Tag Archives: corregidor

You can’t make this stuff up!


ctto: “Feast of La Naval de Manila” https://news.mb.com.ph/

I recently started posting short blogs across all my social media. The first one was about Gen. Henry Lawton. He died in San Mateo in 1899. The only US general to perish during the Philippine-American war. The coincidence relating to his death is worthy of a “Twilight Zone” episode:


“We all know Lawton (Manila), the plaza named after US General Henry Lawton. As army captain, he led the expedition that captured the legendary Indian chief Geronimo (Apache wars), a feat that had been attached to his name. Years later, he finds himself in San Mateo (Rizal), now a general, pursuing Filipino fighters. He died on December 19, 1899, from a gunshot wound. Ironically, the Filipino General he fought against that day was a man named Gerónimo (Licerio).”

The other miniature story is about the “80 years war” between Spain and the Netherlands. Our involvement and how its culmination bequeathed us with a lasting religious tradition.

“One of the longest war in human history, the “80 years wars” (9th longest) between Spain & Netherlands, reached our shores in the 1600s. There were several battles that took place from March to October 1646, from Lingayen to Corregidor. It culminated with the Spanish colony crushing the attacking Dutch forces who had 19 ships against their 4 fitted civilian ships (Dutch suffered 500 casualties; the Hispano-Filipinos 15). Staggering was the victory over the massive Dutch armada that most attributed it to heavenly intercession (popular accounts of the Virgin Mary appearing with flag in hand). This epic confrontation produced one of our greatest and enduring Catholic tradition, the “La Naval” of Manila (the Dominican Church is now in Sta. Mesa Hts. QC).”

This post is partly inspired by my wife who had known of La Naval since she was a child. She studied in UST from grade school to college. However, she knows little of its past aside from the basic information Priests had told them. This is my gripe against our clerics today. There’s no emphasis on apologetics and local Church history in schools and churches. Droves of Catholics are parting with their religion of birth and there’s very little that’s being done to win them back in. The bishops, for example, has decided to preoccupy themselves with local politics these days. Last time the Church got embroiled in running the government it flared up a revolution.

“Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s; and to God the things that are God’s.”

Revisiting Corregidor

Been busy the past few weeks. Things I do now eats up a lot of my time. I no longer get to travel much. So I usually (even with friends) pass up travel opportunities. Budget is tight and there are far more important things to be concerned with is my alibi these days. But there are exemptions, of course, invitations I can’t say no to. Like this request from a brother who wanted to see Corregidor. He wanted to see it before going back stateside. This year being his last tour of duty with US military he wanted to visit what he calls the “Rock”. He’s been to Hawaii’s Pearl Harbour, so I guess this completes his pilgrimage of sorts.

He’s as crazy as I am when it comes to history but his expertise is in the American part of our history. He believes America brought us closer to the ideals political democracy. We don’t agree on a lot of issues, obviously, but this passion for the past has brought us closer. We tolerate each others’ opinions and we enjoy debating over a cup of coffee (we can literally go straight for 4-5 hours discussing historical items, this is our version of “catching up” with lost time!).

We woke up around 5 am and started preparing for the trip. We commuted to Manila and was in the Sun cruises compound before 7 am. Since we don’t have reservations, we were what people there called “chance passengers”. We have to wait for people to cancel or not show up. It was a “full tour” a staffer told me. So I was a bit worried that we might not get on a boat to Corregidor. The first time I went to Corregidor they accommodated more tourist because the boat they used was bigger. This time it was much smaller. I was told that during weekdays Sun cruises only utilize these boats. Since there’s only one tour during weekdays, tourist crowds the first and only tour.

The boat had a mix of foreign tourist on board. Aside from Americans, there were a lot of Japanese. At first I thought that these people would stir clear from Corregidor, they got beaten here pretty bad, but then I realize that their the kind of people that would go and pay their respects to their war dead regardless where the place is. I remember that small cemetery in Muntinlupa where there are Japanese regularly making the pilgrim to that isolated small garden. I can’t help but admire these people. They have good memory when it comes to their national history. We won and forgot about our heroes, they lose but never forgot about the sacrifice of their young men. We can learn something from them.

