Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Fort Bonifacio tunnels: The 'lost underground world' of Fort Mc Kinley


 I have not visited the so-called Fort Bonifacio tunnels since I joined the Armed Forces of the Philippines as a PMA cadet in 1990. I just saw old Army photos like the one above, showing the well-maintained tunnel during the times that it was administered by the Army Museum until in the mid-90s.


Built sometime in 1910, the Fort Bonifacio Tunnel served as the main supply depot for the American Forces during its battles against Filipino revolutionaries like the 'juramentados' in Sulu and the warriors of Samar, Lanao and Bicol. The story that Gen Douglas Mc Arthur ordered its construction is wrong. A graduate of USMA Class of 1903, Mc Arthur first set foot in the Philippine soil in the 1920s. 

The tunnel is 2.24 kilometers long with  32 chambers. It has  two entrances located in Barangay Pembo and Barangay East Rembo. At least 730 meters of the tunnel remains intact, mostly located below the C-5 Road. The myths circulating around that the tunnel has an entrance to Malacanang Palace is simply false.

I got the opportunity of visiting this historical site when AFP Spokesperson Col. Marcelo Burgos invited me to join the delegation that will visit the tunnel which is located beneath the Bonifacio Global City. We went there together with BCDA officials. The main entrance to the tunnel is located across Market! Market!

I am not in Cu-chi District in Vietnam but the small opening reminds me of Viet Congs' network of underground tunnels running from North Vietnam down to Ho Chi Minh. This opening could be enlarged once this place is turned into a tourist attraction. The first stair has 17 steps.

 This door leads us to the 2nd stair which has 57 steps. Its almost 45 degrees steep, making the uphill climb quite a challenge for those who don't love physical exercises.



I really wished that I had my rubber shoes and tactical pants. My barong was not suited in this kind of adventure.


 The 57-step stair leads you to the ground level where you can find this chamber and directions. To my left is the Amapola St exit.

When the Army Museum was transferred to its new home beside the Army headquarters, the tunnels were forgotten. Intruders who came vandalized the place, not realizing that these tunnels are considered as national treasures.

The proud Igorot miners from Benguet were part of the tunnel’s laborers. They were joined by other 'tunnel diggers' like the Japanese laborers who migrated to Manila, most of whom were later discovered as soldiers spying for the Japanese military.

The current administrators have not explored all known exits of these tunnels. I just tried to visit one of the chambers which has a water source.

The preservation of the Fort Bonifacio tunnel as a heritage site and its opening for public viewing is welcomed by Armed Forces of the Philippines. This is part of the BCDA's initiative to honor the unsung heroes who sacrificed their lives in pursuit of our independence.

The project aims to contribute to the people’s understanding and appreciation of the history of the former military camps.

I am very proud to have visited the Fort Bonifacio tunnels. I can now proudly say: "I have not missed half of my life".

(Photos by Cpl Marlon San Esteban)


16 comments:

  1. Great post sir! I remember going down this tunnel as a COCC cadet when we visited the AFP Museum sometime in 1994...the original tunnel entrance was located inside the single story museum itself if I'm not mistaken, back then they have the bullet riddled MNLF uniforms inside glass cases and pictures of Jesus Villamor and Ferdinand Marcos among others hanging from the wall. Ang tagal kong hinanap kung saan nila nilipat ito. It's nice to know from your blog that this is just located from across Market Market where I currently work...i just hope i can get permission to visit this tunnel again. :)

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    1. You must visit the present Army Museum that is located near the PA Officers Club House to see the nice memorabilias there. :-)

      I do hope that the plan to develop the Fort Bonifacio Tunnels as a tourist site would become a reality. :-)

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    2. Hi po.. is it possible to visit this tunnel ngaun?. i needed some one po to assist us..

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    3. Hi po.. is it possible to visit this tunnel ngaun?. i needed some one po to assist us..

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  2. I'm from Taguig and had no idea whatsoever about this tunnel. Who do I talk to if I want to check the place out? :)

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    1. Hi Maye, as of now, di pa ito formally opened to the public. During our meetings with the BCDA executives in 2012, they presented an idea to develop the place as an underground tourist destination. Excited? :-)

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    2. Please leave a private message through "Contact Me" button so that I can send you the contact person for the tunnel. :-)

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  3. Yes please share how could we visit this hostorical tunnel

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  5. I use to live in MacArthur Ave and the AFP Musuem is just along it's stretch...The tunnel's entrance back then is situated within the premises of the AFP Museum as accurately described by PC Biadora...This is a unique feature of the city and I hope efforts are made to save this gem...Thank you for the post...It has somehow given us a good perspective of where "things" are NOW...we now live in AFPOVAI like most of my "kababatas" and we truly appreciate what rangercabunzky has done here...brings back sweet memories...

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    1. So, you must be one of those "Anak ng Mess Kit" who were displaced when BCDA took over and developed the whole area. :-)

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  6. Bonifacio Global City is the epitome of modernity. This busy megacity, touted as the Philippines’ next business capital, is home not only to multinationals and embassies, but also trendy clubs, restaurants, and glamorous boutiques

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  7. Thanks for posting this. This is interesting, who would know that there's a tunnel in the city. Amazing.

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  8. Wow, That tunnel has a historical value. I hope they allow the people to visit this, and tell the story of underground tunnel. So interesting!

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  9. Hi Sir! Posting this here since there seems to be a problem with the contact button (the messages simply do not send):

    "Very grateful for this post of yours on the BGC tunnels. I saw on the comment section that you adviced someone to send you a message thru the contact button so that you can refer her to a contact person on the premises. I'm also interested to give this site a visit with maybe a few of my peers. Hope you can also help me on this one. Thanks Sir!"

    Hope you can get back to me Sir! Thanks!

    (Please reach me at speciesmars@gmail.com)

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  10. i used to live in mcarthur as well. batang mess kit here. i remember there was a tunnel entrance under a big tree. i believe the entrance you took was where the tree once was. i wish i could see it again. how do we arrange it?

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