a 1-hour ferry ride from Manila bay to the southwestern part of Luzon, takes you back to the days when the Philippines has been fighting for freedom and emancipation. Visiting Isla ng Corregidor evokes nostalgia of the Second World War, where looking at the dilapidated barracks and traces of artillery gives you an instant pass to reconnect with your history.
The deserted island is now a place for visitors from all walks of life, from bikers, photographers, tourists or just people with a knack for history, Corregidor has something to offer to everyone.
The tranvia, a 28-seater cable car, has become the primary means of transportation for people visiting the island, providing them with easier access to its four sections. This type of transportation has also been widely used in the island during World War II.
Battery way comprises of a battery of four 12-inch mortars named after Lieutenant Henry Way of the 4th US Artillery.
South beach gives visitors a different perspective of Corregidor Island, far from how it has been viewed before. This side has evolved with the modernity of times offering contemporary leisure activities such as biking, camping, and kayaking.
The old barracks, situated at different strategic areas all over Corregidor, is probably one of the sights that truly hits the heart. Thoughts of bombs dropping from the air, mercilessly crushing anything it lands on and obliterating everything in its way, will bring chills up your spine; the grief strongly palpable.
The Mile-long barracks located at the topside section of the island, is actually just less than a third of a mile long. The three- storey infrastructure became known as the world’s longest military barracks that housed the quarters of American officers and enlisted personnel.
Going inside the Malinta tunnel, squinting your eyes for better focus, everything else left to your imagination, infuses different emotions. Thoughts of the past and realizing the purpose this tunnel served, creates certain level of anxiety, but being there, seeing how it has been preserved and how everything becomes tangible leaves one in awe. It was a bomb-proof storage facility and personnel bunker, that later became the underground hospital for the wounded soldiers.
The Philippines, a country with majority of its population embracing Catholicism, exudes remarkable faith in the island even in the pre-war era. Right at the middle of the island stands a simple church known as the “San Jose Church”, witnessing the irony of times, from the violence of the past to the tranquility of the present.
The Pacific War Memorial can be seen at Corregidor’s highest point. It consists of a complex with a memorial dome, a museum, and a freedom monument. It was built by the government of the United States to honor the American and Filipino servicemen who engaged in the Pacific War. Outside of the memorial, a huge marker is found with the following words engraved, “Erected to the Filipino and American fighting men who gave their lives to win the land, sea and
air victories, which restored freedom and peace to the Pacific Ocean Area”.
Cine Corregidor was a recreactional facility for the soldiers and their families. It is located on the left side entrance of the Pacific War Memorial Complex, and was built before the World War II broke out. They say the last movie shown here was “Gone with the Wind”, starring Clark Gable and Vivien Leigh Moore.
The Memorial Dome has an oculus which allows sunlight through to the circular altar underneath. Every first week of May, at exactly 12 noon, the circular marble altar is directly lit by the sun, the 6th of the month and the anniversary of the fall of Corregidor. During this time, visitors are requested to offer a moment of silence to remember the day Corregidor and the Philippines fell into the hands of the Japanese, and to commemorate the courage the soldiers exhibited over 72 days of continuous bombing. Around the altar’s edges, these lines are inscribed, “Sleep, my sons, your duty done, for freedom’s light has come; sleep in the silent depths of the sea, or in your bed of hallowed sod, until you hear at dawn the low, clear reveille of God.”
The Eternal Flame of Freedom is a solar-powered steel sculpture, designed by Aristides Demetrios, to symbolize undying liberty. It serves as a reminder of the determination and courage of the Filipinos and Americans in their fight for freedom.
Faro de Isla Corregidor, or Corregidor Lighthouse, was first established in 1853 to guide trading ships to the entrance of Manila Bay on their way to the port of Manila. It is one of the oldest structures in Corregidor and served as an observation platform for military purposes during World War II. At present, visitors are allowed to climb the lighthouse up to the viewing deck to take a look at the expanse of the island including parts of South China Sea, Manila Bay, Bataan, Cavite, and Batangas. It is the only remaining functional structure on the entire island of Corregidor.
The markers at the lighthouse depict the distances of different places from Corregidor. 693 miles from Hongkong, 1,719 miles from Tokyo, 1,497 miles from Singapore, 3,044 miles from Sydney, 6,672 miles from Madrid, and 6,972 miles from San Francisco.
Corregidor may be reminiscent of the grief brought about by the war, but it was through this war that peace and freedom was restored. Despite this feeling of sadness, Corregidor remains a beacon of strength and courage, a symbol of freedom and the resilience of the Filipino people; something that will never be forgotten.
Corregidor Island, also known as “The Rock” for its rocky landscape and heavy fortifications, fall under the jurisdiction of Cavite City. The tadpole-shaped island is divided into four sections: topside, middleside, bottomside and tailside.
Text – Dane Raymundo
Photography – Lisandro Molina and M Espeña