Easy targets required a strategic move …
Our ship, along with several others were instructed to relocate immediately. In the first place we were never in a favorable location along the Vietnamese coastline but there we were, sitting ducks just waiting to get blown out of the water. With this sudden (?) urgency our ships made haste!
Traveling over 1000 nautical miles and 4+ days later, we arrive at Subic Bay, an American Naval base in the Philippines. Our ship would remain here for a few weeks; we were still loaded with the greater percentage of Napalm cargo.
While docked here, my normal work routine continued and so did the shore visits. I remember the first time out. For a day trip into Manila, a bunch of us would gather to take an air-conditioned bus ride into the city. Feeling excitement once more for a place I’d never been, I took a seat on the bus and for the most part, would quietly gaze out the window. I looked back only for a moment to see my ship get left behind.
I admired the coconut trees (reminder of home) situated in the back and forefront of passing scenery along open spaces. There were plenty of farm lands most of which were being toiled by beasts of burden & human labor alike.
We passed a little village or three and the roads shaped up nicely. Manila, she formed gradually in the near distance. In eager focus on what lay ahead, I noticed tall buildings rising as we drew near and before I knew it, we’d arrived.
There were these brightly painted bus-like modes of transportation driving all over the place and I tell ya, what a site to see! At the very moment of my wonderment, I overheard someone on our bus say to another curious passenger, “…these are called Jeepney.” Besides being colorful, there were balloons, flowerpots and toys on sticks hanging off the sides and well, so much more including people!
We get off somewhere in what felt like the middle of town and began walking around. It didn’t take long at all to feel a bit weary in this heat. We had been cruising in and out of shops and eventually our only focus became search for the nearest bar and frankly, that wasn’t hard to do.
I was all but soaking wet and yes, it was definitely time to have an ice cold beer. Truth be told, one didn’t even have to walk anywhere, simply being outside was enough to do the trick! We’d leave one bar to go into another couple of shops only to make our way to the next bar along an unplanned route. It was just hot and I was constantly thirsty for the next cold beer.
Something else I can clearly recall is just how nice the people seemed to be. I mean they had a relaxed feeling about them and a smile was received from nearly everyone I made eye contact with.
One week later we had to return to one of the Vietnamese ‘parking lots’ as our cargo was once again needed.