Tours begin near the ferry dock, with the statue of General Douglas MacArthur, who was reluctantly spirited away from the island before its capitulation. His famous words, “I shall return,” adorn the statue’s base, though he actually made the pronouncement in Darwin, Australia. From here tours take in all the main sights on the island, including the Filipino Heroes Monument, commemorating Philippine struggles from the Battle of Mactan in 1521 to the EDSA Revolution of 1986, and the Japanese Garden of Peace, where the Japanese were buried in 1945. Overgrown and lost, it was discovered in the 1980s, when the remains were cremated and brought back to Japan. A statue of the Buddhist bodhisattva Guanyin (or “Kannon” in Japanese) watches over the site. At some point you’ll reach the Malinta Tunnel, a 253-metre-long chamber and connected network of damp underground bunkers where MacArthur (and President Manuel Quezon) set up temporary headquarters. Access is through an optional light-and-sound show that dramatizes the events of 1942 and is well worth the extra P150.
Elsewhere you’ll see the ruined concrete shells of the once vast barracks that dotted the island, and the remains of various gun batteries, peppered with bullet and shell holes. You can also visit the Pacific War Memorial and its small museum containing weapons, old photos and uniforms that were left behind. Finally, clamber the 57 steps to the top of the old Spanish Lighthouse at the island’s highest point (191m), for stupendous views across to Bataan and Mount Mariveles.
Away from the reminders of one of the war’s most horrific battles, Corregidor is unspoiled, peaceful and a great break from the city: you can walk marked trails that meander through the hilly interior (look out for the monkeys and monitor lizards), rent a mountain bike or circle the island in a bangka and do some fishing.