JOIN US IN AN INTERVIEW WITH ROWENA CARALDE FROM MANILA, PHILIPPINES !
Rowena is a licensed tour guide in the Phillipines, accredited by the Department of Tourism since 2008. She is passionate to serve tourists. She spent 5 years of her life on this island and could have spent the rest if it was allowed. She does not believe in ghosts but listening to the stories from some veterans and relatives of soldiers visiting the island, she came to understand and respect this belief of others. She now spends most of her time traveling in different provinces, cities and islands in her own country and around Asia.
Corregidor Island played host to two battles between Japanese and U.S. forces during the war and each of these left a lasting impact on the lives of Filipinos. Corregidor during the Spanish period was a check-point, wherein all vessels to Manila must stop in this island to have their documents and papers checked. Also, the island was used as a penitentiary or correctional institution by the Spanish and came to be called “El Corregidor“. Some pre-infrastructures in the island are part of the hard-work of the Prisoners. During the Spanish era this island was a signal station where bonfires were lit to alert Manila of a home-coming galleon.
Why should one visit the Corregidor island?
Amongst the 7,107 islands and islets in the Philippines, Corregidor is just one neighboring Manila Bay. Corregidor is a must to see especially for those Patriotic and relatives of WWII veterans who served the country and the world during the war. Corregidor gives remarkable experience for everyone who visit this island especially to the relatives of veterans, students, military group, both Americans and Filipinos, some Europeans and even Japanese as this island served the biggest role in the World War II history.
When I first visited this island, there was some kind of magic that’s unexplainable, but I was magnetized with its natural beauty and I imagined upon looking at those ruins and bombarded structures how it was like before the WWII. It was trademarked by everyone as a great “Military Paradise”.
When is the best time to visit this island?
It is best to visit Corregidor any days of the year except when there is a declared typhoon. It happens mostly in July, August and September months. I always recommend visiting the island from the later part of November until May month. If you prefer to explore the island for photography, best month is February and May. For adventure and sports, it is always best in December and January.
How to reach the island from Manila? Do you need to make prior transport bookings?
Corregidor island can only be visited by either helicopter, a banca from Bataan mainland and a ferry from Manila.
If you would like to land in the island via helicopter, there is a re-developed huge helipad allocated for 4 helicopters. Normally this can be arranged by the administration permitted for VIP services.
The banca (small motor boat) coming from the mainland of Bataan covers four miles distance and could be hired at any time between 6 AM to 5 PM. The regular boat can take 8 passengers, but some can accommodate even up to 12 passengers.
If using ferry, one ferry departs from Manila regularly at exactly 7:30 AM. The boarding time is from 6:30 AM at the terminal of Esplanade Seaside Park (Seaside Blvd., Mall of Asia Complex), Pasay City, Philippines. If there are prior bookings that needs another trip, the same boat comes back to Manila and set for the second trip which leaves at 11:00 AM. Should you wish to hire the ferry exclusively for your big group, this can be arranged at any time you wish in the morning.
Walk-in guests are accepted at the terminal on the day itself you wish to visit the island. However, it is always best to book and reserve ahead of time to avoid being rejected. The full capacity of a ferry is about 280 people. You are lucky if there are no scheduled big groups of students, military, company tours, marathon, etc.
How many days are enough to see the island? What do tourists miss when they visit it only as a day trip?
There are so many areas covering the almost 5.5 km2 size of the island. Aside from the historic landmarks, ruins, new buildings and structures, there is much to see and discover within the island. The guided day tour in Corregidor starts upon arrival at 9:15 AM until 2:00 PM including lunch time. It is not enough to see the other hidden scenic sights but is just enough to learn and understand the beautiful island. To know it’s role in protecting Manila from invaders and about the fortress that fought for the victory and love for the freedom by Filipino Soldiers you need to spend more time.
There are some adventures like exploring the huge Malinta Tunnel laterals, ghost-hunting in the ruins of hospital, exploring some caves and tunnels made by Japanese during the war, and trekking & hiking around the hill that you can experience if you stay overnight. Some tourists stay in the hotel for a week long relaxing holiday.
Only staff and workers in the island can live here and the administrators who govern the island. They live at the row houses in the middle part of the island. During the American period those were houses for island maintenance.
Which mode of transport to use when on the island?
There are about 8 trams in the island servicing the visitors around to tour which are replica of the island’s electric train as main transportation during the pre-war years. You may find very few vehicles in the island; only those pick-up and small trucks that are being used by the maintenance and administrators in the island.
There are no traffic lights and signs, although most of the roads in the island are two-lane concrete pavements. The post lights along the road side are powered by the battery and solar power generated and stored during the day. Most of the equipment and appliances are powered by generator, batteries, and solar panels that are enough to run machines and to function all operations and activities in the island. There is no electricity supply on the island.
Which are the three best places to visit on the island?
THE MALINTA TUNNEL:
The Malinta Tunnel was built by the United States Army Corps of Engineers. It was initially used as a bomb-proof storage and personnel bunker, but was later equipped as a 1,000-bed hospital. Branching off from this main shaft are 13 lateral tunnels on the north side and 11 lateral tunnels on the south side. There is a special tour of the “Malinta Tunnel” which is not included during the regular day tour. It is a night tour which may be availed by only those who remain overnight in Corregidor. Guests are taken to the Malinta Tunnel by a “tramvia” with the tour guide to point out and explain the different laterals and the hospital lateral.
