Tag Day trips from Manila

Guns, Guns and Steel

When I first arrived in the Philippines I spent the first weekend with a copy of the lonely planet and a notepad listing all the things I wanted to do/see while in the Philippines.

Being focused (at the time) mainly on the prospect of being able to talk about my travel afterwards, I used what I would like to term the ‘fanboy’ approach.

Essentially the technique revolves around reading your chosen travel guide and just going along with their recommendations. On the list was Corregidor Island, a small parcel of land nestled inside Malina bay. It has been a key to defending the bay for centuries.

The main aim of the game for the island is to learn all about its role in World War II and flatter the tour-guide by laughing at their jokes. Fortunately, WWII history is a sombre affair so the guide is more than likely to refrain from telling too many,

I will try to pepper this blog post with some relevant stuff I can find, but I should explain that trying to show some reverence and make a travel blog entertaining is a challenging combination.

You see I generally will tell people I’m against the glorification of war, but just between you and me watching Narnia gave me nightmares. I’m the kind of person who is using the word pacifist as a euphemism for wimp, and so let me begin…

The eternal flame.

One hell of a symmetrical shot of the Corregidor War Memorial.

So, the island is scattered with cannons, and not your everyday cannons either, these are the kind that would have taken an hour of careful sketching with a 2B pencil during university to get even close to its rugged awesomeness.

This one is actually a mortar and from what I can find online, probably not suitable for being fired out of. If you were to weigh around 1000 pounds though it would throw your arse around 13kms, I think that’s one local shop away. But unless that shop has a cannon pointing back the other way you’ll have to find your own way home, and at a thousand pounds that’s a good thing, you’re morbidly obese.

So my basic knowledge of mortars is this: they’re designed to lob high explosives onto the enemy at great distances. They have the advantage of being able to shoot at closer targets as you can more or less aim directly up, I’m also informed that they can be moved around. But there is no way you can put these guys in your caddy and stroll around so I’m not sure how reliable that nugget of information is.

Now this one is particularly cool and unless you were good at flip books couldn’t be represented adequately on blue-ruled paper. This is a ‘disappearing gun’, the chief aim of this big guy was to fire and quickly retract. You can’t see this from here but underneath the gun is some seriously cool engineering going on, so that the gun will rise up before it fires and using the motion from firing, will swing back down to hide.

Cool shot right? Well there are about ten just like this available online. I’m not so creative…

So this cannon is designed to shoot around 30 kms. For those living in Canberra you’d be able to comfortably take out Belconnen. Particularly that terrible thai restaurant. You know the one. The tour guide told us a couple of interesting things about these cannons: 1.) the longer the barrel the longer the range, 2.) Modern cannons forced the projectile to spin before exiting the barrel, which improves accuracy.

I’m not so sure what these ones were for.

So, also littered across the island are the remnants of buildings from WWII and heaps of tunnels. Keeping in mind that a lot of these sites have been bombed heavily since first being built they look pretty good.

This is the Japanese memorial.

The tour guide said that nobody knew what it was meant to be because it’s a woman so can’t be Buddha. I tried to explain to him that it could still be Buddha as he/she is often presented as a female (my limited research suggests Buddha usually isn’t covered in babies tho). If I had access to the internet I would have shown him this link. Normally this would be the point to conclude and say something heartfelt about the experience. But it’s lunch time.


Okay fine, ending with the ‘it’s lunch time’ is as annoying as hell. So my conclusion will go something like this:

Corregidor Island is amazing and an easily accessible ‘time-out’ from Manila. Besides from being a razor-sharp reminder of how tough being a solider would have been, the island is also an easy way to be reminded why the Philippines was called the ‘Pearl of the Orient’ (actually I think there are a number of reasons).

You can actually spend the night at the island if you have the inclination and I sense that this would be well worth it as there is a lot to see. My limited experience also tells me that it is in fact a good indication of what to expect when you’re travelling around the Philippines more generally. Specifically, the island shows why if you’ve only been to Manila, you haven’t seen the Philippines.