Silent Hill Meets the Blair Witch

Corregidor Travel Blog

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The Philippine flag blowing in the wind
"Where are you?!" Kat's SMS read. I couldn't believe I was running seriously late for this and might actually end up missing the ferry! Well, actually, I can believe it. I'm not the most punctual person I know although I can pull a few surprises now and then. But this wasn't a time I could afford to be late, not when I'd been wanting to check out The Rock for the longest time. "We're about to board," Kat's message threatened. I knew the ferry wasn't scheduled to depart until 8am and although it was past our 7.30 meetup time I was sure I'd make it. And sure enough, Kat, Felipe and Mila were sitting around fighting off sleep at the Sun Cruises ferry station when I arrived.
Armando briefs the group
I made it by the skin of my teeth, alleluiah! I paid up together with another family and we were off.

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.
Ferry cheese: Mila, Kat & Me
Its ideal location was later regconized by the Spaniards who fortified the island in defense of Manila. They used it as a check-point for all ships entering and leaving Manila who had to have their papers looked at and corrected, thus giving rise to the name Isla del Corregidor, or Island of the Corrector, which was later shortened to Corregidor.

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.
Japanese-built caves
This was the Americans' first engagement during the Spanish-American War who would later liberate the Philippines from Hispanic rule.

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.
Caballo Island in the distance
Corregidor was officially named Fort Mills (after the chief of artillery at the time), Caballo Island was Fort Hughes, Carabao was Fort Frank, and El Fraile was Fort Drum - the most interesting as it was fashioned to resemble a ship to deceive the enemies. Corregidor was delineated into 4 sectors. The Topside at the northwestern part or 'head' of the tadpole was the highest point of the island rising to 500ft. above sea level. This is where the Mile Long barracks, the officers' headquarters, the cinema, the parade grounds and bulk of the batteries are located. The Middleside sits between the Top and Bottomside of the island, where more barracks are situated as well as the hospital, YMCA and the Youth for Peace Campsite.
We're here!
The Bottomside is the part that connects the head to the tail where the docks, wharves, Malinta Hills and the town of San Jose were. San Jose was the island's seat of government during the Spanish regime. The last sector is the Tail End of the island where Kindley Field lies as well as the modern-day additions of several memorials.

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.
North Dock
MacArthur was  forced to evade to Australia and Lt. Gen. Jonathan M. Wainwright took command. But MacArthur was a man with a mission. Three years later, his army recaptured the island in 1945 and after a long and arduous combat, the Japanese were finally defeated. By war's end though, Corregidor was blitzed into oblivion and became and cemetery of an island.

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.
La-di-da at the recreational area


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.
Bloodstones fill the pavement
I didn't think much else of it and was just grateful for them. There was juice for everyone, too, but my friends and I opted to get a beer as well. Oh yeah, breakfast on this rock rocks!

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.
San Jose Chapel
He also mentioned that during the American occupation, Corregidor was exclusively for the American servicemen, their families and the employees who worked at the various shops, cinema and other commercial areas. The only Filipinos allowed then were the soldiers. No civilians lived on the island. It's pretty much the same today where the only inhabitants are those who employed there. We headed towards Lorcha Dock next, where MacArthur departed from in defeat in 1942. A larger than life statue now stands in the post-war MacArthur Park with an inscription of his famous promise, "I shall return." I was surprised to learn that he actually uttered those words not as he was leaving Corregidor, but upon his arrival in Australia.
Gen. MacArthur statue
The Dock was pretty interesting, with the original but rusty tram tracks still inlaid on the ground.

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.
Tram tracks on Lorcha Dock
As he was telling us this, their luggage was already on a bangka (outrigger boat) somewhere in Manila Bay en route to the island. Second, a group from La Salle University who stayed the night before requested for a late check-out. Given that the Corregidor Hotel is the only one on the island and with limited rooms, there was no choice but to wait. Carlos apparently wasn't earlier informed of this and was really ticked off about it. So the snacks we had when we first arrived were served for free at his behest (minus the beer). The poor guy, having worked in production, I can totally relate to his dilema and the stress that it caused. When rooms were finally sorted, we freshened up and started the tour.

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.
Control Tower at Kindley Airfield & the site of the Jabidah Massacre
We alighted by the Kindley Airfield, a historic site in relation this time to the Marcos regime. Back in the late 1960's Marcos set up a covert operation called Merdeka (Operation Freedom) to reclaim Sabah from Malaysia (ownership of the island is still in dispute to this day). He employed the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) to recuit a group of Moro youth from Tawi-Tawi and Sulu who secretly trained them for battle in Corregidor. The young army was clueless as to their mission and rebelled when they discovered that they were to fight their fellow-Muslims, some of whom could possibly be their kin. To bury this failed attempt from the public, on the night of 18 March 1968, the AFP mercilessly excecuted the recruits in batches of 12 at the end of the Kindley Airfield near the Control Tower.
The tail of Corregidor where Jibin Arula leaped to his freedom
There are a reported 28 deaths though it's believed that up to 60 Moro Muslims were butchered. This story only surfaced when the sole survivor of the massacre, Jibin Arula, came forward. Seeing the fate of his comrades, he escaped by jumping off the nearby cliff and held on to a driftwood floating in the sea. He was rescued by fishermen from Cavite. There's a small subterrenean shelter near the spot where he jumped, with photos and accounts of the ordeal. This has gone down in history as the Jabidah Massacre, which has led to the formation of the Moro National Liberation Front, or MNLF, headed by then student activist Nur Misuari. The view of the island's tail and Cavite in the distance was breathtaking.
Philippine War Memorial
I couldn't begin to fathom what it was like for the young Muslim, standing there on the very cliff where he leaped from. All I got were goosebumps and chills that ran up and down my spine.

