Corregidor Island is home to a collection of military ruins – silently telling the story of the Philippines during World War II. This is not just another tourist attraction. What makes it unique is that you can learn part of the Philippine history on the site through its Spanish and US buildings and bunkers that were destroyed during the Japanese invasion.
Isla Del Corregidor Timeline
During Spanish rule, a system was implemented requiring all ships coming into Manila Bay were required to stop and have papers examined and corrected. Thus the island got its name – “corregir”, a Spanish word “to correct.” Since then, it is known as “Isla Del Corregidor.” Although it had been a small fishing village, the island had been utilized as a signal station by lighting a bonfire to warn Manila of oncoming galleon or approaching enemies.
In 1795, the Spaniards established a naval dockyard and a hospital facility on the island. A lighthouse was erected in 1836 and remained in use until the Pacific War occurred in 1941, in which it was greatly damaged but later on restructured to similar standards and designs.
On December 10, 1898, under the Treaty of Paris, the Spain gave up the Philippine control to America. From 1903 to 1912, the island was transformed from a small fishing community into a fortress. The Americans refurbished the Spanish garrison to a hospital. Corregidor was chosen as a US Military Reservation. Military engineers started putting up fortifications on the island as part of strategic plans for harbor defenses. They started setting up foundation to make Corregidor an excellent military bastion by laying out gun emplacements and building bomb shields.
In 1941, Corregidor was the last stronghold of Filipino and American defenders. It impeded the fall of Bataan to Japanese army. However, the relentless bombings by Japanese forces brought down its defenses. The island was invaded in the same year by the Japanese Forces.
What To See
Corregidor island has three geographic sectors:
Topside: Elevated about 400 feet above sea level, topside is considered as the core of the island fortress. Among the ruins you can see here are: Mile-Long Barracks, the world’s longest military barracks that housed American officers and enlisted personnel. General Douglas MacArthur’s headquarters was also located in this building; Pacific War Memorial was built to honor the Filipino and American who fought in the war; Eternal Flame of Freedom is a steel sculpture in a raised platform which shows panoramic view of Manila Bay, the Bataan Peninsula and Cavite coastline; Spanish Flagpole and Spanish Lighthouse are among the relics from Spanish period.
Middleside: Here you can find the Filipino-American Friendship Park, the Aviary and Bird Park, and the Youth For Peace Campsite. Ruins of YMCA, Post Stockade, Officers Club quarters, warehouses, services and utility buildings are located in the Middleside.
Bottomside: It is the lower part of the island. Landmarks include South and Locha Docks. North Docks serves as the island’s main docking facility. Gen. Douglas MacArthur Park is also located here. It was built in his honor.
How To Get There
Corregidor Island can be reached by ferry. It is an hour and 15 minutes from Manila. Sun Cruise is the only company that facilitates the visit in the island. Upon arrival, “tramvias”, a pre-war type vehicles, pick up the visitors for a regular day tour within the island. The same ferry will take the visitors back to Manila, which usually leaves at 2:30 p.m.
A special tour of the Malinta Tunnel is another treat for visitors as it is being done at night. Corregidor Hotel can accommodate visitors who intend to stay overnight.
The night tour starts at the tunnel’s East Entrance to North Entrance. Here you can see the intricacies of a 10-year work of a bombproof shelter. Its construction started in 1922 and completed in 1932. During World War II, it offered protection from artillery attacks. Its design was meant to house huge quantities of ammunition, food and supplies and underground hospitals. The 835-foot long tunnel has 13 laterals on its north side and 11 laterals on the south. Every lateral shows various scenarios of sufferings by Filipino and American defenders of the island.