On Sunday, while we were at the Corregidor Inn doing our internet business, we met an American, formerly from Boston, who now lives in Tampa. We always try to strike up conversations with someone we suspect might be interested in talking to us. In this case, Ken Moore was very glad to make our acquaintance, as were we with him. There is a very special bond between sons and daughters of those who fought here and were POWs. Ken recently married a Filipina, so he has had many opportunities to come to Corregidor, but this was the first time he actually made it. He explained that his father had been a Navy man on The Rock during WWII, was captured here and became a POW, eventually being interned at Cabanatuan Prison Camp, the subject of the movie, “The Great Raid.”
Many of you know that Steve’s father, an army volunteer, was captured on Corregidor and spent time in Cabanatuan before being sent to Japan for slave labor. Ken expressed an interest in accompanying us on one of our annual tours that we lead in April, during which we spend a total of nine days visiting the WWII places of interest in Manila, Corregidor, and Bataan, as well as the sites of the infamous Camps O’Donnell and Cabanatuan.
Yesterday, Monday, we took around a three and a half hour walk through the jungle. The climate here is considered to be tropical rainforest. Initially we intended to only stop at batteries Wheeler and Cheney. They are two of three nearly-identical batteries – the third is Crockett – that were intended to keep enemy vessels from entering Manila Bay. Each battery consists of two 12-inch “disappearing rifles,” guns that were raised over the parapet for firing, and then returned below by recoil for reloading in a position that could not be seen except from above. These guns were made obsolete by airplanes, of course, but that didn’t stop the army from using them in WWII anyway.
As we were about to leave Battery Wheeler on our way to Cheney, we met Gary (GAHR-ee) and Taton (tah-TONE), security guards on their rounds, and Tiger, a small aptly named brindle mixed-breed dog. Tatun said that they were on their way to Battery Hanna and James Ravine and that we could accompany them. So we set out on our way.
Tiger reminded us of Steve’s sister Paula’s Springer Spaniel Parker. Parker used to accompany us on our walks when we would visit Paula’s family in St. Louis Park, Minnesota. Most of the time that was around Christmas and the temperatures were below zero. Here in mid-November the days still get close to 90 when the sun shines, which it did abundantly yesterday. Tiger, like Parker, spent most of his time out of sight, doubtless sniffing for chickens, lizards, and monkeys. Just when you thought he was lost he’d show up again for a few seconds before disappearing again.
The trail from Cheney to Hanna was easy to follow. The security guards probably follow it often, possibly daily, although we forgot to ask. Most of it is on a ledge that probably dates back 100 years to when the island was first being developed as an American Army base. Most of the time there was a steep cliff going up on our right and a steep cliff going down on our left, with 10 to 20 feet of level ground. We only saw one man-made tunnel, and that was just before crossing a bamboo bridge. On occasion we had to make our way through a new growth of bamboo, and we always had to be on the lookout for thorny vines, which can cause some nasty cuts and even infections if you’re not careful, but this path was pretty good all in all.
The bay was also off to our left, but because of the growth, ranging from large trees to vines to bamboo, most of the time we could only see thin patches of blue. Sometimes we could hear the water splashing up on the rocky shoreline. Once we reached Battery Hanna we had a very nice view of the South China Sea, which essentially starts on the south shore of Corregidor, the north shore being defined as Manila Bay. Battery Hanna is situated a few hundred feet straight above Conchita, a very tiny but picturesque isle.
From Hanna we proceeded to James Ravine. The guards took a “shortcut,” which basically consisted of a controlled slide down the hill to the shoreline, using trees, vines, and rocks as hand or footholds. From there we rested for a short while, and then we left Gary, Tatun, and Tiger and proceeded back up the ravine on the cleared trail, and on to our house. All in all a very satisfying walk, although we certainly sweated out the majority of the five bottles of water that we had split between us. Our cold shower – remember, we have no water heater – felt great. Lunch, leftover chop suey from our venture to Balanga two days earlier, never tasted better. And our mid-afternoon swim in the ocean was most refreshing. The saltwater buoyancy is still a novelty, and allows a low energy swim that is restful rather than tiring.