One more Kilometer!

Posted by Rebekah
Aug 20 2010

The men woke to the aroma of a chicken, simmering in coconut milk and rice over a fire.  The village had few chickens, and according to Jacobson “[they were] so thin and run-down that in the United States, you probably couldn’t have even given it away.”

But in this village, reliant of farming rice, fishing, and hunting for their food, the serving of these chickens was a huge sacrifice and an indication of the status they accorded the Flier survivors.  The dinner was amazing (especially after a diet of rice and coconut for so long) and they were served wild honey for dessert.

Captain Crowley discovered that even here in the wilderness of the Philippines, he wasn’t free of military paperwork.  Paper was so valuable in this area since no more had been delivered since the fall of the Philippines, but Sarmiento had to make his own report to his military superiors, so the names and serial numbers of all the Flier swere duly recorded and sent ahead, but not the name of their boat.

After a drink from the local creek, and a gift to the guerillas of some rice from the villagers, the group set off, continuing north.  Sarmiento had already sent people ahead to arrange lunch at another village.  He told the Fliers this, hoping to encourage them to move a little faster.  After a couple hours staggering around on their ruined feet, someone asked “How far is it to this village?”  “About a kilometer” was the answer.

After yet another hour of limping along, someone else asked, “How far?”  “Just another kilometer”

And again,  “HOW far?”  “Just another kilometer!”

They got the next next village and they had another new experience: blue rice.

Googling Blue Rice leads to some pictures of overly vivid dyed blue rice. But naturally blue rice is real, and apparently native to Indonesia, Malaysia and, according the Jacobson, southwest Philippines. This photo has not be colorized on altered by me, and the recipe you're looking at can be found here.

Al, by this time, was enjoying the different rices he was being fed: with fish, with chicken, with honey, brown, white, blue, there seemed to be no end to it.  For the rest of his life, while he couldn’t stand the smell or taste of coconut, he still loved rice.  The never ending rice had a different effect on at least one other member of the survivors though.  Lt. Liddell never ate rice again for the rest of his life.  His son Kirk recalled hearing his father say, “I ate that stuff enough during the war, I won’t eat it again.”

After thanking their hosts, they left again and kept going north, with the typical question “How far?”  receiving the now-expected reply.  It was becoming a joke among the group.

They stumbled on a village of one hut and one man later in the afternoon, and he insisted that they stop and share a meal with him.  Sarmiento was worried about the time, but they stopped and ate with him, and excused themselves as soon as it was polite.

They finally reached the mouth of Bugsuk’s river near sunset, and had just enough time to board and push off.  Sarmiento was not intending on accompanying them past Bugsuk, but Sula LaHud, the owner of the boat, spoke no English at all, and the Fliers didn’t speak the local dialect.   At the Flier’s request, Sarmiento decided to join them to act as a translator.

So they pushed off and headed out to sea again, bound for Palawan, the major island in this area.  The one the Japanese had established (what would become) one of the most notorious prison camps in the Pacific.

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