Well. This trip was very interesting, but some things didn't go so well. Some of it was simply a matter of being in a Third World country, and some was rotten timing, such as my sweet, darling old dog Nick departed his earthly life the day I got home. So it's no wonder I'm depressed, but we're working on it with the help of our newly-adopted dog, Theo. He's doing his best to fit in. And this blog will serves as a form of therapy, at least, that's what I'm hoping.
Nick, top, was 19. Theo, bottom, is three.
So, about the trip. In 1940, my Uncle Karl was shipped out to the Philippines as a pursuit (fighter) mechanic. There was no war when he got there, but on Dec 8, 1941, all that changed. He defended the Philippines as an infantry soldier (the planes were all destroyed in the first wave of Japanese attacks) until April 9, 1942, when the Islands were formally surrendered, more or less. He then became an unwilling participant of the Bata'an Death March, was sent ultimately to Cabanatuan, an enormous concentration camp, and died there of amoebic dysentery at the age of almost 23. And for 70+ years thereafter, his family thought he was buried in a mass grave at the camp as an unknown.
Last year a US Army volunteer contacted me (through Ancestry.com) to say they thought they knew which unknown grave in Manila was my uncle's. The Army had known this since approximately 1950, but somehow failed to tell anyone in our family. Ultimately, Uncle Karl was interred, disinterred and re-interred five times, always with a designation showing he was a SPECIFIC unknown, presumed to be him, but not officially identified. The Army collected DNA from my family and went back to sleep. We, four of us, decided to go to the Philippines and follow in Uncle Karl's footsteps, al the way to his 99 and 44/100% certain grave.
Every year in early April, the Philippines hold Araw ng Kagitingan, which is Tagalaog for "Day of Valor." It serves as their Memorial Day and is timed to coincide with the Fall of Bata'an, April 9. On either side of that date, a battlefield pilgrimage of relevant sites is organized by Valor Tours, who does these things all over the world at various battle sites from many wars. So my Aunt Marion (Karl's youngest sister), cousins Carol and Fred, and I, signed up to go. We had eleven months to get ready. Apparently, we could have used a few more months, but more on that later.