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Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Corregidor















Corregidor is one of the best historical spots I've been into.  The place itself is scenic and very well maintained and they have preserved the original barracks and mortars used during the war.  We took a short ferry ride at the docks near CCP and arrived in Corregidor around 8am.  Tranvias (named after the electric trams that criss-crossed Manila before the war) were waiting for us as we alighted to tour us around the place.  There used to be a bike rental shop on the island, before the one-two punch of injury liability and the Asian Currency Crisis of 1997 shut it down. Bikes are still welcome on the island, provided you bring your own.  We were assigned one tour guide per tranvia to walk us through history and explain the story behind the place.  The first stop on the tour was the Middleside Barracks, a large military barracks made up of two three-story buildings which was referred to as the Middleside Barracks because it was constructed in the middleside sector of the island. Personnel of the 60th Coast Artillery Regiment and the 91st Philippine Scout Coast Artillery Regiment were billeted in these barracks. It was also briefly occupied by elements of the 4th Marine Regiment upon their arrival in Corregidor on December 1941. We were able to snap a few photos and then went on with the tour.  Battery Way was the first gun emplacement that I saw on the island. I was able to climb around on the guns and go into the ordnance storage facilities. An interesting bit of trivia that I learned while on the tour was that there used to be a railroad network on the island which was used for transport of all the ordnance to the different batteries.  Battery Hearn was the finest gun to see on the island for several reasons. First, it was the largest gun on the island. Also, when the Japanese captured the island from the American forces they took a photo of their troops standing around the gun to be used for propaganda.  Battery Grubbs and Battery Crockett were known as "disappearing guns" because they could disappear from sight after firing.  After seeing the major batteries in Corregidor, we headed to the part of the island known as Topside.  It is the highest geographic sector on the island where the terrain elevation above sea level ranges from about 400 feet and higher. Topside is said to be the nerve center of the island fortress. It is where you will find the ruins of the Mile-Long Barracks, Post Headquarters, Cine Corregidor, and a number of buildings previously used as quarters for bachelor officers as well as the senior officers of the garrison. All the major gun emplacements are also located around this high ground. The parade ground, a small golf course, the old Spanish flagpole, and the reconstructed Spanish lighthouse are similarly located at Topside. The more recently constructed buildings and structures that are now found at Topside are the Pacific War Memorial Dome, sculpture of the Eternal Flame of Freedom, and the museum.  By noon, we were all famished and we ate our lunch at the Corregidor Hotel and the food was actually really good, although it might have tasted that way since I was extremely hungry.  After lunch we drove up to see the site of a former Japanese Cemetery. The American forces created the cemetery when they recaptured the island from the Japanese in WWII. After 40 years of jungle growth, the exact location of the cemetery became unknown. In 1985 a photograph of an unknown American GI standing at the entrance of the cemetery was found in Oregon, and historians and archeologists were able to pinpoint the cemetery's location. With the permission of the Filipino Government, the remains were exhumed and returned to Japan in 1986. Today the site is a Japanese Memorial Garden. Also, a great 10-foot statue of a lady Buddha stands at one area representing fertility.  We also went up to see the Spanish Lighthouse. From here I was able to have a view of Corregidor Island, Manila Bay (sight of the famous Battle of Manila Bay fought between the US and Spanish naval forces), the South China Sea, Bataan Peninsula, and Cavite. The final stop on our tour was the Malinta Tunnel.  Construction of the tunnel took about 10 years.  The tunnel has been dug through solid rock and offered complete protection from artillery or air attack. Command communications and medical units were located there.  The tunnel was originally designed to house huge quantities of ammunition, food and supplies, and an underground hospital with a 1,000-bed capacity. The location of the tunnel beneath Malinta Hill made it ideal as a bomb-proof headquarters for the embattled Filipino and American defenders of Corregidor during World War II. During the siege of Corregidor, a number of shops and storage areas were added. The tunnel complex was described as damp and poorly ventilated and except for the hospital, it was not designed to quarter humans. Although it was safe inside, morale of the personnel was lower than elsewhere in Corregidor.  Our tour guide also told of the story about the Japanese soldiers caught inside the tunnel.  American troops barricaded the tunnel trapping the Japanese with no other option but to surrender.  The Japanese, valiant and fearless to the end, committed suicide by bombing themselves and destroying most of the laterals of the tunnel. Overall, although pretty exhausting, the trip to Corregidor Island was awesome. I have learned so much about history and empathized with the hardship that the Filipino and American troops went through during the war.  I would recommend the trip to any age group as it has something for everyone. The trolley makes it easy to travel for the young and old. If given the opportunity to come back, I'd like to try to stay overnight at the hotel and spend two days there so I can explore more of the island as there were tons more we were not able to explore and do.

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