I looked out the tram and up to the island ahead while we waited for the other tour participants to board. I anticipated the strains nostalgia would have on me, but no such weight came. I let out a sigh of relief. I think this will be a good day.
It wasn’t my first time here. Here is Corregidor, the tadpole shaped island which is part of the province of Cavite but geographically closer to Bataan. This is my second time to visit the island. The first time, was last year. I was here with the ex on our first out of town trip together, which would explain the anxiety that came with coming back to the island.
The reason I came back to the island was to join Old Manila Walks’ test tube walking tour of Corregidor called “Of Bombs, Big Guns and Lost Gold.” I had wanted to join Ivan Man Dy’s famed tours and this one sounded like a good deal. (Don’t know who Ivan Man Dy is? Watch this. Or read this.) Since the tour is at its initial testing phase, Old Manila Walks offered the tour for free. The only cost to anyone who joined was the ferry fare and lunch.
As the tram moved from the dock and up the paved roads of Corregidor, Ivan explained what the tour covered and how it is different from the typical tram tours of Corregidor (more on this later). Basically, the walking tour would cover what is known as Top Side. This is the biggest section of the island and is located at a higher point of the island.
From the docks, the tram dropped us off near the lighthouse. This is where our walking tour started. From the lighthouse, Ivan guided us through the different ruins of the old buildings and structures located at Top Side. His weapon of choice is a big clear book that contained photos showcasing the island’s history and a giant black umbrella, on loan from the Corregidor Inn.
I liked how animated Ivan is with the tour. In fact, I wished our history lessons were like this. I would’ve learned much more than just dates and names, which we were asked to memorize in school. I don’t think I retained a lot of information from those lessons back in high school.
Another thing I liked about the tour was the fact that we got to go through the structures using old pathways that I didn’t get to pass through when I joined the regular tram tour the year before.
Ivan also led us to a structure that is not normally part of the regular tram tour of Corregidor: the Hospital. The Hospital is usually part of a separate tour. An add-on, if you will. This is great. The Hospital is one of the more interesting structures in Corregidor. When I was in Corregidor the year before, I only got to see the hospital because we joined the Sunset Tour of the island. The hospital was part of a “ghost hunting” shtick. A bit gimmicky, yes, but fun nonetheless.
The site, like most structures in the island, was heavily destroyed by the bombings during the war. More than that, though, I think what makes it more interesting is its connection to the Jabidah Massacre. The massacre refers to the incident wherein members of the AFP (Armed Forces of the Philippines) were said to have massacred a number of Moro Islamic recruits. The massacre is said to have taken place at the tail of Corregidor Island. The hospital served as the recruits’ barracks. Graffiti left by recruits are still visible on the walls of the hospital to this day.
After the tour, our tram dropped us off at the Corregidor Inn for lunch. Ivan had informed us before the tour started that we can avail of the Tunnel Lateral Tour, after the walking tour. This is not part of the walking tour but an add-on that Corregidor Inn provides. I’ve actually joined this tour before as part of the Sunset tour I mentioned earlier and it’s a pretty cool experience, so my friends and I decided to join it.
Armed with flashlights and with our hard hats on, we followed our guide through the laterals of the Malinta Tunnel. You would not see these laterals if you only availed of the Light and Sound Show.
I say it’s worth paying extra just to experience walking through the back tunnels of Malinta and getting a feel for how life was during the time that Corregidor was bombed. My favorite part—but also dreaded, because I knew this was coming—was when our guide asked us to turn off our flashlights and to walk through the tunnel in the dark until we got to the main tunnel. Creeptastic!
From the Malinta Tunnel, our tram took us straight to the docks where the ferry back to Manila was waiting. This really did turn out to be a good day. I bonded with friends over history and I got to go back to the island without the threat of nostalgia driving me to tears.
How does the Old Manila Walks’ Corregidor Walking Tour compare to the regular guided tram tours?
Let’s break it down, shall we?
- Unlike Old Manila Walks’ tour which only covers Top Side, the regular guided tour that Sun Cruises offers takes you around the whole island, stopping at the different batteries and certain ruins. You’ll be in the tram for the most part, stopping at different points to take pictures and stroll about.
- Old Manila Walks’ tour actually includes a lot more information about the history of Corregidor. In fact, I think it packs a lot more in the walking tour of Top Side, than what you’ll learn in the entirety of the tram tour around the island. So, if you are a history buff, this would be a big plus for you.
- Not really a factor for me, but it probably is for a lot of the other folks there. Old Manila Walks’, just as the name suggests, offers a walking tour. This obviously will take a lot more effort than just getting on and off a motorized tram.
- Both tours take about the same length of time. Starting when the boat docks at Corregidor and ends at around noon.
- If you are only in Corregidor for a day, I would definitely recommend Old Manila Walks’ tour. It is more informative and it covers the most important aspects of the history of the island. I found that I got a better understanding of the island’s history with this tour. If you have time, after the walking tour, join the Tunnel Lateral Tour. It’s a great experience going through the old tunnels and experiencing, albeit for only a few minutes, how it was like to be inside the Malinta Tunnel in total darkness.
- If you are staying overnight, take the regular tram tour. After the tour, you will definitely have a lot of time, so I say take the Sunrise and Sunset Tours; the tour would cost you extra but I liked my experience on both tours. When we went on this set of tours the year before, we were able to explore the Hospital I mentioned up top, the Tunnel Lateral and the Japanese Tunnels. After all that you will still have plenty of time to just chill out. You can make a whole weekend out of it.
For ferry rates, overnight, day trip and activity rates around Corregidor, please visit the Sun Cruises website.