"CLEANING UP CORREGIDOR'S SOUTH BEACH"
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Beth Day Romulo

 

 

 

  The following article is an opinion/editorial published in The Manila Bulletin, 27 January 2003.

 FOLLOWING last November’s Memorandum of Understanding signed between the Corregidor Foundation’s Executive Director Lt. Col. Art Matibag and the Navy’s flag officer in command, Vice Admiral Victorino Hingco, clean up operations are being carried out to remove the boulders and debris from Corregidor’s South Beach. On January 18th, as president of the Corregidor Foundation, I was invited to watch the operation accompanied by Architect Augusto Villalon, UN consultant for Historical Heritage projects. We left Manila on a navy patrol boat escorted by Navy Vice Admiral Ariston de los Reyes who is slated to succeed Hingco when he retires in March.

As we neared South Beach it was like a scene from the “Bridge on the River Kwai” – dozens of men (mostly navy cadets) barefoot in black shorts and T-shirts, hauling boulders out of the shallow water. In an ill-advised idea years ago, contractors had been allowed to remove the topsand from South Beach to make roads and sidewalks. Now there is nothing but boulders – as Vice Admiral Hingco discovered to his dismay last Easter weekend when he tried to swim from the beach and cut his foot. He decided then and there something must be done to clear the beach and make it hospitable for swimmers.

CFI with its limited funds and personnel, has done a superb job of island maintenance but needs help with major projects like this — and with the shoring up of the walls of the barracks, theater and hospital, a project which we hope can attract funding from UNESCO. Corregidor is a very special place (“the place to go if you want peace of mind” according to Admiral Hingco). And CFI was fortunate to find an advocate of his stature to push through this project with the Navy. Hingco first became acquainted with Corregidor in 1970 when he captained the hydrofoil introduced by the Department of Tourism (it proved impractical in terms of expense as payload and was discontinued). Later in 1990, as Tactical Group Commander of Manila Bay, Corregidor was one of Hingco’s regular ports of call. Now as Flag Officer in command of the Philippine Navy, he is in charge of nearby Caballo Island where the Navy maintains an ammunition depot, and he comes to Corregidor regularly with his family for his own personal R&R. A Navy trained diver, Hingco and his Seals (young Navy divers) have been scouting surrounding waters to come up with a good dive site, to attract eco-tourism to the island. He greeted his guests from Manila in a wet suit, fresh from a dive and with an enthusiastic report that he thinks he has found the perfect site.

The Admiral brought bulldozers over from Caballo Island (where he is planting a coconut grove) and the boulders will eventually be carried to the north side of the island to form a breakwater. An NGO of Chinese community leaders devoted to helping tourism, under chairman David Tan, contributed wheelbarrows and shovels for this project.

The Corregidor Foundation, under the department of Tourism, needs all the advocates it can get to preserve this historic site. It is unique, situated as it is, guarding the mouth of Manila Bay. The Spaniards were the first to build a military outpost there. Then the Americans. It served as the home of Philippine president-in-exile Manuel Quezon and his family for three months after Japan invaded the Philippines. Today, it is not only a war memorial but a monument to peace. The Japanese maintain a peace garden there. Visitors come from all over the world, and despite flat economic times, we had more tourist arrivals in 2002 than the previous year. While our group was having lunch on the breeze-swept verandah of the Corregidor Inn overlooking the sparkling blue waters of Manila Bay, several visitors come over to greet us – one group from Chicago. Australian Paul Whitman, on his 7th visit, has taken it upon himself to put Corregidor on-line. If you want to view “Corregidor Then and Now” go to your computer and find corregidor.org. On the return to Manila, we took one of the Suncruise Line boats (which cuts a half hour travel time from the Navy Patrol schedule) and were pleased to see a full video of General MacArthur and Corregidor being shown to visitors, during the trip back.

With bargain weekend package deals, we are getting more internal tourism, and school groups. Corregidor is a beautiful island, windswept, with wonderful clear air to breath, forest hikes to take, camping if you like. And a war memorial and ruins to visit. It is an important part of the history of this country which every Filipino should see and enjoy. It is also the closest to Manila of any major tourist attraction.
 

 

 

 

         

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