It wasn’t this hot back in the day | Lifestyle.INQ

OCTOBER 27, 2022

Papa was a ship captain, and he was the last man off his ship. What happened in South Korea?


A tragedy fraught with sorrow, anger and frustration is playing out in South Korea. There is desperate grief in a gymnasium where family members keep vigil over the fate of their children, who were going on a holiday and now could be at the bottom of the sea.


We hear about the frantic call to a fire station from a frightened little boy: “Save us, we are on a ship and I think it is sinking.”


We read the sad goodbye of children to their parents.


We know about the captain who, acting against all known ethics and time-honored protocol, jumped ship to save himself, and was among the first to be rescued. South Korean President Park has branded his act “tantamount to murder.”


My Captain


Papa comes to mind. He was captain of the MS Fortuna and was on his usual voyage when Pearl Harbor happened. There was no word from him for six months.  All we knew was that his ship had gone down.  We saw him again in June, six months into the war. When he returned, he was sick and his hair had turned gray. He was barely 40 then. We listened to his story.


On orders from American authorities, he took his ship loaded with supplies to Bataan and Corregidor. On his last mission, Japanese zeros spotted him sneaking back into Puerto Princesa. Their bombs missed the Fortuna, but fierce strafing signaled her doom. Papa gave orders for the crew and passengers to abandon ship.


When all had disembarked, he locked the ship’s documents in a canvas pouch and walked down the gangplank. From the dock he sadly watched the Fortuna go down in flames. Papa was the last man off his ship. He was the captain.


What happened in South Korea? The skipper escaped while hundreds of boys and girls were still in the sinking vessel, following orders not to leave their cabins.


The drama continues and the number of dead soars, with scores still missing. As parents wait for news, their hope dwindles. Bodies have been brought in only for identification. And every time this happens, heart-rending screams fill the air.


Who was in command? Who is responsible? What good does it do to ask?  Lives are lost forever.


How hot can it get?


Holy Week was a scorcher and there seems to be no relief in sight. With temperatures in the metro soaring, medicos are warning about heatstrokes— that they can be fatal.


In the States, they put out strict instructions for people to keep their pets, children and the elderly (not necessarily in that order) indoors and to keep them hydrated.


I chatted with contemporaries about this. Perhaps our memories are short, but we can’t remember it ever being this hot back in the day.  And we didn’t even have air-conditioners at home or in our cars.


On a hot afternoon, one of my favorite things then was to walk into Aguinaldo’s Echague or sit in the white-tiled Magnolia ice cream parlor across the street eating chocolate ice cream. Cool!


I didn’t know heat could be so oppressive. Could this be a result of climate change? Is nature finally telling us off? Or is this, like everything else in my life, just part of the aging process?


A couple of years ago I visited my eye doctor and after a series of tests, the results read: A.R. cataracts. The letters, I was later told, stood for “age-related.”


Last month I consulted a doctor about a recurring pain in the neck (not a person) and got a similar A.R. diagnosis.


Sometimes my feet are sore and there’s a cramp behind my leg when I walk. Still A.R., right? I thought so.


But today I got e-mail from my sister, about age and aging, and suddenly I feel it’s time to bring out my best dress and flaunt my red feather boa.


The piece is a bit long, so I will grab just a few lines for you. I don’t know who to give credit for this, but it comes from a site called Stinky Paw. It’s too precious not to share.


“Old age is a gift.  I am now, probably for the first time in my life, the person I have always wanted to be.


“Oh not my body. I sometimes despair over my body, the wrinkles, the baggy eyes  and the sagging butt.


“I am taken aback by that old person that lives in my mirror (who looks like my mother!) but I don’t agonize over those things for long.


“I would never trade my amazing friends, my wonderful life, my loving family for less gray hair or a flatter belly.


“As I’ve aged, I have become more kind to myself, less critical of myself.  I’ve become my own friend.


“I am so blessed to have lived long enough to have my hair turning gray and to have my youthful laughs forever etched into deep grooves on my face.  So many have never laughed and so many have died before their hair could turn silver.


“As you get older, it is easier to be positive. You care less about what other people think. I don’t question myself anymore.  I’ve even earned the right to be wrong.


“I like being old. It has set me free. I like the person I have become. I am not going to live forever, but while I am still here, I will not waste time lamenting what could have been or worrying about what will be.


“And I shall eat dessert every single day.  (If I feel like it.)”


Come, let’s live it up!





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