The tadpole-shaped island of CORREGIDOR, less than 5km long and 3km wide at its broadest point, is a living museum to the horrors of war. Lying 40km southwest of Manila, it was originally used by the Spanish as a customs post. In 1942 it was defended bravely by an ill-equipped US and Filipino contingent under continual bombardment from Japanese guns and aircraft. Some 900 Japanese and 800 American and Filipino troops died in the fighting; when the Americans retook the island in 1945, virtually the entire Japanese garrison of over 6000 men was annihilated. Little wonder Corregidor is said to be haunted. The island was abandoned after the war, and was gradually reclaimed by thick jungle vegetation – it wasn’t until the late 1980s that the Corregidor Foundation began its transformation into a national shrine.
Most visits to Corregidor are by guided tour; the only way to wander around on your own is to stay the night. Perhaps understandably, the tours tend to focus on the heroism, bravery and sacrifice of the men who fought here, rather than the grisly nature of the fighting itself, but it is still a moving experience – Japanese tourists also come here in numbers to pay their respects to the dead of both sides.