Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Corregidor Island

After only 4 hours sleep we got up to catch a taxi to the CCCP Complex to get the ferry to Corregidor Island. We totally got taken by the driver. He charged us 500 pesos each. It should have been more like 200 total (we later found out). I’d called the day before to reserve us spots on the ferry. Of course, they had no record of us.

The Philippines is all about bureaucracy. We had to fill out a form. Present i.d. Then wait. And wait. And wait. Kurt went to the window and asked a couple of times. We were told to wait until they called our names. Finally we heard “Kurt Ann H-----“. More paperwork followed then we got our stickers with our seat assignments. I’m so glad we got the 2 hours early. Ugh. We had great seats. We were on the lower deck in the front row so we had space to stretch out as well as a great view out the windows. Corregidor is 30 miles out in Manila Bay. The ferry was a catamaran so it was a very smooth ride. The AC in the boat worked very well. I was chilly. I had to put on my sweatshirt (I wasn’t sure if the ferry was open or enclosed). It was AWESOME!

On the way out there were natives fishing in canoes with little huts on them. Bataan Peninsula is very close to Corregidor. I had no idea it was so close. There were a total of 4 reinforced islands in the Bay during the war. Ironically, the Japanese built a lot of the reinforcements after the Spanish American war.

We toured the island by trolley. Our Filipino guide was an older gentleman. He was very well informed and has had the job for 14 years. The ruins of the barracks and other buildings are very impressive. There a shells of 3 story concrete structures. There was a giant staircase hanging almost vertical held in place by a single rod of rebar.

The biggest gun on the island had a range of 17 miles. The springs on these guns were huge! After the war the US reforested the island. It wasn’t as “jungle-y” as I expected. The guide assured us there were cobras and pythons in the brush. Many of the trees were labeled. There were mango, tamarind and other tropical fruits. I saw a bright yellow bird fly past. Kurt said he saw a blue one.

There is lighthouse on the topside of the island. The view from it was great. I was skeptical about climbing it (given my natural athletic ability and all) especially since two sets of the stairs were metal and steep enough that they had to be descending backward!

Lunch was included in our ticket price. It was a buffet at the Corregidor Inn. One can spend the night on the island if they wish. As the guide said every day the meal is different. One day is “pork and chicken next day is chicken and pork!”

We got a complimentary juice with our meal. It was a glass of “panadin” juice. It’s some kind of pine or pineapple juice. It was very light and refreshing. It was pink on the bottom and green on the top.

After lunch we were exhausted. We still had to visit the tail. Corregidor is tadpole shaped. The tail contains a recently discovered mass Japanese grave that is now the Japanese Peace Garden as well as the Filipino Heroes Memorial. No one was much interested in getting off the trolley at this point.

Before lunch we walked through the Malita Tunnel. The light and sound show was extra. I thought it was at night so we hadn’t purchased it. We decided to do it though. It consisted of narration, video, and tableaus in the side tunnels.

The only damage inside the tunnel was done when the US retook the island and poured in gasoline to try and force the Japanese out. The ensuing fires and explosions caused the damage. At one point a portion of the tunnel served as a hospital for over 1,000 wounded. Corregidor held out for 5 ½ months before surrendering. I can’t imagine living in the dark and damp for that long.

On the ride back to Manila almost everyone was asleep. As we approached the city, clouds were moving in. It was very pretty with the hi-rises set against the darkening sky. Once we landed we got a Starbucks (I think there are more here than at home) and walked along the quay. It is soooo smelly and polluted. Floating rubbish, shoes, plastic, bottles and all kinds of trash. I know the rivers in Manila have raw sewage in them so I’d assume the Bay does as well. People were squatting along the wall and fishing. I can’t imagine anything they caught was safe to eat. We got ripped off by the cabdriver that took us home as well, but we didn’t care. We were hot, hungry, and tired. We need to insist that they start the meter or we need to get into a different taxi. It’s just that even getting ripped off doesn’t cost us that much in American money. We ended up ordering Pizza Hut delivery for dinner. The number is 911-11-11. It was tiny but decent and cheap!

1 comment:

Todd HellsKitchen said...

So many of those countries in that part of the world have complex bureaucracies... It's more about creating jobs for people to do than treating the tourist efficiently... Ever been to India??? Oh-My-God!!!?

Sounds like a great trip though!