The 50th anniversary of Martinez resident Nancy Boyd's death in a plane crash while on Peace Corps assignment in the Philippines is marked with a gathering at noon Saturday, March 2, at Nancy Boyd Park, at the corner of Church Street and Pleasant Hill Road East, Martinez. Some of Boyd's classmates from the Alhambra High class of 1960 will be there.
Nancy Andal Recalls Peace Corps Service With Nancy Boyd
By Harriett Burt
They were known in Mabini as Nancy One and Nancy Two, recalls Nancy Andal. Paired with Nancy Ann Boyd in training at San Jose State and on assignment as teachers in a village on the Philippine island of Mindanao, Nancy Ann Foral Andal looks back fondly on the six months she shared a house and a Peace Corps experience with the Martinez resident.
The numeral designation arose from the fact that Andal was 22 while Boyd was only 20 but both had been galvanized enough by President John F. Kennedy’s call to service to take a break from college to go serve the world. In June 1962, Andal arrived at San Jose State from her hometown, Doylestown, Pennsylvania, outside Philadelphia. She and Boyd and the rest of Peace Corps Philippines Group 7 entered an intensive 600-hour training program – 10 hours a day, 6.5 hours a day with only Sunday afternoons off.
When the pair arrived in Mabini, near Davao, on Sept. 1, they were the first Americans many of the villagers had seen since the war. They settled into a small house made out of Philippine mahogany, a luxury in the United States, but ordinary construction material there.
In a letter quoted in the Contra Costa Gazette after her death, Boyd wrote about her new home:
“I live in a small wooden house (16 x 16) with another PCV (Peace Corps Volunteer) who is named Nancy and comes from Pennsylvania. We have no electricity, no running water, a kerosene stove (which we have to pump and forever has something wrong with it) and of course no glass in the windows.
“We do, however, have screens on the windows to keep some of the bugs out, but they aren’t much help in keeping out the cockroaches, the biggest and ugliest spiders I’ve ever seen, ants of all sizes and other odds and ends I try not to get close enough to for identification.”
Andal adds that at their request, villagers installed plywood across the roof beams to keep the rats out at night. There was also a “closed system toilet” a short walk away from the house that wasn’t just a hole in the ground but was shared with neighbors who gathered each morning to watch the teachers take their "morning walk”.
As one of the earliest groups of PCVs sent on assignment, the training and preparation for their living and work conditions was sparse, Andal notes.
“Training was at San Jose State with air conditioning and a salad bar. Later they sent trainees to Hawaii that was more similar in climate,” Andal says wryly.
“They (Peace Corps officials) didn’t give us the right medicines; they didn’t tell us how to eat. When we first arrived, we were eating dried chicken soup and canned cheese.” Then a local family whose father had been to the United States in the 1920s took the pair under its wing and the mother showed them what they could safely eat and how to prepare it.
Another challenge was that they had been taught the wrong dialect of for Mabini as PC officials weren’t apparently aware that there are 87 different dialects in the Philippines.
Also, Andal recalls “we were the first Americans to settle in the area other than missionaries. It was such a novelty to have two such young Americans in their village. They were stunned that we would go there by ourselves without a companion…to think that our parents would let us go there to begin with.”
The early experiences by PCVs such as Andal and Boyd caused the Peace Corps to change much of its training and to assign volunteers to a host family at their posting for a short period to become acclimated to the location, the culture and, of course, food preparation.
But before long, the volunteers had established their routine and more importantly their relationship to villagers and to their students. They also appreciated their surroundings. Boyd taught at the Mabini General Elementary School next door to their quarters. Andal taught in a school three miles outside of the village.
Boyd’s enthusiasm and love of children won over the hearts of the villagers, Andal writes in a letter to be read on Saturday. So the shock of her death struck deeply into the village as well as Andal.
