Corregidor Island

I've always been interested in WWII history, I remember when I was a kid the only book I took to bed with me was the Number 29 of the Encyclopedia Britannica. It was the volume that contains all things, events, and famous people that starts with letter 'W'. I remember I've given the other entries on that volume a quick read or two however where I spent a lot of time reading was about the two major wars of the last century, World Wars I & II.

I've grown up wanting to visit the places mentioned prominently there, the concentration camp in Poland, Stalingrad - where Russians and German soldiers fought in a brutal battle and of course the war in Pacific and the Battle of the Philippines.

It made more special to learn that time, that It was in the Philippines where the Japanese met a truly difficult resistance, as a day or week after they bombed Pearl Harbor neighboring nations such as Singapore, Burma, Laos, Vietnam came folding down on their knees. Things turned out differently in the Philippines where after the initial Japanese attacks, both Americans and Filipino soldiers retreated to regroup in Bataan and the island fort of Corregidor. The ensuing battle on both Bataan and Corregidor became one of the most retold stories of war.

Last weekend my girlfriend Marianne and I went to Corregidor to finally realized what I wanted to do ever since. Given that the island lies a few kilometers off Manila Bay I really don't know why time kept passing and years gone by before I was able to plan a trip there. We took the Sun Cruises ferry docked at Manila Bay for an hour and a half ride on the calm waters towards the Bataan Peninsula. Corregidor is considered to be as part of Cavite but you can see the highlands of Bataan clearly on a sunny day.

Corregidor is a protected island operated by the Corregidor Foundation headed by Beth Day Romulo (the widow of Carlos P. Romulo) and the Department of Tourism and will continue to do so for 50 years starting in 1993, which is a good thing considering it has shielded the island from possible abuse that may happen if it was open to commercial and private ownership.

The forests were thick and lush, monkeys can be seen wandering around, different birds can be spotted which makes the island an ideal place for bird watching. It was a totally different sight compared to the aftermath of WWII when Corregidor was the site of burned forest, bombed buildings and other unimaginable destruction that made it as the second most bombed island during WWII (2nd only to Malta).


Upon arriving we boarded a tranvia which took us around the island and to the place where we're staying for the night, the Corregidor Inn. The tour guides are well trained and was very engaging in telling stories previously unknown to most visitors. As I've said, I came to Corregidor with an idea of its history, but still considered a broken knowledge of the place with bits and pieces of information from what I've read before. However with our guide's proper guidance I have learned more about the place, its history dating back to the Spanish period.


We went to the usual places like the Mile long barracks, the old or what used to be Corregidor cinema, the eternal flame park and the Pacific War Memorial and some of the batteries and guns located around the island such as Battery Hearn, Battery Way and Gearie to name a few.


We also went to the Malinta Tunnel, for what they call as "Light and Sound" show. This is recommended for those with limited knowledge of the history of Corregidor and is advisable for young students to experience as it briefly takes visitors on a 30 minute narrative of events prior, during and after WWII.


Visitors will see statues that depict the set-up of the tunnel during the war, a makeshift hospital, office of the officers including Gen. Douglas McArthur. I found out that on the other end of the tunnel while the Japanese were busy dropping bombs, Manuel Quezon and Sergio Osmena took their 2nd Presidential and Vice Presidential term oath.

During lunchtime we were taken to the restaurant of Corregidor Inn prior to checking in, where in part of the package for an overnight stay (PHP 2,500) was a buffet lunch. Corregidor Inn boasts of cozy rooms, simple wooden interiors, a pool and a beautiful view of the surrounding area. From our room balcony you can see the entrance to Malinta Tunnel.

In the afternoon we went around again and visited Kindley Air Field which the guide told us was the site of the Jabidah Massacre of 1968. It's another chapter in the history of Corregidor, a very infamous event that happened when a group of Muslim youth was recruited for a top secret military training. They used the hospital ruins as barracks. It was said that they were being trained for a secret mission that will try to attack and take Sabah from Malaysia back to the Philippines. When things got out in the open and military top brass wanted to cover up everything, the young Muslim recruits was lined up in Kindley Field and was shot to death. However a lone survivor was able to jump off a cliff and was rescued the next day by a fisherman.


We dropped by Japanese Memorial, yes a Japanese cemetery was also erected there as Japanese soldiers also fought bravely and to signify peace among the three nations of America, The Philippines and Japan it is rightfully also to honor the enemy who eventually became our friends and partner in peace today.


We tried to catch the sunset but it was a bit cloudy that afternoon. Before night fell we went to the Hospital ruins, a cross shaped former hospital at Corregidor. Even though the rules of war were imposed at the Geneva Convention stating such places should be spared from war time actions it wasn't spared from the Japanese air raids.


Written on the walls were the names of those killed in the Jabidah Massacre, written while they were still alive and using the ruins as their barracks back in 1968.


The front of the Hospital.


We went back to Malinta Tunnel, this time to walk through the various parts of the tunnel that included a number of lateral tunnels each served a purpose during WWII such as a makeshift 1,000 bed hospital which veteran Nurses describes as "walking through an inch deep of blood".


The tunnel was further damaged towards the end of the war when American and Filipino soldiers were close to retaking the whole of Corregidor, scores of remaining Japanese soldiers blew themselves up inside the tunnel. A human bone said to belong from a Japanese soldier still remains inside the tunnel.


We were made to turn off our flashlights and keep quiet to try to imagine what the American and Filipino soldiers experienced during the heat of Japanese air raids when they took out electricity on the island. All we see was pitch black darkness and the sound of water dripping from the walls of the tunnel. How glad I've felt that I'm living in this age of Peacetime.


We went back to Corregidor Inn to relax and kind of absorbed a day filled with history lessons. I found a new level of admiration to the generation who fought during the war. It is unimaginable enough to live in that condition and much more when one's life is at stake any second that passes by.

Next day before leaving, we just took a walk around the immediate parts of the Inn, we went to the nearby beach shore where unfortunately, trash coming from Manila are being carried by the Bay currents toward the Corregidor shore.


We saw a cute dog that we called "Seany" (Siony).


We again tried to catch the sun this time as it rise up but foggy clouds never allowed us. We then explored the Japanese tunnel, a short tunnel dug by the Japanese, the Spanish lighthouse that dates back to the Spanish time.


There it goes, our weekend trip to historic Corregidor where life was good before the war, worse during and then became a place that symbolizes freedom and courage afterward.