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The fireworks exploded at exactly 7PM above 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. The fireworks display, seeing it from far out at sea, gets reflected by the surrounding waters can only be described as kaleidoscopic.
The invitation for the Corregidor cruise came from 7107 Island Cruise, the only Filipino owned inter-island cruise company that seeks to redefine travels in the Philippine. The ship currently offers cruise within the tourism triangle of Subic, Coron, and Boracay.
Berth 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 and fulfills international security demands, all cabins are made from fire-secure material including an extensive sprinkler-system installed throughout ship.
I arrived around 3PM 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 between 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 at 6AM, the ship was already docking at the pier of Corregidor.
“The Island of Valor” as Corregidor is often known, lies 48KM west of Manila, is a tadpole shape island at the mouth of Manila Bay and part of the province of Cavite. The island is actually a remnant of a volcano, Corregidor Caldera, last 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 as Fort Mills starting in 1908 by the Americans. Divided into three sections called Topside, Middleside, and Bottomside; the island was a veritable military outpost made prominent by numerous coastal artillery and gun emplacements.
Corregidor saw its glory during World War II by prolonging 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.
“My name’s Steve and I’ll be your tour guide today.” Says this tall, about 6-foot six bespectacled American in barong as we hopped into our tranvia. Now this was my fourth visit to Corregidor and I thought nothing of the regular tour will surprise me anymore! Was 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 and got Battery Way firing again 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 hopes to honor the memory of his father.
The present day island of Corregidor is a significant site of both historical and tourism value. Today, its guns may be silent, souls restful, a testament of an era’s past; but the sacrifices and bravery of its heroes shall forever echo and be remember 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: firstname.lastname@example.org
I got an e-mail from Steve with the following correction: No one on Corregidor was on the Death March; the Death March occurred in April 10-12, 1942 while Corregidor surrendered on May 6. The engineer who fixed Battery Way was Major William Massello, the commanding officer of Walter Kwiecinski, Steve’s father.