Located at the entrance to Manila Bay, “Isla ng Corregidor” was identified by the Spaniards as a strategic defense location when they arrived in the 16th century. They named it “Island of the Corrector,” since this was the place where all ships entering Manila would stop for inspection. Since then the fortress island has been the site of many battles, from the Spanish-American War to the period of American colonialism.
The oldest landmark on the island is the lighthouse dated 1853, but much of this lush tropical island is dominated by ruins that reflect the intense fighting that took place in World War II. In addition to defense and battery buildings, there are shops, a movie theater, and a swimming pool, all from the soldiers stationed here many years ago.
During the Japanese invasion of the Philippines in 1941, Corregidor was the temporary headquarters of the Philippine Government. American and Philippine troops fought desperately to defend the island using tunnels dug into the rock as storage for ammunition and hospitals, but without reinforcements the troops were beaten badly. Corregidor was surrendered to the Japanese by spring of 1942.
In 1945 the tide of war turned against the Japanese. Enduring months of aerial and naval bombardment in the tunnels on the island, they surrendered to American and Philippine forces in February that year.
Even on a bright, sunny day the place is heavy with memories of what happened here. The buildings and fortifications have been left untouched, which would give the impression that the fighting ended just yesterday if it weren’t for the greenery that has grown over in the decades since their abandonment. Tour guides on the island report they are still finding detritus from the battles of WWII. They occasionally come across objects in the jungle undergrowth dating back to even earlier, when Philippines and American families were stationed on the island at the turn of the 20th century.
The expansive tunnels below ground are no doubt the eeriest part of the island. These dark corridors are allegedly haunted by Japanese soldiers who took their own lives before defeat, but whether or not you believe that legend, the tunnels are disturbing for the sheer amount of violence that occurred there.
The island is now a designated national monument and war memorial. The ruins have been maintained in memory of the American, Philippine, and Japanese soldiers who fought and died here.