“The Peace Corps gave me absolutely no support,” she remembers. In fact, her own parents in Pennsylvania did not know for 48 hours which of the two Nancys had died when the DC3 crashed into a mountain during a thunder storm. Andal herself was expected to take the same flight a month later. Besides the emotional effect of that, the pilots knew who she was and kept inviting her up to the cockpit during the trip to talk about Boyd when all she wanted them to do was to pay attention to flying the DC-3.
Because PCVs were not allowed to live alone it appeared that Andal would be transferred out of Mabini after the tragedy. But love intervened. She had fallen in love with the local doctor, Andres Andal and they were planning to marry at the end of her posting in March, 1964. But with her parents’ permission, they married June 1, 1963 at his alma mater, Santo Tomas University in Manila. So she continued her teaching assignment and also served as his assistant in the clinic helping to persuade the villagers to come to the trained doctor instead of the local magicians and medicine men.
Boyd’s parents, Paul and Dorothy, came to the Philippines during that time as the guests of the Philippine government. Nancy’s father gave a touching speech at the opening of a memorial lending library established in their daughter’s honor in Mabini. The library, however, no longer exists because, Andal explains, there is no cultural concept of ‘borrowing’ or ‘lending’. If something is offered to you, it is seen by both parties as a gift. Consequently, villagers each took a book to remember Nancy Boyd which effectively closed the library. That seems fitting somehow.
Nancy Andal returned to America in March, 1964 with a new husband and a baby on the way. They stopped in Martinez for a brief visit with the Boyds. Nancy One was offered Nancy Two’s bedroom in which to sleep. When the door was opened, she was amazed to see that her Peace Corps friend had exactly the same Sears and Roebuck bedspread and curtain set as she had had growing up across the continent.
Dr. Andal took the required examinations and internships to qualify as an anesthesiologist in the Philadelphia area where he practiced until retirement. They have two sons.
Andal raised their boys and went back to college graduating with a political science degree. She hashad a varied career owning an antique shop. She also taught for awhile and worked for a radio station besides volunteering as a Head Start, organizing a day care in Providence, Rhode Island and her current job, volunteering at Fonthill Museum in Doylestown. She says her husband remarks to this day about all the volunteering she does to which she retorts “what was I doing when you met me?”
Asked how the Peace Corps experience impacted her, Andal replies, “the Peace Corps changed your life. Like many people, you felt like you got more out of it than you gave. It raised our cultural awareness. I don’t know how many presentations I’ve given in schools, especially right after I got back, sharing the Peace Corps experience.”
She is especially proud of the fact that the John F. Kennedy Library, seeking letters from early PCVs because the Corps had destroyed most of the early records because of lack of room to store them, was thrilled to receive her 160 letters from Mabini to her parents and grandparents.
The last word on the Mabini adventure comes from one of Boyd’s letter home that Contra Costa Gazette editor Bill Sharkey used in Column One on the Monday after her death:
“When the moon is full and it rises over the mountains and it shines down through the coconut trees, I can’t believe it is real; I feel I must be dreaming. And no mere human can describe the feel of a warm tropical evening. One must live it to truly know the calm and peace of it.”
Although Nancy One will not be able to attend Saturday’s event at Nancy Boyd Park, she has sent a short letter to be read in Nancy Two’s honor. Letters from Will Newman will also be read and Alhambra Class of 1960 classmate Sally Sullenger who joined the Peace Corps before Boyd will speak as will Mayor Rob Schroder. Classmate and close friend Sally Snook DiLipkau will read from Boyd’s letters home. Rob Goldstein, a returned PCV will also speak along with Peace Corps representatives. The public is welcome and invited to bring their own chairs and a picnic lunch if they would like.
For more information, contact Donna DiBetta (925-408-8050), email@example.com, Carol Hatch, firstname.lastname@example.org, Sharon Viano, email@example.com, Ana Marie Avila Farias, firstname.lastname@example.org or Rob Goldstein, email@example.com.