I thought I’m going to have to talk a lot about what happened in Corregidor. Not the case. Turns out that what I know is not even half of what my brother knows about the battle of Corregidor and Bataan (pronounced Bat’an by Americans). So the tour guide became the tourist in Corregidor. Aside from showing him the Spanish Navy’s battleship mast that was made into a flag pole for the stars and stripes near the old Spanish lighthouse, I hardly contributed any new information to my brother!

The suffering the defenders of Corregidor went through was unimaginable. Being part of the tour makes you respect more what those brave soldiers did. Corregidor and Bataan were the last to be surrendered to the Japanese. The island was where Quezon was inaugurated for his second term (him and Erap were the only presidents that had been sworn to office outside Manila). The Malinta Tunnel became bomb shelter, hospital and residence. The network of tunnels inside Malinta is extensive. So much history in such a small piece island. Just imagine 4000 Japanese men died during the American take over.  Most of them refusing to surrender were burned alive.

It was only in the 1980’s that the location of the Japanese graves was revealed to the Japanese government. For some reason, the location of the mass grave was withheld from the Japanese until that decade. Why the Philippine and American government concealed that location is a mystery. The Japanese was allowed to construct a garden for their dead near where their soldiers were collectively  buried. The Japanese visitors can be seen here offering prayers and incense to a stone goddess about 8 to 10 feet tall.

As me and my brother continued exchanging historical anecdotes we often found ourselves pausing to reflect on some interesting places that catches our attention. Like this gunnery where Japanese letters are etched on the wall. We took photos of it as he wanted his Japanese wife to see it. I was reminded that the island is still surrounded by explosive ammo. I think it was last year when the current President requested help in disposing these dangerous cache of ammo. He made that request to Obama while he was in the White House.

The island is now densely forested. It is as if nature is taking the island back. According to the tour guides, the islands were reforested because almost all of its trees were struck down by bombs. I’m sure Corregidor must be one of the most bombed place in world history. How soldierssurvive the tumultuous years, when the island was relentlessly shelled, is something I can’t get my mind to imagine. It must have been one hellish and awful existence!

The tour and most of the literature about the island concentrates on the role it played during the pacific wars. Hardly ever mentioned is what was life like before the American came. Believe it or not there were several thriving barrios around the island during the Spanish times. The fishing barrio of San Jose is located north (location of bottomside today) of the island. It sits right beside the surf and had a church, a convent, a school (Escuela de Nuestra Señora del Carmen), a market and a small plaza (there was even an ice plant in the island that employed locals). When the Americans came they added two elementary schools and a secondary school. And of course, their living quarters. The schools here are the first ever American public schools in the islands. I’m glad to see that the old Filipino Spanish church was reconstructed (entirely faithful to the original building) reminding tourist’s that the islands past  goes beyond the pacific war.

Along with Manila, Corregidor was the only other Philippine territory under Spain that was attacked by all of its enemies in the pacific. First was this guy Li ma hong. The ambitious Chinese had his eyes on Manila and with his ships and 3000 men launched successive attacks against the capital from Corregidor. He was defeated by the Juan Salcedo and his men. The galant young captain was summoned from Ilocos to defend Manila. And he did just that. Limahong and his forces was chased up to Pangasinan by the Spanish and their local allies. Without the ships that brought them here, some say, Limahong’s men settled in Pangasinan and intermarried with the locals.

Then came the war with the Dutch. The most extensive Philippine war that never made the books. Olivier de Noort was defeated by Spanish galleons converted to battle ships. Manila’s victory was short of a miracle. Those who fought sincerely believed in their hearts that our Lady was with them. After this historic naval battle, Manila decided to create a squad permanently posted in Corregidor to guard it at all times. The reason why I believe this war against the Dutch must be taught in school is that in all of the battles that took place there were large contingents of natives fighting alongside the Spanish. On all of these skirmishes (the last being the Battle of Playa Honda where the Dutch blocked the entrance of all vessels to Manila) the Dutch were defeated. Could you just imagine how many native Filipinos fought in these series of battle with the Dutch? If the Dutch won, we’ll all be familiar with pale lager and not pale pilsen, San Miguel beer would’ve never been the national beverage instead, we’ll be drinking Heineken! We would’ve been “going Dutch” in no time.

Looking back, without the Dutch attacks, Manila would’ve never had a “La Naval” tradition. We must remember that the first devotees were those who took part in the battles to keep Manila Spanish. Most of them native Filipinos that honestly believed in their hearts that by defending Manila they doing just service for their country, their motherland and the Catholic church. The Brits came later and held the capital hostage for three years. The Americans before the turn of the century, and the Japanese. All of these invaders made use of Corregidor for some reason or another.

