few hours and told us the reason and then the police showed up and took him away from school and from his parents. I never saw Donnie again.

Donnie said he had taken one beating too much from his drunken father. He had grabbed his father's shotgun, pointed it at his face and pulled the trigger with every intention of killing him but it had been unloaded. Knowing that staying around at this point would probably mean his death, he took off and did what he thought was his only choice. He committed a crime that would put him in jail and keep him safely away from his father. His crime of choice was to steal a car and take it for a joy ride.

Donnie said he had stolen a car that he found in town with the keys in the ignition which was pretty much all of them back in the day. He drove it around for awhile until it got reported stolen to the local law authorities and they went out searching for it. In a town of just 400 residents and a handful of streets, it didn't take authorities long to find Donnie and the stolen car. Donnie said he didn't think stealing a car would probably be enough to go to jail so he stomped on the gas and led the police on a four county chase. Donnie said things were going pretty good for him until he made the mistake of cutting through a parking lot somewhere and getting boxed in. He said it was the most fun thing he had ever done in his life putting the car in forward and reverse and ramming every car in sight trying to break free. Eventually though the motor on his car quit and after wrecking a dozen police and civilian cars, he was pulled from it and arrested. Today he probably would have been shot with no questions asked.

He sat in jail for awhile but being a minor he was released. He ended up back home where he was beat by a father who had time enough to cool down enough not to kill him. Fortunately for Donnie though his stunt had finally got the wheels in motion so by the time Donnie had healed up enough to go back to school, the police came to take him away and put him into foster care with his older brother. The oldest one was old enough at that point to just leave on his own. I never saw Donnie again but I still think of his car chase, the parking lot bumper cars and the most fun Donnie ever had. I recently discovered that he lives less than a mile from me down closer to the river.

Friday, August 22, 2014

Refrigerator Part Two

A long long time ago in a distant galaxy,  I wrote about a series of screw jobs I received in replacing a refrigerator that was killed by electrical surge of a lightening strike. The soonest they could deliver it was the day after I left for the Philippines and the next day that I would be here in the states was three days after I returned. So the day arrived and the installers showed up with my new refrigerator. Due to the tight corner and doorway of the kitchen, they had to first remove all the doors and door mounting hardware from the dead refrigerator first to get it out of the kitchen and onto their truck. This sounds simple but involves 10,000 screws, bolts and pulling some wires and tubes up through the door that feed the controls and ice maker. After 45 minutes, they were able to haul the old refrigerator out in pieces and then repeat the process on the new refrigerator in the driveway.

As they wheeled it in through the exterior door and the kitchen doorway, I noticed that it went in a lot easier. I asked if the refrigerator was thinner and he said he didn't think it would be since it was the same model number but he had noticed that it also appeared to be thinner. They hooked up the water supply and electrical cord and went to slide it back into the spot before putting on the doors and the refrigerator wouldn't fit. It lacked about 5/8th of an inch of fitting in the spot where as the old one had probably a 1/2 inch to spare on either side. What the?

After some research, they had ordered the 36" model to replace my 33" model. Not only would it not fit, but all the parts that I robbed from my old one to have as spares, no longer matched. So they had to haul out the new refrigerator, put all 10,000 screws, bolts, wires, tubes, doors and drawers back together out in the driveway. They promised to call me back when they got back to the store to figure out what was next.

As it turned out, they screwed up and had to order the correct refrigerator which they can get in two days. She also promised that they would make a special trip to install it that day or the following morning depending on what time the truck arrived. But.... and she paused here... the smaller refrigerator cost more, $700 more, than the other one because it was more expensive to manufacture. She thought this would be bad news to me but I assured her it was great news. You see, the insurance company screwed me over when I got the much cheaper refrigerator but since I already am paying the deductible, the insurance company will be paying the extra $700, not me. All I have to do is deal with them but it shouldn't be too much of a problem since the wrong cheaper refrigerator wasn't the equivalent one to what we had and the new much more expensive one is. It will be a pleasure sticking it to them... I hope.

