Fung Yu Contributor
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THE fireworks started at exactly 7 p.m. in SM Mall of Asia, a usual weekend occurrence, except this time, I was watching it from the waters of Manila Bay, aboard the cruise ship 7107 Island Cruises while partaking our sumptuous 10-course dinner buffet. Seeing the fireworks display from afar, I noticed that the lights reflecting by the surrounding waters. The sight was kaleidoscopic.
The invitation for the Corregidor cruise came from 7107 Island Cruise, the only Filipino owned interisland cruise company that seeks to redefine travel in the Philippines. The ship currently offers cruise within the tourism triangle of Subic, Coron and Boracay.
Docked at Pier 13 in South Harbor, Manila; the ship, formerly Coco Explorer 2 from Danish-owned C&C Travel was originally built in 1968. Fully renovated in 1990 from keel to mast to fulfill international standards, all cabins are made from fire-secure material including an extensive sprinkler-system installed throughout ship.
I arrived around 3 p.m. that day to an already short queue of equally excited passengers. Upon boarding, and right after being led to my assigned cabin, I immediately set out to explore the features and amenities of the ship.
Capable of accommodating 600 guests, the ship features an entertainment lounge, a small open-air pool, a deck, a salon, a clinic (staffed with a doctor and a nurse for every voyage), a spa, and a restaurant & bar. Cabin types range from the standard/deluxe rooms in deck A, B, and C to the exquisite suites in the promenade and bridge levels.
Cruising at 8 to 10 knots (1 knot being 1 nautical mile per hour and 1 nm = 1.852km), the overnight trip to Corregidor passed by with all of us in restful slumber. By the time I woke up, the ship was already docking at Corregidor pier.
"The Island of Valor" as Corregidor is often known, lies 48 kilometers west of Manila. It is a tadpole-shaped island located at the mouth of Manila Bay and partly of Cavite. The island is actually a remnant of a volcano, Corregidor Caldera, which was active about 1 million years ago. The Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology still consider it to be a potential active volcano to this day.
Due to its strategic location, the island was fortified and called Fort Mills in 1908 by the Americans. Divided into three parts--Topside, Middleside and Bottomside--the island was a military outpost made prominent by numerous coastal artillery and gun emplacements.
Corregidor saw its glory during World War II by delaying the advance of Japanese forces in the Far East to Australia, giving Allied forces the time needed to overturn the war to its eventual victory.
I met Steve, our tour guide who is about 6-foot-six and bespectacled American in barong. Now this was my fourth visit to Corregidor and I thought nothing of the regular tour would surprise me anymore. I wrong.
Steve Kwiecinski and his wife, Marcia came to live in the Philippines sometime in October 2008. Both retirees, they chose to settle in Corregidor, away from the 'chaos' of city living and primarily because of a historical and emotional attachment.
Steve's father, Walter, was a soldier stationed in Corregidor during the siege. He was commander of the last functioning gun battery (Battery Way) that was silenced by enemy shelling in May 1942. A survivor of the infamous Death March, he was able to share his stories of Corregidor with Steve that the latter grew up to love and admire.
During the tour, Steve narrated some of the events that took place from the personal exploits of his father. How Walter, with engineering background, repaired the Battery Way after the initial heavy bombings by the Japanese.
Walter Kwiecinski passed away in May 8, 1988. By staying in Corregidor and recounting the stories of WWII to the visitors of the island, Steve hoped to honor the memory of his father.
The present day island of Corregidor is a significant site for both historical and tourism value. Today, its guns may be silent. But the place is a testament to an era's past; where sacrifices and bravery of many heroes, many unnamed, would forever echo in generations to come.
VRs of Battery Way, Japanese Memorial Garden, and Malinta Tunnel taken on June 19, 2005. All other VRs taken on March 15, 2009. 7107 Islands Cruise's website: www.7107islandscruise.net. Reference: wikipedia.org. Article archive at: www.virtualjournals.net. The author can be reached at: email@example.com