Tag Archives: philippines

Bristol Festival of Literature Appearance 22nd Oct

12 Sep

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I’ll be discussing my new travelogue of the contemporary Philippines, Realm of the Punisher, at the Bristol Festival of Literature on 22nd October. My good friend Mike Manson will be present too, riffing on his new novel Down in Demerara. Click here for tickets and further details.

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New Philippines Story in Private Eye

30 Jul

If you go down the newsagent today you’ll find my latest reporting on the Philippines in Private Eye (under the pseudonym ‘Dr Grim’). The story deals with Duterte’s new war on narcopoliticians and public protests against him, and includes an interview with an activist for indigenous people’s rights who has just been put on his death list. (Picture by Louis Netter).

The Realm of the Punisher Out November

22 Jun

‘At last! A Western journalist/academic writing about the Philippines who has done proper homework and legwork, and who clearly has affection for both the country and its people.’ James Hamilton-Paterson, author of Ghosts of Manila and America’s Boy

In June 2016, Rodrigo ‘The Punisher’ Duterte won the Philippine presidential election. Infamous for his bombastic temper and un-PC wisecracks, he is waging a brutal drug war that has killed an estimated 10-20,000 people so far.

Over the last nine years, British writer Tom Sykes has travelled extensively in the Philippines to understand the Duterte phenomenon, visiting the sites of extra-judicial killings and interviewing friends and enemies of the regime. Sykes witnesses an anti-government demonstration in the capital Manila and journeys to the provincial city of Davao, where Duterte began his crusade against crime using police and civilian death squads.

The Realm of the Punisher also features encounters with slum-dwellers resisting violent eviction, an elderly former sex slave to the Japanese in the Second World War and a public artist who must work while under attack from Maoist rebels.

The past is never far away from these present-day problems and Sykes’ travels to festivals, memorials and a tomb housing an embalmed corpse reveal how key figures in Philippine history – from José Rizal to Ferdinand Marcos – have influenced current affairs.

Funny, tragic, enlightening and uncompromising – and infused with the author’s strong sense of social justice – The Realm of the Punisher is the first major travel book by a Westerner to explore Duterte’s Philippines.

(Design and image by Louis Netter).

Pre-order here.

‘Letter from Manila’ now in Private Eye magazine

22 Jul

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My story about the siege crisis in Marawi, the Philippines is in the current issue of Private Eye magazine, available only in the print edition.

Review published in Social Identities academic journal

20 Apr

My review of The Dasmariñases, Early Governors of the Spanish Philippines by the historian John Newsome Crossley is now available here.

New story on Duterte in Private Eye

15 Jun

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My ‘Letter from Manila’ about Duterte, vigilante crime fighting and spectacularly un-PC jokes is in the next edition of Private Eye, if anyone’s remotely interested.

Eden’s Thrill Ride

11 Jun

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My travelogue for of the delightful Pagsanjan Falls in the Philippines is right here, right now on the Selamta site:

http://www.selamtamagazine.com/stories/edens-thrill-ride

Myths of the MacArthur Suite

17 Apr

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When the tour guide throws open the doors to the Douglas MacArthur Suite, I’m fairly sure what to expect. The American general it’s named after was known for astutely managing his public image, concealing his weird private foibles and rebuilding his hero’s reputation after professional fiascos. Likewise, the Suite he lived in for six years has been impeccably restored to a supposedly Edenic moment in Philippine history, before World War II levelled Manila, before the Japanese destroyed the entirety of the Suite just to get back at MacArthur and before the country fell under the hammer of martial law. Although there’s nothing original about the mahogany chaise longues, the slightly musty sampaguita scent or the gently sparkling brass chandeliers, the impression of 1935 is persuasive and beautiful enough.

What is the most iconic image of World War II? Britons might think of Herbert Mason’s photo of Blitz-era St Paul’s Cathedral framed by thick black bomb smoke, yet somehow undamaged and bathed in a heavenly light. Russians would likely recall the hunched silhouette of a Red Army soldier waving the Hammer and Sickle from the roof of the Reichstag, the tower blocks in the background shelled down to their rafters. Americans would nominate either the US Marines hoisting the Stars and Stripes into the gloomy skies of Iwo Jima or the picture I spot on the wall on the MacArthur Suite’s sitting room.

