AS THE Philippines celebrates its heroes — April 7 is Veterans Day, and April 9 is Araw ng Kagitingan or National Heroes’ Day — it is good to remember Corregidor which has become synonymous with Filipino and American courage and determination in protecting our freedom.

Despite relentless attacks by Japanese forces in 1942, and without reinforcements coming from the United States, Filipino and American troops fought in Bataan and Corregidor for months. The troops on Bataan fought from Jan. 7, 1942 until April 9, 1942 when they were overwhelmed by superior Japanese firepower and troop numbers. After some 76,000 Filipino and American troops surrendered, they were forced to walk almost 100 kilometers from Bataan to Capas, Tarlac in what came ot be called the Bataan Death March.

This left Correigidor to hold the line. From the very start of the war in the Pacific, Dec. 29, 1941, until May 6, 1942, the Japanese Imperial Army attacked Corregidor relentlessly, dropping thousands of bombs on the island which guards the mouth of Manila Bay. On May 6, the leader of all US and Filipino Allied forces in Asia, Lt. Gen. Jonathan Wainwright, led his men in their surrender to the Japanese. They had fought as long and as hard as humanly possible.

Corregidor 2
Malinta Tunnel. This tunnel, which is 253 meters long, 7.3 meters wide and 5.5 meters high, served as the residence of Philippines President Manuel L. Quezon and Vice-President Sergio Osmeña along with their families after they fled Manila during the Japanese invasion of the Philippines in World War II. Quezon, Osmeña, and their families were eventually brought to the US along with Gen. Douglas McArthur via submarine before the island was surrendered to the Japanese. The tunnel also housed soldiers, medical personnel, and civilians left behind while Japanese forces laid siege to Corregidor. Near the war’s end, it was the Japanese troops turn to be bombed relentlessly as the Allies retook the island.

Today Corregidor Island is a popular historical tourist attraction. Among its attractions are the Pacific War Memorial with its Dome of Peace, and a sculpture called the Eternal Flame of Freedom. There’s also the Pacific War Memorial Museum that houses World War II memorabilia. Visitors can take a guided tram tour of the island, and pass through the Malinta tunnel where a lights and sounds show simulates what it was like during the island’s darkest days when its residents sought shelter from the Japanese bombs underground.

Corregidor is currently undergoing more improvements following a 10-month tourism masterplan by Palafox Associates. Now categorized as an eco-tourism site, Corregidor is managed and operated by the Corregidor Foundation, Inc. As an eco-tourism site, the island now has a fully functional beach resort and camp sites. Corregidor is easily accessible via a ferry from the Esplanade Seaside Terminal in the SM Mall of Asia Complex.

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