This post is going to be a short one. One of the side trips that we took during our visit home last January was a guided tour to the historical Island of Corregidor. During World War II, the island at the entrance to Manila Bay became a very crucial defense area to protect the capital as it being a very important seaport starting from the Spanish rule, to the American, to the Japanese, until the establishment of our Republic in the mid 40’s.
Especially during WWII, Corregidor became the location of the final stand against the Japanese Imperial Army. At some point it also became the temporary location of the government when it housed then President Manuel Quezon and his VP Sergio Osmena. It was taken by the Japanese, but was re-taken by the Americans and Filipinos a few years later. The island is now a tourist destination for war veterans, and history enthusiasts like JG, where you can find old military installations and more famously for the ruins of the war ravaged buildings.
Unfortunately, I must admit that I did not enjoy the trip that much. A forty-five minute ferry boat ride will take you to the island where you will be met by your guides and taken around the island on several old school tram-like buses that were made in the likeness in the actual ones used in the island when the Americans were still there.
I was expecting a bit of a solemn, close to first hand, detailed stories of heroism, patriotism, and camaraderie amongst the soldiers in a time of war. Unfortunately for me we got into the bus of the up-beat, salesman-like, colorful Sylvie (I have forgotten her name actually). She wasn’t bad, very good English, very entertaining, and funny at times, but I think she would better fit if she was the tour guide for a happier atmosphere say like the set of TV show perhaps, like the pages at 30 Rock. She kind of ruined the place for me actually because her jokes and side quirks distracted me from the dark yet heroic feel of the island. Like when she pointed out the Brothers in Arm statue of the American helping of a wounded Filipino soldier, and then made a quirk about not mistaking them as drunkards because they are in fact lovers. It was funny, but I guess she’s been doing for so many years she kind of wanted to change the repertoire a bit from less war-serious to comedic gay punch lines.
Thankfully I had my trustee history geek of a husband who also pointed out that Sylvie has said several erroneous facts like wrong dates, and mixed up details like when she said that the Spanish paid the Americans in exchange for the Philippines, when it was in fact the other way around. She was so busy making us laugh, she did not notice she was feeding us, most especially the tourists, who now has wrong ideas about my country’s history, wrong information. And if that was not enough, she finished early, so when she ran out of stories to tell, she then went on the tell us how a fine arts graduate like her ended up being a tour guide, more emphasis to why she is still single and the many suitors that have gone her way. Again, my opinions are nothing personal, I guess basically she did not fit the job, or at least made sure she did well enough. Thank goodness to my husband who managed to make it interesting for me with his stock knowledge; I, sadly did not get anything from her. JG and I regretfully agreed that we would’ve been better off getting on the bus of the old guy, who would probably be as boring as common history teacher but would’ve probably been already alive in the 40’s to give us real, accurate, first-hand stories of Corregidor.
So because I did not get much of the trip, here is a photo montage of our trip, and the popular sites on the island:
If I have to point out a favorite part, it would have to be the sound and lights show in the Malinta Tunnel. The tunnel was the last strong hold of the Americans, before Corregidor was taken by the Japanese. The audio-visual show would take you along the tunnel through a number of bronze dioramas of events that took place on the island, complete with very good narration of voice talents and convincing sound bites of the historical moments, including the actual radio announcement that Bataan has Fallen aired by the Voice of Freedom broadcasted from the tunnel . But it wasn’t perfect either for me, because just as the light fades at the end of one scene, just as you are taken in by the story and sound effects, the guide inside would bellow, “Next!” in a disdainfully, let’s-get-on-with-it type of way that would instantly pull you back from your time travelling daze.
I was also looking forward to walking along the ruins, but was disappointed when told that the structures were already fragile and brittle for our safety. Despite my frustration, I did agree that it is always better safe than injured.
On the way back, I won a raffle for answering the survey on the tour, which was probably because only two of us only submitted their questionnaires – I never win in raffles. The funny thing about it was that I could only claim my price of a free dinner on a yacht that very night, which was ridiculous. Why would you give someone a prize a like that and make conditions for the claim? What if I had an important prior engagement that night? I didn’t but still, the point is, it is my prize, and I should at least have the privilege to claim it when I can. Okay, if that sounds too primadona, perhaps even just a 24 hour leeway, right?
On the plus side, I must say that visiting Corregidor is something a Filipino must do in his lifetime, preferably when one is old enough to appreciate our history or at least pay homage to it. Unfortunately most of my countrymen would happily spend their earnings and flaunt around in Puerto Galera. I’m not saying going to the beach to relax using your hard earned money is bad, but if you’ve been there five times already, it would be nice to visit other places and pick up on your heritage along the way.
And for a more interesting trip, one can also opt to camp there along the shores of the Island or stay in a hotel, and do more tours which I am told includes a more in depth route into the tunnels of the mountains, a ghost tour, and zip-lining/bungee jumping for the more adventurous you. And if you ever visit I suggest you ride the bus with the old guy in it, or bring a book, or if possible someone who knows their history well.