Later that week they called back to inform me that the replacement refrigerator was back ordered and that it would be yet another month before they received it from the factory. I kindly chewed them out a bit and the following day they arrived with a loaner refrigerator which definitely eased the pain a bit. A month went by and finally they showed up with our new refrigerator, this time the same model and more importantly the size of the previous one. In short order we had everything transferred into it and once again I have a working water and ice dispenser in the door. The old one was the first refrigerator I ever had with one of those jobs in it and it was only under protest that I bought one with it for my wife. I remember telling her that it was just another part to fail. Somehow in the two years since then, I have grown to love having it and thought it was a slight burden to go without it for two and a half months.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Kamagong Journals Part Eighteen: Wrapping It All Up

This post contains the last of the pictures from my trip to the Philippines in which they tell a story that I thought about or found interesting. After today, it is back to pulling out posts and ideas from the world around me.

Filipinos are big on signs but also a poster child for why much of the U.S. has rules on what type of signs and where you can post them. In the Philippines there appears to be no such rules or at least none that are enforced. As a result there are signs everywhere, including this misspelled sign. There were also people smoking all around with no apparent consequences to their actions.

In past trips to the Philippines I had surmised that there were little in the way of road signs but on this trip I found out that I was wrong. They were there but mostly hidden from view. I saw many directional signs forming the side of some shack built near an intersection and using the sign as a wall of their building. Other times the signs were used as drying racks for crops or clothes. Still other times they were just behind planted vegetation. It makes getting around difficult if you aren't local. However if you need to stop and ask directions, people are more than glad to help you out.

At a road side pull off, I took this picture of a traditional nipa hut that had been put here as an attraction. Most of the time they are found in the rice paddies and were where families tending the fields traditionally lived. It kept them off the ground and dry and probably helped to catch a nice evening breeze to cool off.

While on our way back from the our northern beach vacation, we stopped in Batac City for some lunch and to visit the museum and mausoleum of Ferdinand Marcos, former president of the Philippines. The museum was very tabloidish in nature. Almost a fourth of the museum was dedicated to his eleven day romance of his future wife Imelda Marcos. The rest were obviously displays put up by his family meant to create a hero out of him. There was not a single display about the end of his presidency and being chased out of the country by his own people. 

Included in his tour was seeing his body preserved in an air-conditioned mausoleum next door. No pictures were allowed but if you do a google search, many can be found online. Nothing was presented or said about why he is being preserved for display but after I got back, a quick search showed that his body is actually in limbo. His wife Imelda (of the thousands of shoes fame) wants him buried in a cemetery reserved for country heroes in Manila and thus far the country has denied her.

This is a picture of a colorful Jeepney that pulled up to the curb. The Jeepney is the main form of transportation in the mountain city of Baguio but this one was a private one that could be rented out. I'm guessing the people renting it were at the nearby pony and horse ride attraction which my kids were partaking of while I was out by the road looking for pictures to take.

If there were a national sport in the Philippines and I'm guessing there isn't due to the country being too poor to spend money playing a sport, it would be basketball. I saw many homemade basketball setups like the one above throughout my journey. In the slums of Manila, I saw many impromptu courts set up for the kids to play with to pass the time away in the middle of roads. If a vehicle came, the kids shuffled off the court and the drivers drove around the hoops and then it was game on again.

I hope everyone enjoyed this series of posts on my trip to the Philippines. It is a country that fascinates me and which I hope to keep on visiting again as long as I'm able. It has many faults, just like my own country, and it has many beautiful things, just like my own country. For the first time, this trip felt like returning home for me. Before I have always felt like I was visiting but this time I felt like I was returning to a childhood home that I lived in for many years. It was a good feeling.

