Monday, January 15, 2007

Corregidor after dark

If Gen. McCarthur decided to come back to Corregidor over 70 odd years ago, who am I to resist returning to this historic island? But in lieu of the day tour which we took about 2 years ago, we went one step further and spent the night on the island. While the day tour reveals interesting tidbits of history which every Pinoy should know, it feels hurried and bitin, even to non-photographers. The 10-20 minute stops are not enough to capture more interesting angles of the Mile-long and Topside Barracks, among other ruins. 
This return trip took almost 2 years to materialize but the wait's all worth it. Corregidor at night is an entirely different experience. After the day guests drift away on the 2.30 return trip to Manila, things simmer down. Grabbing a bit of rest, we looked forward to the sunset at Battery Hearn. Then, we're off to the dirt road leading to the old hospital. Scoring a direct hit from the Japanese despite the cross on the roof, even just approaching the perimeter gives one major tingles and shivers. Climbing the stairs where a balete tree has grown, we felt our faces grow numb. I, myself, felt this very strong urge to bawl and cry for no reason at all. For lack of a proper term to describe it, I call the experience one of extreme despair and sadness.

With darkness enveloping the island, we're off to the Malinta Tunnel. It looked like an entirely different world from the one daytrippers see. Night explorers get a very comprehensive tour of the many laterals not included in the daytime tour (minus the light and sound show, of course). Sporting hardhats and carrying large flashlights & headlamps, we crawl and crouch in some portions. There were even remnants of bone and sake in one lateral. I took quite a lot of pictures for posterity (I'm still thinking whether I would want to share or lock them away instead) which means I'm always at the tailend.A t times, I felt somebody following us as we navigated thru the maze-like tunnel. At one point in the tour, Bryan, our tour guide, asked us to turn off all our lights. That gave us an inkling of how it must have felt to be locked away inside, not knowing whether it's day or night, just hearing the bombs blasting away the hill.

Sleep-deprived, I slumbered easily throughout the night. My friend B2, however, did not. The resident ghost, Pot-pot, must have been busy playing around on the second floor of Corregidor Inn where we were billeted. The sunset watch at the eternal flame monument was not a photographer's dream-come-true (at least, not this time of the year). Then, we explored the nearby Japanese tunnel before breakfast. Post-breakfast and foregoing a nap, B2, Bambi and I decided to hike up Malinta Hill with Bryan. the trails are not yet fully established although the view of the head & tailend of the island is breathtaking. This activity will be included in the Holy Week promo for adventurers this year.

Thanks to Jemlu (one of our guides) for keeping us in stitches and making the trip more fun. look for this very funny, very affable and knowledgeable guide if you decide to go here. And thanks to D2, Quito, B2 and Bambi for the trip. 

Explore Corregidor details: Sun cruises (tel. 8346858) offers day & overnight trips to Corregidor • Daytour - P1,690 (incl. fare, tour, buffet lunch) • Overnight - P2,500 (incl. fare, day tour, first day buffet lunch, double/twin sharing accommodation) • Trip schedule - boat leaves CCP Bay, Manila at 8am daily, returns at 3.15pm • Most tours charge P100/head (hiking, night tour) • Accommodations - Corregidor Inn is very clean, very homey; service is highly attentive • The guides are very knowledgeable and friendly • Malinta Hill hike - allow 1 hour ascent & another hour descent; Night Tour of old hospital & Malinta Tunnel is 1-1.5 hour long

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