What a thrilling day this was! Although we had to get going early once again (5am), we did have time for breakfast, a crazy taxi drive through a mid-day traffic jam at 6:30am, we made it to our destination in Manila, the Sun Cruises terminal for our day trip to the island of Corregidor at the entrance of Manila Bay.
When we arrived, our taxi driver "did not have change", so it was up to us to find some somewhere on the dock. Not an easy task let me tell you. While I was waiting in line to enter the Cruise line office, Mom went about trying to find some. She spoke with a Filipino worker who tried his best to provide change for our 500 pesos bill.
He could only come up with 400, which he gave her and said he would "get the other 100 to you". Mom payed the taxi driver and we eventually boarded the boat without seeing this gentlemen again. We were talking about that as we were sitting on the boat waiting for our departure. To my surprise, he came on board, came right to Mom, saying: "Mrs Madsen, here". I was amazed at his honesty, dedication and personal character. What a wonderful way to start the day.
Our boat ride to the island too a little over an hour and was smooth and pleasant. During the voyage we were entertained by various videos on the Philippines as well as one on the history of Corregidor. The arrival procedures were smooth and quick. We then boarded one of three "tranvias", the local tourist buses. We got on the closest bus since we had not been assigned one and sat on the first row (of course).
When what seemed to be our guide arrived, I must admit I thought I had made the wrong choice but WOW, was he great! Such knowledge about the events of Corregidor, the history of the Philippines and to top it off a marvelous sense of humor. He was the best I had been with in a very long time. Thanks Pol!
To alleviate congestion and make the experience of Corregidor a good one for everyone involved, the buses are all on different routes while still visiting the same spots. This avoids congestion at the sites and it seems you and your fellow (18-20 or so) visitors are the only ones on the island. Great planning and execution. Our bus had the late lunch schedule which gave us the best light to explore the island and take photos.
We worked our way from the North Dock to Top Side, stopping along the way at the Middle Side Barracks; the Wray, Grubbs and Hearn batteries. I did not know that most of the fortifications on Corregidor were built prior to or during World War I. Did you know the US occupied the Philippines from 1898? I did not. Back to our tour. The scars of war are so visible everywhere we looked, from the severally damaged buildings (caused by air strikes mainly), to bullet holed riddled walls and even canon barrels. The Grubbs battery where the "disappearing guns" are located showed signs of air bombs and shrapnel hits. It must have been truly blood curling to have fought so long and so hard during the Japanese attack.
On May 4th, 16,000 shells fell on the island in a 24hr period! Holding the island of Corregidor really was a feat in Honor, Valor, and Heroic feats for all involved. I am not sure I can comprehend what it took for those men and women. Stories are told of sick soldiers and nurses staying to help the fight and caring for fellow soldiers.
One of the very interesting visitor's stops on the island are located at Top Side, the highest section of the island. Several memorials have been created along m,multiple buildings. The most impressive one, is the "Mile Long Barracks" built in early 1900s and severely damaged in the shelling.
A unit crest was still visible on one of the entrance doorways. When in operation, these barracks included a swimming pool, bowling alley and all the comforts of home. Next to it was the Top Side Cinema where "Gone With the Wind" was the last movie shown!
The Pacific War Memorial is simply beautiful and a great tribute to the men and women who gave their lives in these multiple armed conflicts. As MacArthur said: "Corregidor needs no comments from me. It has sounded its own story at the mouth of its guns. It has scrolled its own epitaph on enemy tablets. But through the bloody haze of its last reverberating shot, I shall always see a vision of grim, gaunt, ghastly me, still unafraid."
To me, the memorial represents well, the feelings expressed by General MacArthur. With so many memorials, monuments around the world, one would think we would be reminded of history, learn from history and avoid repeating it!!!
Back to the tour. We visited the Spanish Lighthouse which dominates the island and offers a superb view from the top of both Corregidor and neighboring Bataan.
The area around the lighthouse I have called "the Mall" since it all the buildings are little shops!!! On the way back down we stopped at the dock where MacArthur left Corregidor and vowed to return. Lunch was a buffet style and included in the day tour. It was simple but delicious and the service superb.
This afternoon took us to the Japanese Memorial - a sight of controversy since this was the enemy - but, in my opinion, a necessary piece of the history of Corregidor. The Japanese lost more souls after all on this island. We also visited the Filipino Hero Memorial, which depicts multiple armed struggles of the Filipino people throughout the ages. Very well designed and executed, a fitting tribute and remembrance.
The last visit of the day was the Malinta Tunnel, home to the Filipino/US troops during the battles. It was a light and sound show depicting the historical events on Corregidor.
For you visitors, do not miss this as it is quite educational and you are in a cooler space for 30 minutes!!! Just as we exited the tunnel, it started raining - normal for this time of year, a short afternoon rain shower.
What a wonderful, educational day spent discovering the island of Corregidor. I would classify this day trip as a "not-to-be missed" excursion when visiting Manila. Should I return, I will come back and spend more time exploring this island (one can stay on the island at either the small hotel or hostel).
"There is a limit to human endurance and that limit has long since been past". Gen. Jonathan Wainwright, Commander of all Fil-American troops on Luzon.