Friday, July 7, 2017

In The Heat and Humidity, Memories Surface

It was hot and muggy here in our corner of the world, and this kind of weather always takes me back to the two years we lived in The Philippine Islands.  Joel, a lieutenant in the Air Force was forecasting weather for pilots at Clark Air Base and because it was an "accompanying" tour, we moved there in July of 1974.

Barrio in P.I.

 I can remember clearly the intense humidity, heat, and smells that hit us when we got off the plane. It seemed difficult to get a full breath, the air was so heavy.  Eventually our bodies adjusted enough to tolerate it, but these upper midwesterners never did come to love the climate, like some.

We did grow to love the Filipino people we met, though.  As part of an unspoken government policy there, we hired local Filipinos to work for us while living there~  doing yard work, making our clothes or even living with families as full time maids.  Most rental houses off base had rooms for maids right off the kitchen.  We became very close to our first maid, Ampharo (Amphy).  She was such a feisty, tiny, little thing whom we grew to love.  When we were there Marcos was President and Marshall Law was in place.  You could not leave your home after 10 pm or risk being shot.  Our maid Amphy whispered his name, if she ever talked about him.......fear was that embedded in the people.  He, like their present day leader was not someone you wanted to cross.  For the most part, caution came more for those who roamed the jungle.  I recall being at the Baptist Servicemen's Club off base and talking with some missionaries who were there.  They had been driven out of the area where they were doing mission work by those who were then called, "guerrillas".  What today we probably call terrorists.  Their lives were at risk so they had left the jungle village they called home.  Sometimes we could hear gunfire at night from our home off base.  These guerrillas would often shoot at our planes as they took off from the base airport where Joel worked.  I don't know who the Filipino feared most......their leader or those who roamed the jungles.  As Dorothy told Toto....."We were not in Kansas anymore!"  (Or Minnesota)

Living in a third world country with deep poverty and political turmoil had a profound affect on our lives.  The war was winding down in Viet Nam and Clark had an active part in what took place.  It was a chaotic and unpredictable time.  Two of our neighbors were in undercover work off base.  and some of the stories we heard from them were scary, although we never had any trouble to speak of.  I do recall our oldest daughter saying to me one day recently, "You know it was not normal to go to preschool with bars and wire on the windows of the school bus!"  Sometimes I wonder what we were thinking to let them go anywhere!  But off they went, both Beth and Matt and have their own stories to tell about their preschool days off base.

Everyone hired 24/7 guards who walked around with rifles.  I am not so sure they were helpful, but we also lived with bars on all our windows in the house we rented.  The house had a cement fence surrounding it and a metal gate that locked at night so no one could steal your car.  There was more than once that our son Matt woke us to tell us people were outside the window speaking a language he did not understand.  He was 3 at the time.  Security lights, thick heavy metal bars, and heavy doors with bolts that went into the floor helped us stay safe.  We had no phone.  No cells around at that time and no land line for us off base.  When Joel worked nights I did not sleep so well, but otherwise I felt pretty safe at home.  I will say, if your car stalled along the way to Clark Air Base, it was better to stay with it and wait for another American to come by than to find help among the locals.  At the time, many of the young Filipino men did not like Americans.  It was just the way it was.

I will repeat, though, that we loved the Filipino people we were friends with, and also their help to acclimate to the culture.  We visited Amphy's family in the barrio a few times and went to the home of our "sew woman" during Good Friday rituals down in Angeles City.  We shopped in a local open market, and traveled on 3 crazy journeys to Mania while in the process of adopting.  More than once we drove narrow winding roads up to a military resort area in the mountains.   I truly think God had special angels that followed us around when I look back and remember all the things that did, or almost did happen.  Lots of interventions took place, keeping us all safe.

Our favorite painting from the P.I.
A father and son..........

And maybe that is the point of this rambling blog post of memories that surfaced in the heat and humidity of summer.  God was with us keeping us safe. We had amazing experiences ~ the good far outweighing any of the bad.  Our family grew by two, and friends we met there still hold a place in our hearts.  God walked with us continually, and we know without a doubt it was all part of His plan for us~~ living in the Philippines those two years.  Forty-three years later, we still speak of it.  Only God.

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