The Philippines' Corregidor Island lies about 16 miles west from Manila: a small, rocky island guarding the mouth of Manila Bay. Corregidor's long history as a government outpost and military base belies its present calm.
During the invasion of Japanese imperial forces in World War II and the island's subsequent recapture by American forces, Corregidor was flattened by thousands of tons of bombs, and served as the last stand for hundreds of American forces fighting the Japanese for control over the Pacific theater of war.
- Rule the rock: To find out more about the battle fought on the island, read World War II: Battle of Corregidor. For a broader view of the Pacific theater in 1942, read World War II Pacific: The Japanese Advance Stopped.
The massive infrastructure erected by the Americans between 1901 and 1942, once the pride of the U.S. colonial forces, now lie in ruins around the island. Thanks to a renewed push to make Corregidor more tourist-friendly, the remnants of the American-era fortifications and once-formidable gun batteries are now linked by winding concrete roads; a number of memorials built after 1945 help visitors relive the war years.
Geography of Corregidor
Corregidor Island is a rocky tadpole-shaped island 4 miles in length, with most of the landmass concentrated in the westward-facing "head" about 1.2 miles wide at its widest point.
The American occupying forces transformed Corregidor into a large American military base ("Fort Mills"), with the most important infrastructure concentrated on the highest elevation on the island: a plateau called Topside. The barracks for enlisted men, officers' quarters, "Cine Corregidor", lighthouse and flagpole are all clustered around the parade grounds.
The former hospital, PX Store, and Battery Way stand just a short distance downhill from the parade grounds at an elevation commonly called Middleside.
Tourists disembarking from the ferry from Manila typically disembark at Bottomside: from the pier at the north side of the island, visitors can ride a tranvia (tour bus) to explore the rest of Corregidor, or go to the nearby Corregidor Inn for a hefty buffet lunch. Due east of Bottomside, visitors can enter the Malinta Tunnel, a short tunnel under Malinta Hill that served as the last stand for American troops during the Japanese invasion of the Philippines in 1942. A sound and light show recaptures the desperate weeks preceding the surrender of the American garrison to the Japanese.
The tail end constitutes the rest of the island, and features a number of postwar memorials along with the Kindley airstrip.
- Long & Winding Road: For images and details on specific stops along the Corregidor tour, read this itinerary: Exploring Corregidor Island's World War II Ruins & Memorials.
Tours of Corregidor
Corregidor is open to tourists year round, weather permitting. Sun Cruises operates tours of Corregidor on behalf of the Philippines Department of Tourism and the Corregidor Foundation (tourism.gov.ph/Pages/Corregidor).
Tours can be arranged via their office at the Cultural Center of the Philippines complex in Manila. A day tour package covers ferry transfers between Corregidor and Manila, a guided island tour aboard a tranvia, terminal and shrine entrance fees, and a buffet lunch at the Corregidor Inn. The Malinta Tunnel light and sound show is optional.
The ferry departs from Manila every day at 8am: a fast, air-conditioned vessel that seats 140 and covers the 16-mile distance in a little over an hour.
- Address: Fernando Ma. Guerrero corner Paseo Palisoc, CCP Complex, Roxas Blvd., Pasay City
- Location: 14.55685, 120.9798 (Geohack)
- Phone: +63 2 834 6857 to 58, +63 2 966 9391 to 92
- E-mail: email@example.com
- Web: http://www.corregidorphilippines.com
Tours commence as soon as you disembark at Corregidor's north dock: you'll board buses that are modeled to resemble the trams that used to circle throughout the island, and are called tranvias after the original.
- Rolling through the Rock: For images of a tranvia tour through Corregidor, look at this image gallery of Corregidor Island - A Lost World.
The whole island is too big to be explored on foot - a new tour, though, aims to explore the sites around the parade grounds and part of Middleside. The tour, titled "Of Bombs, Big Guns and Lost Gold: WWII Tales Declassified" is organized by Philippine tour organizer Old Manila Walks, in cooperation with Sun Cruises.
By limiting the scope of the tour to the historic core of the island, Old Manila Walks hopes to provide a more concise and thought-provoking look at the context of World War II as it was fought in the Philippines, Corregidor Island in particular. As tourists will be required to walk the whole way (part of the trip includes a climb up a hundred-plus-step staircase from Middleside to the Mile Long Barracks), a modicum of physical fitness is required of guests.
Apart from the guided tour, the package includes ferry transfers and entrance fees; optional extras include the buffet lunch at Corregidor Inn and the light-and-sound show at Malinta Tunnel.
For more details, read this article: Ruins and Remembrance: Ivan Man Dy's World War II Walking Tour of Corregidor Island, Philippines. To book a slot on this tour, contact Ivan at the following:
Military history tour operator Valor Tours has a lock on tours of World War II memorial sites in the Philippines, with over 30 years' experience in the field. Their annual "Ghost Soldiers of Bataan" tour departs from the U.S. every April, taking veterans and their families on a circuit covering the Philippines' most famous World War II battlefields, Corregidor Island among them.
Valor Tours' guests will be accompanied by Stephen Kwiecinski, the son of an American World War II POW who once served in Corregidor. Post-retirement, Steve and his wife Marcia moved to Corregidor Island, where he now provides tour services to veterans visiting the island. (For more on Steve, visit his personal blog.)
Steve's services can be arranged via Valor Tours for any time of the year you choose to visit. To join the "Ghost Soldiers" tour or to engage Steve Kwiecinski for your next Corregidor trip, contact Valor Tours' Vicky Reynolds-Middagh at the following:
- Address: 10 Liberty Ship Way, Suite 110, Sausalito, CA 94965 USA
- Phone: 800-842-4504
- Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Site: www.valortours.com
Where to Stay in Corregidor
Visitors who want to spend the night on the island have two options: the relatively upmarket Corregidor Inn at Middleside and the rustic McArthur's Café within view of the north dock at Bottomside.
The Corregidor Inn serves a buffet lunch at its second-storey La Playa dining hall and verandah to package tour guests. Overnight guests can book a stay at one of its 31 air-conditioned bedrooms, with twin-, double-, single-bed and suite options; the rooms' interiors have a Filipino-Spanish colonial feel. Other amenities onsite include a small swimming pool, basketball court, and tennis court.
- Contact details: +63 917 527 6350, email@example.com
McArthur's Café is a small open-air eatery near the north dock that serves local dishes in a rustic setting. The accommodations are just as spartan, with dorm-style rooms available from $40 to $55.
- Contact details: +63 917 883 0061 / +63 919 3830737
Other Activities in Corregidor
Sun Cruises provides other activities for more active guests. Hikers, birdwatchers and bikers can use the miles of concrete road snaking through Corregidor to find their thrill du jour. For more information, visit their site: corregidorphilippines.com/activities.
Beyond Outdoor Adventures serves mountain biking enthusiasts with a two-day bike tour through Corregidor. For more information, visit their site: beyondoutdooradventures.com/mountain-bike-tours/corregidor-island-bike-tour.