Scary thoughts were running through my mind as we picked our way deeper into the tunnel. What if the statues would all come alive at the stroke of midnight? Or what if the guard or Edith, our other companion who prefered not to go in would turn off the lights and lock the door of the tunnel?
I BET not too many would dare enter a tunnel at fifteen minutes before midnight. It was eerie and I felt a mixture of fear and apprehension, yet I know it was a chance I wouldn’t allow to pass.
I was embarassed to back out because in the first place, it was my idea to explore the Japanese Tunnel located along Diversion road in the middle of the night.
I braced myself and tweaked the nose of one of the two Japanese sentinels standing outside the tunnel entrance just to make sure he was really a statue. He looked so real that I almost imagined he blinked his eyes when I made a double check and pinched his arm before descending the few steps down to the tunnel with fellow reporter Gwen and a lady guide last week.
The interior of the tunnel was damp. The ceiling was high enough to comfortably stand beneath, and wide enough for four people to walk by side by side but I experienced a feeling of claustrophobia.
I’ve always hated enclosed spaces but there’s no going back, I know. A few meters away, the tunnel branched off where two Japanese statues were seated at a low table, as if in deep conversation. The guide told us that was the conference room used by the Japanese.
“It must have been here where they cooked up ideas and strategies for battle,” I told Gwen.
Scary thoughts were running through my mind as we picked our way deeper into the tunnel. What if the statues would all come alive at the stroke of midnight? Or what if the guard or Edith, our other companion who prefered not to go in would turn off the lights and lock the door of the tunnel? Gwen even suggested an earthquake and I shivered at the thought of those tunnel walls closing in on us and that would have been the last night of our lives.
Such frightful thoughts made me walk faster, determined to finish the exploration before midnight.
We walked for several meters through the tunnel, pausing now and then as our guide hurriedly pointed out objects and points of interest. I sensed she must have been in a hurry to get out of the tunnel as much as we do.
She was just one of the staff whom the guard happened to call on since the official guide had long ago drifted to dreamland. (How was he to know that a couple of weird female reporters would decide to explore the tunnel at midnight?)
We passed by a big rectangular hole half-filled with water, and protected by iron railings on top. Our guide explained that a buried treasure had been recovered from the area.
The tunnel provided me a glimpse of what life was like for the Japanese during the battle, although that happened years and years before I was born.
I was too busy trying to balance my steps and avoid stepping on the puddles while still managing to ask our guide a few questions. At one point, my wits almost deserted me when I looked up and saw a Japanese woman sitting behind grill bars. She looked so real and alive in the dimness of the electric bulbs that I felt my hair stand on end.
The female statue was at the end of the tunnel. We hurried to go back, grateful that no untoward incident happened, or that not one of the statues decided to scare us by coming back to life.
We were about halfway out when we heard the unmistakable prolonged howling of a dog. I grew up with the belief that when dogs howl, especially during full moon nights, they have seen ghosts.
My hair stood on end as we sprinted through the remaining steps out of the tunnel and open air, only to find out that Edith did the dog howl imitation to scare us. She succeeded in scaring me but I didn’t give her the satisfaction of knowing that. The relief that I felt as we emerged from the tunnel was overwhelming.
That actually was not my first time to explore a tunnel. In fact I’ve gone through far more frightening and challenging caves in Bukidnon during my college days, but it was done in broad daylight.
I’ve entered caves where we had to crawl on our stomachs to be able to enter, where stalactites and stalagmites were everywhere and a single movement could send bats of all shapes, sizes and colors flying in all directions.
In one cave, we even had to wade in waist-deep water and pass over super-narrow passages (traffic congested due to our fat classmates who couldn’t pass though the “slim test” passage), or through a deep cliff whose distance was to far to jump. Sharp stalactites protrude at the bottom, ready to welcome anyone who falls down with their sharp tips.
We were only able to pass through the cliff when two of our bigger classmates made the supreme sacrifice and offered their shoulders as a stepping stones (we remembered to give them alaxan that evening).
I always had one goal when exploring caves: That is to get out of the cave alive in one piece.
In life we also have to chart different caves of trials and tunnels of temptations. They come in all forms and hardships but it is comforting to know that there is always light at the end of the tunnel, and that no matter how complicated the tunnels or caves are, you always have the chance to surmount the obstacles and come out into the light to breath the air of freedom and relief.