When we arrived so many school children greeted us with singing and dancing. Following that we were treated to band music and local instrumental music. It was just awesome. At the dock over 1000 visitors were visiting with some of our crew and the crew were very excited to see family and friends. Our wine waiter Dodie got engaged to his girl-friend in Puerto Princesa and he was so excited to see her waiting for him again in Manila along with the rest of his family. Apparently they are still talking about their visit onboard.
Manila is the capital of the Philippines and one of the cities that make up the greater metropolitan area of Metro Manila. Well into the 13th century, the city consisted of a fortified settlement and trading quarter at the bay of Pasig River, on top of previous older towns. Manila became the seat of the colonial government of Spain when it controlled the Philippine Islands for over three centuries fro 1565 to 1898. Beginning in 1898, the US occupied and controlled the city and the Philippine Archipelago until 1946. During World War II, much of the city was destroyed and it was not until 1975 that the Metropolitan Manila region was enacted as an independent entity. Today, the city thrives as an important cultural and economic centre.
Today we visited the island-fortress of Corregidor. Its a 1 1/2 hour ferry ride from Manila. Located 26 miles west of Manila, “The Rock” as it became known during WWII was the last Filipino American bastion to fall to the Japanese. Our tour (in open sided buses) includes a guided visit to the island’s many “silent guns” and historical landmarks. The stirring light and sound show inside the cavernous Malinta tunnel, which served as General Douglas McArthur’s headquarters during the siege, is an experience not to be forgotten. The island has been left as is since the bombing by the Japanese. There are only efforts to preserve it as is, e.g. adding supports to some of the buildings to prevent their collapse.
It was very humbling to walk around this place and see evidence of bombing and shelling in the whole place. The Corregidor Foundation has done a remarkable job of preserving the island and it was soul searching to view the buildings left as is and think of all the men and women who died for our freedom. One of the barracks was 1/3 mile long, it was 3 floors high. It got the name ‘mile long barracks’ due to soldiers regularly walking the length of all 3 floors.
The Filipino and American forces held the island for 5 months before surrendering in 1942. There was no hope for reinforcements. The Japanese commander had said they would take the island in 50 days! McArthur vowed to return and in 1945 the island returned to Allied hands after a tough battle with the Japanese. Rather than surrendering to the Americans many of the soldiers committed suicide, either by jumping off some of the cliffs or in one case blowing themselves up in a tunnel, knowing that there were American soldiers above. Given the violence of WWII, the island is now very peaceful although there are reminders of the battles everywhere.
Presidents Carter and Clinton visited Corregidor Island in 1986. In readiness for this visit the Foundation brought in air-conditioned buses for the Presidents to use, however, when they got there both Presidents agreed that if McArthur didn’t have A/C then they wouldn’t use it either. Our tour guide Ramon was the guide who actually gave them tour, he’s now in his 73rd year and his objective or purpose in life is to educate young children on the atrocities of war. He was 6 at the start of the war.
I find it hard to talk about this place, where many bones still lie underneath the rubble. There is a small graveyard that is private, however most of the solider’s bodies were removed for burial back in the US. Overnight visitors are encouraged to watch the sun set and rise and to go into the surrounding forest. Any dog-tags found here are brought to the American Consulate General office in Manila and returned to family – which I think gives closure and peace to those left behind.
It was very interesting to note that in 1975 the Manila government asked the US to leave Manila in order that the Philippines Islands could get along better with its neighbours. The US had been paying about $10 Million in rent for the naval base in Manila and instead of losing that money that regions commercial activities now bring in > $50 million per year.This is a must visit for anyone coming to Manila.
As a send off, we were serenaded by the Filipino Coast Guard band, awesome performance. Also waving goodbye were many of the families of the crew.