It’s a spontaneous snap of the General strutting ashore at Leyte Island in October 1944, at the start of the American liberation of the Philippines. He is fulfilling the highly quoted promise — ‘I shall return’ — he made to the Filipino people two years before, when his spirited and tactically adept resistance to the Japanese failed and he was forced to flee to Australia.

Although the claims in the preceding paragraph are widely believed to be true, they are largely false. The tour guide tells me that the photo was far from unplanned. ‘It took them three attempts to get it right,’ she says in a lilting accent that mixes American stressed vowels with rolling Spanish “rs”. ‘The first time, the General believed that he did not look good. The second time, he tripped and fell in the water. The third time, it was a success.’ Moreover, as Professor Vicente Villan of the University of the Philippines has discovered, by the time MacArthur arrived at Leyte on that “historic” day, indigenous guerrillas had already driven the Japanese out of the island. MacArthur chose this particular beach precisely because he knew it was safe and secure. He could step Christ-like from water to land and play the courageous saviour, but without actually having to save anyone or be in any way courageous.

As we turn to a glass cabinet displaying the “Decorations & Medals of General of the Army Douglas MacArthur”, I’m reminded that he made some disastrous military decisions, especially during the early phases of the war. The historian James Hamilton-Paterson observes that, in his capacity as Supreme Commander of the United States Army Forces in the Far East (USAFFE), MacArthur ignored a ten-hour invasion warning, failed to provide his troops with basic rations and clothing, and relied on an outdated war plan that resulted in the surrender of 76,000 Filipinos and Americans at Bataan in April 1942. Yet none of this ever came back to haunt him. On the contrary, as Hamilton-Paterson puts it, “Douglas MacArthur’s most remarkable achievement was to turn this whole unpropitious series of events into a mammoth public relations triumph such that he ended the war a national hero, receiving the Congressional Medal of Honour for his defence of Bataan and Corregidor.”

When the tour guide tells me these ‘are not real medals’, my heart skips a beat as, for a moment, I entertain the notion that MacArthur’s entire war record is bogus. Then she justifies her allegation: ‘What we are seeing here are just facsimiles. The actual medals are inside the General’s tomb at Norfolk, Virginia.’

MacArthur’s weakness for whitewashing his career went hand-in-hand with an inflated sense of self-importance. When he accepted the role of Military Advisor to the Philippine Army in 1935, he demanded to be put up at the 100,000-square-foot Malacañang Palace. ‘This was not possible,’ says my guide. ‘The Palace is special for Filipinos. Only our governors and presidents had ever lived there before.’ MacArthur’s second choice was the whole of the fifth floor of the deluxe Manila Hotel. When the government complained that the bill would be too high it was agreed that, alongside his military duties, MacArthur would be made General Manager of the Hotel. Somehow MacArthur was able to finagle exactly the same salary as the then President of the Philippines, Manuel Quezon.

I glance back at that photo of MacArthur wading ashore. It reeks of theatrical self-consciousness. Like a Hollywood stereotype of a military leader, the powerful curve of his chin advances out beyond ritzy sunglasses and taut, stoic lips. The uniform unbuttoned at the neck denotes both rebel individualism and Lotharian glamour. As his torpedo-like legs crash through the sea, his beefy hands are clamped to the waist of his billowing khakis. The body language says: “Nothing will stop me.” In Ermita, F Sionil José’s superlative novel of post-war Manila, a chauffeur names his newborn son MacArthur in the hope that “the General’s good looks, his noble visage and everything worth emulating about the Liberator of the Philippines would somehow be transmitted to the baby.” That this oft-photographed flabby and sour-faced old man could be popularly regarded as good-looking is a testament to the power of propaganda to generate intense affection for the MacArthur myth amongst Filipinos and Americans alike.

A textbook narcissist, MacArthur needed such hagiography to buttress his somewhat rickety ego. During bouts of depression, he would call prostitutes up to the Suite, but instead of having sex with them he demanded they tell him repeatedly what a wonderful human being he was. He often threatened to commit suicide, only changing his mind after sufficient amounts of flattery from colleagues. In Michael Schaller’s biography MacArthur: The Far Eastern General, MacArthur aide T.J. Davis tells of how, during one train journey in the US, he finally got sick of the General’s histrionics.

‘As we pass over the Tennessee River bridge,’ MacArthur said in a maudlin tone, ‘I intend to jump from the train. This is where my life ends, Davis.’

‘Happy landing,’ replied Davis wryly.

MacArthur got the message and never again talked about killing himself.