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.
Japanese Garden of Peace
It was that of a Japanese cemetery which the Americans built despite them being the enemy as a sign of respect for the dead. For years nobody could find the place as it took a while to clear out all the rubble. As fate woould have it, somebody (possibly a GI?) had found the photo of the cemetery in a garage sale in the States and bought it. How this photo found its way to the right hands, I don't remember, but through it, the authorities were able to find the Japanese cemetery deep within a forest that had grown and the clue that led them to the exact spot was the view of Caballo Island in the distance. How amazing. Anyway, we proceeded to check out the 10ft. buddha and shrine by the reflecting pool, the anti-aircraft mortars and the memorials on the other side. I don't remember what happened to the crosses as shown in the photo though. I'll just assume that the wood (if that was the material used) had rotted and were replaced by the circular stone slabs on the grass.
Battle scars


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.
Battery Way - Scenes from Silent Hill
The second was Battery Way where 4 12-inch mortars were postioned and whose shell rooms we were able to meander through for a while. There was almost no available light inside and we were handed flashlights without which we wouldn't have seen anything inside, let alone find our way around. There was all sorts of graffiti on the walls, heavy metal riveted doors between its sectors, scars of bullets on the outer doors, and a general feeling of sorrow and spook all around. All of a sudden, I felt like a video game character trapped on Silent Hill. The third and final battery or our tour was Battery Grubbs. I thought this was the most imposing of all if only for the 2 but ginormous "disappearing" guns hidden behind high concrete parapets and whose carriages could be lowered into the ground.
"Disappearing Guns" of Battery Grubbs


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.
Carlos takes us to the Topside/Mile Long Barracks
I'm chicken, I know, and I can live with that. Hee.

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.
Mile Long Barracks


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.
Spanish Lighthouse
Built in the shape of a cross to prevent any airborne attacks, the hospital still suffered the same demise as the rest of Corregidor. Though no one saw any ghosts, this I think was the creepiest site so far, and my inner 13 year-old was waiting for hideous monsters to come out from the corners. A hospital can already be horrifying in itself, but a hospital in ruins with a history such as this is another terrifying thing altogether. It was also here that the Moro Muslims were housed during their training, where evidence of their presence is clearly marked by the crude inscriptions they left on the walls. Another creepy thing was that at every wing of the hospital we went to, there would always be this guy lurking from a distance and always standing perfectly still. We recognized him as part of the security in civilian clothing but having him there without interacting with us just added to the already ghastly experience.
The Hospital: Silent Hill pt.2 - Who's up there?


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.
Blair Kat Project: "I'm sorry, I'm sorreeeeeeeee!"
We were later joined by some others from the group which was great as a young American couple decided to join in as well. It turned out that it was their tenth year anniversay and saved a good amount of wine, cheese and sausages to share for their mini celebration.


