CORREGIDOR: A HISTORIC PARK

Manila, June 24, 2003 By Lynda B. Valencia (BULLETIN) Memories of a trip to Corregidor linger. It is not just a trip back in time, but a study of courage and tenacity, of suffering and loneliness, or selfishness, brutality, greed.

Corregidor, 26 miles west of Manila, is the largest of several small islands strung between Cavite Province and Bataan Peninsula at the entrance of Manila Bay. It rises 628 feet above sea level with a land area of three-and-a-half sq. m.

With a shape of a giant tadpole made of huge limestone formation, Corregidor, popularly known as “The Rock,” now speaks of peace and memories.

An active restoration was initiated by the Department of Tourism (DoT) in the 70s clearing, seeing, and replanting, and a commission was formed to study, to restore and rebuild, more importantly to identify the island’s fortifications and pay tribute to the soldiers and civilians who gave up their lives in defending the island.

In 1988, a five-year development plan was spearheaded by the Corregidor Foundation, Inc. that seeks to transform the place into a shrine to attract both domestic and foreign tourists.

The plan, prepared by noted architect Francisco Mañosa and partners, initially envisions the putting up of a wax museum, Rehabilitation of the Malinta Tunnel, establishment of a hill-top hotel, and the improvement of existing war village and other attractions, including a nine-hole golf course.

Thus, Corregidor has been developed into two major development areas to preserve the island’s integrity as a war memorial and a shrine. An administrative building was constructed at the developed Barrio San Jose where tourists go. From here, they can choose to ride on the revived 1930 trolleys or minibuses in touring the island.

The quaint barrio San Jose serves as the hub and center of all the tourist activities. Here, one can find a restaurant, coffee shops, a photo shop, book store, a clinic, a drugstore, a souvenir shop, a theater-museum and a church.

Kindley Air Field and the cottages of Gen. Douglas MacArthur, former president Manuel L. Quezon and Commissioner Francis B. Sayre were reconstructed along with the replica of the one-room school house which became the administration office. The old St. Joseph Church has been rebuilt.

The 19th-century reconstructed Spanish lighthouse was spruced up to serve as a tourist stopover for refreshments. The par-3 golf course has been set for development also.

Upon fishing the circuit tour of the Memorial Zone, the tourist is brought back to the Tourist Zone, then taken to the Malinta Tunnel, which was both fortress and a hospital during World War II. Constructed from 1922 to 1932, Malinta Tunnel has a main tunnel 835 feet long, 24 feet wide and 24 laterals branching from it.

It used to be that the only people walking through the dark corridors of Malinta were men of war. Today, it has been transformed by the DoT into a light and sound area, the “Malinta Experience.” This presentation recreates the horror and drama of the war. Dynamic lighting and special effects conjure airplane bombings, the batteries firing, the walls crumbling, and people screaming.

There are many types of tunnels the adventuresome could experience. Aside from the huge Malinta, there are other tunnels of different sizes and usage. There are tunnels that branch out to and from Malinta, there are tunnels that service gun placements, and there are even tunnels that lead nowhere tickling the fancy of treasure hunters.

The War Memorial is on the west side of the island, with a museum of war relics, photographs and military papers. The memorial was built by the US government and completed in 1968 to the tune of $1.23 million.

The theater-museum shows documentary films and stories about Corregidor while the Pacific War Memorial caters to the needs of history enthusiasts through printed materials and photographs.

A variety of land and water recreational activities are available. Its northern beaches offer activities and facilities for windsurfing, skiing, parasailing, scuba-diving, and snorkeling while the southern beach have a gym, sauna and covered tennis courts. A large area at the Bottomside going to the Tail provides venues for fields sports, campout, hiking, picnic and kite flying.

The principal landscape element of the two beaches were coconut palms giving the resort a tropical character. Another landscape element is the golf course with its fairways designed to highlight the adjoining ruins and establish internal viewing galleries for the spectacular scenic environment. Footpaths, walkways, and trails were cemented and concreted in order to preserve their natural character.

Also cleaned were the Cine Corregidor, the flagpole, Japanese guns. Electric power is generated by a series of generator covering all areas. The present source of water are the natural springs. The combined water sources from four deep wells is about 190 gallons per minute and stored in four storage tanks. Communications facilities as well as utility and service facilities are stationed at the Bottomside. When here, one can also use their Smart and Globe celfones.

Since touring the island would be ideal for two to three days, a 32-room hotel has been constructed and cottages are built on the two beaches. The hotel was patterned after Corregidor Inn, a 25-room hotel in Barrio San Jose which was expanded and renovated to house 32 rooms.

For more than half a century, Corregidor was a bastion of military might – a fortress of war, from the time when Spanish colonialists fortified it, until the Americans came, until the Japanese in 1942, and finally, the Americans winning it back in 1954.

Corregidor has stood guard in the waters of Manila Bay, a sentinel protecting the waterways of Bataan, Cavite and Manila from pirates and invaders. More than 20 gun emplacements dot the island, its carriages and armories strengthened the walls of thick concrete.

Cannons as big as those found in battleships and large mortars that can be trained anywhere are reminders of how important Corregidor was to the defense of the Philippines.

Long after the Pacific War Memorial was erected in 1968, the spirit of “The Rock” was almost forgotten. The memorial itself became forlorn and unattended. The old utility structures like the cold storage and the power plant were lost in a tangle of green. Kindley Airstrip was carpeted with tall grass and the guns became targets of scrap hunters.

In 1902, the Americans designated the island as a US Military Reservation and converted it into a fortress from 1906 to 1922. Corregidor was armed with 24 sea coast batteries and 13 disappearing guns.

It has four identifiable parts, the highest land on the island is the “head” that points west toward China Sea. Topside tapers to a plateau called Middleside. From Middleside, the terrain slopes steeply toward the Bottomside, the lowest part of the island. To the east of Bottomside, a hill rises to a height of around 400 feet called Malinta. It serves Bottomside from the tail of the island that twists east toward Manila Bay. On the tail are several small ravines and narrow beaches.

Corregidor has a trolley system that wound its way daily around the island on a 20 kilometer track. One of the busiest stop was Middleside, on which stood an important three-storey barracks stretching some 800 meters and which could house 6,000 men.

A small rustic village during the Spanish time, Barrio San Jose – which can be found at the Bottomside – grew into a busy fishing and commercial community. The famed Malinta Tunnels were hewn out of solid rock in 1992.

Corregidor was the last bastion of defense of 10,000 American and Filipino forces in the Philippines. Incessant bombings tore the island in shreds, until it was surrendered on May 6, 1942.

Sun Cruises have ferry schedules everyday departing from CCP at 8:00 a.m. and leaves Corregidor at 2:30 p.m., thus arriving Manila at 3:30 p.m. On weekdays or depending on their load factor, they have two schedules – at 8:00 a.m. and 10:00 a.m. (PNA)


Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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