April 17, 2019

Corregidor Travel Diary: Middleside Barracks, Topside Barracks, Corregidor Hospital, Cine Corregidor, Pacific War Memorial, Museum and Eternal Flame of Freedom

People close to me, knows I love history, especially anything relating about World War II or military stories. I have discovered this fondness for history and the world wars when I was little, I picked and read from our ancestral house’s library, one photo book that depicts World War II. From then on, I got more and more curious about anything about military and warfare; that I read and watched all things relating to it as much as I could. I was very fascinated that it got to a point where I wanted to be a military nurse while I was studying nursing in college. But my height didn’t cut it, so that plan was ditched.

The Philippines is a country that had a major role during that time in our history because of our relations with the United States and also our ardor for democracy. And there are so many places here that are filled with stories that are linked to World War II. Corregidor is one of them. Corregidor is an island that can be found at the entrance of Manila Bay in the Philippines. Due to its very strategic location, it served as a naval defense station since the Spanish Era. It is 48 kilometers away from Manila and is shaped like a tadpole.

It is probably one of the Philippine World War II places that is full to brim when it comes to that time in history. Corregidor is actually part of Cavite Province, contrary to what most of us have known for years (and that’s including me) and is sometimes used jokingly (just like Bataan) as something to refer to someone or someone who surrendered their freedom or have accepted defeat. But Corregidor, just like Bataan, for me, is actually a place of valor and victory more than defeat. It is a place where the strength, skill, endurance and patriotism of the Filipino and American soldiers were displayed in all its glory. They will always be remembered – the Greatest Generation ever. Period.

Of course I am not discounting the Japanese soldiers because in their own rights, they were also brave too. It’s just that our cultures and beliefs are very different from them and that unfortunately they were one of the antagonists of that War. But like what I’ve read in books, as told by those soldiers, they were just doing their job and their circumstances required them to do things that are not acceptable in a civilized world. But you know, let’s not be hypocrites all sides have committed atrocities and it only goes to show that war doesn’t yield any good, at all.

But aside from Corregidor’s dark and sad past, it is also a place that must be visited. It’s a place where you can get a fix of history, adventure, the outdoors, the sea and the beach all at once. Just last weekend, I got to go to Corregidor as part of a Media/Bloggers Familiarization Tour hosted by Sun Cruises and Corregidor Inn. I’ve been wanting to go there for years so when a friend invited me to go, the inner-history lover in me got way so excited!

The Corregidor Educational Tour is a service provided by Sun Cruises. What began as a ferry service to the historic island of Corregidor back in 1988 has now turned into something more significant for Sun Cruises, Inc. They now offer guided tours, all being a wide variety of adventure and fun activities on the island to choose from. All of Sun Cruises’ tours on Corregidor are meticulously planned to include visits to places of interest and scenic drives through areas of natural beauty with historical value. Every detail is planned down to the last point to assure the right amount of balance between scheduled activities and free time.

The ferry usually leaves at 7:00 am from the SM MOA Esplanade Seaside Terminal. There are two decks inside and an open deck at the back of the ferry. Seating is comfortable and there are flat screen TVs in front showing documentaries pertaining to the events at Corregidor during WWII. A small store sells different kinds of snacks and drinks for tourists to enjoy while sailing. I love how comfy our ride was and I didn’t get sea-sick. When we got to the island, we boarded to our assigned trams reminiscent of the ones that were used during the early days.

As for our group since we will be staying on the island overnight we were separated from the other guests who were doing a day tour. We visited many spots around the island and did a couple of other activities. I don’t think one post would be enough to relate this experience so I’m going to divide this into several posts.

Part of the Tour of Corregidor are the visit to the ruins of the buildings that used to stand on the grounds of the island plus the other structures that were built later on to commemorate the events that happened there and the men and women who sacrificed their lives.

Middleside Barracks
The building is called as such as it is located at the Middleside of the island which is a small plateau that interrupts the upward slope from Bottomside to Topside. Here is where you can find the ruins of the 2-story officers' quarters, barracks for the enlisted men, quarters for non-commissioned officers, a service club, PX, and two schoolhouses. We didn’t go down the tram as the barracks are inaccessible from the new road.

Topside “Mile Long” Barracks
Another famous landmark in Corregidor is the Topside Barracks and it stands in the biggest area of the island. This area points towards the West Philippine Sea, rises prominently to a large flat area. Contrary to its name, Mile Long, the building is not a mile long only 1,520 feet, a few short feet before it can reach a mile. But it got its nickname because military personnel used to scale the length of the building back and forth and covered around of 5,280 feet which is equivalent to a mile.

