A visit to one of the most historic islands in the Philippines
06.18.2006 - 06.18.2006 32 °C
At the mouth of the Manila Bay lies one of the most historically-rich island in the Philippines. And I was very glad to be able to set foot on this tadpole shaped island that had once become Manila's last stand during the World War II. It is the 'Rock' on Manila Bay, Corregidor.
Corregidor, or the 'corrector' in Spanish, served as the first stop for galleon ships seeking entry to Manila. Trader's had to aboard the island to have their cargoes checked before being allowed to dock the port of Manila. Since then this island had become an important first line of defense for Manila. In the early 1900s, the island was used by the American forces as one of their army posts in defense of the region specially during the WWII.
On June 18 of 2006, I together with two other colleagues and an American client and friend was given the opportunity of visiting this historic place. It was our tradition in our office to take time to tour our American visitors to different destinations near Manila. And, I was always asked to come as I was the most organized in the group to arrange trips. Maybe because I love to travel.
Anyways, I booked ourselves with Sun Cruises which mainly offers daily trips to the island. Inclusive of the ferry transport, buffet lunch, travel tours, and entrance fees, their Day package costs P1,999. Their main terminal can be found at CCP Terminal A at the Cultural Center of the Philippines (CCP) Complex, Manila. Their daily trips leave the terminal every 8:00 am, but passengers are advised to come in at least 30mins prior especially if their checking in some luggages for overnight tours.
And so, we picked up our American friend from her hotel at Shangri-La Makati around 6:30am and drove to CCP to catch our trip. At around 7:30 we were asked to board the ferry. The ferry is similar to what SuperCat uses which is airconditioned and is a fast-craft. The ferry ride is about an hour long and many of the passengers on board were tourists from different countries. Prior to leaving port, safety regulations were broadcasted on its TV screens. During the ride, continually the TV screens flash different Philippine tourism ads that I haven't seen anywhere yet.
At around 9:00 am, we dock on Corregidor which is part of the province of Cavite. And when we alight the ferry, we were escorted to ride on four trams which looked like jeepneys but have seats that not parallel to each other. On each tram, a tour guide is assigned to us. A separate tram was alloted for the Japanese tourists for a Japanese speaking guide. Another tram was alloted for a big group of Malaysian tourists on that day as well. And so, the remaining two trams were for the other visitors that are English-speaking. Well this is one of the first domestic trip that I took that I really felt like a tourists like I was visiting a foreign destination.
The tram ride was provided for all guests to allow tourists to see most of the island which is divided into 3 section, the Topside, Middleside, and the Bottomside or the tail end. We began the trip from the Middleside section at the South Dock. And from there we start our trip to the Topside section. We first stopped by McArthur Park to commemorate the return of General Douglas McArthur to the Philippines to fight against the Japanese during WWII. The park has a monument of McArthur waving his arm in his arrival to the Philippines. Then next we stopped on a high point with a view of the bay and Caballo island. A view of El Fraile, also known as Fort Drum which is an armored island made by the Americans is on sight.
Next stop is a memorial for the Philippine revolution, I forgot what it was called but its a white and low structure with bronze murals in front depicting events of the Philippine revolution. Also it had the monument of Manuel Quezon in the center. Inside it is a museum. It has a miniature of the whole island to give visitors an idea of topography of the place.
Then afterwards, our tram proceeded to the Japanese memorial where cannons that date back the war period are positioned facing the open sea. It also has a big statue of a lady Buddha. After these we head to the main tunnel of the island. A tunnel network was dug in the island to provide shelter from bombs dropped to the island. The main tunnel is known as the Malinta Tunnel and on this tunnel they feature a light and sound show featuring the events that occurred during WWII on the island. At this point, tourists who have paid for the show are asked to come down the tram. And since we were already there, we paid an addition P150 each for the show. When it was time to get in, we all lined up to slowly enter the dark, humid tunnel. The tourist guides had to wait for the gate to be closed before proceeding with the show. Inside they have human figures to depict each event supported by lights and sound. The whole tunnel is about 200 meters long and it was very humid then so we were sweating all through the show. They also showed a portion of a tunnel inside the tunnel that leads to other networks of tunnels, some have already collapsed. According to our guide, for night tours they enter these network tunnels.
After that sweaty show, we now proceeded to have our buffet lunch on the other end of the tunnel. We were brought by our tram to the hotel at a high point with views of tunnel and the see. We were served with a sumptous set of meals from roast beef to vegetables.
After lunch, our tram tour brought us to the spot where the big cannons are located. These big cannons are housed in structures that are not scarred by bullets shot by Japanese planes. On this spot, we took the chance of taking picture of this big cannons, climbing on them to show how big they are compared to us. There is their biggest cannon on the island which is about 30 feet long in my estimate or even longer. And beside the cannon is a big crater which our guide said was made by bomb dropped by planes. On our way to this battle station, we have also passed by ruins of two barracks that were damaged by the war.
And next we come by the more famous spot on the island, the ruins of the Mile Long Barracks, which as its name says is a mile-long barracks for soldiers. This was damaged and burned during the war. And on that site is an area where you'd see other ruins of the barracks of officers as well including a theater. Our tram took a longer stop on this site since another memorial is also situated here, the Pacific War Memorial.
At the entrance of the Pacific War Memorial is a monument depicting a Filipino soldier helping a wounded American soldier. This commemorates the united effort of the Philippine and American forces against the invading Japanese Empire. Then inside is a dome shaped structure with an hole in the center and a circular table in the middle also to commemorate the war casualties. In this memorial, names of the soldiers who died in the war are listed on the walls. and on the south end is a monument depicting a flame. The south end also has the view of the tail end of the island. After that we passed by the Spanish Lighthouse before heading back to the port for our trip back to Manila.
Overall, it was a great experience to set foot on such a historic island and to experience being a tourist in my own country.
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