Long before Arnold Schwarzenegger made the famous line “I’ll be back” in the movie Terminator, Gen. Douglas Mcarthur said “I shall return” first way back on March 11, 1942 to help the Philippines gain independence from the Japanese.
Although he didn’t come back using a time portal naked, he did honor his word and had a big comeback on October 20, 1944 wearing big sunglasses too. We can clearly see how the Filipino people honored him by making him a statue in the Corregidor Island.
Notice the engraved “I SHALL RETURN” in his pedestal.
Now where is Corregidor Island and what’s up with it during World War II?
The Corregidor Island is a small island in northern Philippines which is a strategic place to put up heavy artilleries against battleships because it’s sitting in the middle of the sea entrance going to the capital city of Manila.
Its name came from the Spanish word “corregir” which means “to correct” because it used to be a correctional institution for ships passing through the Manila Bay. It was the last stronghold of the Japanese army in the Northern Philippines before the Americans recaptured it.
The Corregidor Island is not just about great views and outdoor fun but a journey in time as well. It takes us to a place which gives us deeper understanding of the challenges and sacrifices our hero soldiers have faced to gain the freedom that we’re enjoying now.
We can find plenty of wall sculptures and statues here which depicts the island’s history and the soldiers’ struggles. It’s like a power point slide show presentation matching a projector in ancient style. You will see how the Spanish soldiers took over the island, then the Americans, then the Japanese and back to the Americans and Filipinos again.
It’s amazing to see how the Americans and Japanese are now sitting side-by-side on a tourist bus enjoying the view and learning about Corregidor’s history. It reminds me of Ryan Reynolds’s line in the movie Green Lantern “I know that humans aren’t as strong as other species, or the smartest. We’re young, we have a lot to learn. But we’re worth saving.”
I’ve been in several other tourist spots here in the Philippines and this is the only place where most of your travel companions are either Americans or Japanese, mainly because of the island’s history and that there are actually both American and Japanese cemetery in the island.
I’ve enjoyed playing toy guns as a kid and first-person shooter video games where you can tease friends that you’ve killed in the game but I’m sure it was totally different when you know that you’re doing it to real humans and you life is at risk as well. It must have been very tough for our soldiers.
We’ve seen how a great technology can fall in the wrong hands and cause great destruction and suffering. Most people have learned the kind of horror a war brings and that it doesn’t resolve anything but more are still learning.
On the lighter side, some of the fun activities you can try in the island are biking, stone balancing and boating. Exploring the island just by walking is a fun activity already because of the fresh air and great views. You can also visit the ruins, old weapons and historical sites in the island.
I can imagine veteran soldiers coming back here to get a good look of the place again then closing their eyes to take themselves back to that day where bombs were flying all over the place and bullets raining non-stop. Some of them might be recalling fun times with friends who died in the war and some may have been saved by a friend’s self-sacrifice.
In the pictures below, you will see the ruins of buildings which were once magnificent. I’ve seen their pictures before the attack and they we’re all wonderful. They have a mix of both American and Spanish architecture. Some of these buildings we’re hospitals, schools, churches, offices and one of them is a cinema house.
Now let’s get to the part where we get to see humungous guns which I call mammoth guns. If I remembered correctly what the tourist guide told us, it takes eight people to carry just one of its bullets. Just imagine the reaction of those people when the shooter missed his target.
The picture below is the Malinta Tunnel. It got its name from the Filipino word malinta which means full of leeches because when it was being dug during the American occupation of the island, they saw plenty of leeches in the soil.
At first, I thought it’s just a regular tunnel which we can compare to tunnels that we’d often see in mountainous areas being passed by trains – then the tourist guide told us that we need to pay P150.00 peso($3.5 U.S. dollars) for the lights and sound show which gave me an impression that there’s more inside that tunnel.
Inside the tunnel, there are actually smaller tunnels on both sides which are used as rooms for the soldiers during bomb attacks. The island’s tourism team came up with the idea of creating lights and sound show where they’ve put statues inside the sub-tunnels portraying the soldier’s situation and the island’s main events during World War II. This was also mixed with narration, sound-effects, dim lights and some projected videos.
A Pacific War Memorial and a Museum was also erected in the island. In this Museum is where we’ll see pictures of the buildings before their destruction. Some are old paper moneys which are now coins, ID’s of the soldiers, diaries of the officers, battle gears and old pistols.
Going back to our Terminator story, we can compare the Corregidor Island to Skynet which is the enemy’s main stronghold and that Gen. McArthur played the role of both the Terminator and John Connor by capturing it.
What’s really amazing is that I’ve learned that Gen. McArthur stressed America’s moral obligation to liberate the Philippines in his meeting with President Roosevelt that helped speed up America’s aid to our country. Without this aid, more lives could have been lost and we might still be under Japanese rule. We’re forever grateful to the U.S. for the friendship and the freedom we’re enjoying now.
I’m sure some of us had a share of challenges staying awake during history class but as we learn more about it, the better we understand its value.
There’s this popular saying that “History repeats itself” and I believe it happened more often in the past compared to now because we’re living in the information age.
Just imagine a guy who slipped after making a turn in the hallway and not warning the person approaching him about the slippery floor. You got it right! History will repeat itself.