What’s it like to bike around Corregidor Island at night? This question has been nagging me like a Game of Thrones season ender since I first pedaled through this historic island two years ago. What happens when the day tourists have left? What’s it like to ride amongst the blasted remains of its ruined fortresses when the sun goes down and the light dies? Do the blood-soaked walls whisper anything when no one is looking?
You may have inferred from the preceding sentences that I’m probably a sucker for horror movies. And you’re right: I like nothing better than a good scare. My idea of a good time, besides biking and running, is a marathon– a Walking Dead marathon that is, with some Exorcist thrown in. If I can get a healthy hair-raising dose of goosebumps while roaming around on a bike, that would be just awesome.
Last weekend, I and my travel buddy decided it was time to bring our bikes to Corregidor again. We had some unfinished business there. We needed to find out what it was like to ride through the dark and silent paths of war-bloodied isle… when night has fallen. (Cue Twilight Zone music here)
Medyo bitin, that’s how I would describe our day trip ride in Corregidor in 2013. We got there at around 9AM, started biking at around 10 under the furnace-like heat of the May sun, and had to go back to the hotel for lunch at around 12 noon.
We tried to squeeze in more exploration between 1 to 2PM, but there simply wasn’t enough time and there was still so much more of the island to explore. Reluctantly, we let our bikes get hoisted onto the Sun Cruises ferry for the trip back to Manila.
That’s when I decided that this place needed at least an overnight session. Day trip rides are OK for bikers who may find it hard to get a two-day visa from their significant others. If a day is all you can spare, then a day trip is good enough. But to really enjoy this island you need more than a three hour short time acquaintance.
We thought there would be more bikers when we boarded the Sun Cruises ferry that Satuday morning. But apparently, most bikers usually opt to go there on Sundays to take advantage of the promo rates. This meant that me and my travel buddy were the only ones lugging along helmets and hydration bags onto the boat that day. But that was OK with us because it meant we would have the trails all to ourselves for those all-important piktyur-piktyur moments.
Our guide Bryan, met us at the wharf where tourists were eagerly disembarking for their tour trams. Bryan was also our guide during our first ride in Corregidor. Back then, he used a motorcycle to take us through the island’s sites. But this time he was using a mountain bike.
“Mas mahirap, pero mas ok din, kasi nakaka-exercise,” he said while showing us our route. It’s a;ways good to meet a new convert to the faith.
Most of Corregidor’s attractions are accessible via excellent paved roads. But thankfully, this time there were legitimate trails on the menu.
Kara and I really liked the trail which we took. It reminded me a bit of Siem Reap and biking its temple ruins. In place of temples, we saw barracks, gun batteries and other war blasted buildings. Fire trees were also blooming wildly that day, and the color contrasts were just spectacular.
Sunset and Night Ride
But what we really came here for was the night ride. After snoozing off the worst of the noontime heat in an airconditioned room in Corregidor Inn, it was time to get back on our bikes and chase the setting sun.
We were told that the best place to watch the sunset was at Battery Grubbs. It’s located at what the locals call the island’s Top Side–so you can surmise that it was an uphill ride from the Inn to the sunset viewing spot.
A sunset on an island is always a feast for the eyes. But a sunset on an island amid the ruins of war is something else. It can make you entertain all sorts of existential thoughts about how life’s most titanic struggles costing so much pain and suffering are all vain in the end. If I was a ghost on Corregidor, that’s what I would think.
As dusk settled, we pedaled back to the the island’s Bottom Side. Along the way we passed by the ruins of the barracks, which seemed to take on an eerie vibe in the darkness.
There were also shadows and strange noises in the rubble and the trees. But we knew they could have just been goats, monkeys, birds, bats and spirits maniacally clawing their way back into world of the living. Wait… what?!?
Malinta tunnel at night was a bit creepy. It was hot and humid outside, but once we entered the tunnel the air seemed to become dry and cold. I could feel the hair standing at the back of my head. Or maybe I was just scaring myself.
Malinta tunnel was used as an evacuation center and hospital during the War. Besides the main tunnel, it also has a lot of lateral tunnels where American officials waited out the worst of the Japanese bombing. Hundreds of American, Japanese and Filipino soldiers and civilians died here in agony, and the tunnels are forever stained with their pain. Listen close and you could almost hear the whispers, the wailing… Aaaaah!
We did not go through the lateral tunnels because we were afraid of getting lost in that maze, and who knows what we would have bumped into? The place reminded me of that scene in 28 Days Later, where people go into a subway and get chased by packs of hungry infected.
After Malinta, we just casually biked around the rest of the nearby places. We were already hungry and didn’t want to miss out on our dinner at the hotel.
We could have biked some more. I would have loved to go to the airstrip and see the lights of Manila from that high vantage point, but we were already having cold beer at the hotel. Maybe I’ll reserve that for another trip.
Can’t help thinking that this place would be perfect for a barkada ride around October or November during the undas and Halloween season. A tent, some sleeping bags and plenty of red horse around a camp fire would be perfect to cap off a night of ghost hunting.
If you’re planning to do your own overnight ride in Corregidor, check out Travel Up’s tips on how to do it. There’s info there on where to stay, how much it costs, and how to get the most out of your 2-day visa from the missus.
Thanks a lot to Sun Cruises Corregidor for inviting us to try this awesome adventure!