Imagine the excitement building inside the 7 & 10 year old girls, leaving their home-town for the first time ever. Up at 3am for baths and then dressed in their best clothes It seems almost like going to church instead of a day at the beach and an Island tour. Pretty soon I see the mom is also dressed up in her best clothes too. The men and boys however are much more casual.
With all our bags full of food and gear we head down the many steps to the waiting van at the road. While we are in the van the little girls pop car-sick medicine in their mouths which is in-effective for the trip right from the start. Luckily we have barf-bags.
There are 9 of us in all but our van is still not completely full. The trip is long and arduous and we arrive in Mariveles 3 hours, 45 minutes after starting out, the little girls both wan and colorless from their ordeal.
After many attempts at finding our tour coordinator we finally connect, negotiate (always part of the routine here) and then in the boat and to the island. Once there we are loaded into our own private bus and waiting tour. Our guide gives us a spectacular detailed narrative of the island’s history from a Filipino perspective directing most all of his English conversation towards Kevin and me. The 3 Filipino adults are the only ones completely conversant in English but the kids can only grasp a certain amount. They have fun anyway.
The bus stops at regular intervals where we all troop out and walk around to touch and feel the ancient relics.
Five Filipino phones come out and lots of selfies and pictures of each other ensue while Kevin and I video and shoot the landscape and scenery with a few people included in them.
Everyone from youngest to oldest enjoys the tour. We see Batteries, underground bunkers, guns of all sizes, rows and rows of blown out barracks, museums full of artifacts, a memorial and a lighthouse with a beautiful view out to sea. It invokes an emotional response in me that comes out of nowhere and I gulp to swallow the lump in my throat. From all the history I have studied in my life, not much was spent learning about WW2. But standing on the soil where so many atrocities were committed and learning the sad fate and also majestic valor of the men who fought and died here makes me very aware of the steep price paid by so many.
With the tour finished we are deposited on the south side of the island in a picnic area by the beach. There are comfort rooms with showers across the field and soon we are changed and diving into the blue waters of the Philippine Sea (although some would argue it is the China Sea). The sea breeze blows and tries to whip away the sandwiches we are fixing but eventually victorious, everyone has a bite to eat. Apples, mangos, bananas and watermelon for dessert, everyone is satisfied.
During the course of the day our tour coordinator stays by near us and like a mother hen calls us when it’s time for the next event.
And so it goes, we are down the pier watching the fisherman when it’s nearing the time for our bus to take us back to the dock and catch our boat to the main island. She calls us and we come running. We see monkeys on the lawn nearby and are momentarily distracted but soon we are all trundled back on the bus, ogling the monkeys on the way spotting a few and then more along with goats and chickens. We are dropped at the Rock garden where we all carefully pick our way making sure not to disturb the beautiful but temporary cairns built by some very tenacious people. We even are given the opportunity to fix some that have fallen in the wind.
Soon our mother hen is calling to us again as our boat approaches and soon we are all ensconced in a Bangka heading over the water, this time with no sea-sick little ones but totally excited and everyone perky as we watch the sun set into the sea.
In all, 2 had never been out of Olongapo, several had never been in a boat, seen a lighthouse or a military installment, and none of us had ever been to Corregidor. It was a day that will live in all of our memories for a lifetime.