Well, I guess I should write a separate articles about all of these.

Below are some of the photos I took that day:

That’s smog. One day we’ll all just choke in the metro. When I was still in my teens I imagined myself residing in one of those towers so I can see the sunset going down Manila bay.

I think that’s MOA but with all that smog I could be wrong.

They say the Japs were the ones that dug those caves. They made these area near the port their temporary submarine base.

The islands port. In this area, MacArthur left the country for Australia. Remember the “I shall return”, he said that to Wainwright here along with the promise of promoting him when gets his ass back.

I think these are Korean letters. Possibly by those who fought alongside the real Japs – but then again these could be just graffiti from Korean tourist!

Mi hermano inspecting a WWII relic. These heavy artillery are unbelievable. Makes you think if the Americans prepared for war long before the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor. These are massive armaments man!

I found this flag near the Japanese shrine where most of the Imperial army men were buried. They say this was the Japanese flag in the island. I’m sure most of those who wrote here died in the island. There was less than a dozen Japanese soldiers that survive the so called liberation of the island.

This baby right here sunk countless ships before heavy Japanese bombardment took it out. These was installed here in the early 1900’s. I’m sure these were not brought here to scare pirates and foreign fishing boats. The Yankees knows somethings up ahead otherwise they would have not prepared this well. If the Spaniard armed Corregidor like what these people did, it would’ve taken them a long time to capture Manila.

My brother staring at the tail of the island of Corregidor. Somewhere near the “tail” is the air strip of the island.

December 2011

Visiting Corregidor

April is the month we honor what we Filipinos call “Kagitingan” of those who fought against the Japanese during the Second World War. I’m not surprised that the day (April 9) just passed like an ordinary day. We live in a world where such commemoration is no longer an integral part of our society. If we had live through the terror of that war – we would remember these dates for sure.

The Mile Long barracks

I brought myself to Corregidor to reflect on this part of our history. I don’t spend as much time studying our history during WWII compared to 16th to 19th Filipino history, which I study with much dedication (or so I think). For some reason I can’t explain, mid 1900’s appeals to me less, but of course this does not mean that it means less. The events of WWII here in our land deserves to be read and meditated upon. That war was as crucial as the revolution of 1896.

A vet and his son. This former marine served in the Korean war not in the pacific, "I was too young but I wouldnt mind", he said. Fine chaps from the state of Kentucky.

For a very reasonable fee, Suncruise Tours, will take you to Corregidor; give you an incredibly informative tour and unlimited food for lunch, now that’s not a bad deal at all!

48 kilometers west of Manila, the boat ride was fast, smooth and air-conditioned, now this is good for those who don’t want to deal with the heat. What really surprised me was how knowledgeable the tour guides are – yes, they probably have been doing this for years but still, it’s nice to know that you’re listening to people that really knows what they’re talking about. I’m done with those tour guides that resorts to historical “what-if’s” and badly researched but appealing lectures to sell their gigs.

Deserted buildings in the island where you can sense death and suffering.

The American flag of Corregidor

There were a lot of old foreigners on board. There were even some Japanese (they spoke no English). Just by looking at some of them I know they were there, or somewhere, in the thick of battle, fighting their guts out. I could just imagine the horrors they’ve witnessed. It must be tough to go back to a place where friends and people you know died. I wonder if walking around the island was a healing experience for them – this could very well be the case.

The island is considered by many as a place for forgiveness and acceptance. Believe it or not there’s shrine in the island dedicated to the Japanese dead. A sign that things are back to normal – nations that once fought eachother are friends once again. An American tourist, in his 30’s, remarked “we’re too forgiving!” after the tour guide took the crowd to the Japanese shrine where a huge monument of  a Japanese goddess stands. Forgiving is a liberating experience but we can’t blame those who haven’t come to terms with losing their loveones. My father still holds grudge against the Japanese. I’ve also heard of Filipino families, whose lovones were brutalize by Americans and local guerilla soldiers. Who can blame them if they still detest those who committed atrocities against family members. Old wounds sometimes don’t heal.

