January 7, 2012

(Originally part of Remembering Bataan) Now on to website business. I'm tweaking the design a little. Hopefully this will make updating and maintenance simpler. There's still some more changes to come so check back every now and then. Now some notes on Mattie and her world. Mattie lives in the (more or less) "real world". She is fiction but I've based the world she inhabits on history.

I bring this up because the other day I was talking to a friend about the story and had to explain some of the background. The occupation of the Philippines, like that of practically all the "Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere" was quite brutal. The Imperial Japanese military (I do make it a point to say the Imperial Japanese military so you do not think I'm refering the Japanese as a people)  didn't tolerate dissent or disobedience in the slightest. When Mattie talks about the repercussions for killing a Japanese soldier that wasn't something I made up- that was policy in part of the Philippines. I've read it in several book and the occupation facts, especially concerning guerillas, where recounted to me by Mr. Cesar 'Papang' Salang, who lived through the war in Bataan province and whose father was a guerilla. If his father had been discovered the whole family would have been killed.  Imagine being five or six and living with this knowledge.

Likewise her fighting I keep as real as possible, it's quick, dirty and bloody by nature. While I don't believe in focusing on the gorier aspects of a fight, it is a part of it so it's addressed. The bolo was the guerilla weapon of choice, and therefore it's Mattie's weapon of choice. From a story telling perspective it's also a distinct weapon, especially in a more modern age. She uses the Philippine Martial Arts called Eskrima, Arnis, or Kali (in the end it's all variations on the same art) which I've practiced. So yes, what you read, you could go out and do, provided you can find an instructor. I'm lucky enough to have one who gives classes on the weekend.

On the less dark and dirty side of things though it is a very small mention I hope if you're just now learning of the Women Airforce Service Pilots due to Mattie's story I hope you take the time to look up these talented women. They flew pretty much everything the Army Air Force had to offer, though I've never heard of any flying an OA-10 (aka PBY Catalina) like Mattie did. They did a lot of good for USAAF when they needed it the most; they performed a service that wasn't properly acknowledged until the 1970's. On the "1943" picture and on Mattie's image on the right you'll see "Fifinella", the Disney designed mascot of the unit. Drawing the 1943 picture took a bit of researching to get right, though I may have made a few mistakes on the PBY landing gear. But the flight suit, A-2 jacket adorned with both "Fifi" and the golden carabao head insigna of the Philippine Division and her very 1940's hairstyle are all accurate.

Mariveles, Bataan Province, Philippines

This metal 'Soldier's Grave' is part of the Death March Memorial at Kilometer 0, where the march began in Mariveles. An identical sculpture is on Corregidor as well. We found this by accident, we were driving to the bancay boats to get to Corregidor when we missed our turn. I noticed the Death March marker we passed said "2 km" on it, so I asked our driver if he could go another two kilometers before turning around. Sure enough two kilometers down the road, across the the beach and nestled in a quiet little park next to a Jollibee fast food restuarant was the Death March Kilometer 0 Memorial Park.


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