Monday, August 18, 2014

Kamagong Journals Part Seventeen: Views Through the Windshield

Because of extended periods of time riding in a van getting here and there, I had plenty of opportunity to take some pictures of things I saw along the road. Many didn't turn out due to the conditions and speeds involved but I did end up with a handful of pictures that I thought I should show here. This first one shows a fellow who rents out his boar to breed other pigs. His fee is his pick of one of the litter born three months, three weeks and three days later.

Recycling has become a big business in the Philippines and I saw plenty of these types of loads heading down the road to be redeemed for money. I think this fellow is hauling plastic.

When riding one of these tricycles as they are called, I am hard pressed to fit my tall frame inside much less fit other people inside with me. Here are eight people on this tricycle plus backpacks and a box and I'm sure they feel comfortable with the situation.

Here is a father taking his daughter to school and giving his young son a ride. Safety isn't a real big concern in the Philippines. Here in the States he would be lucky if he didn't get beat up by passersby in the streets for letting his kids ride like that.

Although it isn't rare, you still don't often seen females driving in the Philippines. The ones you do are mostly driving their own personal scooters like the one above. I found this one amusing however because she was wearing high heels while riding.

If you don't have transportation of your own or can't afford to hire someone, another option seems to be riding on top of other vehicles heading your way.

This is the best picture I have of a kuliglig outfitted for street travel.  In a previous post I showed one stirring up a rice patty for planting. When not in use for planting, they replace the reels with tires, hook a small cart to the back and use it for transportation. Due to their low gearing, a ride on one of them is about the same pace as an easy walk.

Not sure what this truck was hauling or its purpose but it reminded me of garbage trucks in the Philippines which look similar. I haven't seen any garbage trucks that lift cans or have hoppers where garbage men dump the refuse before it is packed into the main body of the truck. Instead their preferred method seems to be a couple men on the ground tossing it up into the back of the truck and another three or four pushing and stacking it so that more can be put on. I really feel for those men, especially the ones riding with the garbage in the truck because the smell is so powerful that I can smell them 100 feet behind riding in a sealed vehicle. I can't image how it would smell right on top of it and wrestling it around all day.

This is a picture of a rental van that we hired to take up to our beach stay. the driver said it was genuine anaconda skin. While it definitely appeared and felt to be real snake skin, I can't vouch for whether it was indeed anaconda. When you rent a van in the Philippines, you usually get a driver too and you have to provide the driver with room and board for the duration. It is nice to have a driver who can drop you off where ever you wanted and have the van cooled and ready to pick you up when you got back. Unfortunately I wouldn't be able to afford such a thing here in the States but in the Philippines, it is down right cheap.

Many of the main roads in the Philippines are four lanes but the 'slow' lane as we would call it here in the states is rarely used. Part of the problem is because like in the picture above, people use it to dry their rice crop, work on their vehicles, display their wares for sale or a myriad of other things. Another part of the problem is that you encounter situations like in this picture where a pole (at the far end of the rice drying on the right hand side) had been set in the road or because the road simply just ends without warning. As a result, everyone drives in the 'fast' lane which is anything but fast. You go as fast as the slowest vehicle which there are plenty of in the Philippines.

Friday, August 15, 2014

Kamagong Journals Part Sixteen: Beach Critters

While eating breakfast one morning brought to me by beach resort manager Ferdinand right to the chairs overlooking the ocean, I noticed this fellow on the ground at my feet. He didn't have the regulation size toothpick in him but was missing his head. I stuck the toothpick in so that I could get a closer look at him without touching him while I was eating breakfast and to give some scale to the beetle. It is most definitely the largest beetle I have ever seen.

Because very few houses in the Philippines are insulated and not very tight by American standards, just about every place I went was infested by ants. Fortunately they weren't the biting kind but they were everywhere. These ants disappeared behind the electrical switch plate and their freeway ran up to the ceiling, went all the way down the wall and disappeared in some door jam trim fifteen feet away.

