While on board the tranvia on our way to our next battlefield tours destination, my attention was divided between listening to the historical, and sometimes funny, accounts of our guide and taking pictures at every Corregidor Island scenery which I found interest in. But I put my Nikon D7000 DSLR camera off, sat upright and focused my attention to her when she told us that we were heading to the east entrance of the Malinta Tunnel. But I could feel my heart beating faster when she narrated that construction of the tunnel was started in 1922 and was finished in 1932. Further, she was telling us that the US Army Corps of Engineers constructed the tunnel without the benefit of funds appropriated by the US Congress due to the conclusion on February 6, 1922 of the Washington Naval Treaty which led to an effective end to building new battleship fleets . The Philippine Scouts worked as foremen and clerks. But, the labor was provided as counterpart by the Philippine Commonwealth in the form of 1,000 convicts from the Bilibid Prisons in Manila. Candidly, the last statement had sent shivers down my spine. What I heard since my childhood that my grandfather had worked on “forced labor” in Corregidor for being convicted of sedition and brigandage being one of the combatants in the 1924 Colorum Uprising in Bucas Grande Island, Socorro, Surigao del Norte, Philippines, was corroborated by the historical facts being narrated by the guide. Being herded to Corregidor in 1924, my grandfather was surely among the 1,000 “forced laborers” being offered by the Philippine Commonwealth as equity in the construction of Malinta Tunnel Project. The information I got had made me ecstatic to see the place. As our tranvia came to a complete stop, I literally run to this signage to have a glance on its message. . .
After getting tickets for me and my wife for the Malinta Channel Lights and Sounds, we proceeded to the East Entrance. . . then marched deeper into the tunnel . . .
My thrills and excitement about the tunnel were appropriately reciprocated by the vividly staged Light and Sound Show dubbed “The Malinta Experience” scripted by national artist and film director Lamberto Avellana. The experience started with a voice over welcoming us to the Malinta Tunnel describing it among others as the marvelous achievement of engineering skill and a subterranean passageway cut from solid rock. Our first stop was at the junction on the first lateral on our right where I had the chance to admire the great sculptures made by national artist Napoleon Abueva of President Manuel L. Quezon being welcomed to the island by the fortress commander Major General George F. Moore on December 24, 1941. As we moved inside, we were shown with the other events of World War II including the evacuation of President Quezon and General Douglas MacArthur on board the Motor Torpedo Boat Squadron Three from Corregidor to Mindanao where they were later flown to Australia. Other scenes of the Pacific War were being shown but what shocked me most was the portrayal of the re-taking of the island by US forces in 1945, wherein, Japanese soldiers who held out inside the Malinta Tunnel began committing suicide by detonating explosives within the bowels of the tunnel complex on the night of February 23, 1945. These collapsed laterals resulting from the said explosions have never been excavated . . .
The audio-video presentation’s finale was the playing of the Philippine national anthem. Our trip to the 835 feet long, 24 feet wide and 18 feet high at arch top main tunnel had ended when we made an exit at the West Side of the Tunnel . . .
As what I have done before entering, I hurriedly headed towards this signage . . .
As the tranvia was speeding away, I glanced back and got a view of the tunnel entrance on the foot of the 118.87-meter Malinta Hill. No wonder it is dubbed as the most unimpregnable fortress in the Philippine Islands as it offers complete protection from artillery or air attack.
I was smiling intently while on board the tranvia for reasons that I traced the historical connection as well as my personal sentimental attachment to the tunnel. Never did I know that a historical joke of our guide would ruin my mood. She was telling us that: “Malinta was derived from the local dialect for “leech,” as the place was full of leeches during its construction and even during the time of its occupation. Nevertheless all the leeches were gone after the bombing of the Japanese inside the tunnel during their suicide spree. But, fortunately or unfortunately, some of the leeches were resurrected and managed their way to the House of Representatives and the Senate.” We the Filipino tourists were just smiling, or grinning, but the American and Australian visitors occupying the seats in front of me were laughing with their hearts out. And I said to myself: “Is this the right form of tourism… portraying our officials… the hallmark of the vibrance of Philippine democracy… as bunch of leeches in the eyes of the foreigners?