Corregidor Island a.k.a. the Rock. Guardian of Manila Bay. Final resting place of Filipinos, Americans, Japanese, soldiers and civilians, heroes and conquerors.
Located 26.6 miles west of Manila at the opening of Manila Bay, the strategically located island stood its ground for five months before it fell to the Japanese in World War II. It sheltered then President Manuel Quezon before he left for the United States, was under the command of Gen. Douglas MacArthur before he was reassigned to Australia and fell valiantly after being isolated for months under General Wainright.
I’ve been meaning to go to this historic place for some time now. Its funny that this tadpole-shaped island, just an hour by boat from Manila, does not receive as much attention compared to other tourist areas despite being so near to the metro. There are no public ferries that service the island and all trips are arranged by Sun Cruises beside the Folk Arts Theater. There are two options for the day tour: (1) a walking tour inclusive of ferry transfers, packed lunch, entrance fees and guide for 1688 or (2) a tramvia tour inclusive of ferry transfers, buffet lunch, entrance fees and guide for 2200. Overnight stays whether in the Corregidor Inn or by tent are also possible for additional fees along with other activities found on their website. In our case, we were able to get the tramvia tour for half the price from Deal Grocer. We wanted to go in November but all Saturday trips were already full so we had our trip scheduled on Dec. 1 instead. So if you plan on visiting Corregidor, its advisable to reserve a slot online or purchase your tickets at SM ticketing outlets.
Normally, the day trip starts at 8 AM but because of a Corregidor Half Marathon, the trip was moved to 1130 AM. We arrived at the island by 1245 PM and were shuttled to the Corregidor Inn for our buffet lunch. It wasn’t the most diverse buffet spread by any means but the food was cooked well (except for their mushroom soup which tasted more like butter) and the drinks were refreshing.After which our guide, Roberto, rang the bell signalling the start of our historical tour.
We started off at the Malinta Tunnel, the command center and most secure location of the island. There is an optional 30 minute Lights and Sounds show for 150 Php that summarizes the key events in World War II involving Corregidor Island. This includes sculptures, video clips and a few sound effects but if you’re a first time visitor then its advisable to view the show if only to walk through the island’s tunnel fortress. You can see that some of the lateral tunnels have already collapsed from the literal smoking out of the remaining Japanese soldiers during the retaking of Corregidor. If you’re an overnight visitor you can also avail of the night lateral tunnels tour, very creepy.
From Malinta Tunnel, we passed by the Middleside Barracks where the Filipino and low-ranking American soldiers stayed during the war. Large portions have already collapsed but the skeleton of the structure still remains. After some photo-ops we arrived at the Battery Way, showcasing 4 intact mounted cannons. Of all the different batteries visited, this is probably the most intact although bomb craters are also visible here.
The next stop would be Battery Hearn where the longest ranged cannon was situated, capable of firing a target 17 miles away. Right beside the mounted cannon was a large bomb crater which narrowly missed its target.
Moving from Middleside to Topside, we passed by the world’s longest barracks at the time, the Mile Long Barracks. Here is where the higher ranked American soldiers stayed where the temperature was cooler. The buildings found here were once a single structure but after the Japanese takeover, they separated it into three segments. In front of the barracks is a large open field with a Helipad and nearby are the Officers Quarters, the Cinema, and (recently) the Pacific War Memorial.
Before checking out the Pacific War Memorial we took a detour into the Old Spanish Lighthouse. This has excellent views of the surrounding portions of Manila Bay, Bataan to the North and Cavite to the South (of which Corregidor is a part). Souvenir shops are located in the plaza of the lighthouse as well as a distance marker to several countries.
As the sun was starting to set, we were able to look at some artifacts from the Pacific War Memorial Museum including a copy of the surrender document signed by Gen. Wainright. We then visited the actual memorial with an altar surrounded by a circular dome. Tip: the tour guides say that every May 6 at 12 noon, the sunlight hits the altar perfectly, illuminating the inside of the memorial perfectly. This happens to coincide with the date of surrender to the Japanese. At the far end of the memorial, there is a sculpture of the Eternal Flame overlooking the tail end of the island.
After the Pacific War Memorial, we visited Battery Crockett, the last of the batteries in the tour, where two “disappearing guns” were housed. These were large cannons that were retracted behind the fortifications, masking their locations from the enemy.
The last two sites on our list were the Japanese memorial and the Filipino memorial located in the tail end of Corregidor. The Japanese memorial was only recently rediscovered in 1986 when a veteran took pity on the Japanese who have been searching for the burial site of their soldiers for the past 40 years. The Americans had buried 4500 Japanese soldiers in a mass grave on this site and concealed the location since the end of the war.
The Filipino memorial on the other hand chronicles the different events in Philippine history leading to our independence. Several murals depict the events around a shrine to the fallen Filipino soldiers.
We were then informed by Roberto that the ferry would be delayed for and a half so we were taken to Corregidor Inn until it arrived. It was around 830 PM when we arrived in Manila, having spent literally half the day in the island stronghold of Manila Bay. Everybody on the ferry was tired but satisfied from the amazing experience on our version of the Rock.
To get to Sun Cruises Ferry Terminal, take the LRT1 to Vito Cruz and go down on the side of De LaSalle University but walk away from it and take the first corner on the right. Walking along this road, you’ll reach the queue of the orange jeepneys which go around the CCP Complex. Ask to be dropped off at the Folk Arts Theater near the Coconut Palace and you should be able to see signs directing you to Sun Cruises.