We had some very loud crickets living in a crack between the toilet bowl and toilet tank in the bathroom. Their chirpings really echoed especially when surrounded by hard and smooth porcelain. But off and on I heard another high pitched noise that didn't sound like a cricket but was something I couldn't identify. At first it only happened once in a while but one afternoon it started getting more and more frequent. About the time I found that a lizard was responsible, I heard a return call on the opposite side of the room. Right before my eyes, the two lovers found each other right above my patio bamboo curtains and proceeded to do what lizards in love do. I couldn't resist taking a picture.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Kamagong Journals Part Fifteen: Life's a Beach

This is a closer view of the former mayor's house that had been turned into a beach resort.

The roof was made using traditional techniques. The purlins were made of anahaw which is also referred to as coconut wood though it is only a relative of the coconut tree. The leaves of actual coconut trees are bundled together and tied to the anahaw purlins in overlapping rows.

Especially along the coast, you often see the thick layers of coconut leaves that form the roof wrapped in netting to help protect it from the winds of passing tropical storms and typhoons.

Like just about everywhere you go in the Philippines, there are people who show up trying to sell you stuff. If you are white and American, you are particularly preyed upon. However it turned out these people selling trinkets were a little different than normal. These people are a product of a government program that takes local down and out people and teaches them how to make trinkets to sell for a living. They are given or subsidized some basic equipment and all money they make goes to their pockets. Among the trinkets they sold were necklaces and bracelets made out of pearls and local stones as well as a few things made out of kamagong wood. After I learned of their story, I parted with a few pesos for some trinkets to give to people back home in the States.

No beach resort would be a resort with out beach furniture. I spent quite a bit of time in some of these beach "chairs" and they were more comfortable than they looked.

I'm not sure what these blossoms are from but I do know that I almost got hit by them more than once, almost always early in the mornings. I assumed they were from coconut trees which were everywhere around the beach but when I got home and searched for them on the internet, they didn't look like coconut tree blossoms.

Monday, August 11, 2014

Kamagong Journals Part Fourteen: Panoramic Landscapes

On this trip, for the first time in a decade, the stars aligned and my wife's family was all able to get time off at the same time. A lot of that is due to the school system of my brother-in-law's children which switched this year from the normal "summer" break schedule to the American version of it. Normally they have it earlier in the spring when my kids are still in school. To celebrate this fact, I treated the whole family to three days and two nights at a beach resort at the northernmost tip of the Luzon island. Though it was rainy season, we had three days of sunshine and mild weather with cleansing evening showers.

The resort, like many destinations, is the former residence of the local town mayor and we actually stayed in his house. Now that it is a resort, they built a duplicate house next door to increase the occupancy rates. The beach didn't have the bleach white sands that you find in central Philippines but it was pleasant just the same. The resort manager Ferdinand, named after the former president of the Philippines, ran a tight ship and made our stay enjoyable. He even had one of his workers chop me up some anahaw wood (a beautiful relative of the coconut tree) for me to take back home and to turn into some pens.

In the Philippines, when you go to the beach, you stake out your turf by sticking a stick in the sand and hanging up your clothes, towels, glasses, sandals, etc. Because we were the only people at the resort for the first two days of our stay at the resort, we had the beach to ourselves and a pack of local boys that spent most of their days swimming in the ocean.

Another view of Patapat bridge going around where the mountains meet the ocean in northern Philippines.

Friday, August 8, 2014

Never Came Home From Vietnam

Two weeks ago, I finished watching a three part special on the Vietnam war presented on the History Channel. Although familiar with the war, I never have read or watched an in depth history of the war. About part way through the special, I was reminded of a trip I took in sixth grade to Washington D.C. as part of our high school marching band. Along with all the normal tourist spots, we visited the Vietnam War Memorial and on behalf of my parents, I looked up the name of the son of our neighbor. His name was Richard and died during the war. I made the obligatory name tracing from the memorial and later when I returned home I presented it to his parents. I don't remember their reactions but I'm sure it was polite gratification.

