I wouldn’t consider Manila a “destination” as far as destinations go. It’s one of those cities you fly into then spend a day or two getting your feet wet before you go to the places you’ve come to see. Although that may be somewhat true, the few days I spent there made me realize it may be a perfect jumping-off point to those truly amazing destinations.
I chose to hangout for a day in the Intramuros part of the city before some rum-laced scuba diving adventures in Boracay. Others choose to head north (my itinerary forced me to choose north or south, but not both), to the mountains and their dramatic rice terraces.
What I wish I had known before my trip last year is the island of Corregidor. It was brought to my attention, not by the World War II section of my old history books as it should have, but by an article in The Wall Street Journal.
I hadn’t recognized the name — apologies to all my history teachers — but this is where General MacArthur famously declared “I shall return” (he did, after abandoning the country for the next three years). The small island, about 48 km from Manila, has played an important, though gruesome, role throughout its history. It began as the main outpost in Manila’s defense against pirates and other unwanted visitors, then was the stopping-off point for ships paying duties before entering Manila Bay. It was barraged by both Japanese and U.S. forces before the U.S. occupation during World War II, and now has ruins littering its hillsides like scars from a retired, but never defeated, boxer.
The most alluring thing for me is thinking that if Corregidor were a person, I’d go out of my way to buy her a drink and listen to her stories. Maybe next time.
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