According to the diplomacy scholar Laura A. Belmonte, MacArthur’s behaviour was partly a response to his domineering mother Pinky’s yearning that he be a “glorious Apollo, Roland and George Washington all in one”. As his fame grew during World War II, this yearning behind closed doors became a very public expectation. This only upped the pressure on his fragile sense of self.

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            We peek into the guest bedroom which, either by accident or design, contains many shades of the colour brown. The 1970s-style zigzag carpet is ecru, the teak bedside table seal-brown. The centrepiece is an elegant bed made from nara wood, the swirling grains of its four posters starkly sepia next to the fulgent white pineapple-skin duvet.

‘You know that Bill Clinton stayed here?’ says the guide. ‘And before you ask, no he did not bring Monica with him.’

Clinton wasn’t the first philanderer to stay here. One of the other contributing factors to MacArthur’s depression was his catastrophic affair with the Scottish-Filipina actress Isabel Rosario Cooper, who was 26 years his junior. MacArthur made every effort to hide her from public view and — perhaps more importantly for him — from his mother, first in Manila and then in an apartment in Washington, DC. After two reporters on The Washington Post wrote an uncomplimentary profile of MacArthur accusing him of being “narrow-minded, opinionated, vain, egotistical, and dismissive of civilian authority”, the General sued for defamation. However, the reporters got wind of Cooper’s existence, tracked her down and persuaded her to stand as a witness for the defence. Terrified of a career-ruining scandal, MacArthur quickly dropped the suit and paid $150,000 to Cooper to keep quiet and get out of his life.

        In MacArthur’s study are a number of personal affects that epitomise both the man and the myth. Predictably, neither the trademark corncob pipe nor the statesman-like marble-topped desk are original. The brass gilded chair is, however, and dates back to 1939.

‘Sir Tom, do you want to sit down where the great man used to sit down?’ asks the tour guide.

‘Are you sure?’ I frown. ‘I probably weigh more than MacArthur and I don’t want to go down in history as the visitor who broke the only authentic item in his Suite.’

‘Please don’t worry sir, we have had many thousands of visitors sit there, some of them even bigger than you.’

I ease myself down into the chair. It feels as sturdy as a gun emplacement. If there’s a secret centre to the MacArthur Suite, an axis around which everything else revolves, then this chair is it. From here, I feel I can start to understand Douglas P. MacArthur’s life and its close connection with the wider story of Manila, the Philippines and the United States. I look out the north window over Manila Bay. In 1900, just as Douglas’s father Arthur MacArthur Jr. was being sworn in as Governor-General of the US-occupied Philippines, the American architect Daniel Burnham was busy re-designing Manila Bay for the twentieth century. His stated aim was to sanitise, modernise and morally improve the area by building new parks, streets, railways, waterways and a lavish Classical Revival hotel – the hotel I am sitting in right now – overlooking the bay.

But, like MacArthur’s own life story, there were flaws and feints in this narrative of uplift. First of all, Burnham’s civilising mission was seen by many Filipinos as an attempt to conceal the United States’ profoundly uncivilised behaviour in their homeland. While the US was plotting to seize the Spanish Empire’s possessions in Cuba, Puerto Rico and the Philippines, a nationalist revolution had broken out near Manila. Washington struck a deal with the Katipunan, the revolutionary movement, whereby the US would grant full independence to the Philippines in return for the Katipunan’s assistance in defeating the Spanish. In a scoundrelly move, Washington reneged on the deal and decided that it wanted to rule the archipelago directly as the new imperial overlord. Almost as humiliating for Filipino patriots had been Spain’s decision to sell the Philippines to the US for a paltry $20 million. Furthermore, while mild-mannered American gentlemen were strolling around Manila Bay pontificating about Greco-Roman columns, across the rest of the archipelago the US Army was involved in a counter-insurgency operation that, by 1910, would kill twenty per cent of the population, including thousands of innocent women and children. For the cultural theorist David Brody, the ultimate physical expression of the myth of American benevolence is the Burnham Memorial in Baguio City, a hill station near Manila. The inscription on his bust moralises about “love, amity and mutual respect” which, for Brody, “mitigates a tumultuous history that included the bloodshed, loss and cultural trauma that accompanied the Philippine-American War.”

