Corregidor Island: The Silent Witness to the Philippines’s Haunting History
Thirty miles from inland Manila, Corregidor Island bears witness to a daunting past of the Philippines. It is strategically positioned at the entrance of Manila Bay, where commerce and trade flourished. Unfortunately, the skirmishes that plagued the country also gained entry through the island. Due to that, the island takes many nicknames—“The Rock,” “Fort Mills,” and “Gibraltar of the East”—to mark its historical roles, mainly as a bastion from enemies.
As early as 1570, the island became a support site for Spanish conquistadors during their rule. It became their fortress of defense, prison site, and tariff collection post, as well as a signal vanguard to alert Manila of incoming naval battle fleets. Even during the failed attempts of foreign invaders to steal the Philippines from the Spaniards, Corregidor Island became an obstacle to their quest.
Then came the American troops, who successfully took the island from the Spaniards. As a result, they organized Corregidor as their extended garrison in 1902. They constructed additional military structures including a movie theater, a hospital, and the infamous Malinta tunnel, an elaborate network of twenty-five laterals.
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Eventually, the U.S. Army lost its holding during the Battle of Corregidor in May 1942. The Japanese troops outnumbered Gen. Douglas MacArthur and his comrades, which made them leave the island. The 14th Japanese Imperial Army lieutenant general, Masaharu Homma, succeeded to power.
In 1945, Douglas returned to recapture the Philippines through Corregidor’s entrance. His arrival was also timely for the Pacific War, the branch of World War II in the Pacific and Asia. At this time, the island was heavily attacked, causing death to thousands of Americans, Japanese, and Filipinos.
War Relics and Memorial Places on the Island of Corregidor
After the war, all that’s left were war relics—the hospital, the batteries, the barracks, the lighthouse, and the tunnel. The government, along with foreign partners and locals, also touted The Pacific War Memorial, the Filipino Heroes Memorial, and the Japanese Garden of Peace to honor the soldiers who fought and died on the Island.
Battery Way and Battery Geary are the two main gun emplacements on the island. They shot the most crippling offense during the Battle of Corregidor leading to the Pacific War. Besides these, Crockett and Grubbs also became pivotal bastions in the entire siege of the island.
Mile-Long Barracks (Ruins of Mile-Long)
One of the war relics left on the island is the Mile-Long Barracks, also known as the Topside barracks. It boasts a three-tier structure built from hurricane-proof materials back in the day. It also has a length of 1,520 feet, making it the world’s longest military barracks.
Established in 1853, the historic Corregidor Island Lighthouse guided ships to Manila Bay’s entrance en route to Manila. It boasts a cylindrical shape and 60-feet height, mounted on the island’s highest peak, the Topside. In the 1950s, locals restructured the lighthouse using some of its original stones. Today, the base serves as a souvenir store for tourists.
The Malinta tunnel served as a strong fortress for the Filipino–American army. Japanese forces hid inside when the Allied forces returned to the Philippines. According to locals, Japanese troops performed harakiri, a ritual suicide by disembowelment, in the third lateral. Now, the Malinta tunnel is open to tourists who want a piece of the country’s history.
Pacific War Memorial
The Pacific War Memorial stands on Corregidor Island’s Topside, near the Spanish lighthouse. Costing $3 million, the memorial was completed in 1968 and was built to honor the Filipino and American soldiers who engaged in World War II.
Filipino Heroes Memorial
Built in 1992, The 6 km² Filipino Heroes Memorial is a recent addition in Corregidor. It showcases fourteen murals imitating the battles fought by Filipinos until the Second World War.
Japanese Garden of Peace
The Garden of Peace is reserved for the Japanese who fought and died on the island during the war. The park also includes shrines, a memorabilia pavilion, and a praying area.
Locals say they still hear the souls of those who died in Corregidor asking for help, which left the island unpopular to many tourists. What they don’t realize, however, is that it’s the island’s haunting history that makes it unforgettable and beautiful.
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