Posts Tagged ‘Corregidor Island’


Gen. Charles E. Kilbourne Initiated the Building of Malinta Tunnel in Corregidor?

June 28, 2019

General Charles E. Kilbourne

Oh well, that’s what I just read today from an article about Malinta Tunnel building on Corregidor Island — birthplace of my forefathers, father and siblings. It was Gen. Charles Kilbourne, then re-assigned to assume the Harbour Defense Command in 1929 who revived the idea of building the tunnel under the Malinta Hill in December 1931. He worked on its realization, initiated and finally got the approval of the building project on January 14, 1932. To lead the construction work, Lt. Paschal N. Strong of the US Army Corps of Engineers was sent over. He arrived in the Philippines in 1932.

So, the idea which got hatched in 1921 started to get realized only in 1932 not 1922 as stated on a sign displayed outside Malinta Tunnel. The use of prison labor from Bilibid prison was said to be also his idea leading to building of prison stockades. The photo of Dr. Selma Harrison Calmes’ father with the prisoners that she graciously allowed me to use in my documentary TIGA-ISLA (The Islanders of Corregidor) is included in the same article simply captioned “Bilibid stockade.”

To read all the details, here’s the link to the article of Mr. John Moffit written on December 12, 2012:

Incidentally, I found just a few days ago, a letter already eaten up by silver fishes written by Gen. Charles E. Kilbourne in reply to I do not know exactly who. Was it my father, or my historian brother who wrote to him? Since Juan Medina whom he mentioned in the letter were grandfather to both, I wouldn’t know until I find a copy of the welcome letter sent to the General that he was referring to. Anyway, what is clear was that he was on a visit here at the time the undated letter was written. Knowing that he died in 1963, I would assume that he was in the country sometime in the 50s for a sentimental journey.

Gen. Kilbourne sounded how well he knew my great granduncle Juan Medina, former municipal president (mayor) of Bo. San Jose, Corregidor. Lolo Juan and my father’s father Mateo were brothers. The latter was appointed as Corregidor municipal councilor in 1906.

Kilbourne Letter_Front

Letter of Gen. Charles Kilbourne in reply either to my father, Ricardo M. Medina Sr. or my historian-brother Isagani R. Medina, both Corregidorians

Kilbourne Letter_Back

kilbourneGen. Kilbourne “was responsible for much of the military development of the island fortress of Corregidor. During his third assignment there [Philippines], from 1908 to 1913, he established the first artillery garrison on Corregidor.” (

We have two other letters written by Gen. Kilbourne, one dated 1936; the other written from Maryland that is undated. Both original copy of the letters were deposited in 2004 at the Pacific War Museum on Corregidor Island. In addition, the Certificate of Appointment of my grandfather Mateo dated 1906, and written in Spanish is also at the museum. Currrently, they are under the care of Corregidor Foundation, Inc.


WPC: UNIQUE / Mortar Bullet Craft

February 4, 2013

My family originated from the small, tadpole-shaped island of Corregidor in the Philippines. Now a National Shrine, it was the last island to surrender to the Japanese during World War II. How the civilian people lived there before the war were all tales from my parents and siblings, eight of whom were born there. Some documents and crafts remain that tell of their lives there. The Island became a military stronghold of the Americans when they came, and decided to stay after a mock battle in Manila Bay with the Spaniards in 1898. To help in fortifying the island they named Fort Mills, most of the original inhabitants remained to work with the Americans. One of them was my father who, during his leisure hours engaged in fishing and “bullet crafting.”

Corregidor Artifacts

Artifacts made, used and found in Corregidor Island, Philippines before 1941. They now form part of the exhibit in the Island’s War Museum located at Topside. Items 1, 2 [made of mortar bullets] and Item 5 were my father’s handiwork.

Using an empty mortar bullet, approximately 4” in diameter, my father crafted a lamp [Item 1] using it as his material. To do the relief design on it, the bullet had to be put on fire to soften or make it malleable. He chose the cover of then very popular pre-war magazine called Liwayway [Dawn]. As I imagine the lamp to be according to his description, it would have been something like this [See drawing]. LampBecause of its weight and bulkiness, only its tube was saved from the War. His work is dated 1928. His other metallurgic work was a talcum powder container made of mortar base plate [Item 2]. With a heavy lid and appearing to be of bronze material, it must have father’s gift to my mother. The pair of scissors [Item 3] was also crafted by my father.

All of them can be found with some civilian prewar documents in a small room at the War Museum of the Corregidor Historical Shrine. Toys like the Singer sewing machine, a flat iron that uses charcoal are also displayed in the museum [Items 3 & 4]. All that remained in our possession related to their lives in Corregidor after the fire that destroyed our house in 1998 were donated to the Museum. Fear of another fire tragedy greatly motivated me to donate, not keep the remaining artifacts with us. Most of them are burnt-looking if you will notice because they actually went aflame at that time. I just retrieved them for sentimental reason. One of my father’s creations, a lighthouse about 16” in height, also made in Corregidor fully melted in that fire incident, and of course their pictures during the American period.

The other reason for giving them away is for visitors – local and foreign — to see, or give them concrete idea on how people lived in the island before. No books comprehensively tackle about the civilian lives before 1941. All are centered on the War, and, especially the Fall of Corregidor; to be more precise most of the books focus on the fall or the surrender of the Americans to the Japanese, especially so, on the return of Gen. Douglas McArthur. That’s exactly why I was led to do my first feature-length docu, TIGA-ISLA [The Islanders of Corregidor]. Using oral history, I focused on the socio-cultural lives of the American servicemen, Philippine Scouts and civilians that included my family. But what sparked me the most to work on it was when I visited the island sometime in 2000. Balikbayan Filipinos [specifically those who immigrated to the US] were completely surprised to know that there were villagers in the island, and that it was actually inhabited before. As I’ve said, lack of materials on prewar lives in the island cause that ignorance even up to now. Currently, only hotel workers and maintenance personnel live there.

Corregidor is a must-see historical shrine in our country. I am not saying that because of my affinity to it but because it is one of the actual reminders of the horrors of World War II. It is being kept and preserved by Corregidor Foundation. Unfortunately, the forces of Nature are slowly eroding the structures there including what is called Mile-long Barracks, said to be the longest barracks in the world [].


Photo Weekly Challenge: Silhouette / Corregidor Island’s Tail

October 22, 2012

Dawn in Corregidor Island, Philippines — the last bastion of American freedom during World War II; the last island to surrender to the Japanese in 1944.

I was waiting with my crew members for the sun to rise. We stayed in the tadpole-shaped island for five days to do a historical documentary [islanders] about the lives of my family who lived there before the War. Now a historical shrine, it would remind anyone of the time it vibrantly served as an American military garrison fortified to fight Spanish armadas and other weapons from the sea – almost all canons installed there were facing the sea and could not be moved rendering them useless when airplanes were invented; the Japanese zero fight planes attacked from the air and pulverized the island that led to the American surrender in the Pacific. Buildings and remnants of the days old past have been kept; but with the harsh elements through the years – both Man made and Natural – sun, rain, wind  –   structures are slowly eroding, needing serious study for their restoration so as to be continuously preserved for the future generation.

I sat on a hill overlooking the tail of the island where the cemetery was, according to my oldest living brother who is one of the few remaining Corregidorians who was born there. It is not in the tourist’s itinerary but it can be reached by foot – which we did. I didn’t find the slab that would tell me where my relatives “rested.”

Corregidor Foundation is maintaining the facilities in the island. [Click this for more info about the island,]