Silent Hill Meets the Blair Witch
Corregidor Travel Blog› entry 1 of 2 › view all entries
July 26th, 2008 – by: Isabetlog
The cruise was a pleasant one and we sat indoors for the most part just chatting away. There was an introductory video on the history of Corregidor playing on the screens but everyone I think was too sleepy to pay any attention to it at the time. In a nutshell, Corregidor is a tadpole/sperm -shaped island just 26 miles from Manila, 10 miles from Cavite and 5 miles from Bataan. With an area of 3.5sq.miles, it's the biggest of group of five islands cropping out of Manila Bay. It was used during the pre-colonial days as a hideout by the pirates who plied the waters around Luzon and the Visayas and plundered the seaside commerce of the times.
From 1795, the Spaniards built a dockyard for their naval ships, a hospital, and a lighthouse. They set up guns and batteries in Corregidor as well as the surrounding areas of Cavite and Bataan, but not enough to lead them to victory during the Battle of Manila Bay against Commodore George Dewey and the Americans on 1 May 1898.
Like the former colonizers, the Americans realized the value of Corregidor and by 1902 established it as their military reservation. The following year saw the arrival of one General Douglas MacArthur. A top-notcher from West Point, he spent $150 million on fortifying Corregidor and the neighboring islands with a total of 23 batteries, including almost 60 guns and mortars along the coast, 13 anti-aircraft artilleries with 76 guns ranging from 3-in to 50-caliber. There were also ten 60-in perry searchlights strategically positioned. By the end of WWI, however, it was clear that Corregidor would not be able to stand an airborne attack and led to the construction of the Malinta Tunnel as a military reserve.
Corregidor was the Headquarters of the Allied Forces during the Commonwealth Era under Gen. MacArthur and President Manuel L. Quezon, but fell into the hands of the Japanese Imperial Army under Lt. Gen. Homma Masaharu during the Battle of the Philippines in 1942.
We had joined the tour of Carlos Celdran but we were also regaled by an in-house tour guide, Armando, who briefed us on the weekend experience we were to have. I was happy to have Armando, he was quite knowledgeable and, like Carlos, had the sense of humor of the type of tour guides I like. He wasn't of the usual, "ober hir on da right side ees the execushon site" with matching hand gestures variety.
The ride took a little over an hour and were greeted by a number of trams at the dock - winning replicas of those they had in the 1930s. It was tram no.1 for us and we were whisked off to the recreational area at the Bottomside part of the island. I don't recall if I expected the place to be barren, but I was pretty pleased to see that it was green and lush with vegetation all over. Apparently in the 70s or 80s (?) the government decided to rid the rubble that burried Corregidor and preserved the ruins in their ravaged states. Part of the clean up included pelting Corregidor with ipil seeds since these rapidly grow into trees in about 2 years' time, which accounts for the opulence of its terrain. When we arrived at the recreational site, there were already snacks waiting for us. I assumed it was to keep guests chipper as check-in wouldn't be until after lunch.
Carlos shortly took us to the nearby Bloodstone Beach in the former town of San Jose and as we were on our way, pointed out the sanguine-tinted stones on the ground. He scared us by saying that the wars left Corregidor such a deathly mess that the blood of the soldiers flowed out to sea and stained the coastal rocks. This was of course myth, and that the reddish tones are attributed to the stones' chemical properties that discolor when wet and exposed to the sun. Or something like that. Anyway, we then went to the San Jose Chapel, a (blood)stone's throw away from where we were. I didn't catch much of what he said, but that the Chapel was a recreation of the original which the Filipinos and Americans used during their time.
We went back to the recreational area where the tram had returned to take us to the hotel and we were ushered towards the veranda for lunch. Carlos was right, the meal wasn't great. It consisted of chicken, pork, some veggies and soup cooked to mediocrity. Our rooms still weren't ready after we ate so Carlos offered the four of us his room to hang out in while waiting. The guy was dashing in and out of the room. Then he plopped himself on the bed and confessed. As it turns out, what we had experienced so far was part of his delaying tactics. He'd been doing damage control backstage as all this delay was caused by a couple of things. For one, Sun Cruises left behind all the luggage of one family in Manila. In order to keep the peace and them from finding out, he had to make whatever arrangements he could and demanded that it be brought to Corregidor immediately so as not to alarm them of the predicament.
