by Jeremiah Inocencio
When the city of Manila was turned into a battleground between the Filipino, American, and Japanese forces from February 3 to March 3, 1945, around 100,000 civilians were killed, 50,000 were hurt and wounded, and thousands of casualties were registered from the belligerents. This lamentable combination of carnage and rubble was devastating for a city that reigned with glory in its yesteryears.
The historic capital city has evidently turned a new leaf decades after its liberation. But scattered around its districts are some memorials of the Second World War that remind people to pay solemn respects to the lives of innocent victims and honor the valor of those who courageously lived by their principles and duties to fight for their freedoms even in the face of death. In commemoration of the 77th anniversary of the Battle of Manila, the Renacimiento Manila wishes to introduce some of these markers and memorials to the public.
The White Cross at Fort Santiago
During the Japanese Occupation Period (1942-1945), the old Spanish fort that stood near the mouth of Pasig River was used as the headquarters of the Kempeitai, the feared military police corps of the Japanese forces in the Philippines. They were responsible for rounding up individuals whom they suspected of engaging in underground activities against the Japanese military administration and brought them to Fort Santiago for incarceration, intense interrogation, or torture. Some prisoners made it out of the fort alive but others were left behind, unable to rejoin their families forever. After Manila was liberated in 1945, members of the American military recovered the decomposing remains of 600 prisoners inside the chambers of Baluarte de Santa Barbara during an inspection of the fort’s ruins. It is believed that these individuals suffered from extreme prison conditions that eventually lead to their death. These unidentified bodies were buried on a mass grave which is currently marked by a white marble cross.
Aside from the memorial cross, prominent personalities who were either imprisoned or tortured within the fort’s confines during the Second World War are also remembered through a plaque installed on the Wall of Martyrs.
The Dungeons of Fort Santiago. (n.d.). Fort Santiago. https://visitfortsantiago.com/amenity/the-fort-santiago-dungeon/
Martyr’s Wall. (n.d.). Fort Santiago. https://visitfortsantiago.com/amenity/05/
The victims who met their untimely demise and the survivors who narrowly escaped death during the tragic month-long urban warfare are immortalized in the Memorare Manila 1945 monument at Plazuela Santa Isabel in Intramuros. Sculpted by Peter de Guzman, the monument’s prominent figure features a mourning woman slumped on the ground, holding the body of a dead infant in her hands while being surrounded by six other casualties of the carnage. The statue rest son a base with an inscribed dedication written by National Artist for Literature Nick Joaquin. Beside the monument are two plaques describing the memorial and a list of the places around the city where the Imperial Japanese Armed Forces committed gruesome massacres. Its construction was supported by the Memorare – Manila 1945 Foundation Inc., a private, non-profit organization founded by the civilian survivors of the Battle of Manila and their descendants and was inaugurated on February 18, 1995.
BRIEFER: Memorare Manila 1945 Monument. (n.d.). Presidential Museum and Library. http://malacanang.gov.ph/75085-briefer-memorare-manila-1945-monument/
The ‘Pagpapalaya ng Maynila’ marker at Araullo Building
Tucked near the Postigo del Palacio gate of Intramuros is the Araullo Building, an edifice constructed in the 1920s which is also among the few structures that remained intact after the shelling of Intramuros in 1945. A 1989 marker from the National Historical Institute (now the National Historical Commission of the Philippines) recognizing the combined efforts of Filipino guerillas and American troops who landed at Lingayen, Pangasinan in liberating Manila from Japanese control is installed on its wall facing Postigo Street.
The Comfort Women marker at Liwasang Bonifacio (Plaza Lawton)
The city government of Manila remembers the victims of military sexual slavery through a marker installed at the vicinity of Liwasang Bonifacio, Ermita. This underappreciated, slightly isolated, and standalone marker recognizes that approximately 1,000 women were forced by the Japanese Imperial Army to render sexual services to its members under an organized and institutionalized scheme of abuse and exploitation when the latter occupied the Philippines. It was unveiled by Mayor Jose L. Atienza on April 22, 2003.
