When I heard the “Voice of Freedom” radio broadcast of Third Lieutenant Norman Reyes saying, “Bataan has fallen,” during our pitch-dark tour of Malinta Tunnel in Corregidor Island, my heart beat a little faster than usual.
It was quite eerie, hearing the same lines in the same tunnel where both Filipino and American troops heard it the ninth day of April, 1942.
Bataan has fallen. The Philippine-American troops on this war-ravaged and bloodstained peninsula have laid down their arms. With heads bloody but unbowed, they have yielded to the superior force and numbers of the enemy.
The world will long remember the epic struggle that Filipino and American soldiers put up in the jungle fastness and along the rugged coast of Bataan. They have stood up uncomplaining under the constant and grueling fire of the enemy for more that three months. Besieged on land and blockaded by sea, cut off from all sources of help in the Philippines and in America, the intrepid fighters have done all that human endurance could bear.
For what sustained them through all these months of incessant battle was a force that was more than merely physical. It was the force of an unconquerable faith—something in the heart and soul that physical hardship and adversity could not destroy! It was the thought of native land and all that it holds most dear, the thought of freedom and dignity and pride in these most priceless of all our human prerogatives.
With Lt. Reyes’ deep voice filling the tunnel’s main corridor as footage of WWII played by the entrance of a lateral tunnel, it truly felt as if time stood still.
That particular part of the tour—our guide called it the Light & Sound Tour of Malinta Tunnel—set the tone for the entire day’s blast-from-the-past exploration of Corregidor, the tadpole-shaped island located at the mouth of Manila Bay.
The island, known as “The Rock” for its rocky landscape and heavy fortifications, along with nearby El Fraile, Caballo and Carabao islands, formed Manila’s final bastions of defense against enemy warships.
The structures in the island were heavily bombarded—first, during the Japanese occupation of 1942, and second in 1945, when the American and Filipino military troops seized the island from Japanese soldiers, many of whom had committed hara-kiri instead of surrendering. These sieges left behind war-ravaged buildings that now serve as haunting memorials of the American, Filipino and Japanese soldiers who occupied the island during the war.
Today, Corregidor Island remains one of the most important historic monuments in the Philippines.
Here are some photos of the ruins that still stand:
This Acacia Tree in Battery Way actually survived the war.
BOQ (Bachelors Officers Quarters)
My favorite structure in the island: Cine Corregidor.
According to our guide, the last movie shown here was Gone With The Wind. <3
New structures exist, too, including the Pacific War Memorial…
Located behind the Memorial is the Eternal Flame of Freedom, a Corten steel structure that symbolizes—yep, you guessed it—freedom.
There is also the Japanese Garden of Peace, a park built to honor the lives of the Japanese soldiers who served and died on the island.
The park affords a great view of Caballo Island, which is currently occupied by the Philippine Navy and is off-limits to civilians. According to Wikipedia, there are also ruins in Caballo island that are left rusting in the open after the war.
I am definitely not a war history buff. I don’t even like watching war films (unless Johnny Depp is in it). Being an army brat and having lived in a camp at one point in my life, I’m also quite used to seeing artillery and ammunition magazines.
But a visit to the island once called “Fort Mills” truly overwhelmed.
When our tour bus finally dropped us off at the port where our ferry back to Manila was waiting, our guide commented that it was great to see a lot of Filipinos had joined the tour. Because more than a mere tourism destination, Corregidor island plays the very important role of reminding us of our history.
After seeing the remnants of the destruction our war veterans had endured, I couldn’t help but agree with her. I think we all need to take a good look at the past from time to time. That short trip not only made me feel grateful for the freedom I enjoy now, it also taught me to never take that freedom for granted.