Our first stop was at the Tail End of the island. On our way, we spotted a number of caves built by the Japanese and various trails and tunnels.
The Philippine War Memorial was our next stop. It's laid-out with murals of the country's war history and divided into individual panels that chronologically circle the park. There are statues of war heroes, presidents and figures of valiance during our times of trouble. Our stay was a brief one and in no time we were headed for the Japanese Garden of Peace. It was funded by a private Japanese company for the Japanese war veterans and their families. By the entrance of the garden is a small pavilion where photographs and Japanese war memorabilia hang. Before we could proceed to the gardens, Carlos stopped us to share something quite remarkable and held up a mounted photo.
The rain started to gently pour as we hopped back on the tram. It unfortunately strengthened as we set out for the Middleside making it impossible for us to stop by the Middleside Barracks. It was upsetting since I love, love, love ruins and this one was one of those that could hold me in awe for hours. These barracks comprised of two three-story buildings, and was at the time the 2nd longest barracks in the world. Not to worry though, said Carlos, as the Topside Barracks was more impressive, being the time's longest barracks evarrr. Cool then, we'd be seeing that in good time. So we pressed on to three of the island's major batteries. The first was Battery Hearn that had only one gun emplacement still standing. Next to it was a roped off portion of sunken earth where a mother ass bomb had landed, and nearby was an idle mortar on the side of the road.
We all gathered on the tram once again and headed for the Topside. I was excited to see the ruins of the Topside Barracks, especially since we lost the opportunity to thoroughly explore those at the Middleside to the rain. Three stories high, it's also referred to as the Mile Long Barracks, as its entire length is just short of covering a mile at 1,520ft, and again was the world's longest military barracks. For some reason, I wasn't as taken by this as I was with the Middleside Barracks. Not that I couldn't appreciate it, but thought that the other one had more character somehow. Anyhoo, we moved on for a quick panoramic view of Corregidor up at the reconstructed Spanish Lighthouse. But given my fear of heights and the strongs winds blowing my way, all I could manage without looking anywhere else was a quick shot of the other nearby lighthouse and made my way down.
Our next stop was the Corregidor Museum, just past the Mile Long Barracks. Because of the weather, the power was lost and it was difficult to lose oneself on the memorabilia on display. The rain started to pour again and stealing shots of the Cinema and the statues in front of the Pacific War Memorial in the adjoining area was almost impossible. Our stomachs were grumbling anyway so we ran for shelter under the juicer-looking dome of the Pacific War Memorial where Carlos had the food that we brought set out on a buffet table for our cocktails. This was originally arranged at the Battery Grubbs where were could stuff our faces to the view of the setting sun, but alas, this was not to be, what with the fine weather we were so blessed with.
Just the same, the food everybody brought was excellent. There was wine, cheese, crackers, olives, exotic asian chips, sausages, local delicacies, cakes and more chips. Absolutely lovely. My friends and I busied ourselves eating that we forgot to check out the Eternal Flame of Freedom sculpture at the other end of the PWM. There was enough for everyone that by the time dinner came around, nobody really had much of an appetite. I still had a serving though, how can anyone resist food?! Carlos provided some pasta, and the leftovers from the cocktails were also served. The potluck idea was fantastic in that we didn't have to consume too much of their unexciting fried chicken and what not just to fill up after a long and tiring day.
Shortly after dinner, those who still had the energy and the guts to go ghost hunting were taken away from the safe confines of the Hotel to the dank and dreary wreakage of the Hospital for another chapter of real-life Silent Hill.
Our last activity for the evening was supposed to be a quiet and relaxing winding-down by the Eternal Flame where we could view Manila in its night-time glory. The Eternal Flame, however, didn't live up to her name and wasn't quite eternal after all. Like the museum earlier, the power had gone out and we ended up sitting there in the darkness. While the ruins felt like scenes from a petrifying video game, this part of the island made me feel like we were lost in the Blair Witch Project forest. And though it wasn't the most appropriate thing to do, I couldn't help but have Kat pose like Heather in the infamous snot-laden scene. Sans the snot, of course.
Back at the hotel, Carlos invited my friends and I to cap off the evening with some more alchyhol on the veranda.
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