After seeing the historical island that enthralled him since childhood, this traveler finds himself wanting to stay longer
Written and photographed by Isaac Puyod
The sea gleamed brightly with the sun’s reflection. While the waters were surprisingly calm that August day, it was a stark contrast from the growing excitement I felt inside. I was aboard MV Sun Cruises II. Destination: Corregidor.
I first learned about the island from a Department of Tourism book I read in second grade. What stuck to me were its rustic, much photographed ruins. As we docked in the island’s North Dock of the island dubbed as “The Rock”, I couldn’t wait to see these in real life.
Our group piled into our designated tram, then headed immediately to Malinta Tunnel. Once there, our guide asked us to explore on foot for a more interactive experience.
One of the iconic landmarks of Corregidor, Malinta Tunnel housed an intricate network of tunnels which played a refuge for the soldiers of World War 2. We slowly learned more about the war as the guide beamed his flashlight from one subtunnel to the next. He even put out the light so we can experience what the servicemen felt during the Japanese attacks. What an interesting start to the tour!
From the tunnel, we moved to the Japanese Garden of Peace. This featured a praying area, shrines, and commemorative markers for the Japanese soldiers who fought in The Rock. A short distance from the garden stands the Filipino Heroes Memorial, which displayed 14 murals of the different battles the country has witnessed. Surrounding the landmark were sculptures representing the guerilla farmers and the Filipinas, who played a significant role in the war.
Bring In the Big Guns
Military jargon soon came flooding in as the group explored Battery Way, Battery Grubs, and Battery Hearn. The destinations showcase some of the artillery guns used when the Japanese started attacking the base in Corregidor. As our guide explained the science behind handling these weapons, we discovered how they proved to be no match for an areal attack on the 1940s. These were designed for naval warfare, and were pretty outdated for the Second World War. Still, the guns withstood the test of time and stand today as a symbol of valor and loyalty.
Beauty in Ruins
After war stories, memorials, and artilleries, we finally transfer to the ruins I’ve been longing to see. The Topside Barracks once housed the army headquarters, cinema, and other recreational areas in the island. While only the structures’ skeletons stand today (some were even reduced to columns), I marvelled in their beauty against the tree-lined avenues. Every building seemed to speak of military men passing time before the war. The thought of those untold stories added drama to the ambience.
The highest spot of the island now also serves as a home to the Pacific War Memorial and Eternal Flame of Freedom Monument. As we move through these landmarks—a refreshing break from the historical gems—we were further reminded of the dedication to keep peace and freedom. The inscripture in the monument couldn’t sum it more perfectly: “To live in freedom’s light is the right of mankind”.
Tired from a whole morning spent roaming around The Rock, our group zoomed off to the island’s sole hotel for lunch. Complimentary drinks greeted us upon entering its restaurant, while a nice view of the sea completed the reinvigorating ambience.
By 1:45 PM, we were back on the road to squeeze in a few more stops before we sail back to Manila. The tour guide led us to the South Dock, which hosts the island’s other amenities like zip lines and kayak rides. The place is also known for red-splattered bloodstones that can be found on the beach and taken home.
Interestingly, our last destination was the point where General Douglas MacArthur also sailed off after being ordered by President Roosevelt to transfer to Australia. This historical moment and landmark is remembered with a statue of the former US Armed Forces commander.
As I unsuccesfully tried to immortalize that moment with a selfie, I slowly recounted the adventure I had that day—from the tunnel to the memorials to the ruins. It felt like a day wasn’t enough to explore its treasures. After all, Corregidor still held secrets that weren’t part of the tour we booked. I soon found myself uttering the same words MacArthur once said: “I shall return”.