As you’d expect, our time in the States went quickly. We’d especially like to thank each of you who gave us a place to stay or treated us to a meal. We had a good time, with our last three weekends taken up by the Great Lakes Folk Festival in East Lansing, Michigan, a friend’s wedding in Eveleth, Minnesota, and our niece Angela’s wedding, which took place in Edina, Minnesota. Each of these events gave us opportunities to catch up with relatives and friends. We are sorry that we were not able to accept every invitation this summer, but we can only do so much in the given time. Maybe next year.
We’d like to say that our return flights were uneventful. Unfortunately, once again our connecting flight to Tokyo, Japan, was delayed – by about six hours – so we spent the night in Hotel Nikko Narita outside Narita Airport. This time the 747 scheduled to take us from Chicago to Tokyo was grounded due to a fuel leak. Given the alternatives of leaving on time in a leaky jet or waiting for a replacement plane, we were glad that the airline chose the latter. It was nice to have the hotel room between the long flights, and this time we arrived in Tokyo early enough to enjoy a full night’s rest. We completed the trip Thursday morning, arriving in Manila not long after noon.
We spent our first night back with our much appreciated friends Ray and Esther, managing to get in a little shopping for a few necessities and to make a few deliveries of items brought from the US for fellow ex-pats. Then we took the Friday morning Sun Cruises ferry back to Corregidor. Despite it being “rainy season,” the first few days have been fairly sunny, although we have had rain most evenings. Needless to say it is very humid, but the nights have been cool enough that the only trouble with sleeping can be credited to a bit of jetlag.
While we were gone, a number of projects were completed on Topside. The roof of the Pacific War Memorial Museum had been leaking for several years. Not only has the roof been replaced, but the entrance has been enhanced with a roof extension to provide shelter from rain and sun. In addition, the road along the north side of Cine Corregidor was paved with concrete, allowing the tour buses to drive quite close to the museum entrance. Thus tourists can stay much drier during rainy days, and those with limited mobility can much more easily access the building.
In addition, the road which leads between the one remaining bachelor officer’s quarters (BOQ) building and the old Post Headquarters to the Eternal Flame has been concreted, making it much easier for the tour buses to pick up tourists at the flame. Some of the original, pre-war road was left in place.
The biggest renovation was to “Cine Corregidor,” the once beautiful movie house on Topside. We have gone through some old photos from Paul Whitman’s corregidor.org website to find pre- and post-war photos of the cine.
The first cine photo (photo 3) shows the building, which appears more or less white, on the left of the photo. At bottom center is the old trolley stop. The buildings running through the center of the photo are several of the BOQ buildings. In the background you can see four large water tanks and the lighthouse. From the angle, we assume that this photo was taken from the Topside Barracks.
The next photo shows the same area from the air, taken during the invasion of Corregidor by the returning American forces on February 16, 1945. The cinema is at the top right. Close examination shows that the roof is gone, but that the supporting steel beams are still in place. Nine BOQ buildings are visible, as is the lighthouse and the Post Headquarters, which is on the upper left.
Following is a photo of the front of the cine, during or after the return of the Americans. Next is a photo taken inside the cine, again at or near the end of the war. You can see the walls, roof beams, and piles of rubble on the cine floor. We’ve included two new photos, one showing the front of the cine, the other of the interior. Note the metal framing on all windows and doors. The beams are attached through the walls as well, making the cine now one of the strongest buildings on the island. All exposed steel – including the rebar, much of it twisted from falling walls – has been covered with rust-preventive paint.
We are personally very glad that the Corregidor, Foundation, Inc. was granted the funds to accomplish these important projects. Especially in the case of the cine, something had to be done or the building would have had to have been cordoned off for safety’s sake. It is impossible to do this type of shoring up without leaving evidence. This is a much less obvious approach than the retrofitting undertaken several years ago at Middleside Barracks, a project which was unpopular with many of Corregidor’s loyal supporters. We realize that preservation of any kind will be undesirable to some purists. All we can say is we’re sorry that the buildings (in this case the cine) are in such bad shape that something must be done, and we were pleased to see the results. We are well aware that some believe that the ruins should be left to deteriorate, and others believe that they should be preserved.
We only wish we could have been here to witness some of the work, especially installing the beams in the cine – without a crane! – and handing the huge amount of concrete necessary to pave several hundred yards of road. After all, there is no cement factory here. It is nice to think that many generations to come will be able to see the remains of the cine. We wish we could ask Steve’s father, Walter, whether he ever watched a movie in the theatre. By the way, the last movie shown was reportedly “Gone with the Wind.” Now that the inside is safe, maybe it can once again be used to host movies or stage shows.
Every once in a while, we are asked what happened to the two Cadillac Cabriolets (circa 1937) that were used by Gen. Douglas MacArthur and Pres. Manuel Quezon while they resided on Corregidor in late 1941 and early 1942. Our answer is: we don’t know. They were here in 2002 and 2003, when we first visited Corregidor. (See picture taken in 2003.) We’ve heard that they were returned to the place from which they were on loan, due to concerns about constant exposure to the high humidity and salt air. If anyone knows of their present whereabouts please let us know so that we can pass on that information to our readers.
Steve and Marcia on the Rock