History and Culture

The Ghosts of the Rock

Choose Philippines
Choose Philippines | May 22, 2013

A visit to this tadpole-shaped island at the entrance of Manila Bay is an unforgettable way to get up close and personal with history.

Corregidor was first developed by the Spanish for use as a fortress, a penal institution and a customs station for ships bound to Manila. It was supposed act as the first line of defense for the capital city so its concrete ramparts were studded with various artillery pieces and a lighthouse signal post.

But history reveals the island would eventually fall into the hands of its various attackers- namely the Dutch, British, Americans and the Japanese.

During World War II, 'The Rock' was the scene of fierce fighting between the US and Japan- this is where Filipino and American troops made their last stand during the Japanese Invasion of 1941 and recaptured four years later after a bloody battle when General Douglas MacArthur returned to liberate the Philippines.

The 6 kilometer-long island is now one large war memorial and used to draw a lot of WW2 veterans and history buffs but nowadays visitors would likely be local tourists who come to enjoy the quite vista and the shrapnel-marked relics of the Philippines' turbulent colonial past.

How to Get There:

From Manila, the only way to Corregidor is via Sun Cruises (day tour includes round-trip ferry, guided tour & buffet lunch Php1999/1118 adult/child, 7.30am-3.30pm everyday). CCP Terminal A, CCP Complex, Roxas Boulevard Pasay City. Contact Nos. (02) 8318140 / (02) 8346857 to 58. From Bataan you or a group can charter a banca from Mariveles (Php2,500).

Where to Stay:

Corregidor Inn (Php2880/4450 for single/double rooms) you will likely be staying here if you avail of Sun Cruises' overnight package. The air-conditioned rooms have wooden flooring, private bathrooms and nice views of the greenery and surrounding water. Guests also receive a more comprehensive tour and can avail of a number of activities.

What To Do:

The Guided Tour: After the one-hour catamaran ride, tram buses would be waiting at the pier with an assigned tour guide each (tip: pick your bus based on the guide's personality, a few short exchanges could indicate if the guide is knowledgeable, funny, etc.).

The buses would proceed two at a time to each location to avoid overcrowding. The main points of interest are:

·Malinta Tunnel - This part of the tour is optional. For an additional Php150 fee you can watch a 30-minute sound-and-light show that replicates what the Fil-Am defenders had to endure during the Japanese siege. The tunnel and its laterals were built underneath solid rock and housed the USAFFE headquarters, the seat of the Philippine Commonwealth, the Voice of Freedom radio station and a hospital. Modern additions include sculptures. There are also makeshift caverns dug by treasure hunters.

·The Ruins- These are all that remain of Fort Mills, the US Army reservation and include Topside Barracks, once the longest in the world; Corregidor Hospital; Middleside Barracks and Cine Corregidor. They have purposely not been restored in reverence to the Filipino and American soldiers who perished in the island's defense.

·Lorcha Dock - A statue of Gen. MacArthur overlooks the spot where he boarded a PT Boat en route to Australia. Contrary to popular belief it was safely Down Under when the general made his famous promise of "I shall return." and not in Corregidor.

·Filipino Heroes Memorial - This latest addition features 14 murals of Filipinos in battle from the 15th century up to the present. ·Japanese War Memorial and Cemetery - a perfect place for serenity

·Spanish Lighthouse - The refurbished structure affords a splendid panoramic view.

·Pacific War Memorial - built by the Americans at the island's highest point, it is a shrine for all of those who died during the conflict. There is a symbolic metal flame and open-topped dome that catches the sun on May 6, the day Corregidor fell to the Japanese.

·Museum –small but has a good collection of period uniforms, weapons and scale models

·The Gun Batteries - Battery Way, Battery Hearn and Battery Grubbs are the most popular (a battery referring to a military unit of 3 to 6 guns covering a given sector). One can gawk at the massive artillery pieces ranging from heavy mortars to 12-inch cannons. There were 23 coastal batteries on Corregidor. Ask about the 'Disappearing Gun'. You can also explore the ammunition magazines and bunkers and if you know where to look you can spot where bombs and shells struck.

Rocket Zipline: (for overnight guests only) The 200-meter long zipline is suspended 20 feet from the ground which is perfect for beginners and affords a panoramic view of the island. It lasts around 20-30 seconds and ends at the picturesque south beach.

Night Tour:

(For overnight guests only) Armed only with flashlights, thrill-seekers can go ghost-hunting amidst the decaying buildings and tunnels. Look for graffiti and names left by Sama and Tausug recruits who were said to have been secretly trained in 1967 by the military as part of Operation Merdeka, the Philippine government's effort to annex the island of Sabah from Malaysia.

The young Muslims of the Jabidah commando unit, upon learning of the nature of their mission, mutinied and their handlers machine-gunned them on the airstrip leaving only one survivor who escaped. It is unknown how many died during the Jabidah Massacre but once news got out, it generated outrage and helped ignite the Moro Insurgency in Mindanao.

Corregidor Adventure Challenge: Assemble four friends into one team and attempt this race across nature trails, ruins and tunnels (there are 105km of paved roads and trails). The team with the fastest will be awarded an overnight stay with complete amenities.

What To Bring:

If you're taking the ferry make sure you arrive an hour early; The buffet lunch usually consists of regular (but filling) canteen-type fare so if that's not your thing pack something extra; Extra batteries for your camera; Make sure you have a full stomach before you board the ferry; There is no public transportation on the island but one can rent bikes; If you happened to have rented a banca make sure you leave before late afternoon as the waves can get pretty high and choppy; If you are taking children on the tram bus make sure adults sit on the outermost seats since the buses do not have doors at all.

Add to your: Wishlist Done That

Be a Pinoy Wanderer!

Choose Philippines encourages writers, photographers, travelers, bloggers, videographers and everyone with a heart for the Philippines to share their discoveries and travel stories.

Share Your Journey

Other Stories by Choose Philippines

Tell Us What You Think