Monday, September 5, 2011

Corregidor Island Rocks!

If you happen to be in Manila for a day or two while waiting to connect to the Philippine island of your choice, there is one day trip you cannot miss. Corregidor Island, also known as the ‘Rock’, stands like a lonely sentinel at the entrance of Manila Bay from the South China Sea, 26 nautical miles from the busy metropolis.

But you may as well be 200 or 2,000 miles away because here, the solitude and solemnity, the sweeping vistas, the awesome relics of war and the constant blowing of monsoon winds will transport you to some other time, some other place.

Because of its strategic location, Corregidor was the first line of defence for the Spanish colonizers against would-be invaders like the British, the Dutch, and the Americans. By the beginning of the 20th century, the US had taken over the Philippine Islands from Spain and fortifications and artillery were beefed up on the island.

In the summer of 1942, the remaining American and Filipino defenders were holed up on Corregidor in a last-ditch attempt to repulse the Japanese invaders. Unfortunately, no reinforcements came for the valiant defenders.
Under constant bombardment from superior enemy forces, the big guns of Corregidor fired their last shots and General Wainwright surrendered the island to prevent a slaughter of his forces. General Douglas MacArthur quietly slipped away by boat to Australia from here, one day to return.

The ruins of the bombed-out Middleside Barracks are an awesome sight. 60 tons of bombs were dropped here, decimating the ranks of 6,000 soldiers. At Battery Way, completed in 1913, stands with 4 12-inch mortars capable of firing in any direction.

The huge cannon at Battery Hearn had a range of over 29,000 yards. It was captured nearly intact by Japanese forces and was where the famous “Banzai” shot was taken. The Mile-Long Barracks sits on higher ground; this was the nerve centre of the war effort, where officers and their families were housed. Across the street, the Cine Corregidor was showing “Gone With the Wind” when Japanese bombs silenced it forever.

The Pacific War Memorial is an inspiring monument to soldiers who gave their lives in the Pacific Theater to defend freedom. Nearby is the Lighthouse, originally built by the Spanish in 1836. Pause and reflect at the Japanese Memorial Garden of Peace, a reminder of the horrors of war and a fitting tribute to the thousands of American, Filipino and Japanese soldiers who died on the ‘Rock’. Perched on a high cliff with breathtaking views are Japanese-built anti-aircraft cannons complete with bullet mark hits from attacking aircraft.

Here stands a statue of the Japanese Goddess of Peace facing in the direction of Japan. Do not miss the thrilling light and sound show at the Malinta Tunnel, a bomb-proof underground hospital and arsenal during the war.
The island’s only hotel was built before the war. If you want to stay overnight, be prepared to hear many stories about the departed soldiers’ ‘ghosts’ and ‘spirits’ still lurking about on the Rock.

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