I have met many Vietnam Vets over the years but never knew anyone who hadn't come home. My step-father's birthday was one of the last ones drawn in the draft so he never went. In my hometown, Richard was the only one who never came home. Now thirty years later, I decided I wanted to know more about Richard and his involvement in the Vietnam War. I quickly fired up the internet and soon discovered that he died on the infamous U.S.S. Forrestal fire whose most famous survivor these days is Senator and former presidential nominee John McCain. The fire is best described as a series of unfortunate events.

Needing 1000 pound bombs for a bombing raid scheduled to take place the following day, the Forrestal took possession of some 30 year old bombs that had been sitting in humid Subic Bay, Philippines since World War II. Everyone was nervous about them and wanted them removed but there were no more new Mark 83's left to replace them and so they were reluctantly prepared for the following day's mission. The following day an electrical surge and some unfortunate mistakes in safety caused an accidental discharge of a Zuni rocket which caused a rupture of several aircraft fuel tanks and the 30 year old "fat boy" bombs from Subic Bay. The newer Mark 83's could have safely withstood the fire but the the old "fat boy" bombs couldn't and exploded. In all 134 died that day putting out the fire and one of those was the son of our neighbors. He was 21 years of age. Today he would have been 69 years old.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Kamagong Journals Part Thirteen: Corregidor Island (cont.)

I have a lot of pictures of the ruins of Corregidor Island that I am going to put into this post without the history lesson included on the previous post. It amazed me at the shear amount of concrete that went into barracks (seen above) and other buildings around the island. This particular barracks was a mile long! It also reinforces to me that nothing is permanent, not even concrete.

Mortar shell storage building.

The nearby mortars.

A room with a view that you never want to see.

With huge mortars nearby, I was struck by the word silence. I'm sure it was anything but silent here during the heat of battle.

Damaged door.

Empty ammunition bunkers and a spare gun barrel.

Gun barrel left behind.

There Philippines has a name for these trees but it escapes me. Most however, simply refer to them as spooky trees and bad luck. There is a central tree which is surrounded by another tree that wraps around it. I don't know about bad luck but I find it beautiful.

Remains of the island movie theater for the soldiers to watch the latest movies.

Another view of the movie theater from the outside.

The barracks in the top picture were in such bad shape that they were off limits to go inside. Not that I really needed to go inside because as this picture shows, there were plenty of holes from decay that allowed me to see inside and out the other.

Yet another building that is rotting apart. For only being 70 years old, I'm pondering why the concrete didn't hold up better. Is it the constant rain and humidity or poor quality concrete to begin with? I'm guessing the answer is probably both.

Monday, August 4, 2014

Kamagong Journals Part Twelve: Corregidor Island

Manila bay is a large bay ringed in by horseshoe shaped land and at the throat of the bay where it is the narrowest, sits Corregidor Island which as you might expect, is a very strategic island for protecting the capital city of Manila. During the period of U.S. rule of the Philippines when World War II was approaching, the U.S. military knew the significance of the island and heavily fortified it along with two other nearby minor islands. Corregidor Island was America's last stand as the Japanese over ran our defenses and the last force to surrender was here before they were shipped off to what would be known as the Bataan death march. Lorcha Dock overlooking the Bataan (pronounced Ba-ta-an and not with just two syllables as is common here in the States) peninsula is where General Douglas MacArthur boarded a boat for southern Philippines on March 11, 1942  to avoid capture by the Japanese. Two days later he boarded a plane for Australia  and upon safely arriving there the way uttered the famous words "I shall return," which makes him a hero to all Filipinos. On October 20, 1944, MacArthur kept his promise and returned with a huge military force to retake the islands of the Philippines. Japan surrendered on September 2, 1945.

Because the United States left in a hurry, they left lots of hardware all over the island. I'm sure it was all disabled so that it wasn't used against them on their return but it remained there physically. During fighting, the shelling denuded the island vegetation but after the war, the jungle returned and all was lost in it. Only in recent years have the Philippines begun to cut through the jungle uncover these relics of the past and perhaps preserve them for the future.

