Corregidor Island A sobering history lesson

Have you heard of Corregidor Island?

I first heard of Corregidor Island while watching “World War II in Colour” on Netflix recently. If you’re interested in modern history I highly recommend this documentary. I binged watched the entire program over a weekend.

Corregidor Island day tour is the trip I took. It was with Sun Cruises and a day tour cost me Php2549.00 (AUD$75).

I had a 4.30 am start because I’d been told the roads around the Seaside Esplanade Terminal would be closed from 4 am to 10 am for a fun run. I thought about walking but I’d been feeing a bit under the weather (fever, chills, sore throat and headache) for much of Saturday so I arranged with the hotel to hire driver to take me. It cost about P575 (AUD$17).

I ended up having a poor sleep filled with odd dreams and some nightmares.

At 6 am I got into the hotel car and explained to the driver some of the roads would be closed and suggested a road we should attempt to take based on the map I’d been shown of the path of the fun run. He ignored me. We got close to the Seaside Terminal and he exclaimed, “roads closed!”. I said “yes, that’s why I tried to show you a different route based on the information about the fun run.” “You should get out here and walk. I cannot drive.” So I walked to the Seaside Terminal. The driver had got me most of the way there so I shouldn’t complain.

I quickly found myself amongst the fun runners. I still think it’s an odd concept…fun…run! I really don’t like running.

Manila fun run Manila fun run

I got to the terminal at 6.15 am. Check in was at 7. I’d been told the night before in an e-mail that I should get there well before 7 to avoid the fun run traffic which would start at 4 am! The ticketing and check in process was really confusing. An inordinate amount of time was spent just standing with very little activity.

I had time for breakfast from 7 Eleven. A snickers bar and a bottle of water. That would have to sustain me until lunch time. Little did I know that lunch would be delayed.

Snickers and water at Seaside Terminal Manila
Snickers and water at Seaside Terminal Manila

We boarded the boat at 8 and didn’t shove off until 9. I just wish I could have slept in my seat. We all wore stickers that had our names, seat number and bus number on them. I had no idea what anyone was saying so I followed the crowd. At one stage I nearly got on the wrong boat.

The trip across from Manila to Corregidor Island takes about an hour. The water was flat and calm which was good. I didn’t need to add nausea to a headache and sore throat that I had worsened overnight. I think Sun Cruises must be owned by a church. The music being played on board were gospel choruses. On the way over we also watched a documentary on the WW2 activities on Corregidor Island. Veterans, especially former members of 503rd Regimental Combat Team (part of the 503rd Parachute Infantry Regiment) who surprised the Japanese forces who were expecting an invasion force by marines from the north of the island. I was fascinated watching Japanese tourists sitting in front of me on the boat. They started watching and then they went quiet and they all tried to sleep. Listening to these veteran parachute war fighters was fascinating. They were asked why they joined the parachute regiment and many conceded it was because they were paid an extra $50/month. In the 1940s that was a lot of money. Notwithstanding their motivation, these war fighters were incredibly brave.

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When we arrived we were instructed to climb on board buses which we would stay with for the entirety of the tour. One of the buses was dedicated to Japanese tourists. Their tour guide could speak Japanese fluently.

Mooring on Corregidor Island

Tour buses on Corregisor Island
Tour buses waiting for us
Fred our tour guide on Corregidor Island
Fred our tour guide

The island has a fascinating history in terms of the Spanish occupation and then the American move into the Philippines. The World War 2 history is the most fascinating. I just wish we had stopped next to the flagstaff made famous by MacArthur when US Forces raised their flag when he returned (as promised) to the Philippines after being sent to Australia by the president to plan the Pacific Ocean war strategy.

We saw the armoured batteries, the huge mortars and the barracks that were all bombed and disrupted by the Japanese Imperial Forces.

They hold separate Japanese tours which we’re told tell the truth but not in harsh terms. It was interesting and I will say troubling to see Japanese and Italian tourists just lounging over the weapons and spending their time taking selfies. The Filipinos say they forgive and forget and reap the rewards of Japanese investment.

The tour guide we had was Fred and his driver was Bert. Fred is laid back and easy going. Bert likes to keep to time. They made a good good cop bad cop duo.

I’ve created a gallery of photographs here. Because of the number of photographs, when you click on the first one and you scroll through you may need to wait a second or two for each image to resolve to a sharp picture. Please take the time because the photographs look much better when they’re viewed as sharp images.

Middleside Barracks video clip

We were scheduled to have lunch at the Corregidor Hotel at 12 noon but they couldn’t accommodate us so we went on to the Japanese War Memorial and then on to the Malinta Tunnel light show. The bus passengers moaned when we were told lunch would be delayed by about 90 minutes. Apparently lunch in the Philippines is 12 noon and eating later is not the norm. I didn’t say anything. I try to eat my lunch at about 11.45 am most days at work.

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At the Malinta Tunnel the dioramas were very good and very well done. I can’t imagine what it would be like to be in those tunnels with bombs and mortars going off above and around.

A lot of the information for the tour focuses on the 503rd paratrooper regiment. These men basically run out of the back of aeroplanes at low altitude with almost no time. If their main parachute failed they had 3 seconds to deploy a reserve. If that failed they died.

When we finally made it to lunch it was a buffet in the hotel. I think I had pork and chicken but I can’t be sure of what it was.

Crumbed pork and braised chicken on a bed of sweet corn at the Corregidor Island Hotel.
Crumbed pork and braised chicken on a bed of sweet corn at the Corregidor Island Hotel.

The trip back to Manila was trouble free. We were shown a film about Todd Burpo who had a son who thought he had been to heaven and back. As I looked around I couldn’t see one passenger who was interested in the film. I thought I may end up walking from the Seaside Terminal to the Pan Pacific Manila but I managed to haggle with a cab driver to take me back to the hotel for an extra 50 pesos.

I think a trip to Corregidor Island is worthwhile for many reasons. You get to escape the pollution and smog of Manila, you learn some modern history and it reinforces a better understanding of how awful war is and why we must do all that we can to avoid armed conflict. I’ll add that in my opinion, that does not extinguish a need for nations to have national security and defence measures and to have trained and battle ready war fighters in case of armed conflict. It’s just as important to be well equipped and I support the need to wisely spend money on defence measures.

Battery Crockett

Have you been to Manila? Did you visit Corregidor Island?

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