THE PACIFIC WAR MEMORIAL MUSEUM:
Another exciting place to visit is the island “Museum” which houses the relics, photographs, original stuffs and accessories, that has been used by the many soldiers and officers in the island during and before the war. This is located at the top area belonging to the “Pacific War Memorial Dome”. Here you will see the 12 marble panels encrypting the history of Pacific war, and the “Eternal Flame of Freedom” that symbolizes the love for freedom of our great heroes.
There were 23 batteries set up for Corregidor defense. These consisted of 56 coastal guns and mortars which formed the main power of the island fortress. Corregidor had 13 anti-aircraft artillery batteries with 76 guns, twenty-eight of which were 3-inch and forty-eight 50-caliber.
With all the gun emplacements set up in the island, Battery Geary and Battery Way proved to be the best and most effective for the defense of Corregidor during the siege by the Japanese forces. The 5 most accessible batteries in Corregidor are Batteries Way, Hearn, Geary, Crockett, and Grubbs.
What are the best adventure activities to do on the island?
You can hike along the woodland trails of Corregidor on a challenging trek. Be ready to drop down into mysterious caves and tunnels for searching clues that will lead you to win the adventure challenge.
Or live and learn about the great outdoors in a specialized camp training program. Learn to respect and develop the confidence to survive in a world of trees and bushes. Have a slumber at night under the stars with a bonfire and enjoy the day with outdoor fun and picnic.
You can delight on a sunny day out on the docks with our fishing rod. One can find a bountiful marine life on the outskirts of the island. This helps build hand-eye coordination and strengthens the small muscles in your hands, wrists, forearms, biceps, triceps, and shoulders. Fishing is such a great, low-impact activity that it is widely used as a rehabilitation therapy by psychologists, counselors, and physical therapists.
Circle the Island on an outrigger boat and view the neighboring isles such as La Monja, Caballo (Fort Drum), and the scenic coast of Mariveles and discover the history and role of these islands with your tour guide.
Paddle a double stingray kayak to explore the sea and the shores in a different way. Canoeing increases mental strength and encourage participants to engage in physical exercise. It takes people outside of their comfort zone and challenges their beliefs in themselves … At the other end of the spectrum is recreational and social canoeing.
Rocket Zipline is the best start to conquer your fear. It is more than just a historical destination-with the 300-meter Zip line at the “Rock” but It is an adventure destination as well. The Rocket Zipline starts at Corregidor Inn and ends at the South Beach.
Which is the best beach on the island?
The South beach. This is the safest beach for swimming activities because sharks here are vegetarians (… joke …)
Enjoy the sea water with its benefits for your skin, being rich in minerals such as magnesium which lowers cortisol, calming your nervous system, and reducing the potential for stress-prompted issues.
There are cottages and huge grounds to set tents nearby the shore. At night, bonfires and barbeque are allowed to set and match with the music for your beach party. There are stores selling beers and local whisky in the island.
Anyone can also order and request to some people in stores in the island to cook for you. Most times they can get real fresh sea foods supplied by catchers and by the fishermen.
This area was the small community for fishermen and residents of Barrio San Jose during Spanish period occupation. Livestock raising, and farming were among the sources for the living aside from fishing and trade exchange to the nearby mainland.
Are there enough places to eat on the island? Is it a vegan/vegetarian friendly place?
Visitors and locals have a good appetite for the kind of cuisine served in the island at the “Corregidor Inn’s La Playa restaurant” and at the “Topside Garden restaurant”. Normally, the lunch which is included in the tour package is a buffet type and is complete from appetizers to the main course and desserts. Vegetable salads, fruits, noodles, rice, chicken or beef, soup, seafoods are always present. Every person is welcomed with a glass of Pandan leaves juice.
Do not be worried if you are vegetarians or halal, you can request and order in advance (upon booking order) for a customize or personalized meal.
What accommodation facilities are available on the island?
OVERNIGHT AT CORREGIDOR INN : The 31 rooms comfy accommodation on a serene island with lovely views all around from your windows. There’s nothing like a chill overnight stay away from the city life. The hotel is clean and ranked high with good reviews and comments.
HOSTEL AND TRANSIENT AT BARRIO SAN JOSE : This is an alternative and additional facility to accommodate guests belonging to huge groups for big events.
Would you recommend any walking or photography tours on the island?
Photography is a famous tour that Corregidor island offers best. Most photographers coming from different countries stay on the island overnight to create their masterpiece. In fact, some of great international photographers have won many awards exhibiting their photographs of Corregidor island.
How safe is the island? Is it a tourist friendly place?
The island of Corregidor is tagged as a zero crime island. It is safe and secured for its peace, solemnity and friendly environment. There are no wild animals living on the island. Though of course there are security guards you could find around, assigned in some specific areas, but that does not mean there is a tendency for trouble. They are only for monitoring the tourists with their outdoor activities and in case assistance is needed.
Corregidor host visitors with disability too. The staff provide great assistance to elderly and people with special situation that they can actually enjoy their tour.
Do you want to give any helpful tip to the visitors coming to the island?
Reservation should be done prior to travel date. Pregnant women are strictly not allowed to join this trip. If you are pre-booked, it is mandatory to arrive at the terminal 30 minutes prior the departure time as part of the policy.
Make sure to read all the signboards and safety instructions given by your tour guide when visiting the tourist attractions. I’ve encountered some who were exploring small tunnels which clearly stated not part of the tour and its prohibited without permit and local guide.
Planning a trip to Phillipines check out our interview with a local from Cebu.