Monday, January 24, 2005

On course to Corregidor

Blurry-eyed from just 3 hours of sleep, a quick-cold shower finally woke me up from narcolepsy. up at 6, ahead of D2's text and call. Met D2&B2 at the 24-hour KFC shop at Buendia. Boarded at 7.45am. Left Manila around 8.15am. Our early booking served us some good as we got window seating, with D2 receiving her ample share of sunlight. An hour and a half later, we rolled into the south docks of Corregidor.

Aboard Tranvia 7, we were treated to a hefty share of info from our affable, wisecracking guide, Mark Martinez (hope I got his name right). The tour was a bit quick and hurried for most of us to properly absorb the sights, compose our picture layouts and chose our camera settings. In like an hour and a half, we've gone to most of the major batteries, Battery Grubbs, Battery Hearn, plus the Japanese garden of peace as well as the monuments, Brothers-in-arms, Quezon, and the Macarthur return site.

MALINTA TUNNEL - Around 10.45am, we found ourselves at the southern gate of the Malinta Tunnel. Originally meant for stockpiling supplies, the 925 ft long, 25 ft wide tunnel served as a hospital facility during the siege on Corregidor, specifically, the second lateral on the north side. The third lateral on the north side from the east entrance served as the USAFFE headquarters of Gen. Macarthur. Once the big gates were shut, we were enveloped by complete darkness. One can get the feeling of desolation, of being shut out from the rest of the world. in the somewhat eerie darkness, one can imagine being holed here while enemy or allied bombs were carpeting the island. Considering the many deaths within the tunnel itself, those of the sick as well as the Japanese who committed hara-kiri in the imminence of capture, one can feel a palpable presence inside.

LIGHTS & SOUNDS - Then, the light and sound show was on. A spectacle of light, images, sound, even smoke, it was a very interesting retelling of the story of WWII and Corregidor.C onceived by the late national artist, Lamberto Avellana, it was annotated by a very familiar voice, the unmistakable and authoritative rasps of the late Frankie Evangelista. The show was capped by the national anthem which raised the hairs on the back of my head and gave me the goosebumps. even if you're a jaded Filipino, you can't simply help but be moved by this, after absorbing everything you were told in the show.

Then, it's back to modern times, with lunch served at the Corregidor Inn. We seated ourselves at the azotea/dining area in a motley mix of Japanese, Americans/Caucasians and fellow Pinoys, most toting cameras.  The view was breathtaking, with Manila 28 miles away and the Bataan peninsula a mere 3 or so miles away.

MILELONG, TOPSIDE & OTHER STORIES - We set off to the ruins of the Middleside Barracks next. And the topside grounds where the Topside Barracks, the moviehouse, and the war memorial are located. Our guide told us that during the 1930s-40s, it was every G.I.'s dream to be assigned to the Philippines, especially Corregidor. receiving a princely sum of 4 dollars a month, one can save almost all of that since he can get free-everything anyway. From having a good time at the big cabaret in Sta. Ana (6,000 entertainers!) to boozing up during the weekends and right down to getting spiffy accommodations in the barracks.

After nearly 5-6 hours of leaving my camera on, my stash of back-up alkaline batteries just gave up on me. Luckily, supermom D2 came prepared with a fresh set. Thanks d2. That gave me a fresh lease on life and enabled me to take shots of the old movie house, the parking lot where Macarthur and Quezon parked their huge cars, the war memorial altar and sculpture as well as the quaint lighthouse.

SOME VIEWS - By 2.30pm, we were boarding our ferry back to Manila. It would have been interesting to discover the place on foot, as we hear and see wildlife including squawking monkeys on the roadside. And there were quite a few places I wasn't able to take a picture of, like the church. Maybe next time. I just wish the trip could be longer and more leisurely (maybe with an overnight trip). Suggestions of an overnight trip were not that welcome anyway (ghost stories abound; not that I'm afraid of them). I just wonder what the camera can capture if we went on a shoot during the evening. Hmmm, maybe next time. Was able to get back a few minutes before 4pm, meaning I missed on an appointment with a personal training client. But it was well worth it. Thanks to my camera bugs-pals, D2&B2. till next ootfs. 

TOUR INFO - All Pinoys should go on a trip like this to appreciate what it took to give us our freedom (something we take too lightly nowadays). Sun Cruises take visitors on day and overnight tours. Contact nos. 831-8140, 834-6857 to 58; email:sales_mttci@magsaysay.com.ph; website: www.corregidorphilippines.com. rates: day tour - buffet, P1,475; plated lunch, P1,375; group, P980. overnight rates start at P2,790. sked: 7.30am - boarding; 8am - ETD Manila; 9.15am - ETA Corregidor; 9.15am-2.30 - guided tour w/ lunch; 2.30pm - ETD Corregidor; 3.45pm - ETA Manila. • INFO CREDIT - "The Passion and the Glory of Corregidor", Alfonso J. Aluit, Galleon Publications, 2003

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