Date: May 12th 2014
I got up early and took a taxi to the Cultural Center of Philippines building. Today I was going to go to Corregidor island, used by US forces as a defense base and a key island in the Philippine battles against the Japanese in World War II.
This is the CCP building, close to Manila Bay
I got down behind the CCP building and walked towards the right
Eventually you come across signs pointing to the Sun Cruises office. Although the ferry leaves at 8am, you are asked to ‘check in’ by 7am or so.
If you want to do a tour of Corregidor island, you really don’t have much choice besides going via Sun Cruises. They have a monopoly over the ferry service to Corregidor island and tours conducted there. I paid ₱2200 (Rs.3000/$48/€38) for the day tour. I couldn’t find anything less from any other tour provider. You can get the fact sheet about the island here.
Sun Cruises offer cycle tours to Corregidor island too
We left the dock
I took this photo before departure, but it was pretty full by the time we left
The view of Manila skyline from sea
30 minutes later, I could see Corregidor island in the distance
During WW2, Corregidor island was seized by Japanese forces and used it to house American and Filipino POWs.
Corregidor island is now a preserved tourist attraction
For a tour around the island, we would be going in one of these train-like carriages, called a tranvia.
Once we were assigned into groups, we boarded our respective tranvias
She was our tour guide. Turns out, she’s part of the family that manages the trust looking after Corregidor island.
As pretty as the views were, it was scorching hot!
Throughout the island journey, you go uphill and downhill quite a few times
Corregidor island has a few private beaches
Bataan in the distance
Our first stop on the tour was at the Manuel Quezon Memorial Park. Manuel Quezon was the first Filipino president of the Philippines. (Philippines was a US colony)
The Filipino Heroes Memorial is also situated here
They have murals honouring the sacrifice of Filipino soldiers throughout many battles
There’s a mini-museum housed inside the structure the flag pole rests on
It housed some paintings, a collection of photos and other memorabilia
Many photos of Manuel Quezon and his family
I was back out again
After 30 minutes, we were asked to return to our tranvia
Next stop on the tour was at the Japanese Peace Garden
This was the currency used in Philippines during Japanese occupation
The Japanese Peace Garden has a shrine, and veterans and their families visit often to pay their tributes
I don’t know what this was
Imagine warships heading this way
I couldn’t roam around much
We headed back to our tranvias
From there we were driven to Malinta tunnel
Malinta tunnel was the last stronghold of the joint Philippine and American military prior to the Japanese takeover
We went in
They have set up bronze statues depicting what life was like for soldiers and other staff stationed inside this tunnel
The tunnel hospital
I can’t imagine what it must have been like to treat wounded soldiers in these conditions
A store room
That guy is real. He was dressed in garb similar to what the soldiers stationed inside the tunnel used to wear.
We cam out the other end. The tunnel is 254 metres long
Some facts about Malinta tunnel
And that was that
From Malinta Tunnel, we moved down to the bottomside shore.
General MacArthur’s statue with his supposed famous words promising to return from exile
The waters were tempting
Unfortunately we couldn’t lounge on these sands
Because after leaving bottomside, we made our way uphill to go grab lunch
Corregidor Inn even offers dormitory type accommodation
Loved this screwpine juice
It was a buffet lunch at the La Playa restaurant. On offer was: Chopsuey vegetables, fried chicken, roasted porkloin, seafood paella, spaghetti carbonara, salad, snacks and simple desserts.
You know what, usually on such day tour packages, the food most often sucks. But this was not the case here. It was pretty good! The buffet options weren’t vast but whatever was on offer was really well done. Sure I was hungry, but I can vouch for the taste.
After a satisfying lunch, we resumed our tour under the scorching sun.
These were the Middleside Barracks, quarters built in 1915 for the soldiers and staff stationed at Corregidor island… until it was bombed and demolished in 1941 by the Japanese
Some parts of of the concrete buildings still stand
Every stop on the tour lasted 15 to 30 minutes.
From the Middleside Barracks to Battery Way
Battery Way is collection of 12-inch mortars
Storage for artillery I guess
Big cannons… but we would see bigger ones
These mortars have been repainted
The tranvia then took us from Battery Way to a higher point facing the open seas.
This is the biggest mortar cannon on Corregidor island
Needless to say this mortar had a very long firing range
Japanese warships would bomb this area; guessing these are shrapnel marks
From there we moved up to a viewpoint. From up here one gets to see the tailside of Corregidor. Corregidor island is shaped like a sperm or a tadpole.
And that in the distance, beyond the island, is actually Manila
Malinta tunnel from up here
Not too far from the viewpoint is the Pacific War Memorial. This is the Freedom Torch monument.
The Pacific War Memorial was built by the Americans in 1968
It honours the American and Filipino soldiers and generals who fought the battles here
I walked towards the dome
There’s even a small museum inside the memorial
They had some photos of what life was like on Corregidor island during World War 2. This is a carabao (water buffalo) that was used to carry supplies around.
Guns used in World War 2 battles
The map depicting the Pacific battles
Back out of the museum, I walked towards the Topside Barracks
Not only was this the biggest barracks on Corregidor island, but at the time of completion, this was world’s longest barracks, stretching 463 metres long.
The topside barracks, like everything else on the island, were destroyed in 1941 when the Japanese bombed the island
This is an open ground across from the Topside Barracks
This was the only movie theatre on Corregidor island
It’s hard to stand here and not imagine what was on screen regaling an audience in those days
The final stop on our island tour was at the Corregidor lighthouse
Distances to major world cities from Corregidor island
I climbed to the top of the lighthouse. A modern day communications tower next door.
Bataan from up here
I went back down, hopped into my tranvia and we were driven back to our boats. The Corregidor island tour was over. We landed back in Manila just past 4pm and I soon got a jeepney going towards Vito Cruz station.
The Corregidor island tour is one of the more pricier tours I’ve down in South East Asia, and to be honest, it wasn’t the greatest for the price. Then again, the island and its history isn’t the most pleasant one. The guide told us a lot about the atrocities that took place on Corregidor island — under the Americans, the Japanese and even under the Philippines government post independence — none of which I mentioned because I suggest you hear it from the guides themselves. So if you like a bit of history, a visit to Corregidor is worth it. If not, save your money if all you are looking for is fun and excitement.
When in Manila, you really don’t have much to do in terms of tourist activities. So I guess that’s what really motivated me to go for this tour. Here’s hoping my reader enjoyed it.
Next up: Manila Chinese Cemetery.
Previous post(s) in this series:
Philippines 2014: Bargain shopping in Manila; Paseo de Santa Rosa & Solenad
Philippines 2014: Japanese tunnel; leaving Davao for Manila
Philippines 2014: Scuba diving for the first time, at Samal Island (Davao)
Philippines 2014: Philippine Eagle Center, Davao
Philippines 2014: Attractions at Eden Nature Park… and getting lost
Philippines 2014: Sky Cycle at Eden Nature Park, Davao
Philippines 2014: Leaving Cebu for Davao; Davao City sights
Philippines 2014: Tumalog Falls; Oslob church, Cuartel
Philippines 2014: Oslob – Swimming with whale sharks
Philippines 2014: Trek to Mount Pinatubo crater lake
Philippines 2014: The itinerary this time around; UP Diliman and Maginhawa
My Philippines journeys: 2011 series | 2013 series