This 3-storey hurricane proof structure was built in 1914 and houses the American officers and enlisted personnel assigned at the garrison and also said to be where one can find the office/headquarters of Gen.  Douglas MacArthur. I’ve seen photos of it online before it was reduced to rubbles during the war and it looks so majestic and grand. It even has an indoor pool at the middle side and overlooks the parade grounds/baseball field. Our tour guide said the structures in the island including this one were made of steel from Pennsylvania and cement from Japan. What an irony right?

Corregidor Hospital
Corregidor Hospital or otherwise known as Army Post Hospital is located near the Middle Barracks and was built in 1912. Despite the Medical Neutrality of the Geneva Conventions (wherein a kind of social contract that obligates societies to protect medical personnel in both times of war and peace, and obligates medical personnel to treat all individuals regardless of religion, race, ethnicity, or political affiliation), and having a big red letter H on its roof, the hospital was bombed out. You can still see parts of the hospital with floors of the upper floors collapsed on the ground.

Besides that the ruins also is the place where the Muslim military recruits that was massacred in the 1968 stayed and trained, which was later a huge expose’ called the Jabidah Massacre. You can still find the graffiti left by the soldiers on the walls of the hospital and other messages that they wrote. The ruins kind of reminded me of the temples in Siem Reap especially that the forest is slowly eating the ruins.

Pacific War Memorial, Museum, Cine Corregidor and Eternal Flame of Freedom
Near the Topside Barracks is a complex of buildings, a mix of the old and somewhat new, in a vast area of land opposite the parade grounds stands the ruins of the Cine Corregidor, the officers’ house, the house of Gen. Mac Arthur, the Pacific War Museum, the Pacific War Memorial and the Eternal Flame of Freedom.

Cine Corregidor was built before the war and a place of recreation for the soldiers. Here is where news and movies were shown, twice daily. Our tour guide, Sir Ed told us that when the war erupted, the last movie shown at the theater was said to have shown “Gone with the Wind”.

The Pacific War Memorial Museum is just behind the Cine Corregidor and contains a lot of memorabilia both found in the island and donated by veterans and their families. I was particularly drawn to the frame that contains a handful of steel name tags and the display cases with airborne insignias. I didn’t know that there were paratroopers who also went to the Philippines during WWII because most of them were deployed in Normandy and I was ecstatic to see that airborne patch and pin being a HUGE fan Band of Brothers and Saving Private Ryan.

We didn’t get to go inside the Pacific War Memorial and go near the Eternal Flame of Freedom because of time constraints but from afar they already look so majestic. The Pacific War Memorial stands at the highest part of the island are one of the relatively new structures. It was completed in 1968 and funded by the U.S. government and serves as an honour to the Filipino and American soldiers who participated in World War II in the Pacific Theatre of Operations. The structure cost around three million dollars as it was made of marble stones.

The major memorial structure inside the dome is a rotunda with a circular altar directly under the dome's oculus through which light falls on the altar during daylight hours. Light lands directly on the altar on May 5 at exactly 12 noon, in commemoration of the surrender of the troops stationed there and the courage they exhibited over 72 days of bombing. On the altar is engraved the following words: “Sleep, my sons, your duty done. For Freedom’s light has come. Sleep in the silent depths of the sea. Or in your bed of hallowed sod. Until you hear at dawn the low. Clear reveille of God.”

Photo by: John Borthwick 
photo by: bestofthephilippineislands

At the back of the dome is the Eternal Flame of Freedom, a 40 feet Corten steel structure symbolizing freedom commissioned to Greek-American Aristides Demetrios in 1967. Just like the Japanese Memorial Garden, the sculpture looks out to the sea and is a very tranquil.


The whole encounter is something for the books that I will surely treasure for the rest of my life. Something that I can add to my myriad collection of stories about World War II that I have acquired throughout the years. I love that I get to experience history, adventure, food and leisure in just one place. I also get to meet great people who share the same passions like myself for travel, food, learning and adventure.  What a fun weekend that was!

This is a series of blog posts and I’ll be posting the next few in the coming days. As I don’t want to cramp up the entire experience in one whole blog post. I’ll be linking the other blog posts about our Corregidor weekend trip below once I’m done publishing them, so if you’re interested to know more about it, please do come back to my blog.

21st Floor Times Plaza Bldg., Ermita,
Manila, Philippines
Contact Nos: (632) 354-7005, (632) 6289751
(632) 6289752, (63)998 968-3256, (63)998 968-3056
Email: reservations@suncruises.com.ph

post signature
Follow Me:  Facebook | Instagram | Twitter

** additional photos by: Tina (hungrytravelduo.com), Me-Ann (yogoandcream.com) & Gelo (angelotheexplorer.com/)

No comments:

Post a Comment

Powered by Jasper Roberts - Blog