FORTRESS CORREGIDOR: OCTOBER 9-10 2004
Our first trip outside the capital was a short boat ride across Manila Bay, 26 miles to be exact, to the island fortress of Corregidor.
The scene of the final American stand in the Philippines during WWII, General Douglas McArthur and the heroic defenders withheld repeated Japanese assaults before finally surrendering on May 6th 1942. Ordered to attempt his escape, General McArthur left the island via the South Dock aboard PT42 and made his way to Australia where he promised "I shall return".
The island is no longer the crater strewn lump of rock that many of us think of when the name "Corregidor" is mentioned. Much of the bomb damage is barely visible beneath the lush vegetation of a tropical Pacific island. Still, a great deal of care is shown where the remnants of both the American defense, and the subsequent American bombardment in 1944/45 before it's recapture from the Japanese, is laid bare for tourists to experience.
Divided into three sections, a low, middle and high areas, when we landed at the dock on the south side we were all loaded onto open-air trolleys that immediately took us on the tour. The trolleys are replicas of the same ones that were used to transport American and Filipino soldiers around the island during it's days as the key point in the defensive strategy for Manila, a period from just before WWI until it's capture 30 years later. Winding steadily upwards we saw the ruins of bombed out buildings and damaged gun emplacements as well as monuments erected by all participants in the war, even the Japanese.
We took some great pictures of Battery Way, the heavy mortar emplacement (one of two) and the last operational gun battery still firing just before the surrender. We also got to explore the Mile Long Barracks (and climb on it, although that certainly wasn't the safest thing to do we still did it and we allowed to!), and the Spanish era lighthouse. On the upper section of the island, called "Topside", the barracks, parade ground, lighthouse and large battery (see the pictures) are interspersed with memorials and stunning views in every direction.
The final part of the tour before lunch was the Malinta Tunnel, an incredible complex completed in 1932 that was meant to withstand the most furious bombing and provide command facilities, hospital and in the end, shelter. A simple but effective sound and light presentation made it easy to experience the horrors of war.
We stayed at the Corregidor Inn, a "rustic" establishment located on the central neck of the island. The hardwood floors and "old" feel of the place was nice, although it had no TV in the rooms (one in the lobby only) and the food and service needed improvement. The pool made up for this as many of the Embassy kids hung out there (and Matt too, the biggest kid of them all) and had a great time. We got to lounge in the pool drinking tropical drinks, another item checked off Matt's list of Things to Do. We were all too tired to try the night tour of the tunnels but hope that we can try this on another trip to this historic island.
Our view of the hotel as we arrived
Abby, AJ, Aiden and Matt at Battery Way Aiden hugging a shell?!
Matt at Battery Way Aiden at the Museum, he loved the gun and cannons.
Abby and AJ on the ruins. Matt and Aiden on the ruins of the Mile Long Barracks.
The Malinta Tunnel from our room.
AJ, Aiden and Matt in the Malinta Tunnel. Embassy kid's with a statue of a Philippine peasant solider
AJ, Matt and Aiden with General McArthur. The dock McArthur left from.
A view from our room