Corregidor Biking Tour: We Shall Return!
It was a warm Sunday morning when the BIKES Magazine team, along with other weekend warriors and tourists, took a ferry transfer courtesy of Sun Cruises to the historic and majestic Corregidor Island. Bikes were checked in at the ferry on the Esplanade Seaside Dock located in SM Mall of Asia complex around 8:00 AM. In approximately 1 hour and 40 minutes passing the length of Manila Bay towards the northwest, everyone got off at Corregidor’s North Dock, where warm smiles from the tour marshals welcomed the excited tourists. A line of beautiful Tranvia-themed buses awaited the non-bikers and these buses also doubled as support vehicles for bikers on the pavement portions of the tour path.
As soon as the bicycles were lifted off the ferry, everyone had a quick track and safety briefing led by the tour marshals at the North Dock. Everyone also had a chance to snap some photos and check their bicycles prior to the day tour. As soon as everyone was ready, the marshals led the pack on a smooth pavement passing by the Memorial Arc Zone and the defunct power plant site. From here, everyone took an abrupt turn to the 97-meter trail climb laden with rocks, roots, and dried leaves. Right after the quick ascent was a gentle yet grassy kilometer-long single track passing through the scenic James Ravine heading to the Battery James’ marker. This spot served as the first stop for everyone to regroup and rehydrate.
A beautiful, open, and flowing double track under the lush canopy led the group to a plateau where the eerie ruins of the Middleside Barracks stand. These structures, which were heavily bombed by the Japanese on December 29, 1941, served the 60th Coast Artillery anti-aircraft regimen, United States regular army, 91st Coast Artillery, as well as the Philippine Scouts. Despite its rubbish present-day form, these 3-storey barracks were ahead of its day, since it was constructed in 1915 using pre-fabricated concrete slabs and metal-reinforced walls. It also featured high ceilings, capiz shell sliding windows, and perimetered galleries.
Another kilometer uphill brought the group to the big guns of Battery Way. Surrounded by the scarred magazine rooms where 12-inch caliber shells were kept and loaded as well as the abandoned plotting and communications room were the four M1890 anti-warship mortar pits. Standing in between these pits puts anyone at the center of the last firing guns of the battle of Corregidor in May 6, 1942 before the gallant island surrendered to the invading Japanese.
Moving on, a short spin led everyone to the even bigger and picturesque artillery guns at Battery Hearn, one of which was immortalized by the Banzai victory photo of the Japanese Imperial Army upon the island fortress’ capture. Longer and much massive than those in Battery Way, the 360-degree rotating 12-inch mortars here fired shells up to 27 kilometers. Supposedly put up to counter naval assault from the West Philippine Sea, these guns were used by the Americans to counter off the Japanese army at the nearby Bataan.
From here, a steady climb brought the group to the island’s highest area aptly called Topside, where the 1,520-foot long ruins of Mile Long Barracks remain. Known as the world’s longest military barracks, it didn’t just serve American officers and enlisted personnel in its heyday but also housed no less than Gen. Douglas MacArthur’s headquarters. Across these structures were the Topside parade grounds. Not too far off from here were the Pacific War Memorial Museum and its dome altar, Brothers-in-Arms statue, Fort Mills Post headquarters, and the old Spanish Flagpole. Also, a block away is the rebuilt Spanish Lighthouse standing at the island’s highest point at 628 feet above sea level. While atop, anyone can marvel at a scenic view of the entire Corregidor, the Manila Bay, and West Philippine Sea, as well as Bataan and Cavite coastlines.
After another breather and regrouping, the bikers took a carefree downhill off the pavement along Ramsay Ravine all the way to the South Beach at the Bottomside, which brought back the riders’ spirits lost in the previous climbs. In this downhill stretch, bikers must take extra caution at the slippery moss on the roadside and better stick to the middle of the road for safety.
From here, the group took a short climb to Malinta hill which separates the Bottomside to the island’s Tailside. On this hill lies the 835-foot long Malinta Tunnel. Bikers went on its west entrance, took a gentle climb through the dark and eerie main tunnel towards its east entrance. This bombproof tunnel served many roles then: as bomb storage, personnel bunker, an underground 1000-bed hospital, and USAFFE headquarters led by Gen. Douglas MacArthur. It also briefly served as the seat of the Philippine Commonwealth prior to the island’s surrender.
From the tunnel, a short route towards the Tailside was cut short when the lead pack took a quick turn towards a cliff; however, what awaited everyone was the cool strong breeze while down hilling Malinta point towards Lorcha Dock ruins, which is adjacent to the North Dock. Here, a huge Gen. Douglas MacArthur bronze statue stood, marking his departure from the island on March 11, 1942. The statue, bearing an “I Shall Return” inscription on its base, can be seen as if waving to bikers who are about to finish the tour.
Finally, a last yet tough climb towards Corregidor Inn marked the end of the tour, where a sumptuous lunch buffet served by La Playa Restaurant awaited the finishers. Day tourers had to bid farewell to the island fortress around 2:30 PM and safely returned to Manila an hour and thirty minutes after, only longing to return soon. It was definitely a trip worth taking.