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war started waaaay later, so it meant that the odds were against the Filipino troops from the start because they had outdated weapons.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.”

22 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! 🙂

    http://helloannajo.blogspot.com

    1. Claudine says:

      Hi Anna Jo! Thanks for stopping by! ❤️ I’m glad that you felt like you were also doing the tour with us while reading this entry 😉

      It would’ve been scary to be stuck in Corregidor during bad weather, so it’s better that they sent everyone home! They gave us a chance to re-schedule our overnight stay or avail a refund anyway, so it was all good. 👍🏼

  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.

    1. Claudine says:

      Oh you will love Corregidor! The day tour will give you an overview of the island’s history (which I’m sure you’ll enjoy), but if you stay for a few days, you’ll be able to take part in other activities 👍🏼

      I’ve already messaged you some of my recommendations, but I’ll say it here anyway: if anyone else wants an overview of Philippine history, the book History of the Filipino People by Teodoro Agoncillo is a good place to start 😉

  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 ♥ exquisitely.me

    1. Claudine says:

      I was actually surprised to see some of the structures in Corregidor! A lot of them aren’t structurally sound anymore, but I’m glad that the ruins are still there somehow. They gave me a glimpse of how everything looked like back in the day. ❤️

  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!

    1. Claudine says:

      Aww this made my day. I’m glad that you learned something new, Cat! 😀 It’s always nice when people end up looking something up and reading more about topics that I share on my blog ❤️

      I thought that trivia about their weapons was pretty interesting too! I think it really shows how resourceful and intelligent American and Filipino soldiers were – they were still able to fight even if they had to do it with outdated weapons. They were pretty good at strategizing too, so I believe that worked to their advantage as well!

  5. Sakura says:

    I always find historical sites, especially the ones linked to WWII to be rather depressed. Maybe because Singapore has gone through WWII as well and we were taught since young on how bad the conditions were and how inhumane Japanese were at that time. Japan is quite different now but this part of history will always remain hurting for the Asian countries they wage war with previously.

    1. Claudine says:

      I also think it’s pretty depressing to visit or even just read about places related to WW2. That was a terrible time in our country’s history as well, but it’s good to educate people about it so that no one forgets and makes the same mistakes again.

  6. Ashley says:

    Wow, thanks for sharing this. I learned so much. It is shameful how much I don’t know about other countries and their history. I have been trying to learn and soak in as much as possible. I really enjoyed this read and seeing the pictures. Going around to historical places seems like a really good idea.

    1. Claudine says:

      Thanks for reading Ashley! I’m glad you learned something new about our history ❤️

  7. Kenny says:

    Looks like you had lots of fun and enjoyment. 🙂 I like the idea of visiting historical places, but I don’t know if I would enjoy them. I would rather do something food related. xD

    1. Claudine says:

      Haha sampling local food is awesome too! 😆

  8. Michelle says:

    Historical sites are pretty amazing and I even at one point, got to visit a few in my youth.

    The Alamo. Have you heard of it? Anyhow, it’s pretty amazing seeing that kind of history, which is why it’s better to preserve and remember.

    1. Claudine says:

      I haven’t heard of The Alamo, and I had to look it up to learn about it. It seems like a pretty interesting place as well, and one that I’d like to visit someday! I find that I am drawn to places that have seen action during wars. It’s sad and violent but at the same time, it amazes me to see the impact of these places on the people who survived these events, and the world we live in as a whole. Thanks for sharing Michelle!

  9. Kayla says:

    Wow this looks so interesting! Glad you enjoyed your time, despite the announcement that you couldn’t stay. Although it’s good they were looking out for everyones safety.

    1. Claudine says:

      Yeah, it’s better to be safe than sorry after all! 😊

  10. stevevhan says:

    OMG! I never thought that going there can be from Manila, i thought you have to travel in the provinces, i am also a fan of history! This would definitely be in my list and i love to go here! This is so amazinggggg! <3

    1. Claudine says:

      You should definitely go! ❤️ It’s super accessible from Manila. I think you can go to Corregidor from Bataan as well, but I’m not so sure how that works! 😅

  11. Kirsten says:

    Wow! What a beautiful and awe-inspiring place. I know that lots of people find WWI and WWII places depressing and sad because of the loss of life but I still see the beauty and wonder in it and the history. So many people died for our freedom and for a better chance of life for us and I think that needs to be respected and commemorated and not forgotten!

    I have always been fascinated with history and especially WWII ever since I was a kid and we lived on an old WWII base in Germany and traveled around Western Europe (the East was still off-limits) and seeing some of the WWII sites and seeing some of our own here in Nova Scotia and other parts of Canada and seeing the places we went and fought for or in.

    I love the pictures you have taken they are beautiful and will forever be a memory for yourself and also keepsakes for your family to come. I once stood near the grave of my fallen uncle in Italy and took a picture of it never dreaming how special it would become to his daughter from England who was born while he was there and never met him.

    1. Claudine says:

      “So many people died for our freedom and for a better chance of life for us and I think that needs to be respected and commemorated and not forgotten!” – I totally agree! ❤️

      It must have felt amazing to stand near the grave of your fallen uncle and learn more about him. It’s a shame that you never got to know him, but at least you had this moment to remember him by ❤️

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