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Moreover, few of Burnham’s ‘City Beautiful’ plans ever got beyond the stage of blabber about progress and civic harmony. Rather than founding an urban utopia, he was more successful in stamping US cultural superiority over Manila. As Burnham was drawing up plans for the Manila Hotel as an outpost of Western metropolitan luxury amid the colonial boondocks, the young Douglas MacArthur was fast becoming the personification of the abusive and exploitative relationship between the US and the Philippines. After graduating from West Point in 1903, MacArthur joined the 3rd Engineer Battalion in the Philippines, where his father had just been put in charge of the Department of the Pacific. MacArthur was sent out into the jungle to conduct surveys and build bridges as part of the efforts to cement US military authority. During his tour he made contacts within the new American business elite and invested in such lucrative operations as the Benguet gold mines. As Deanna Springola, author of the Power Elite Playbook has observed, during the early 1900s, the US Congress “passed tariff acts allowing free US entry of all Philippine products; this would make the Philippines dependent on the US.”

On the marble-topped desk is a reminder of MacArthur’s other significant encounter during his early visits to the Philippines. It’s a photo of him shaking hands with a slight, nervous-looking man in a cream suit. This is Manuel Roxas, MacArthur’s close friend, military aide and, later on, political crony. The official history goes something like this: after World War II the Philippines lay in ruins and the US government tasked Roxas and MacArthur with disbursing $2 billion in aid. The enlightened Filipino humanitarian and the Hollywood hero of the Pacific spent the money on reconstructing the nation, raising living standards for all. However, James Hamilton-Paterson’s account is closer to the truth:

[In 1945] … MacArthur was given a free hand to arrange

his former fiefdom according to his taste. His personal

support was crucial to getting his old friend Roxas approved

by Washington and elected. So also was his capricious

withholding of US aid for the reconstruction of the Philippines

after the election, thereby making the aid virtually contingent

on Roxas becoming President. Thereafter, the $2 billion in aid

was fought over by various groups of vultures who had good

links with the new ruling elite of MacArthur and Roxas. Only

very little of this fabulous sum (at mid-1940s value, too) actually

went into rebuilding the Philippines’ shattered infrastructure

and economy.

 

There was understandable public outrage. Backed by the Office of Strategic Services and later the CIA, MacArthur and Roxas ruthlessly crushed dissent in the media, the intelligentsia and the rural poor. In some ways, such gangsterish autocracy blazed the trail for future US interventions throughout the Cold War, from Iran to Vietnam, Chile to Nicaragua. In 1946, the Hukbalahap guerrillas (nicknamed the Huks), who had boldly resisted the Japanese during the war, tried and failed to overthrow the central government in Manila.

I rise from MacArthur’s chair and shuffle closer to the window. Down on Bonifacio Drive — named after Andres Bonifacio, a founder member of the Katipunan — a homeless boy, barefoot and caked in tar-black dirt, is holding a frail and quivering hand up to passing cars. It’s a grievous reminder that the injustices that shocked the Huks into rising against the MacArthur consensus persist today. Costing $3,300 a night, the MacArthur Suite in 2014 is just as alien to the experience of the 30 million or so Filipinos who live on less than $1 a day as it would have been to the pickpockets and panhandlers of MacArthur’s time. 76% of the Philippine economy is still owned by an oligarchy that can trace its roots back to either Spanish or American colonisation. The Philippines remains in the grip of “dollar imperialism”, as proven by the ubiquity of Coca-Cola, McDonalds, basketball, and rock and hip-hop music. Having just become the country’s number one trading partner, Japan is now arguably exerting more influence over the Philippines than at any time since the war. The Huks have metamorphosed into the Maoist New People’s Army, which struggles — often violently — on behalf of landless peasants and urban squatters.

I sit back in the chair where, in the late 1930s and early 1940s, General MacArthur did much of his thinking about war, history, politics and business. If this mythical figure were somehow to be resurrected and to find himself in this chair again, would his thoughts about the contemporary Philippines be all that different?

(Originally published in The London Magazine Dec 2014-Jan 2015)

 

 

The Punisher’s Paradise

11 Mar

Contrary to type, one city in the southern Philippines is known for its clean environs, low crime rates and roguish mayor. But some question whether the ends justify the means.

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If you are doing an illegal activity in my city, if you are a criminal or part of a syndicate that preys on the innocent people of the city, for as long as I am the mayor, you are a legitimate target of assassination.” – Mayor Rodrigo ‘Rody’ Duterte

Davao is not your typical Southeast Asian city. The air is clear and the pace relaxed. The Philippines’ customary – and customised – SUVs, motorbikes and iconic jeepneys queue calmly on the roads, freezing at crossings and edging slowly off the mark when the light goes green. Pedestrians stroll patiently on spotless pavements. Nobody in sight smokes or drinks due to an outdoor ban on these vices. After dark there is little nightlife in Davao, and all bars and liquor stores shut at 1am.

