My stay in Cavite de Boracay was brief. I went there not to swim but enjoy the scenery. The resort is not the place for that. There’s a lot of people going about so it’s a little distracting. I left but found a road leading to perhaps a restricted area. On a condition that I won’t be up to no good, a Marine said I may go there. Of course, I did.
I strolled up the road, hazard lights blinking, wearing high visibility vest and helmet, and my camera hanging from my neck. It looks like this is where their infirmary is. I came across Marines cleaning, gardening and some cooking lunch on big pots using firewood. I got looks from some, some smiled, but no one drove me away. I continued towards a more remote part with tall grass and some ruins. I parked the bike and stood on top of some rocks for a better view. Wow! I can see a bigger part of Manila Bay from this ridge. There’s Carabao Island, an outline of possibly Mt Mariveles in Bataan, Corregidor, and that battleship Fort Drum. I need to get better view so I went over the little wall and fought my way through the chest-high grass as I scaled down the cliff all the while thinking: I’m not going to get shot, am I?
I slowly scaled down the cliff, making sure I have a secure foothold. I found an old, rusty AA (anti-aircraft) gun sitting on a slope of the ridge. Below is a rocky shoreline with clear waters and some rock formations. From where I was standing I can see part of the beach of Cavite de Boracay and another cove on the other side with a beach that suggests it’s used for military exercises. Think of it as a letter W, with me standing on the middle crest.
Looking towards the ocean, a number of banca, who appears to be fishermen, often passed by. The waters looked very calm, very clean… very peaceful. Very different from how it was during World War II.
Okay, now for some informal history lesson. DISCLAIMER: I just read most of this from the web; with some stock knowledge from other form of media. Please verify the facts as needed. It’s so interesting, I want to share it to you and encourage you to read more or even visit the place. Let me also know if I got things wrong.
The entrance to Manila Bay is guarded by four islands: Corregidor (Fort Mills); Caballo (Fort Hughes); Carabao (Fort Frank); El Fraile (Fort Drum). This is part of the Manila Bay harbor defenses during World War II. All these four islands were visible from where I was standing but Forts Frank and Drum were the closest to Cavite. The other two were on Bataan side.
Carabao Island (Fort Frank) is the closest to the mainland (Cavite). The island has sheer cliffs all around it which makes a beach-like landing nearly impossible. It was fortified with artillery batteries to defend against warships and planes especially at night or foggy conditions when Corregidor has limited visibility of the entrance to Manila Bay. You may read more about the island here (corregidor.org) and here (pacificwrecks.com)
Of the four islands, Fort Drum or El Fraile Island is the smallest but the most unique. In fact, there’s no other like it in the world. The island is so small that in order to fortify it, they have to level the whole island and rebuild it like a battleship with really big guns (bigger than the ones in Corregidor) and 20 feet thick walls of reinforced concrete. It’s a like a boxer that packs a powerful punch but has no footwork. It has to be tough and last whatever the enemy throws at it. And it did! When Corregidor fell, it was ordered to self-destruct and surrender. The Japs never got the fortress repaired and use it against its enemies. A lot of interesting stuff here (concretebattleship.org).
I would love to visit these islands but it’s not easy. Finding a banca to rent might not be difficult but getting ON the island is difficult because they are meant to keep people out. Actually, I think it is better if people DO KEEP OUT. At least while the government has not made any action towards making this historic landmarks a supervised tourist spot. Sad fact is, they haven’t done anything in 70 long years to protect these treasures. So, we can only wait in vain as our people continue to vandalize and loot an important part of our history. Very sad indeed.
Then I heard gunfire. Just some Marines training but I was reminded again of my worry about some Marine in camouflage coming out of the thicket pointing a rifle at me. Oh yeah, that and landmines. I can’t help but feel uneasy whenever I step into the thick vegetation not seeing where I’m stepping at. And I did almost step on a “landmine” (photo here) near that AA gun.
On my way out, I came onto another fork of (dirt) road which leads to the beach with some military outdoor training facilities. I let it be. Felt there’s nothing to it and I might just be abusing the maximum tolerance the Marines has been towards me. I exited the base and proceeded to.. How do you say this? CAY-LAB-NE. CAYLABNE!!