City Tourism Chief Demetrio Alvior Jr. said landscape contractors improving Plaza Cuartel, a historical site in Puerto Princesa, discovered the tunnel recently with its original wall bricks intact. Bones and old ammunition were also found.

“Noong naghuhukay para sa gagawin na landscaping ay nadiskubre yong tunnel. Talagang yong original bricks ay nahukay, at merong mga buto at saka bala. Evidence na talagang may nangyari sa Plaza Cuartel,” Alvior said on Monday, stating it was discovered last month.

(When they were digging for landscaping, they discovered the tunnel. The original bricks were unearthed, and there were bones and bullets. Evidence that something really happened at Plaza Cuartel.)

Plaza Cuartel, nestled in the port area and adjacent to the Immaculate Conception Cathedral, stands as a cherished destination in the city, revered for its historical significance. It serves as the haunting location where Japanese soldiers burned American prisoners of war (POWs) alive on December 14, 1944, bearing witness to the harrowing events of World War II.

Only 11 of the 150 POWs survived after being tricked into digging what they believed to be air-raid shelters. These makeshift shelters later became the subject of legend, fueling speculation about the existence of a tunnel within Plaza Cuartel.

In the stories handed down through generations, the tunnel supposedly begins with a passageway inside the fort’s entrance. When visitors enter, it’s on their left, but once inside, it’s on their right on their way out.

Glenn McDole, one of the survivors of the massacre and a marine from Iowa, has written a book about Plaza Cuartel, chronicling his experience.

The title of this book is “Last Man Out,” and it describes how they escaped by burrowing into garbage heaps, seeking shelter in coral stones, and walked through dense foliage to reach Filipino friends sympathetic to their plight.

Heritage Tourism
Alvior stated that the local tourism office’s plan to transform Puerto Princesa City’s port area into a center for “Heritage Tourism” has gained more interest due to the discovery of this tunnel.

“Nakipag-coordinate na rin tayo sa mga national agency na nagha-handle ng mga ganito para ma-preserve yong mga na-dig doon na mga bagay, gaya noong mga bones,” Alvior said, elaborating that the city were also advised on how to handle what were found.

(We have also coordinated with national agencies responsible for handling such matters to preserve the items unearthed there, such as the bones.)

Alvior mentioned that once the landscaping of Plaza Cuartel is finished, their goal is to establish walking tours. He envisions these to begin from where cruise ships dock to this historical site, then proceed to Eulalia Park, currently undergoing renovations, followed by Rizal Park in front of the cathedral, and finally, the Old Governor’s Mansion, which is being refurbished into a museum.

By next year, the appearance of the port area for heritage tourism will change. The aim is to make it the first attraction seen by visitors disembarking from cruise ships, he said.

The Special Battalion World War II Memorial Museum in Barangay Bancao-Bancao, Alvior noted, will also be upgraded to include a cafe and other amenities.

“This only shows that our tourism industry is improving; that’s why our tourism stakeholders are also upgrading,” he said.