As you all know, I am a huge history fan and I enjoy going to different historical places to learn more about a place’s heritage and culture. Despite this though, I admit that I haven’t visited too many historical sites in the Philippines. This is why I was so looking forward to visiting Corregidor, an island located near Manila Bay and one of the islands that made up the harbor defenses of Manila Bay during World War II.

Last month, I finally got to visit it with J!

We went on a weekend trip to Corregidor and booked an overnight stay on top of the day tour fees so that we could enjoy more of the island at our own pace. The schedule for the day was pretty crazy though; the ferry to the island leaves pretty early in the morning so that meant going to bed early and waking up early… something I hate doing! Night owls should definitely brace themselves when going on this tour! 😂

Anyway, we arrived in Corregidor at around 9:30 AM and we were greeted by open-air trams, which transported us to different attractions on the island!

So vintage!

The tram first brought us to Middleside Barracks, one of the living quarters for the American soldiers during the war. Our guide said that Filipino and American soldiers had separate living quarters at the time not because there was discrimination, but because there were some irreconcilable cultural differences between the two groups (especially when it comes to food. Apparently, Westerners think Filipino food smells… err… unusual 😂)

Our tour guide told us that many of the structures on the island have been left as is, so the foundations are no longer sound. Because of this hazard, there are no more permanent residents on the island. The guides and staff all go home to the mainland after they complete their shifts.

We went to Battery Way and Battery Grubbs next, where we saw all these cool guns used in the war! Our guide pointed out that the guns were manufactured in 1903, but the war started waaaay later, so it meant that the odds were against the Filipino troops from the start because they had outdated weapons. Nevertheless, the troops made the most of what they had and fought valiantly!

At Battery Grubbs, the guide showed us a view of the surrounding islands. We also saw lots of bomb craters. According to the guide, Corregidor was bombed for many consecutive days during the latter part of the war.

There are other bomb craters around the island besides this one… and they’re bigger too!
It was pretty surprising to find out that lots of Japanese tourists visit the island as well. Apparently, Japanese tourists also frequently leave incense, sake, and other offerings here to give thanks to their fallen soldiers who died in Corregidor.

But then, my favorite attraction would probably be the Mile-Long Barracks, one of the fanciest barracks on the whole island. I actually think it looks like a hotel! I can only wonder how it used to look like during its heyday.

Our tram also drove to Pacific War Memorial, where we saw a memorial altar for the fallen troops and a museum telling the tales of the Second World War on this side of the world.

Light falls directly on this altar through a circular opening in the roof on May 5th, 12 PM every year. This commemorates the exact time and date when the troops stationed on the island surrendered to the Japanese after a long, arduous battle that put their courage and determination to the test.
The Pacific War Memorial also features the Brothers In Arms sculpture, which honors the Filipino and American servicemen who fought alongside each other in the Pacific front during the Second World War.

After exploring the Pacific War Memorial, we had lunch and got ready to go to Malinta Tunnel, the tour’s last stop. But then, there was a last-minute announcement that all guests must leave the island because two low-pressure areas were approaching Corregidor, and there won’t be boats to the mainland for 2 to 3 days. They didn’t want to risk our safety so they’re sending everyone home. 😢 It’s a bummer that we won’t be able to stay overnight in Corregidor, but it’s good that they’re concerned about our safety. So, they all took care of our luggage while we drove to the Filipino Heroes Memorial and Malinta Tunnel, our last stops for the day!

The Filipino Heroes Memorial is a tribute to all the heroes who fought for our freedom, from the Spanish period to our independence. It also showed how our countrymen suffered under the hands of our colonizers. It showed me that we should cherish the freedom that we have because many people suffered and died to attain it. Many Japanese tourists actively avoid this part of the tour because the memorial features paintings depicting the Japanese soldiers’ atrocities during the war. Apparently, many of them are not aware that these things even happened and that their soldiers could do such things.