marix_sublime says:
loved this entry isabelle. galing pagkaka sulat.
Posted on: Jun 13, 2009
Isabetlog says:
*blush, blush* Thank you, kuya Josh, I'm glad you like them :) I wrote a bit more on dark tourism in my other blog - http://meandersome.blogspot.com/2008/07/of-dark-tourism-and-icelandic-musicians.html
:)
Posted on: Aug 27, 2008
the_bloodsucker says:
@#$%^&*!! ganda ng photos! talented ka talaga, betlog!! =D
Posted on: Aug 27, 2008
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The Philippine flag blowing in the…
The Philippine flag blowing in th…
Armando briefs the group
Armando briefs the group
Ferry cheese: Mila, Kat & Me
Ferry cheese: Mila, Kat & Me
Japanese-built caves
Japanese-built caves
Caballo Island in the distance
Caballo Island in the distance
Were here!
We're here!
North Dock
North Dock
La-di-da at the recreational area
La-di-da at the recreational area
Bloodstones fill the pavement
Bloodstones fill the pavement
San Jose Chapel
San Jose Chapel
Gen. MacArthur statue
Gen. MacArthur statue
Tram tracks on Lorcha Dock
Tram tracks on Lorcha Dock
Control Tower at Kindley Airfield …
Control Tower at Kindley Airfield…
The tail of Corregidor where Jibin…
The tail of Corregidor where Jibi…
Philippine War Memorial
Philippine War Memorial
Japanese Garden of Peace
Japanese Garden of Peace
Battle scars
Battle scars
Battery Way - Scenes from Silent H…
Battery Way - Scenes from Silent …
Disappearing Guns of Battery Gru…
"Disappearing Guns" of Battery Gr…
Carlos takes us to the Topside/Mil…
Carlos takes us to the Topside/Mi…
Mile Long Barracks
Mile Long Barracks
Spanish Lighthouse
Spanish Lighthouse
The Hospital: Silent Hill pt.2 - W…
The Hospital: Silent Hill pt.2 - …
Blair Kat Project: Im sorry, Im…
Blair Kat Project: "I'm sorry, I'…
Carlos and the gang
Carlos and the gang
Bataan within firing range
Bataan within firing range
Cannon
Cannon
San Jose Chapel
San Jose Chapel
San Jose Chapel
San Jose Chapel
Chapel interiors
Chapel interiors
Chapel interiors
Chapel interiors
Chapel interiors
Chapel interiors
San Jose Chapel
San Jose Chapel
Gen. McArthur Park
Gen. McArthur Park
Gen. McArthur Park
Gen. McArthur Park
Lorcha Dock
Lorcha Dock
Dock
Dock
Plaque
Plaque
Love those roots!
Love those roots!
Red-eyed crow
Red-eyed crow
Japanese cave
Japanese cave
Armando holds up a photo of Fort D…
Armando holds up a photo of Fort …
Sights around the island
Sights around the island
Our tram
Our tram
Subterranean memorial
Subterranean memorial
Memorial plaque
Memorial plaque
Inside...
Inside...
Kindley Airfield
Kindley Airfield
War murals
War murals
War murals
War murals
War murals
War murals
War murals
War murals
Philippine War/Heroes Memorial
Philippine War/Heroes Memorial
Philippine War/Heroes Memorial
Philippine War/Heroes Memorial
Plaque
Plaque
Jibo Kannon Stone Buddha
Jibo Kannon Stone Buddha
Jibo Kannon Stone Buddha
Jibo Kannon Stone Buddha
Battery at the Japanese Garden of …
Battery at the Japanese Garden of…
Battle scars
Battle scars
Caballo Island in the distance
Caballo Island in the distance
Caballo Island
Caballo Island
Japanese Memorial - curious how th…
Japanese Memorial - curious how t…
Japanese Garden of Peace
Japanese Garden of Peace
Memorial
Memorial
Japanese Garden of Peace
Japanese Garden of Peace
Japanese Garden of Peace
Japanese Garden of Peace
Battery Way
Battery Way
Battery Way
Battery Way
Battery Way
Battery Way
Battery Way
Battery Way
Battery Way
Battery Way
Battery Way
Battery Way
Battery Way
Battery Way
Battery Way
Battery Way
Battery Way
Battery Way
Battery Way
Battery Way
Battery Way
Battery Way
Felipe, dont go towards the liiii…
Felipe, don't go towards the liii…
Battery Way
Battery Way
Battery Way
Battery Way
Battery Grubbs
Battery Grubbs
Battery Grubbs
Battery Grubbs
Battery Grubbs
Battery Grubbs
Battery Grubbs
Battery Grubbs
Disappearing Guns
"Disappearing Guns"
Disappearing Guns
"Disappearing Guns"
Battery Grubbs
Battery Grubbs
Mile Long Barracks
Mile Long Barracks
Mile Long Barracks
Mile Long Barracks
Original marker still hangs from t…
Original marker still hangs from …
Mile Long Barracks
Mile Long Barracks
Mile Long Barracks
Mile Long Barracks
Mile Long Barracks
Mile Long Barracks
Mile Long Barracks
Mile Long Barracks
Mile Long Barracks
Mile Long Barracks
Mile Long Barracks
Mile Long Barracks
Mile Long Barracks
Mile Long Barracks
Mile Long Barracks
Mile Long Barracks
Barracks indoor pool
Barracks' indoor pool
Bachelor Officers Quarters
Bachelor Officers Quarters
Lighthouse
Lighthouse
The Pacific War Memorial
The Pacific War Memorial
Cine Corregidor
Cine Corregidor
The Hospital
The Hospital
The Hospital
The Hospital
Climbing up to the second floor
Climbing up to the second floor
The tiles in the emergency room
The tiles in the emergency room
Writings on the wall
Writings on the wall
Graffiti
Graffiti
The guilty
The guilty
Murderers
Murderers
R.I.P.
R.I.P.
The Hospital
The Hospital
Jabidah Massacre victims
Jabidah Massacre victims
More graffiti
More graffiti
The Hospital
The Hospital
The Hospital
The Hospital
Kat and Felipe check out the graff…
Kat and Felipe check out the graf…
Seems to call out to Felipe!
Seems to call out to Felipe!
A tuko!
A tuko!
Hospital inhabitants
Hospital inhabitants
Cracks on the wall
Cracks on the wall
Our tram
Our tram
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Corregidor
photo by: blurbmoi