Fortifying Manila’s Colonial Past: Corregidor Island

In my opinion: there is just no easy way to do Manila…

Chaotic activity is found at every turn, ensuring that any visit in the over-crowded/under-planned Filipino capital reeks of effort as well as smog.

The stress that amounts from constantly having to avoid incidents involving factors such as the city’s unruly traffic, propositions from ‘ladies’ who often out-size you in all aspects of your physical anatomy and the constant haggling to buy all types of random merchandise ranging from Viagra to fishing rods, can quickly have you looking at plausible options to leave.

Finding myself in such a state after spending a full 24 hours in the city, a day trip to Corregidor Island quickly became the most viable alternative for spending the second day of my 2-day layover in the city.

Don’t Ask ‘Why’

Why? Because you will go insane…

Are the methods and systems of service extended purposely in the Philippines to accommodate the benefits of a large and cheap workforce?

Regardless of the reasons, if you start stacking up questions on Filipino efficiency such as “why did it take four people to process my ferry ticket to the island” and “why did they just herd us into a minibus to take us to the awaiting ferry that is only 50 meters from the ticket office?” you will start to get jaded.

Despite the extended process to get on the boat, the trip itself across Manila Bay is literally smooth sailing.

So WTF is Corregidor?

1570 saw the Philippines become a colony of Spain and with that, Manila became its most significant trade port and capital. To protect this vital hub, a 900-hectare island that sits at the harbour’s entrance to the South China Sea, was fortified to protect the bay from external aggression.

At the turn of the 20th century, the Philippines become a protectorate of the USA after the Spanish-American War. The Americans quickly turned Corregidor into a Military Reservation, establishing further fortifications, armaments and barracks for the men and support elements needed to operate and maintain the 56 guns and mortars throughout the island’s artillery batteries as the USA cemented its influence in the region.

Eventually Corregidor found itself centre stage in the Pacific War of WW2. Corregidor was used temporarily as the Allied Regional Headquarters by General MacArthur as well as the temporary home of the Philippines Government while the Japanese pushed its forces further into the country.

After months of intense fighting, the Japanese Forces eventually succeeded in blocking Allied supplies to the Island and Corregidor was surrendered to the Japanese on 6th of May 1942.

Holding true to the promise he made before evacuating the island, MacArthur and his forces recaptured the island from the Japanese on the 26th of February 1945.

To this day, no place on earth that has had more bombs fall on it, than the amount that fell on Corregidor during WW2.

Lest We Forget

Corregidor is now home to the USA’s official Pacific War memorial, where the sacrifices of the American, Allied and Filipino servicemen that were made in the Pacific War are remembered and honoured. The island was chosen over other significant battle sights in the Pacific (Guadalcanal in the Solomon Islands and Pearl Harbour in Hawaii) and the memorial was completed in 1968.

To much relief, any traces of inefficiency and uncleanliness are left way behind in Manila, as the island is proudly displayed and maintained by local Filipino’s who give in-depth accounts of the island’s history in multiple languages.

The tour through the island leaves one with a contrast of emotions as you are moved between the island’s different memorials, museums and surviving batteries and military facilities. A lot of the gun positions still remain, which has your imagination trying to comprehend what it must have been like to be here during the war.


The disappointment I felt at the end of the day when having to leave the peace and efficiency of Corregidor and return to the mayhem of Manila, is in itself a testament to it being a choice option for a day escape.

Like the City had a reputation to uphold, my walk from the Manila port back to my hostel involved a riot, but that’s a story for another day…


Author: Ash Clark

With past employment in areas from Civil Construction to the Military, Ash Clark has actively joined the growing global community of people who are leaving their day jobs for the freedom of a location independent lifestyle. Having already backpacked through over 30 countries, he is now pursuing personal entrepreneurial projects, which he hopes will eventually release him to work on infrastructure projects in developing communities in the Middle East. You can follow his personal blog at and twitter @themostalive

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  1. Thoughts on why Im moving from Australia to Berlin, Germany this year. - [...] War 2 and the Cold War if you must know. I’ve been to loads of memorials and historic WW1…

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Fortifying Manila’s Colonial Past: Corregidor Island