December 29 – 30, 2012
We went to the historic island of Corregidor last December 29 aboard one of Sun Cruises’s ferries and arrived there at around nine o’ clock in the morning.
Upon arriving, we went on a tramvia, which was a replica of the trolleys which were used during the American occupation of the Philippines as the main method of transportation in Corregidor. We toured Corregidor Island on the tramvia with a witty tour guide named Rowena.
The first spot we went to on Corregidor was Lorcha Dock, where General Douglas MacArthur left for Australia on March 1942 aboard the Motor Torpedo Boat PT-41. Our tour guide told us that MacArthur didn’t say the famous words, “I shall return,” in the Philippines; he said those words when he was already in Australia. We took a few pictures there before leaving.
Along the way to our next stop, we saw these caves and tunnels that were made by the Japanese as bomb shelters, hideouts and storage spaces.
We went to the Filipino Heroes Memorial next, where there were murals depicting battles fought by Filipinos. There were also statues of heroes and Pres. Manuel Luis Quezon there.
Next, we went to the Japanese Garden of Peace, a memorial to the Japanese soldiers who died in Corregidor. There was also a Buddha fertility statue there, as well as some anti-aircraft guns.
We went to Malinta Tunnel next, a very historical spot because that was where Manuel L. Quezon and Sergio Osmena were inaugurated during their second term as President and Vice-President of the Philippine Commonwealth Government, respectively, and where MacArthur stayed prior to his escape to Australia. There was a light and sound show in the tunnel that portrayed many events during World War II. At times there was absolute darkness and loud, simulated explosions, but to his credit my brother Gian, who is sensitive to noise, didn’t seem to mind those.
We had lunch after visiting Malinta Tunnel at the Corregidor Inn’s La Playa restaurant. The food there was good enough, but nothing special.
The Corregidor Inn, the only hotel in Corregidor
After lunch, we saw some of the destroyed barracks on the way to our next destination, Battery Way. (The barracks were named after the places where they were built. The barracks we saw on the way to the battery were called the Middleside Barracks.) Battery Way was pretty cool, with its four giant 12-inch guns. We took pictures there with the guns.
My Mom with the Middleside Barracks at the background
The 12-inch refers to the diameter of the barrel
After that, we went to Battery Hearn, where the biggest gun of them all was located. It wasn’t just big, it was humongous. However, the gun was rendered almost useless because it was meant to defend against naval enemies, but the Japs attacked from the air and therefore it wasn’t able to do much. When the Japanese finally succeeded in taking Corregidor, they took a propaganda picture with the captured gun at Battery Hearn and spread the picture throughout the country to discourage the Filipinos and Americans soldiers, who were still fighting.
After visiting Battery Hearn, we stopped at the ruins of the Mile Long Topside Barracks. It wasn’t really a part of the tour, but our tour guide was nice enough to let us go down there and explore the ruins. The Mile Long Barracks were said to be the biggest barracks in the world during its time. It had a pool, a bowling alley, pool tables and much more. With all those luxuries, it would seem like it was better to be a soldier at the time than now, i.e., it was better if you also didn’t mind being bombed and fired at everyday and staying in caves and tunnels with absolutely no light at times.
Rowena then told us part of the story of how Corregidor was retaken by Fil-Am forces. In front of the Mile Long Barracks, there was this helipad surrounded by flat grounds. The Japs thought that the Americans couldn’t attack from the air because of their defenses and because there were no flat grounds big enough for landing planes. They didn’t expect the Americans to use parachutes (which the latter did). The Americans used parachutes to land on that helipad undetected, and they used the element of surprise to help them take back Corregidor, despite being heavily outnumbered.
Parachute Drop Zone A
A Memorial to the Rock Force who liberated Corregidor
Next, we went to the Pacific War Memorial. There was a museum there with various things from World War II, from weapons to letters, dog tags, models of planes and ships used during the war, personal belongings of the soldiers who served at the time and many more. We didn’t stay there for long, though.
We went back outside and took pictures with some old guns before going farther into the war memorial. Twelve major battles were written on its walls. There was also this dome with a hole on top where sunlight could pass through. There was a marble altar at the center of the dome. Rowena told us that for three consecutive years, on May 6, the sunlight shone directly on the altar. It never happened again after those three consecutive years. This was significant because Corregider fell into the hands of the Japanese for three years beginning May 6, 1942.
We went to the Eternal Flame of Freedom next, a big metal structure shaped like, well, a flame. Also, behind the Eternal Flame, there was a nice view of the tail of Corregidor Island and a few other provinces.