Staring down the barrel of one of these guns pointed across the bay towards the Bataan peninsula, I can't help but be in awe of the courage of the men who fought and most likely died here. The barrel is full of shrapnel wounds from incoming fire. When we had first started across the bay on a ferry, the day was overcast and threatening rain which I had thought would put a damper on my historical visit. Instead as I saw these relics of the past, the dreary day somehow felt right and put me in a proper mental state to truly appreciate what I was seeing.

After the American's retook the island in 1944, they buried the many dead Japanese that remained in a cemetery. The jungle swallowed the cemetery and it was lost to time. In the mid 1990's, a man in Seattle, Washington found a picture showing the cemetery and more importantly, it location in relation to a mountain on a nearby island. The cemetery was reclaimed from the jungle and the bodies exhumed and returned to Japan. Where the soldiers were buried is now a peace garden dedicated to those Japanese who died in the battle.

The U.S with the help of local Filipinos began digging the Malinta Tunnel a couple decades after the Spanish-American war. It is a hole through the heart of the island meant to be a bomb proof shelter in case war came to the Philippines. War came and in 1942, the last contingent of American marines made their stand here. In order to preserve lives, we surrendered and those marines and Filipino soldiers were transferred over to the Bataan peninsula were they began the death march north. When we retook the island, the Japanese didn't surrender and so to root them out of the tunnel, napalm bombs were dropped down the airshafts and they were incinerated. On the day we visited and walked the length of the tunnel, there were no lights to see much beyond what flashlights in the main tunnel could reveal. I think that was fitting.

Much of the vegetation was destroyed on the island during the war. The Japanese dropped 365 tons of bombs on the island and later the American's returned the favor with over 2800 tons of bombs on the retaking. The pictures I have seen of the aftermath shows a mass of splintered wood littering almost every square foot of the island. I'm guessing that means this tree which appealed to my senses is less than 70 years old.

This is one of the largest guns on the island and was capable of firing huge shells almost 20 miles. About twenty feet to the right of where I stood when I took this picture was a huge crater from a bomb that hit during the war.

About 50 feet behind the gun along the road sat a spare barrel for the gun. It was never used and the rifling on the inside still looked pristine.

I'm guessing a lot of these shrapnel wounds came courtesy of the bomb that left the crater off on this side of the gun.

As with most tourist attractions in the Philippines, an armed soldier was present on the ferry. Although northern and central Philippines are considered safe by the state department for American tourism, there is a group of muslim extremists affiliated with Al Queda on an island in the very south and before America got involved, bombings were more common as little as ten years ago. Now with U.S. intervention in an advisory role, they are contained on their island way to the south.

Finally, here is a picture of the ferry that we road to and from Corregidor Island upon. It took about an hour to cross the bay to Manila on the way out and slightly longer on the way back. About halfway back, a heavy rain squall hit and encompassed our ferry. A few miles from shore, the motors were turned off and as the boat rocked wildly in the chop, the captain told us it was too rough to dock and that we would be waiting out the storm out in the bay. It was only then that I realized that unlike other forms of transportation, when the going got rough on a boat, you were pretty much out of luck. There is no pulling to the side and waiting for it to pass. As the boat rocked wildly in the wind and rain, I took the opportunity to verify that my emergency flotation device was indeed under my seat and within easy reach. I also carefully read the directions on the emergency exit door one row behind my seat. Hedging my odds, I also took a sea sickness tablet that I had packed just in case. Fortunately we only sat out there for about 15 minutes before the captain deemed it calm enough to dock and soon I was back on land.

The land around Manila Bay is barely above sea level and very prone to flooding and for the second time in my time in the Philippines, I found myself in a van navigating a maze of streets flooded with several feet of water. Because the rain was still falling heavily, we also had a time element to try and escape to the outskirts of Manila before it got deeper. We did but only just.