At just 6.5 kilometres long by two kilometres wide, Corregidor Island may be small, but it’s seen more than its fair share of action. Strategically located at the entrance of Manila Bay, just off the coast of Luzon and 48 kilometres from the Philippine capital, the island has played an important defensive role for hundreds of years. Today, it offers daytrippers a moving story of war as well as an escape from the bustle of Manila.
Also known as ‘The Rock’, this tadpole-shaped island was first fortified by the Spanish in the 18th century and was a key bastion of the Allies in World War II. It witnessed fierce fighting during the invasion and liberation of the Philippines from Japanese forces, and the ruins that scatter the island serve as a lasting memorial to the American, Filipino and Japanese soldiers who fought and died here.
You don’t have to be a history buff to appreciate what Corregidor has to offer, but if you are, then you’ve come to the right place. One of the highlights is the Mile-Long Barracks, eerily beautiful ruins of the three-storey building used to house American officers and enlisted personnel. Another is the Malinta Tunnel, a vast network of atmospheric underground passageways that the Americans used as a bombproof bunker, ammunitions store and hospital.
Today, this tunnel regularly hosts an audio-visual show that gives you the chance to learn more about the events that took place here. At the island’s loftiest point, you’ll find the Pacific War Memorial, with its marble altar and domed ceiling. To its rear is the Eternal Flame of Freedom – a solar-powered steel sculpture that sits on a raised platform, offering visitors sweeping views of Bataan Peninsula, Manila Bay and the Cavite coastline. For more breathtaking vistas, climb the stairs of Corregidor’s lighthouse, about 190 metres above sea level. When you’re done taking in the historical monuments, the island also boasts woodland walks, birdwatching opportunities, bike trails, scenic boat trips and even a jungle survival camp.
Sun Cruises has the monopoly on tours to the island, with daily fast ferries from CCP Bay Terminal A, which load up at 7:30am for the 75-minute trip and return by 3:45pm. A standard daytrip package includes ferry transfers, entrance fees, a guided island tour and a buffet lunch. Alternatively, you can opt to stay overnight at the Corregidor Inn and give yourself more time to soak up the history and scenery of the island.