Such an orderly way of life has much to do with the stringent governance of the current mayor of Davao, Rodrigo S. Duterte, commonly known as Rody. His most controversial policy is what some call a “zero tolerance approach to crime”. Others, particularly human rights activists, prefer to term it an “endorsement of summary executions”.

From time to time, the peace and quiet of Davao City is disrupted by groups of men in baseball caps pulling over on motorbikes and stabbing or shooting a known criminal, often a drug dealer or juvenile recidivist. According to Amnesty International, about 1,000 people have been executed in this fashion since 2001, when Duterte came to power.

While “The Punisher”, as he’s been dubbed by Time magazine, denies any personal responsibility for these murders, Duterte’s public remarks make it clear as a bullet to the head where he stands on what is known as the Davao Death Squad. On his weekly TV show he told any lawbreaker watching: “You will not survive; you can leave either vertically or horizontally.” To the Philippine Inquirer he said: “Criminals have no place in the city, except in gaols, detention centres and, God forbid, in funeral parlours.” When questioned about an infamous rice smuggler, Duterte answered in homage to film director Sam Peckinpah: “Just bring me the head of Ryan Yu.” The local press have nicknamed him ‘Duterte Harry’. 

However, Kenneth Roth, executive director of Human Rights Watch, alleges that Duterte’s administration goes further than mere verbal threats – policemen and government functionaries are thought to train and arm death squad members, help them compile hit lists and tip them off as to the whereabouts of the target. The killers act with relative impunity thanks to a lackadaisical and complicit police force, as well as witnesses who are too terrified to testify, according to Roth.

So how does Duterte – a former human rights lawyer no less – get away with advocating the extrajudicial killing of his own constituents, some of them no older than 14? One answer is his broad popularity.

Luis H. Francia, adjunct professor of Asian American studies at Hunter College, New York, met Duterte in the early 1990s. “A lot of Filipinos like Rody’s charisma and they believe he brought down the murder rate,” he says. “People see him the way that, say, Wyatt Earp [a wild west lawman] would have been seen in Tombstone, Arizona.”

Moreover, Duterte’s fans span the political spectrum: from arch-conservative senators in Manila to Jose Maria Sison, the exiled leader of the communist New People’s Army. Duterte is also a shrewd politico, winning over those liberals and leftists who object to his stance on crime with other, more progressive social and environmental policies. In defiance of big business, he has banned mining across Davao City, “because it destroys our land and our forests”, and has created initiatives to modestly improve the health, education and social mobility of Davao’s poorest inhabitants.

Equally crucial is that many locals are inclined to agree with Duterte because they see a certain logic in vigilantism. The use of guns to settle disputes and vendettas is not uncommon in the Philippines, a nation where 3.9 million citizens own firearms and that ranks 25th in the world for per capita shooting crimes. Mistrust of the official justice system – blighted as it is by abuse, corruption and ineptitude – is pervasive. The law-abiding poor suffer the most from unchecked criminality and some are grateful for what Rudy Encabo, head of Davao’s Public Safety and Security Command Centre, calls “the rest-in-peace solution”.

Alfredo P. Torreo, a Davao taxi driver who works 48-hour shifts to support his family of seven, recalls the evening he got home to find that the gang who’d been terrorising his slum neighbourhood was no more. “One day they were there trying to sell drugs to my kids and beating up my friends, and the next [they were] gone,” he says. “It was a big, big relief for me to have this problem no longer.”

The question remains whether Davao’s extreme form of violent ‘justice’ simply engenders more violence. Encabo argued that the death squad has made Davao the most peaceful city in the archipelago. “We have had very low crime rates for the duration of the mayor’s terms of office,” he says. “Davao is surrounded by the troubled areas of Mindanao so it is critical that we keep our city safe for our people and for tourism.”

Kenneth Roth’s findings, however, are quite different. “Contrary to expectations, the Davao Death Squad has not reduced crime,” he writes in the Far Eastern Economic Review. “In the decade since [the squad] began operating, crime in Davao City has mushroomed ten times faster than the population.”

