At the Malinta Tunnel in Corregidor Island
At the Malinta Tunnel in Corregidor Island

Corregidor Island is a fascinating destination close to Manila. It’s replete with history in all corners, magnificent ruins as testament to the island’s former grandeur and nature that thrives. I’ve talked about Corregidor Island before as our macabre version of an ancient ruin (like the Angkor Wat) but this time we go deeper in the dark recesses of Malinta Tunnel and learn the story hidden in its pitch-black environs. With our friends from Columbia Sportswear Philippines leading the way to test the cool factor of their Omni-Freeze Zero technology, I found myself venturing to the island again to discover more.

The cannons at Battery Grubbs (left) and Battery Way (right)
The cannons at Battery Grubbs (left) and Battery Way (right)

Monochrome World

It was gloomy and humid with clouds constantly signaling impending rain (but it never did fall). It was the perfect condition for our activity. Returning here I also wanted to experiment and be a little creative. I wanted to capture Corregidor Island in monochrome and bring out its timeless nature.


The Spanish lighthouse
The Spanish lighthouse

The Malinta Tunnel Laterals

It was a typical day tour with a few twist to accommodate the group’s need to photograph. A few minutes here and there at the popular sites while avoiding the crowd. It’s a good thing we have a very entertaining and knowledgeable guide in Armando that spelled the difference.

My highlight for this trip was our exploration of the Malinta Tunnel Laterals. I already saw the stirring and patriotic Lights and Sounds Show at the tunnel. The laterals tour are reserved for overnight patrons and usually done at night but since this was a special arrangement for Columbia Sportswear Philippines. For this one we donned helmets and I used my headlamp for this tour. Our guide Armando led us to a tunnel with an opening leading to a dirt path and a small hump of loose rocks. The group took a second to follow realizing we’re leaving the huge paved main tunnel of Malinta.

Malinta Tunnel traverses the Malinta Hill. Malinta is a tagalog word for “leeches” as there were a lot of them when soldiers started boring through the hill to build this underground shelter. The tunnels were built to house numerous ammunitions, food and other supplies. But during the war it became a self-contained community with up to thousands of people living inside to avoid the bombings. General McArthur even set up an office there and a 1000-bed capacity hospital is located there.

Armand narrated the travails of living underground for safety, not really knowing whether its days or night and relying on a few air shafts, chutes and light tunnels for ventilation. Sanitation and health is also an issue as its easy to transmit illness in such an enclosed space. The tunnel may have been built as an impenetrable space but some parts still suffered from numerous bombings. Armand told us it’s better if those damaged walls and ceilings remained untouched as they tried removing the rubbles but ended up damaging it more. A lot of the walls still remain the same, stained dark from gas and smoke. Some signage are still the original ones there. Even the floor damage from bombs triggered by Japanese soldiers to kill themselves instead of being captured by American Soldiers still remain.

I was glad we were able to explore these tunnels as it was a different experience in all. Groping in pitch-black darkness when nil a single light is on. It was the most paralyzing darkness I’ve experienced as the thick damp air blankets like an eerie embrace. It’s a tour definitely worth experiencing.

At the lateral tunnel (left) and the original signage for the Lateral Ward (right)
At the lateral tunnel (left) and the original signage for the Lateral Ward (right)

Essential Info

Corregidor Island can be reached via Sun Cruises. There are daily tours and overnight stay options available. Special thanks to Columbia Sportswear Philippines for bringing us there. It was the perfect setting to test out the new Omni-Freeze Zero technology. Check out my field test here and see if the cooling effect really works.

Entering the tunnel
Entering the tunnel
Armand leading at the start of the trail
Armand leading at the start of the trail
Our guide Armand leading us to the laterals
Our guide Armand leading us to the laterals
Moving through the tunnels
Moving through the tunnels
Entering a danger zone
Entering a danger zone
The bomb-damaged portion of the laterals
The bomb-damaged portion of the laterals
Armand pointing out an air shaft
Armand pointing out an air shaft
Squirming in on the sides of a huge gas container for the exit
Squirming in on the sides of a huge gas container for the exit
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Ferdz
Ferdz Decena is an award-winning travel photographer, writer and blogger. His works has found print in publications such as Singapore Airlines’s Silver Kris, Philippine Airlines’ Mabuhay, Cebu Pacific’s Smile and Seair InFlight. He has also lent his expertise to various organizations like the Oceana Philippines, Lopez Group Foundation, Save the Children and World Vision, contributing quality images for their marketing materials.

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