Sunday, July 08, 2012

I shall return: My Corregidor Trip

As a soldier, I am quite interested in military history. Some of my role models are warriors who carved their name in our country's colorful history showing their exceptional gallantry in defending our land against foreign aggression. While searching for tales about heroism in combat, Corregidor always come into mind. It is located about 30 nautical miles southwest of Manila. It is approximately 2 miles from the coast of Alas-asin in Bataan. My first visit here was sometime in 2002.

Corregidor island is shaped like a tadpole. There are at least two versions about the origin of its name. Oral traditions tell us that the name is taken from Spanish term  'El Corregidor' (The Correctional), because the island used to be a correctional prison during the Spanish times.

The dock site of the Sun Set Cruises ferry that carries tourists towards this historical island-fortress, is located near the Cultural Center of the Philippines in Roxas Boulevard, Manila. You can either book your trip through its website or you can directly buy the ticket from this office.
Upon arrival, you will be given tags and tickets indicating your seat number in the sea craft and the number designation of the tour bus in the island. My travel companions are set to 'invade' the island like what the returning G.I.s did when they reclaimed the fortress from the Japanese.  We were booked in the first trip which departs at 7:00am.
We were among the excited visitors that day. I also spotted some American soldiers and Asian visitors from Japan and Korea.
This is the view inside the sea craft. A crew member demonstrates the correct way to employ the life vest during emergencies. I paid attention on the excellent view outside.
This is the view of San Jose village where our boat docked. I can only imagine that the small hill in the middle was probably manned by snipers and  Cal 50 HMG gunners, with interlocking fields of fire.

 We finally landed at the dock site after the 1-hour trip. There were three buses waiting for us while we disembarked the sea craft.

This is our mode of transport while in the island. This bus is a look-a-like of the cable cars which the Americans used here before the war.

 This is the Lorcha Dock where Gen Douglas Mc Arthur uttered the now famous line: "I shall return!". My officemates gamely posed for a photo besides the statue of the general.

But, I think the General was standing somewhere here when he waved his hands before leaving behind the troops under the command of General Jonathan Wainright. This is my version of the "I shall return".

On board the tourist bus, we inched our way towards the various destinations around the island. Our tour guide, Mr Bob, cracked some jokes while sharing the story about the island-fortress and its long list of heroes.

These are the remains of the fortified bunkers where soldiers take shelter to protect themselves from enemy fire. This one is overlooking the sea so I assume that this is one of the machinegun nests guarding the probable enemy approaches. It proved useless against artillery fires and aerial bombardments.

This is one of the lateral entrances to the Malinta tunnel where the soldiers were holed up during the series of aerial bombings by the Japanese air force.

This photo is taken inside the Japanese Memorial Garden, constructed in memory of the thousands of Japanese soldiers who perished during the war here.

This is the place where some of the Japanese soldiers were buried by American soldiers. An old photo of a soldier standing somewhere in this location with Caballo island as background, revealed the exact location of the mass grave where the skeletal remains were unearthed in 1986.

This place is dedicated to all Filipino heroes who fought against foreign invaders starting from the time of the Spanish colonial times.

You can see the heroism of our forefathers as depicted in the murals. I was reminded of the important event in 1899 which sparked the Filipino-American war.

We paid P150.00 per person to see the Light and Sound show inside the Malinta tunnel. This tunnel served as a hiding place, ammo depot, hospital, bomb shelter and supply storage for all American forces during the attack of the Japanese forces. Its name was derived from the hill (Malinta hill) where the tunnels are located. Malinta is Tagalog word for leeches. You can see the unrehabilitated lateral tunnel which was destroyed in the bombing. It probably collapsed when some Japanese soldiers committed suicide by blowing themselves up using tons of explosives, when the American forces came back to retake the island fortress.  The bottom photo shows the view outside the other end of the tunnel. Shrubs and vines have grown above the entrace as if intentionally emplaced for camouflaging purposes.

Included in the tour is a buffet lunch that is served at the Corregidor Hotel. There were plenty of salads, vegetables and meat.

These are the ruins of the 'Mile-long barracks' where the American forces were billeted before the war. Hundreds of thousands of artillery shells and bombs blasted here, reducing structures like this into piles of debris and rubbles. These images of destruction show the  ugly face of warfare.

Named after a casualty of the Filipino-American war, Lt Henry Way of the 4th US Artillery, Battery Way is composed of four 12-inch Mortars that can hurl 1,000lb deck piercing shell at least 13kms away in any direction. I remembered my old grandpa who used to say: "Ibala kita sa kanyon!". Look, how huge these guns are!

This is one of the 12-inch 'disappearing guns' of Battery Crocket which more of a direct fire weapon installed to protect a naval attack against Manila Bay. It was disabled by an artillery fire from the Japanese forces stationed in Cavite during the early stages of the war in 1942. You can still see the cracks and craters on the floor indicating a direct hit from an indirect fire weapon.

If you want to have a commanding view of the island, drop by at the lighthouse. Serving as one of the most important lighthouses in the country since the Spanish times, it had served as guide to ships entering Manila Bay. As I climbed on top of this structure, I was like a sniper on top of a hill, manning my observation post (OP) to check for enemy presence.

I visited the Pacific War Memorial which was built by the US in tribute to the officers and men who perished during its campaign in the Pacific region.I reviewed my history lesson through the pictures which were put on display inside the museum.

This is the headquarters of the American Forces called Fort Mills. About 25 meters in front of this headquarters lies the flagpole that was taken from a Spanish ship which was captured during the Spanish-American war(call it a war memorabilia). The photo installed in its base shows the flag raising ceremony after the island was retaken by the US forces. Gen Mc Arthur attended the hoisting of the flag.

 I have appreciated the war stories that I learned right in the scene of the bloody battles which can only be seen in the movies and documentaries. It also makes me proud to be a soldier.

Mission accomplished!
(Most of the photos are taken by Sgt Joey Baniatan of the Office of the Army Chief Public Affairs)

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