This was our second attempt to conquer Corregidor. The first one was a complete disappointment – we were told on the eve of our trip that the tour had to be cancelled due to an engine problem. The end result: we found ourselves braving the crowds and ogling at hapless underwater creatures at the Manila Ocean Park.
We must have prayed really hard this time because the weather did cooperate and we did not receive that dreaded phone call from Sun Cruises Inc. There were some minor irritants though. We were at the CCP Bay Terminal an hour and a half early (we had almost one year to work up the excitement, lol).
We had barely warmed our seats when the first of what will be a series of letdowns came: our 11am trip to Corregidor was rescheduled to 11:30am. We just shrugged off this piece of non-news (“Oh well, this is the Philippines!”) and let the minor irritation pass. A good number of minutes passed and then came the second downer. We were told to board the orange jeepneys waiting for us outside the terminal because the touristy Island Philippines jeep had just conked out (all together now: “whhhaaaaat?”).
Good thing there was an engaging commentary (spliced with very Filipino humor) on the historic past of Corregidor Island on board the Sun Cruiser II. That distracted me somehow from my growing annoyance and the not-so-faint rumblings inside my stomach.
The trip to the island took about an hour so it was way past lunchtime when we arrived. We were ushered onto the waiting tranvias which took us to the other side of the island where the buffet lunch would be served. I was starving already so I immediately took off and joined the line snaking toward the buffet tables. I almost did a U-turn when it was finally my turn to scoop some food onto my plate. Ugh, the food was simply unappetizing. And boy, was I not mistaken! Here are some evidence of that sorry excuse for a lunch.
We ate our SEFAL under rows of Anahaw trees (which was lovely) from where we also had a good view of the South Dock and the beach (which was lovelier).
And then our tranvia came around the corner and saved us from our misery. Rowena, our tour guide, was a funny lady who I suspect doubles as a standup comedienne during her spare time. Now, if only our history teachers can be as engaging and witty, lol.
Our first stop was the Malinta Tunnel where we experienced the audio-visual show dubbed “The Malinta Experience.” It was very moving. But I could have been moved some more if they upped the volume several notches higher during the simulation of the aerial bombardment. A tremor here and there might have also been in order. That would have made for an uber exciting and very “reality tv-ish” experience.
Our second stop was a tour of an artillery battery. This, Rowena pointed out, was just one of the many gun emplacements on the island which makes you wonder if the Americans went over the top that time.
And then came the ruins. After getting a good view of the Middle- and Top-side Barracks, I was beginning to wonder if what I was seeing were indeed ruins of military buildings. The description of the Topside Barracks stopped me on my tracks.
“Built in 1914, this three-storey hurricane-proof structure of reinforced concrete had a tile roof, pedimented façade, porches, verandas and capiz shell sliding windows.”
And it came to me, like an epiphany. The American forces heavily fortified the island because they were protecting their mansions much like our generals of today have built fences with barbed wires all around their fiefdoms which we now call as Crame and Aguinaldo. They even had one of the largest movie theaters in Asia that time (and God knows what other recreational facilities they had on the island at that time), with Hollywood movies being flown in to the island just two weeks after being shown in mainland US. Truly, a lifestyle worth guarding with a bevy of coastal guns, mortars and missiles!
Our final stop was the Pacific War Memorial and Museum where I saw World War 2 utensils on display. I saw a very familiar spoon with its handle engraved with “USN”. We have a couple of these in our home in Eastern Samar. Don’t ask me though about how they found their way to our dishrack. All I know is that the US forces established a naval base in the municipality of Guiuan (several kilometers from our town) before the war.
I took this photo on my way to the area where our tranvia was packed. The photo shows a statue of an American soldier helping his wounded Filipino comrade. I wondered who commissioned the sculpture. If it was the US Government, I’m sure it was only a consuelo de bobo. Because it surely did take them a long time to give the recognition and honor that the Filipino War Veterans deserve. The US Congress passed and President Barrack Obama signed the Filipino Veterans Equity Compensation only in 2009, or 64 years after the end of the war.
How sad is that?