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Corregidor Island:Ruins, relics and remembrances
Source: Manila Bulletin
Author: Mary Anne R. Conde
Date: 0000-03-29
The war-ravaged ruins of Corregidor can make anyone emotional - even the generations born after World War II. Although the island is now serene, it is not difficult to imagine the terror of being there in the midst of a war - the sounds of fighter planes roaring overhead, bombs exploding, debris flying everywhere and the voices of men rising over the din.

For years the island of Corregidor served as a major stronghold to ward off the attack of the enemy. Its strategic location and fortifications earned for it the name “Guardian of Manila” during the Spanish, Japanese and American Occupations.

Its name is derived from the Spanish word “corregir” meaning “to correct” or “to check” as this island served as a check point for vessels entering Manila Bay during the Spanish and American Occupations.

This tadpole-shaped island is situated 26 nautical miles west of Manila and lies just off the southern tip of Bataan Peninsula. It is about 5.6 km in length from end to end and approximately 2.4 kms in width at its widest point.

Today, this island is one of the most visited tourist sites in the country. Its beaches against a beautiful backdrop of huge limestone formations, its nature trails, and panoramic views of Manila Bay and South China Sea are only some of its many attractions.

Most importantly, Corregidor is visited and re-visited because of the rich history it reveals. Being there is like reading through a chapter in our history books.

Once an expensive travel package because of its location, this historical tour is now available to the younger travelers at “studentfriendly” prices. The Philippine Tourism Authority has recently added Corregidor to its Balik-Barkadahan sa Turismo tour packages. The Barkadahan is a project especially aimed at educating and awakening the youth’s interest in domestic tourism by providing them with affordable and adventure-filled tour packages.

For the price of R525/person (minimum of 20), young travelers can visit the Aviary, Middleside, Battery Way, Battery Hearn, Mile Long Barracks, Pacific War Memorial, Spanish Lighthouse, Battery Geary, Battery Crocket, the MacArthur Statue, Filipino Heroes Memorial, Japanese Garden of Peace and the Malinta Tunnel. Included in the package are round-trip ferry boat transfers (Mla-Corregidor-Mla), shrine and terminal fee, guided island tour via tranvia bus and a welcome drink. Optional offers are a Light and Sound show at the Malinta Tunnel and meals which range from R305 to R75 per person.

I shared a tranvia bus with foreigners and other local first-timers to the island, and went on a historical journey through Corregidor’s War Memorial Zone. Our first stop was the Filipino-American Friendship Park which was constructed to symbolize the union of these two nations.Representing this bond is a sculpture called “Brothers in Arms” by artist Manuel Casas, located in the middle of the park.

Then we moved on to the Aviary or bird park houses species of wild birds bred in captivity, wild monkeys and black apes. Some of the birds we found there were Philippine horned owls, African gray parrots, cockatiels, umbrella cockatoos, blue and gold Macaws. Just behind it is the ruins of one of the island’s largest water reservoirs.

For most part of the tour we visited the different batteries which once defended Corregidor. A battery, in military terms, is a set of heavy guns or artillery. At Battery Way, one of our stops, we came into close contact with four 12-foot mortars which were capable of firing 360 degrees up to a distance of 14,610 yards. The area, which was completed in 1913, provided an effective means of countering the Japanese artillery in Bataan. We also went to Battery Hearn, which according to our guide Armand, was ironically ineffective in spite of having the most powerful gun on the island. Armand amended that it was because the Japanese were so well informed that they were able to win the war and not because of the inefficiency of our artillery.

We also viewed ruins of the Mile Long Barracks which

were once used as quarters by American officers. This

three-deck, hurricane-proof concrete building is reputedly

the world’s longest military barracks. It has a length of

1,520 feet.

Standing on the highest part of Corregidor’s west side is

the Pacific War Memorial built by the United States

Government to honor the Filipino and American soldiers

who participated in World War II. It was completed in

1968 at the cost of $3 million. The memorial has a dome

with an opening at the top through which sunlight in the

week of May 6 (the day Corregidor fell) shines into it to

strike a circular marble altar. There is also a museum

which houses numerous wartime photographs and

artifacts, a mosaic of Corregidor and its battles covering

a whole wall, a documentary film projection room and a

souvenir shop.

Located nearby is the reconstructed Spanish Lighthouse.

The original lighthouse was built in 1836 by the

Spaniards. A bigger one was erected in 1897 but was

destroyed during World War II. The lighthouse is located

628 feet above sea level. Guests are allowed to climb to

the top where they will be welcomed by breathtaking

views of Manila Bay, and the South China Sea.

One of the most recent additions to Corregidor is the

Filipino Heroes Memorial. This 6,000-square meter

complex has 14 murals depicting heroic battles fought by

Filipinos from 15th century up to the present day. It was

designed by Arch. Francisco Mañosa, while the murals

and a statue of a Filipino guerrilla were sculpted by

Manuel Casas. The complex was inaugurated by Pres.

Fidel V. Ramos on August 28, 1992.

To cap off our tour, we went to the Malinta Tunnel for a

30-minute light and sound show. The tunnel, which was

completed in 1922, is 835feet long and 24-feet wide. It

was originally an arsenal, underground hospital, and

bomb-proof headquarters. It also functioned as

headquarters of Gen. Douglas MacArthur and the seat of

the Philippine Government under Pres. Manuel L. Quezon.

The light and sound show led the guests into the dark

tunnel while a voice recited the events leading to the fall

of Bataan. This was complemented by the sounds of

bomb explosions and gun fire. Guests were guided further

into the tunnel, stopping in front of illuminated lifesized

statues depicting important events such as the

inauguration of Quezon as President of the Philippine

Commonwealth for a second term. Photographs taken

during World War II added to the atmosphere. The show

was written and directed by National Artist Lamberto

Avellana, while the sculptures were done by National

Artist Napoleon Abueva.

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