Vern

On Sunday night, the “60 Minutes” show reported on the terrifying drug war that is now under way in the Philippines. Bill Whitaker interviewed Maria Ressa who has been threatened with prison, death and other torturous punishment for her reporting on the raging violence in the country.

The BBC reported that 6,600 dealers or users have been killed, but some coverage says that the fatalities may be closer to 27,000.

In the spring of 1978, Margie and I landed in Manila near the end of our exhilarating tour of Asia.  Margie was still suffering from an ankle sprain, so our guide, Freddie, had arranged for a wheelchair at the airport.

The city seemed totally peaceful, but — full disclosure — we were told the country was under “martial law” defined as “temporary rule by the military authorities over the civilian population.”

Our Sheraton hotel had the largest lobby of any I’ve ever seen, nearly an acre in size with an over-arching ceiling so high the aviary provided a three-story cage for its exotic birds.

There was a free-flowing waterfall across the way.

Margie wrote that “Manila was the largest city in the only Christian country in Asia.”

The following day, we boarded buses to tour the full foliage terrains that turn tourists into eager photographers among the green decorative hillsides.

“The American Cemetery and Memorial built in honor of those who died in action in the Philippines enabled us to gaze at the endless white crosses harmoniously blending into the landscape. Margie wrote, “There were several Japanese tourist buses that also stopped for a visit, causing us wonderment at what 30 years can do to heal the wounds of war.”

Margie, a veteran shopper who later owned a delightful store on Lancaster Boulevard, wrote “For the first time we saw the Kapis shells which had been fashioned into beautiful and luxurious looking lampshades, placemats, coasters, cigarette cases, wind chimes, flatware, endless creations, and Philippine wood carvings made of hard wood such as monkey pod; a typical salad set cost about $10 U.S. Embroidered blouses, barong dresses and shirts for men were hanging temptingly on racks.”

“Along the way we stopped at a church that has the only bamboo organ in the world and had withstood earthquakes, typhoons, termites, and wars through its 140 years. A young boy played the organ for us to sample the sounds, which were uniquely different enough to prompt us into buying an LP record of Christmas carols pumped on the Las Pinas Very Special Organ.”

“We finally reached our destination, called a freak of nature. Taal is a volcano in a lake, and a lake within the volcano crater.

Before we left the hotel that day, our color TV warned us of a typhoon named Goring.

That evening, Margie wrote, “The typhoon was still at Warning Signal 1 for Manila but Signal 3 was raised to the north. Some of optional morning tours were to be canceled if the weather didn’t improve and in the dark we could hear the wind whistle threateningly though the balcony doors.”

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