To the east of Bottomside a hill rises abruptly to an elevation of 390 feet. Called "Malinta," it severs Bottomside from the tail end of the island. The North and South Shore roads curved from its slopes and girdled the hill and ran on down the curving tadpole tail. To facilitate passage and to create a bombproof shelter, the Americans drove a shaft from a rock quarry at Bottomside directly through the hill, creating the famous Malinta Tunnel. Construction of the tunnel took about 10 years. Work was initially started in 1922 and it was substantially completed in 1932. The 835 feet long East-West passage served as the main tunnel which is 24 feet wide and the height at the top of its arch is 18 feet. Branching from it are 13 laterals on its north side and another 11 laterals on the south side. Each lateral averaged 160 feet and 15 feet in length and width, respectively. A double-track electric trolley line used to run through the main tunnel which is reinforced with concrete walls, a concrete floor, and overhead arches. Blowers were installed to allow the circulation of fresh air.
The tunnel had been dug through solid rock and offered complete protection from artillery or air attack. Command communications and medical units were located there. Gen. MacArthur set up the headquarters of USAFFE inside the tunnel where men and women would live and work during the siege of Corregidor. The tunnel was originally designed to house huge quantities of ammunition, food and supplies, and an underground hospital with a 1,000-bed capacity. The location of the tunnel beneath Malinta Hill made it ideal as a bomb-proof headquarters for the embattled Filipino and Americans defenders of Corregidor during World War II. During the siege of Corregidor, a number of shops and storage areas were added.
Malinta Tunnel also served as the seat of Philippine Commonwealth Government under President Manuel L. Quezon. At the vicinity of the tunnel's west entrance in the afternoon of Dec 30, 1941, Manuel Quezon and Sergio Osmena were inaugurated into their second term respectively as president and vice-president of the Philppine Commonwealth in simple ceremonies attended by members of the garrison.
The third lateral on the North side from the East entrance served as the USAFFE Headquarters of General Douglas MacArthur. In the South side, the first lateral from the East entrance was designated as headquarters of the Harbor Defense Command under Maj. Gen. George Moore. The fourth lateral on the same side connects to a group of 12 laterals which was used as a quartermaster supply storage. It has been said that some of its laterals were so secret that only those working there knew of its existence and that those who worked inside the tunnel during its construction were even blindfolded as they were escorted to their respective work areas.
The tunnel complex was described as damp and poorly ventilated and, except for the hospital, it was not designed to quarter humans. Although it was safe inside, morale of the personnel was lower than elsewhere on Corregidor. The entire length of the main tunnel was lined to a height of six feet with crates of all sizes and descriptions. Its occupants, numbering over four thousand, and sixty-eight women, including nurses and seventeen civilians and army wives, complained of dust flying around, the flickering blue mercury vapor lights, and the dull boom of exploding bombs when the island was under siege. Little black flies swarmed everywhere, bedbugs prickled the flesh, and dust hung in a pall despite the continuous daily mopping. Although no shrapnel could get through, yet the tunnel dwellers felt suffocated, helpless and trapped being unable to fight back. There was no privacy and nowhere else to go to be away from other people.
Today, visitors can experience the thrills of Malinta Tunnel in the vividly staged Light and Sound Show called the “Malinta Experience.” Scripted by national artist and film director Lamberto Avellana and sculptures made by national artist Napoleon Abueva, the show is a re-enactment of World War II’s dramatic events. This show has been incorporated as an optional part of the tour of Corregidor and those who opt to see the show are asked to pay an extra amount.
NIGHT TOUR OF MALINTA TUNNEL
There is a special tour of the Malinta Tunnel which is not included during the regular day tour. It is a night tour which may be availed of only by those who remain overnight in Corregidor. This tour allows visitors to see for themselves the different laterals of the 1,000-bed capacity Fort Mills Hospital which was used during the siege of Corregidor. Those who join the night tour assemble at the lobby of Corregidor Hotel just after dinner and they are then taken to the Malinta Tunnel by a "tramvia." A tour guide accompanies the group to point out and explain the different laterals of the hospital.
The starting point of the night tour is at the East Entrance of the tunnel. Upon reaching the second lateral on the right side, the group enters this lateral and head northward towards the tunnel's North Entrance. It is in this vicinity where the 12 hospital laterals are located. The tour guide brings along a large flashlight for the tour since the hospital laterals are no longer lighted by electricity. It is pitch dark inside the tunnel and everyone who joins the tour experiences the eerie darkness when the tour guide switches off his flashlight for a few seconds. One person who once joined this night tour wrote, "It is the most stygian blackness imaginable, a darkness so total it can paralyze all the senses."
There are 10 laterals in the hospital which were used as medical wards and each lateral had a capacity of 100 beds. Of the remaining two laterals, one was used as quarters for the female staff of the hospital. This was the only lateral inside Malinta Tunnel which was secured with a heavy steel door and bolted at night for the security and privacy of the women who were billeted in it. It is believed that the other remaining lateral was intended for the hospital's administrative office and also for the storage of medicines, medical supplies and hospital equipment.
At one of the hospital laterals, the tour guide will point out the location where a number of Japanese soldiers committed suicide by blowing themselves up just prior to the recapture of Corregidor by the American forces. For the Japanese, it was an honor for them to die rather than to surrender to their enemy. For those who join this tour, it will no doubt entertain some creepy thoughts in their minds, thus making the night exploration of Malinta Tunnel not only eerie but a bit stirring as well. Some consider this particular tour as mysterious and strange that it could send a cold chill up one's spine. With the number of Japanese soldiers who died inside the tunnel, visitors would often wonder if there have been any known sightings of ghosts inside the tunnel ... apparently, there have been none. For those who have visited the Malinta Tunnel at night, they will surely confirm that this is one tour that should not be missed by those who come to visit Corregidor.
After the tour of the hospital laterals, the group returns to the main tunnel and exit out at the West Entrance where they board the tramvia for their return to the hotel. The 15 photographs portrayed above were taken during one of the night tours of the hospital laterals.