We went to the Spanish Lighthouse next. It wasn’t the original lighthouse, since the original one had been destroyed in the war. Mama and Gian didn’t climb to the top, since there were no stairs but steep ladders when we got to the higher parts of the lighthouse. It was windy at the top. We had a view of the island and other neighboring islands and provinces like at the Eternal Flame of Freedom. That was the last destination for the tour.
We went back to Corregidor Inn and rested there for a while. We had connecting rooms there. My parents stayed in one room and I and my brother stayed in another. We rested for a while, and then went out on foot to explore some of the island. We first went back to Lorcha Dock to take pictures with the MacArthur statue there.
We just followed the road after we left Lorcha Dock. We met these two Americans, a mother and her son, near Lorcha Dock. We chatted for a while, mainly about where we lived. Our walk was rather uneventful. We went back to the hotel and almost immediately went back out again for the night tour.
Our new tour guide was named George. Our first stop for the night trip was at Battery Grubbs. We had the sunset viewing there. The place itself was really nice. It had a great view of the neighboring islands. It was calm there and there was a nice, cool wind blowing. The sunset was very nice to watch, too.
After that, we went to the ruins of the original hospital on Corregidor. It was pretty big and dark, since it was almost nightfall. It didn’t have a creepy atmosphere, though. George showed us where the rooms used to be, such as the emergency room, the operation room, and the bathroom. It was a three-story building that was bombed by the Japanese even though bombing a hospital was prohibited by the Geneva Convention.
After visiting the hospital, we went back to Malinta Tunnel for the ghost-hunting activity, the last activity for the night. Mama and Gian didn’t come with us, because it was too dark and dangerous for my brother. Actually, there were no ghosts. It was just a tour of the lateral tunnels of Malinta Tunnel. At first, the tunnel was really rocky. There was no concrete at first, only pure rock. It was actually pretty cool there. It was definitely something you don’t see everyday. At times we had to duck in order to be able to pass, but at times the ceiling was several feet high. In the lateral tunnels, we found air passageways, a makeshift hospital, a lot of hermit crabs, MacArthur’s old office and his escape route, a charred Japanese bone, old typewriters, telephones and many other things. Twice, we turned off all our flashlights. When we did, there was absolute darkness. George told us that the Filipino and American troops in the tunnel once experienced total darkness too when the Japanese knocked out the generators. Doctors and nurses had to operate on soldiers in the dark. Definitely not an experience I would like to have.
A charred bone of a Japanese. The Malinta Tunnel was not destroyed because of bombings from outside but rather from explosions inside the tunnel when 2,000 Japanese soldiers bombed themselves inside the tunnel rather than surrender.
After visiting Malinta Tunnel’s lateral tunnels, we went back to the hotel to have dinner. Dinner was good. We had sinugbang isda, manok and baboy (grilled fish, chicken and pork). We slept early that night.
The next day, we went to the Eternal Flame of Freedom again for the sunrise viewing. It was a bit chilly and windy that morning. We saw these big birds of prey flying up high. They got a lot of my attention since I very rarely see those kinds of birds. The sunrise was hard to see, because it was really bright, but it was nice anyway.
Next, we hiked through the forest to a Japanese tunnel. We passed some ruins along the way, where there was a gecko and a lot of gecko eggs. The tunnel was fine at first. We just needed to duck at the outer part of the tunnel. When we got deeper in the tunnel, there was this steep seventy-five degree flight of crude stone steps. Progress was slow, because to exit the tunnel we had to climb up on a ninety-degree ladder, and that was immediately after the stone steps. We all took our time on the ladder. We got out eventually, and we ended up still in the forest.
We walked and walked on the trail and passed some more ruins along the way. When we finally got out, we found ourselves at the Spanish Lighthouse. We rode a bus back to the hotel after that and had breakfast.
After eating, we had us dropped off at the Mile Long Topside Barracks. We took some pictures there, and then we walked to the Pacific War Memorial. We revisited the museum to spend more time reading about the exhibits. We had to go back to the hotel after that for lunch.
The trip to the hotel was a long one, and we had to walk all the way back there. We took a shortcut from the Topside Barracks to the Middleside Barracks through the 300 Steps. It was a really long staircase on the side of a hill. It was a long, slightly dangerous and slightly difficult descent to the middleside, where the Corregidor Inn was near. Even though it was a shortcut, the road to the hotel was very long. Knowing that, I walked quickly and I had to stop every once in a while to let my parents see that I was still in front of them because I was way ahead of them. I got to the hotel minutes before them. It was really tiring, but thankfully we didn’t have anything much to do after that long walk. We had lunch when we arrived at the Corregidor Inn, then packed up our things and went back home.
I had a great time in Corregidor. I also learned a lot of new things there, things I never would have learned if I just read my books. It was also peaceful and quiet there, and I enjoyed almost every activity. Even though it was one of our shortest trips, it’s one of my favorites.