Traveling With History Corregidor
Story & pictures by Allan Seiden
Situated on a rocky island at the entrance to the expansive waters of Manila Bay, Corregidor was a defensive outpost for the city of Manila, 35 miles by boat to the northeast.
having taken over Germany’s Pacific colonies in 1914, taking control of the Marshall, Caroline, and Mariana Islands as an ally of Great Britain in WWI. In the Marianas, where American claimed Guam and Japan claimed Saipan, Tinian, and the islands to the north, the opposing empires were a mere 130 miles apart.
Corregidor was developed into a mighty fortress, its rocky summits topped with powerful anti-aircraft batteries guns, its hillsides carved with tunnels capable of housing 10,000 troops if the need arose. The Japanese aerial attacks began on 29 December 1941 and continued on an almost daily basis., taking the lives of 800 men, with the Japanese loosing 900 men before it was all over.
General Douglas MacArthur had established headquarters on Corregidor when he was forced to retreat from Bataan, escaping from Corregidor at night to be flown to Australia to plan for the return to the Philippines that he promised upon his departure.
American forces held out for a while after MacArthur’s departure, but without reinforcement and supplies of food, medicines, and other necessities were running low when the Japanese made a successful amphibious landing.
The fall of Corregidor ended American resistance in the Philippines. It also provided the Japanese with 11,000 American and Filipino POWs, many dying of mistreatment at the hands of the Japanese military.
Many Philippine soldiers signed up to fight under American commanders, with anti-Japanese guerillas taking a toll on Japanese forces throughout the war. The battle plan to recapture Corregidor was initiated on 23 January, 1945 with strikes from bombers that continued on a near-daily basis into mid-February, when naval bombardment began, followed on 16 February by a topside parachute landing of Army troops.
Fierce land battles ensued, with the japanese defeated on 26 February, with 7600 or 7700 Japanese defenders killed, and a loss of 207 American soldiers.
While for most visitors Corregidor is a day trip from harborside Manila, the better option is an overnight stay at the a very pleasant, low cost alternative that also opens the door to quiet wandering after daytrip visitors have gone, and a night visit to the Malinta Tunnel, “main street” to the network of tunnels that are the highlight of a visit. Most of the island is open to visitors.
While the island is small, its roads climb and descend, requiring considerable effort in the tropic heat. That makes a tour is a recommend, providing access to the abandoned batteries, military ruins, and memorial and scenic lookouts that include the Bataan Peninsula, about
six miles to the east.
An overnight stay puts things at a relaxed pace, time to not only enjoy the military history, but for a swim in the small beach where Japanese troops once made a landing. American Marines recaptured the island on during the land assault on Manila and Luzon.
Ferry Service & Tours
he SunTour ferry departs adjacent to the Folk Arts Theater in the CCP complex on a daily round trip to Corregidor from Manila. Reservations for ferry and island tour, including tasty buffet lunch, are required at least a day in advance. Tickets can sell out weeks in advance.
Adult fare is 2,200 pesos ($52), 2,399 pesos ($58) on weekends, holidays). Hotel reservations are booked in advance with the ferry operator for an additional 1,500 ($42) single, 2000 double ($48), including breakfast. Ferry service only is $30 weekdays, $32 weekends and holidays. More extensive tour options, including kayaking and ATVs, are also available.
Visitors must check in by 7:30 for the 8 AM departure: any later than 7:45 and you won’t be boarded. The 75-minute trip provides a scenic cruise of Manila harbor and skyline. Ferry departure is 2:30 PM, returning to Manila at 3:45. A film documenting events is shown on the way over. Tours depart from the dock and provide a lunch break at the