Freedom Plaza (a.k.a. “Freedom Park, formerly Plaza Aviles or Plaza Liga Anti-Imperialista)
An imposing monument dedicated to the Liberation of Manila is located in the middle of Freedom Plaza right across the Malacanang Palace’s Harrison Gate. On its front stands a 1995 marker from the National Historical Institute (now the National Historical Commission of the Philippines) commemorating the initial movements of the Allied troops in retaking Manila on February 3, 1945, the restoration of the Commonwealth government at the Malacañang Palace on February 27, 1945, and the extreme loss of lives and terrible destruction brought by the battle for the city’s liberation that finally ended on March 3, 1945.
Liberation of Manila marker
Three markers dedicated to Manila’s valiant sons and daughters who heroically fought for their nation’s freedom can be found on a platform at the Manila City Hall’s Freedom Triangle. One of these is dedicated to the first incidents of the Battle of Manila while another honors the leaders of the guerilla forces that took part in the other battles that transpired during the Second World War. These were installed by the city government of Manila in 1995 and 2004. Behind the platform is another marker from the Canadian Embassy which recognizes the contribution of Canadian nationals who participated in the Pacific War theater.
The De La Salle College Massacre marker
The commemorative marker installed by the Manila Historical Committee remembers the brutal incident that took place inside the De La Salle College (now De La Salle University) in Malate, Manila. On February 12, 1945, a group of 20 Japanese soldiers and navy personnel stormed inside the campus out of suspicion that the De La Salle Brothers and the civilians who sought refuge inside the school were secretly giving aid to the guerillas and American forces. Following an officers’ command, the squad went on a merciless rampage and started shooting, bayoneting, and chasing every person in their sight. The horrifying slaughter left 25 civilians and 16 La Salle Christian brothers dead. A plaque bearing the names of the martyred clergymen is installed at the university chapel’s premises and a statue of a priest giving absolution to a dying massacre victim also stands on the campus grounds in memory of those who perished in the bloodbath.
Aguilar, K. (2015, February 16). Manila1945: Death at De La Salle. The Urbanroamer. https://www.theurbanroamer.com/death-at-de-la-salle/
Chua, M. (2015, February 12). ANG MASAKER SA DE LA SALLE COLLEGE. Its Xiaotime. https://xiaochua.net/2013/02/11/ang-masaker-sa-de-la-salle-college/
Pasion, K. (2015, February 13). February 12, 1945. Indio:Bravo//. https://indiohistorian.tumblr.com/post/110895943731/february-12-1945-a-red-day-for-manila-one-of
Captain Manuel Colayco – Liberation of the Santo Tomas Internment Camp marker
A 1996 marker installed by the Manila Historical Committee on the Gate 4 of the University of Santo Tomas honors the heroism of Captain Manuel Colayco who figured in the collaboration of Filipino guerillas and American soldiers in liberating the Santo Tomas Internment Camp (STIC). On February 3, 1945, guerilla leader Captain Manuel Colayco and his colleague Lieutenant Diosdado Guytingco of the Allied Intelligence Bureau’s Manila unit guided the flying columns of the First Cavalry Division from the U.S. Army in entering Manila from the north and seizing the largest internment camp held by the Japanese in the Philippines. This encounter and victory at Sampaloc were among the first Allied offensives in liberating the city. Unfortunately, Capt. Colayco succumbed to death a week after the siege due to the mortal wounds that he sustained from a grenade explosion.
Legarda, B. (2015, February 9). Three hours on the 3rd of February 1945. Lifestyle.Inq. https://lifestyle.inquirer.net/183876/three-hours-on-the-3rd-of-february-1945/
Liberation of the University of Sto. Thomas. (n.d.). Philippine Veterans Affairs Office. https://pvao.gov.ph/story-of-battles-pvao/liberation-of-university-of-santo-thomas/
Wilkinson, R. (2014). Surviving a Japanese Internment Camp: Life and Liberation at Santo Tomas, Manila, in World War II. McFarland & Company, Inc.
