I made a bull’s-eye landfall of Cape St. Augustine in the Philippines, and full of the joy of living I switched off the engine and circled the lighthouse in a steep spiralling glide. When level with the lighthouse I switched on the engine again. Nothing happened: the shock was like a stab from a red hot wire. I took in the lie of the water under me, and started manoeuvring to avoid the cliff beside me and to alight into wind. Then I looked at the switches and saw why the engine had cut; both switches were down, which meant that they were switched off. They must have dropped again as soon as my finger left them after switching on. I strapped them in the up position with the garter I used to hold the log-book on my knee, and flew on to Mati, my next port at the south-east corner of Mindanao.
Australia Map With Cities Photo Gallery
Time after time I circled the town or village, as it appeared to be, but could not see any buoy or launch, or even a boat. I was about to alight in the lee of the pier, when I jibbed, thinking that there was no water there at all. So I alighted well out in the channel and taxied in slowly, expecting to run aground, but was surprised to find, when I anchored, that there was 40 feet of clear water under me. A light breeze was blowing, but the heat in the hot sunshine was like the radiation from a red hot stove. There was a steamer tied up to the jetty unloading cargo. After an age a ship’s boat approached me from the side of the ship, sculled by a little brown man standing in the stern with a big oar. When only 10 yards off he was still coming down at full speed, in spite of my frantic shouts. I leant far out and caught the stem with both hands, and only then did he stop sculling and try to back paddle. I held off the bows and the stern swung to one side, when, catching the wind, it began swinging round fast to the wing. The trailing edge of the wing was too low for the boat to pass under. I waited until the boat was lined up with the wing’s leading edge, when I gave it a mighty shove. I only just saved myself from falling in after it, but the boat shot off under the wing, with the brown man ducking his head. He came alongside again more carefully and landed me at the pier steps. There was such a crowd of Filipinos that I could not make a passage through them. I stood helpless, until a handsome young Filipino dug a passage through the mob with his elbows and said breathlessly, ‘I am Chief Postmaster. When you leave? Doctor X wants you to take mail bag.’ I thought, ‘Damn Doctor X!’ but said, ‘I must get some petrol first.’
‘Petrol?’ he said as we swayed to and fro, jostled by the surging crowd. ‘There is no petrol here.’ I felt desperate; I knew Mati was cut off from the rest of the island except by steamer, but here was the steamer. It seemed incredible that there was no petrol. I asked again, ‘Have you no petrol at all?’
‘No, no petrol here.’
‘But your radio station! How do you work that?’
‘Press a key, just the same as for telegram.’ Just then three more Filipinos forced a passage through the crowd and strutted up. The Postmaster said quickly, ‘I introduce you to Chief of Public Works, to President-elect, and to Chief of Police.’
Public Works – petrol. I asked him about it, but the Chief Postmaster translated his reply, ‘No, no petrol here.’ I thought of trying the steamer, but it was impossible to force a passage, so I asked the Chief of Public Works to make an inquiry on board. I watched a man mount the gangway and speak to a brown officer. I said, ‘Where are the American officers of the ship?’
‘No American in Mati; all Filipino in Mati; Philippine island for Filipino.’
The messenger returned; the officer regretted that he had no petrol; could I not use gasoline instead?