We lived in The Philippines from 1979-1982. I joined the Boy Scouts in ’82 and the first big trip I went on was a reenactment of the Bataan Death March. The real march occured in 1942 when Japanese soldiers marched 10,000 American and Philippino prisoners of war to their deaths in one of the uglier events of the war.
We spent most of spring break with American scouts from all over the Far East Council as well as scouts from The Philippines and other Asian nations. We camped on the beach each night and each morning we were bused to where we had left off the previous day. The picture above is of a carabao, a kind of Philippine water buffalo, along with a few of the guys from the troop taking a break.
We saw a lot of the Phillipine countryside and one day walked through a village where heavily armed men – I’m talking ammo belts around their shoulders like Mexican revolutionaries – stood cradling their machine guns and smoking cigarettes while we hiked past. Our scoutmaster told us to just keep walking and “don’t stare.”
It was one of those experiences that has stayed with me, that made history come alive and through sore feet and tired legs, we all got a small taste of what those brave soldiers endured during World War II.
Update: I have now correctly spelled carabao. Thanks to Heather for reminding me of the difference in spelling between caribou and carabao. It would be odd to actually see caribou in The Philippines. But who knows, there is at least one tropical island that has polar bears.