Some years ago, I joined the typical tram tour that is taking tourists to the different historical landmarks and memorial shrines at the Topside, Middleside, and Bottomside of Corregidor Island. War stories narrated during that guided tour were unimaginable, making me feel grateful that our generation is fortunate to have not experienced the horrors of World War II.
As if time has stood still upon seeing the intact ruins in Corregidor again. This time I joined the launch of Ivan Dy’s Corregidor Historical Walking Tour.
Corregidor is one of the four islands that guard the narrow opening of Manila Bay. In different occassions, it has been used as a pirate’s lair, a customs checkpoint, and a military base called Fort Mills. It was the Americans who put up the big guns and built the modern buildings like the Mile Long Barracks and Cine Corregidor.
All these grand structures were blasted away during the war. What remains today are the intact ruins that serve as monuments to a time in our history at its most gruesome and bloodiest.
Unlike the tramvia tour that rolls from the head down to the tail of the tadpole-shaped island, the walking tour focuses on the Memorial Zone at the Topside where much of the architectural ruins are concentrated.
The sight and feel of the collapsed and charred structures, twisted metal, and the thought that many have perished here fighting provide a potent setting for Ivan’s stories not only about the Pacific War but also the infamous cover up like the Jabidah Massacre.
Ivan fittingly shared the island’s history during the colonial era and how it got its name at the quadrangle below the Spanish lighthouse, which is the oldest structure in Corregidor. He then led us to the mast of the Spanish battleship Maria Cristina that was turned by the victorious American forces into a flag pole for their stars and stripes –a Spanish-American war booty as Ivan describes.
Our tour continued at the Mile-Long Barracks then down the slope to the big guns of Battery Way.
The four massive guns of Battery Way are capable of firing in any direction. However, only three of the four big guns were actually used against the invading Japanese forces in 1942. Two were later damaged beyond repair by Japanese artillery and like most of the other big guns in Corregidor, they were all permanently damaged during the retaking of the island in 1945.
Blood were spilled on the island not only during World War II but also as recent as 1968 when around sixty Tausug and Sama youths, recruited for a top secret training program to attack the disputed Sabah, Borneo staged a mutiny on the island after finding out that they will be asked to kill fellow Muslims. The training officers mowed down the recruits in the airfield with gunfire. These killings would have remain undisclosed to the public if not for a survivor who revealed the massacre.
From Battery Way, we walked through a dirt path to reach the abandoned hospital. The ruins once served as the living quarters of the recurits known as the Jabidah unit. Ivan pointed at the graffiti left by the disgruntled recruits on the hospital walls. Howcome nobody erased them? Perhaps those graffiti were left to serve as memorial or as morbid reminders of the carnage that took place in Corregidor, infamously known as the Jabidah Massacre.
The tour concluded at the Pacific War Memorial. We had lunch at the only hotel in island. After lunch, we joined the optional tour to the Malinta Tunnel for an afternoon ghost hunting.
Anyone can do a walking tour. For countless of times I’ve completed hiking and historic trails without a tour guide. But the experience is rather different when walking with Ivan who takes people to the same old places, sharing stories that can inspire new thoughts about how we conclude our history and how we describe our concept of freedom.
For information about the Corregidor Historical Walking Tour, check them out at www.oldmanilawalks.com.
Reach Ivan Dy at email@example.com or at 0918.962.64.52 (that’s 0918.9MANILA) and (landline no.) 632. 711.38.23