Filipino Chinese World War II Martyr’s Memorial
This obelisk pays homage to the contributions of the Filipino-Chinese community in the underground resistance against Japanese rule. It was erected on June 12, 1995 by the Confederation of Filipino-Chinese Veterans and carries eight panels that cite the names of guerilla units and civic groups organized by the Filipino-Chinese residents namely, the Wha Chi 48th Squadron, Philippine Chinese Anti-Japanese Pekek Co. or the “Pekek Squadron”, Philippine Chinese Anti-Japanese and Anti-Puppets Grand League, Philippine Chinese Anti-Japanese Volunteers Corps., Philippine Chinese Ampao Unit Fil-Am, Chinese Volunteer in the Philippines (CVP), Philippine Chinese Youth Wartime Special Service Corps, and the Chinese Oversea Wartime Hsuehkan Militia (COWHM), along with messages of appreciation from then-President Fidel V. Ramos and the city government of Manila under then-Mayor Alfredo S. Lim. These groups were mostly composed of store employees and laborers who engaged in non-military resistance activities while some took arms and operated in various places throughout the Occupation Period until the liberation. The monument is currently located at Plaza San Lorenzo Ruiz, Binondo.
Reference:Li, Y. -W. (1992). The Chinese Resistance Movement in the Philippines during the Japanese Occupation. Journal of Southeast Asian Studies (23)2: 308–21. http://www.jstor.org/stable/20071455.
Memorare to the Comfort Women (Roxas Boulevard, Malate) [Dismantled, Missing]
Inaugurated in time with the 76th anniversary of initial Japanese attacks in the Philippines on December 8, 2017, this memorial to the Filipinas forced by the Japanese Imperial Army into sexual slavery during the Second World War once occupied a spot along the Baywalk at Roxas Boulevard, Malate. It featured a 7-foot bronze statue of a blindfolded woman clad in Filipiniana attire clutching the hemmings of a mourning veil draped over her upper body. Attached on the front side of its pedestal was a marker from the National Historical Commission of the Philippines (NHCP) which recognizes the heinous wartime atrocity while inscribed on the rear are the names of the private donors who contributed to the construction of the monument led by the Tulay Foundation.
Among the aforementioned markers and memorials in the city of Manila, only the Comfort Woman statue could not be located at present. On April 27, 2018, it was dismantled by the Philippine government without a definite reason; except that the memorial impeded a drainage improvement project on the promenade. However, it is believed that the statue posed diplomatic complications between the Philippines and Japan. Even then-Manila Mayor Joseph E. Estrada and President Rodrigo R. Duterte seemed to agree with its uprooting. This triggered the organizations and advocates that supporting the cause of the surviving comfort women to protest and condemn the unceremonious removal of the statue and accuse the government of bowing to external pressure. On August 25, 2019, a new site for the memorial was put up and inaugurated by the original sponsors on the grounds of the National Shrine of Our Mother of Perpetual Help (Redemptorist Church) at Baclaran, Parañaque City. However, the comfort woman statue was not installed. The sculptor who took custody after its removal did not show up during the ceremony and later claimed that the Php 1-million bronze statue had been stolen from his workshop.
Cayabyab, M (2018, April 29). Comfort woman statue in Manila removed. The Philippine Star. https://www.philstar.com/nation/2018/04/29/1810401/comfort-woman-statue-manila-removed
Comfort Woman statue on Roxas Boulevard removed. (2019, April 29). GMA News. https://www.gmanetwork.com/news/hashtag/content/651638/comfort-woman-statue-on-roxas-boulevard-removed/story/
Giolagon, J. (2019, August 27). The mystery of the missing comfort woman statue. Vera Files. https://verafiles.org/articles/mystery-missing-comfort-woman-statue
Marker in honor of Filipino ‘comfort women’ unveiled. (2019, August 26). UCA News. https://www.ucanews.com/news/marker-in-honor-of-filipino-comfort-women-unveiled/85948#
See, A. (2017, December 20). Manila ‘comfort woman’ statue raises thorny issue with Japan. Inquirer.net. https://globalnation.inquirer.net/163097/manila-comfort-woman-statue-raises-thorny-issue-japan#ixzz7KCTSMAcL
See, A. & Subingsubing, K. (2018, April 29). Removal of ‘comfort woman’ statue draws protest. Inquirer.net. https://newsinfo.inquirer.net/986146/removal-of-comfort-woman-statue-draws-protest
Romero, A. (2018, April 30). Duterte backs removal of comfort woman statue. The Philippine Star. https://www.philstar.com/nation/2018/04/30/1810658/duterte-backs-removal-comfort-woman-statue
Villanueva, R. (2018, April 28). Gabriela condemns govt’s removal of comfort woman statue. Bulatlat. https://www.bulatlat.com/2018/04/28/gabriela-condemns-govts-removal-comfort-woman-statue/