Malinta Tunnel, on the other hand, is a tunnel complex built to store supplies. However, it was converted into a 1,000-bed hospital during the latter days of the war. We bought a ticket to the lights and sounds show where we learned about what happened in Corregidor during WW2, particularly the evacuation of President Manuel Quezon and General Douglas MacArthur, as well as the continuous bombings that happened when the Japanese took over.

Inside Malinta Tunnel. It was pretty humid during the day we visited; I can only imagine how much worse it would have felt for the thousands of soldiers who were crammed in here during the war. Even though the tunnel was not designed for dwelling purposes (they didn’t even have toilets!), the soldiers had no choice but to stay inside and put up with the terrible living conditions because the enemies were dropping bombs on the island every single day, for weeks.
This part of the tunnel has never been touched ever since the war ended. Here, Japanese soldiers committed suicide using hand grenades, and as a result, they destroyed this part of the tunnel. Our guide said that when it became apparent that they were losing, Japanese soldiers chose to kill themselves instead. They’d rather die than be captured by the Americans.

The last part of the lights and sounds show showed the American flag being taken down for the last time and the Philippine flag being raised for the first time on the island. It was beautiful. And then, the spotlight shone on this Philippine flag and the national anthem played. It was a very emotional experience for me, to the point that I cried as everyone sang the national anthem. I cried not because I was patriotic; I cried because these fallen soldiers believed that the Philippines could be a free and great nation (and even fought bravely just for us to experience that dream) but with the way things are going now, with all the corruption and the messed up society that came with it, I felt like we’re just wasting everything that they fought so hard for.

Overall, Corregidor was a lovely place and I learned so much about our history that I only ever read about in books. There’s something sad and eerie about the island given all the things that happened, but at the same time, experiencing our fallen heroes’ journey through this place filled me with hope.

Hope… that no matter how screwed up things are at the moment, this nation will always be worth dreaming and fighting for.

A statue of a Filipino soldier at The Filipino Heroes’ Memorial. “Dedicated to the Filipino who knows how to die for the love of freedom and liberty.”

4 thoughts on “A day in Corregidor

  1. Anna Jo says:

    Hello Claudine! I’ve never been to Corregidor island, but I’ve always been curious. Reading your blog entry about it though gave me a lot of insight into the island, as if you were giving a walking tour! :”) it was good also that they sent you guys home due to the low pressure areas.. I also have a colleague of mine who experienced getting stuck in the island for a couple more days since they were caught in between the low pressure areas eep! I think I would have the same feelings as you did, seeing all these memorials and altars; as much as living in the Philippines can be frustrating, there’s also still much to love about it. Thank you so much for sharing with us your insights, and I’m glad I found your blog! 🙂

  2. Pauline says:

    I loved reading this! Thanks for sharing Claudine 😊 This is a place I will definitley look at visting one day – hopefully during a planned long-term stay in the Philippines in the near future. It looks like you’ve had a fantastic time!

    I am actually quite ashamed of not knowing much about Philippine history and culture. I actually haven’t even read a book on our history and literally know nothing at all which is very embarassing! Do you recommend any books or resources I could look into? 🙂 I’d really appreciate it – knowing my roots has always been something I keep meaning to do.

  3. Nancy says:

    It is always good to visit a historical site. You learn about the past and it’s pretty cool to see what still stands after so many years. Oh man, the building definitely looks worn out. Oh wow, the tunnel is huge! It is interesting to see how war took place back in the day. Glad you had a fun and interesting experience!

    Nancy ♥

  4. Cat says:

    I think that’s great that you like visiting historical places! I ended up looking up more about Corregidor after reading your post and learning more about it, so thanks for sharing! That’s amazing that you’re still able to see the structures and buildings from the past. It’s too bad they’re not structural sound anymore, but I think it’s nice to see they as they are. I also thought that was an interesting fact about the weapons being outdated and that that’s what they had to use.

    Too bad your trip had to be cut short! Better to be safe though, so I’m glad the tour was looking out for you all. Corregidor looked like a great place to visit to learn more about Philippine’s history!

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