After learning all about World War II in Hong Kong it’s time to go back to my roots and learn World War II in the Philippines. In Manila there are three places where one can learn all about the deadliest war in all of humankind: Intramuros, Bataan, and Corregidor. I have been to Intramuros many times and the experience is somewhat lacking, I haven’t been to Bataan yet, and it’s been years since I last visited Corregidor. Going back to Corregidor more than a decade later is quite a refreshing experience. This time I was a bit more adventurous and a lot more knowledgeable.
My journey to Corregidor began in the Mall of Asia’s seaside esplanade, where the Sun Cruises have moved from their old offices in CCP to their new swanky digs. At around 7:30, my officemates and I boarded one of Sun Cruises fast craft ship that would take us 42kms to the island of Corregidor. After the prerequisite Filipino time departure and safety instructions, we were on our way to Corregidor. An island among three other islands that make up Manila’s coastal defense from 1922-1945. When we arrived at 9am, we were greeted by tramvias that would take us to the different parts of Corregidor: topside, middle side, and tail side.
As we rode the tramvia to the different batteries around the island, our tour guide shared the history of Corregidor. From its start as a corrigimiento during the time of the Spaniards to its eventual transformation to a fort. While listening to the spiel of our tour guide, I noticed that she didn’t just focus on World War II but the whole concept of colonization.
At different points in the tour our guide would give us time to walk around the batteries, memorials, and destroyed structures. The time increments were usually long enough for me to take snapshots but not a lot of time to fully explore. Being a guided tour, we were part of a larger tour group and the sites can get pretty crowded quickly. There were moments I would try and test my mettle and enter the abandoned and very claustrophobic structures. Cold, dark, and the perpetual fear that this would be the day when the ceiling would crash on top of me, entering these abandoned places gave me a sense of what it was like during the height of Japanese/American bombardment.
By lunch time, our tour guide dropped us off at Corregidor Inn for lunch. After having read some blogs about how terrible the inn’s buffet lunch was, I had my reservations. Served pandan juice as a refresher, I loaded my plate with as much protein (chicken and gyudon) and carbs (pasta Alfredo) and hoped for the best. I was actually surprised with the food, plain by a lot of standards but good enough and a far cry from what I’ve read in blogs (canned food, small serving sizes). The inn must have changed their chef after having received poor reviews from visitors.
With lunch out of the way, we visited the last few memorials on the island and proceeded to the oft-mentioned Malinta Tunnel. The tunnel stretches nearly a kilometer long with laterals at different points branching off into other parts of the island. Inside the tunnel a 30 minute lights and sound show chronicling the last days of resistance, occupation and reoccupation of different forces.
From sunrise to near sunset, a tour in Corregidor takes its visitors from barracks, batteries, and memorials. The experience was meaningful since I expected to learn about World War II but ended up with little snippets of information from across all three colonizers.
Corregidor Island tour is operated by Sun Cruises. You may check out information about their tour packages in their website.