A Travellerspoint blog

Corregidor in Manila Harbor

Does war ever end?

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View Bill and Hope 2019 on HopeEakins's travel map.

Corregidor is a small (two square miles) island in Manila Harbor, acquired by the US in the Spanish-American War in 1898. For the next forty years, the Americans built things there: barracks for more than 8000 servicemen – half Filipino, half American, gun batteries, roads, a railroad and trolley system, 2 schools (one for Filipinos, one for Americans) a movie theater, a baseball field, a swimming pool, chapel, and hospital. It seems that this fortification was motivated by the fear that there might be a war in the area some day. And there was. In brief summary, when the Japanese invaded Manila in 1942, the American and Filipino troops retreated to Bataan and then Corregidor, under General MacArthur. The Government of the Philippines moved there for a while, and MacArthur used Corregidor as Allied headquarters until President Roosevelt ordered him to go to Australia. MacArthur went, promising, “I shall return.” Lt. Gen. Wainright took command and held out until the Japanese forced the surrender of the remaining forces on May 6, 1942. Corregidor was not recaptured until 1945.
So the place is filled with the ghostly remains of ancient gun batteries and barracks (see WJE at the end of 12 inch gun barrel). The Malinta tunnel runs under the rocky mountain crags with two miles of corridors that sheltered the military and their supplies and their wounded for the weeks they held out against the Japanese.

Memorials and museums also abound. At the Pacific War Memorial, an altar sits beneath an oculus through which light lands directly on the altar at exactly 12 noon on May 6th, in commemoration of Wainright’s surrender and the courage of the allied troops throughout the Pacific campaign. The inscription on the altar reads:

Sleep my sons your duty done, for freedom’s light has come
Sleep in the silent depths of the sea or in your bed or hallowed sod
Until you hear at dawn the low clear reveille of God.

Nearby is a Filipino Heroes memorial and a moving statue of American and Philippine brothers at arms leaning upon each other (see inscription below).

What is surprising here is the Japanese Memorial Garden that serves as a place of prayer for Japanese veterans and their families. It was funded by Japan and built in 1987. It looks like it has been vandalized ever since. The Filipinos HATE the Japanese. On our tour of this island, we were shown photos of Japanese soldiers bayonetting babies, and told with angry indignation that Japan has NEVER apologized for the atrocities they committed during the war.

So ... on a small wall in a little museum is a photo of the cemetery where 4000 Japanese were buried after 1945. This is the only Japanese cemetery in the Pacific because the Japanese customarily cremated their dead and sent the ashes home to be interred. Eventually the cemetery disappeared from sight under jungle growth until 1985 when this photo was purchased at a tag sale in Portland, Oregon. The picture is indistinct but the location can be clearly discerned because of the mountain contours. The owner tracked it down and got permission to dig up the remains of the Japanese and cremate them and return them to their homeland.

We were very very touched by this gesture of compassion commemorated where anti-Japanese feeling surges high, and we told the tale to a fellow traveller and urged her to go see the photo. I guess we didn’t tell the story very well; she replied, “Hah, glad they finally got those Japs off the island.”

Shortly thereafter, emerging from the huge Malinta Tunnel and all its machines of war, Hope commented, “Imagine what the world would be like if we spent as much money and energy making peace as we do waging war.” The man beside her growled. “Listen, lady, the only way to get peace is to make war.”

Is there any hope? Yes, and it sometimes comes in cardboard boxes like those on the ferry we took to Corregidor. See photos below.

Another gift of the ferry is the prayer projected on the TV screen as our (two hour) trip to Corregidor began:

Prayer Before Travelling

Dear Lord, you once let the children of Israel walk through the sea with dry feet.
You showed the three Wise Men the way to your crib by the guidance of a star.
We beg you to grant us a good trip and a peaceful day.
Let us have your Holy Angels as escorts to arrive at the end of our journey in safety.

Lord, speak to us as we prepare ourselves for the start of this trip.
Along the way, be our consolation.
In the heat of the noonday sun, be our shade.
In strong weather be our protection.
When we are weary, be our companion.
In time of danger be our protection.
On slippery paths; be our sturdy staff.
On shipwreck, be our saving harbor.
Be our guide that we may reach the end of our journey and finally return to our home without misfortune.

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lTE - 5 (1)

lTE - 5 (1)

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Posted by HopeEakins 23:54 Archived in Philippines

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