Peggy and Randy Ford Authors- FOUND OUR WAY 22nd Installment

We heard that the elementary teachers where Peggy taught worked the polling stations (in this case at the school) for the presidential election although they were still on strike. They also monitored the civil service examinations for teachers during the strike just to show officials that their sense of responsibility hadn’t changed. The election in Manila was very orderly. At the school, they had 52 election precincts, in most cases with two precincts in one classroom. They had CNEA officials camped out at the office. These officials were there to help insure an orderly election but even without them voting there would’ve been orderly. Mr. Hernandez (the school principal) waited for all of the votes to be counted so that he could personally deliver a special copy of the election results to Comelce. He didn’t get to leave the school until 2:00 a.m.

Mr. Hernandez wrote “our elections may not be spotless but our American implanted democracy has continued to survive, and I am sure will continue to survive and grow stronger and stronger.” According to him the election was characterized by lavish spending when the country was facing hard times. Mr. Hernandez wrote that even Lincoln couldn’t have been elected because of the huge amount of money needed to carry on the election campaign.

We were living in Bangkok at the time, and Mr. Hernandez wrote that he had heard so many good things about the Thais … their courtesy, religiousness and spirit of independence … that he just didn’t know which was the better developing country … Thailand or the Philippines.

And Mr. Hernandez wrote that many things were happening at Peggy’s school. The children’s choir entered the First National Children’s Choir competition at the Cultural Center and won third place. Mr. Hernandez wrote that these children would never forget this “very, very rare” experience. Later the choir performed at the Luneta with the Roudalla. And he wrote that Christmas vacation was rather short due to classes that had to be made up, but within this period five teachers got married. Some of them Peggy knew.

When Peggy and I expressed our disappointment over President Nixon’s reelection, Mr. Hernandez wrote that he couldn’t help but “admire Nixon’s bold attempts towards world peace. If he succeeds, I am sure we’ll all be happier and many of us will benefit from lasting peace. More time, more money, and more energy can then be directed towards internal problems like peace and order, the ghettos, etc. I hear New York City is worse than Manila with respect to peace and order.”

Mr. Hernandez also wrote that he was “jolted” by Peggy’s observation that the main difference between Thailand and the Philippines was the big gap in the Philippines between rich and poor. He hoped then that this glaring inequality didn’t bring about a bloody revolution. But Mr. Hernandez felt pleased that we felt that so far in our travels nothing compared with the rice terraces at Bontoc and Banaue. But he felt embarrassed that he hadn’t seen these places (in the Philippines) and felt sure that most of “jet-setters” of his country hadn’t seen them either. He then wrote that he heard that new roads were being built that would make trips to Bontoc and Banaue much easier.

There was another huge fire in Malate (Manlia) near where we lived. There were two huge fires near there while we lived there. These fires displaced thousands of people before they were put out. One of the biggest problems for the fire fighters was the lack of water pressure.

The fire Mr. Hernandez wrote about started during the early hours of April 19, 1970. Mr. Hernandez heard about it at three a.m. when his phone rang and he was asked if he would allow fire victims to enter the school compound. He said yes and was at the school by 5 a.m. while the fire was still raging. When the got there the lights were out, it was dark, and he didn’t have all the keys he needed. By then the school corridors and schoolyard were already jammed with people and their belongings. The Radio Control people told Mr. Hernandez that they had been calling school authorities for quite some time and were seemingly implying that he should’ve been at the school earlier. The janitor who had most of the keys was not supposed to report in the morning, so the keys had to be sent for causing further delay in setting up relief. Various government officials arrived. The Red Cross, the Metrocom, an armed forces unit, Social welfare units, and the Salvation Army, among others set up headquarters in the school. Fire victims were also accepted at the Malate catholic school. Mr. Hernandez’s school sheltered 1414 people, 175 families according to not so reliable sources. A number of the teachers of the school, as well as the property custodian and a janitor, were among the victims.

Most of the families lived at the school for more than ten days. Most of them didn’t have a place to go after the ten days. Most ended up staying past the time they were supposed to leave. By the time civil service workers arrived, it wasn’t clear which would prevail … the Civil Service or these people. Through no fault of their own the people became squatters at the school, though many of them came from a squatters area.

Manila had another big earthquake and fortunately there were no students at the school at the time of the quake because of a jeep strike. If it were not for this disruption of transportation, the crumbling of the elementary school would have created a disaster worse than the Ruby Tower tragedy (caused by a huge earthquake that occurred while we were living in Manila). There was no graduation and vacation time was advanced by two weeks that year because of the earthquake and fire. Often earthquakes and fires are associated, but in this case they were separate events.

Peggy and Randy Ford

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