There is also a stench of hypocrisy about Davao’s ruling officials – who the local media accuse of misappropriation of public money, pork barrel scams and downright theft – engineering the deaths of penniless and powerless individuals who hold up 7-Elevens and pickpocket tourists.

As Red Constantino of the human rights group International Accountability Project puts it: “People who applaud extrajudicial responses to crime are the same people who will demand due process when it is their turn to feel the state’s boot on their neck.”

Whatever the impact of the death squad on Davao, crime will endure until the conditions of the most disadvantaged are radically improved and those on both sides of the law toe the same line.

“Real toughness can be found not in the person with the unholstered sidearm,” says Constantino, “but among officers and citizens determined to end the culture of impunity with the comprehensive, consistent application of the rule of law.” 

Originally published in Southeast Asia Globe (03/2015)

Corregidor: Isle of War and Beauty

5 Feb

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As the ferry pulls in to a pine-fringed cove of ivory-coloured sand, I find it hard to imagine Corregidor Island as the scene of some of the fiercest fighting in the Pacific theatre of World War II. A strategic outpost guarding Manila from sea invasion since the 1500s, Corregidor was attacked from the opposite direction by the Japanese in early 1942. General Douglas Macarthur, commander of the US Army Forces in the Far East, was forced to flee the island by PT boat to Australia, famously vowing ‘I shall return’. In two days, a 75,000-strong Japanese army fought their way past 45 pieces of heavy artillery and overwhelmed 13,000 US and Filipino soldiers. Three years later, MacArthur made good on his promise and liberated the island in a daring air and sea assault that turned out to be even bloodier than the first Battle of Corregidor. The US victory was to prove decisive in ending the war in Asia.

When we reach land, I’m ushered into a charmingly retro tour bus that resembles a wartime tram and away we go into the depths of the jungle. We pass the grey, spectral ruins of barracks and mess halls, some held up by shaky foundations either damaged by shelling or worn thin by age. As we drive, our tour guide holds up a selection of items he’s found strewn around Corregidor, amongst them a Japanese bayonet, a Coca-Cola bottle from 1912 and US and Filipino currency dating back 150 years.

We stop at Battery Way, an emplacement of mortars that still have bullet holes in them, despite a thick and recently applied coat of paint. Our guide tells me to look down the barrel of one of the guns. I do so and see a bomb nestling in the base. ‘That’s still live,’ says the guide, ‘but it is probably harmless.’ I back away with a fake smile.

A delicious lunch of pork adobo and pancit canton (flour noodles with vegetables and seafood) is served on the Spanish-style veranda of the Corregidor Inn. It’s possible to stay the night at the Inn and use it as a base for activities such as kayaking, ziplining and all-terrain vehicle driving.

Our next stop is the moving Pacific War Memorial and its 40 foot-tall abstract sculpture representing the eternal flame. The rotunda features stone-etched memorials to those who died in every conflict the Philippines has been involved in, including the often under-reported Spanish-American War of 1898 when the US wrested control of the archipelago from the Spanish Empire.

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For many, Corregidor’s piéce de resistance is the Malinta Tunnel complex, that in its heyday housed a field hospital, an electric tram system, shops, storerooms and General MacArthur’s  operational headquarters. The American and Filipino garrison made its last stand against the Japanese inside Malinta and just a few months before that Manuel Quezon was sworn in here for his second term as President of the semi-autonomous Philippine Commonwealth. Although a close friend of MacArthur’s and a supporter of the US presence in his country, Quezon is reported to have exploded with anger after listening to a speech by President Roosevelt about the war in Europe and shouted, ‘How typical of America to writhe in anguish at the fate of a distant cousin, Europe, while a daughter, the Philippines, is being raped in the back room!’

With the aid of torches, we make our way through the curve-arched main tunnel and peer into alcoves containing life-size metal models of soldiers, engineers, doctors, nurses, MacArthur himself and his second-in-command General Jonathan Wainwright. Normally there’s an audiovisual presentation detailing the history of Malinta, but for technical reasons it isn’t available right now.

I am suitably sobered as we emerge from the tunnel and ride the tour bus back to the ferry port. All in all, Corregidor is a captivating insight into a momentous event in history and a poignant tribute to the thousands of young men who died in the most destructive war of all time.

Press contacts: Chit Afuang (chit@itsmorefuninthephilippines.co.uk)

Sun Cruises (suncruises@magsaysay.com.ph)

(Originally published in Globetrotter, January 2015)