One of the first things I noticed is how stunning the island is – aside from the floating rubbish that reaches its shore, the island is still a tropical escape not far from Manila. Its black volcanic sands and rocky coast provides a scenic, historic adventure. There’s no longer any barrio in the islands (there was once a lively fishing village called Sn Jose).

I was told that all the people that I see around are employees. The place employs quite a number of people. The grounds, the museum, shrines (Pacific War Memorial, Filipino Heroes Memorial and Japanese Peace Garde) are very well maintained – all of these made feel that the money I spent was very well worth it.

The Malinta Channel

You could see Manila, Cavite and Bataan at some vantage point like the lighthouse in the old Spanish plaza. It was such an incredible sight but going up to the tower requires a little physical flexibility, its good exercise. Near the old plaza one could see a metal poll, where anAmrican flag is hoisted, this war booty was taken from defeated Spanish ship.

Noticeable around the structure are the scars the bullets and bombs left in the island. I heard from somewhere that Corregidor is the second most bombed placed on earth. Heavily bombed as was Poland, I was thinking that the bombers, the Japanese and then the Americans, were not only trying to demolish the defense of the Rock but sink the whole island!

One could literally smell death in some of the dark abandoned quarters that managed to survive heavy bombardment. The batteries had been riddled and disfigured by bullets, bombs and shrapnel’s. You start to picture how the men defended Corregidor for weeks without yielding to the enemy – I’m sure, a quick surrender had crossed the defenders mind a million times – it was the easier option. Touring the island made me understand how resilient they choose to be.

Where McArthur made his buh-bye for now

An American civilian officer describes what it was like taking refuge in the island while it was under assault, “under bomb and shell with our soldiers and sailors…where men were down to the ultimate realities of life, where all of us lived daily with death”.

There are four islands in this part of Manila bay, Corregidor is the biggest. The other islands are: El Fraile, Caballo and Carabao. These three were all fortified, converted as virtual batteries. The geography, had been divided into four areas by the Yankees:  Topside (where almost all social activities were), Middleside (was for some quarters, hospitals and schools), Bottomside (site of the old Fishing barrio of Sn. Jose) and Tailside (where there was once an airstrip).

Much of the restoration here were accomplished with American funding and expertise.

Charles Morris an American historian describes Corregidor and its surrounding islands during the time of the Battle of Manila Bay: “ The entrance is 12 miles wide on the south and almost midway rise the rocky island of Corregidor and Caballo. Corregidor was strongly fortified, armed with heavy modern guns and equipped with searchlights that would have enabled competent defenders to render entering it a hazardous feat. The channel on the north is called Boca Chica and Boca Grande is on the south”.

They say that the whole island is haunted but I wont mind staying here for a night!

The significance of the islands to the mainland’s survival, even before the war with Japan, can be discovered in numerous historical text. It was always the first to defend the capital. Assault were also launched by intruders from this rocky island. From the attack initiated by the famous Chinese pirate, the British take over and the Dutch harassments, Corregidor not only witnessed history but it was an integral part of the events that shaped our history.

Corregidor Seen From Up Above

The Rock, shaped like a squiggly tadpole. Bataan peninsula on the right corner. There’s a ship below – they say that Corregidor got its name from the Spanish word “to correct”. Navigators has been using the island to correct their position when approaching the port of Manila.

Sometimes delays can be good. It gives you more time. I don’t know if the flight was instructed to circle around to land on the opposite runway. Because it appeared that the plane was about to approach the runway that passes through the Taguig area but at the last minute the plane suddenly shifted path to land on the opposite runway near barrio of San Dionisio in Paranaque.

Because of this sudden change, I had the chance to see the island of Corregidor and the Bataan Peninsula from the vantage point of the clouds. It was a breathtaking sight – the sky was serene. The sea was like glass, mirroring the sky above. Corregidor really look like a tadpole from up above.

Opposite Corregidor is the historic town of Ternate. The Maragondon River and the small island called Balut (an island that appears to block the river’s passage way to the Bay) is distinguishable from up above. Then there’s SM Sucat – man, these malls are everywhere nowadays. Even in the sky you can see them.

My fascination with maps has helped me recognized islands and landmarks up above the air. I never get tire of taking pictures from the window of a plane. I really don’t care if it looks silly to others. I believe that you’ll only see things once, you can revisit them again but you’ll never see it the same – nothing gets repeated in this life.

October 2010

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