Thursday, February 10, 2011

Peace, Not War: Manila American Cemetery and Memorial Tour

A view of the Central Mall and the Graves Area from the Memorial

Yesterday, I had the privilege of joining the Manila American Cemetery and Memorial tour of Mr. John Silva.  It was both an enlightening and a poignant exploration of the largest American cemetery in the Pacific. I say "privilege" because on that same morning, there was a large group of students having a tour of the Manila American Cemetery and Memorial and sadly, there was no one discussing to them the importance of the place or even the story behind its construction.


The Manila American Cemetery and Memorial is located at  Old Lawton Avenue at the Bonifacio Global City (Fort Bonifacio) in Taguig, Philippines. Upon entering its gates, I was immediately struck by the tranquility and sublime beauty of the place. The pristine plaza with its circular fountain, the long central mall leading to the memorial, the lush greenery, and the distinct chapel were simply  breathtaking. Truly, its architect, Mr. Gardener Dailey, left no stone unturned to create a fitting tribute to those who lost their lives during the war.  For me, the Pearl Harbor Memorial in Hawaii, which I had the opportunity of visiting a few years ago,  paled in comparison to this memorial.

The beautiful trees and shrubs surrounding the white headstones in the Graves Area
The Manila American Cemetery and Memorial is not only the resting place of U.S. personnel who fought in the Pacific during World War II. Interred among the remains of heroic American soldiers are their  equally courageous allies in combat such as the  Australian soldiers, English soldiers, Canadian soldiers, and of course,  the Philippine Scouts.  However, it is the stories behind the names written on the 17,100 headstones and on  the immaculate marble walls of the Memorial that truly inspire and leave a lot of lessons.  I will not share them here as I believe it is  best to hear them from  Mr. Silva himself.

A map showing the Defense of Southeast Asia, designed by Margaret Bruton
Also listed on the Memorial's fin walls are the names of the Missing - those who served during the war in the Pacific whose bodies remain unidentified or lost.    The Memorial's hemicycles also has map rooms that display maps made of colorful mosaic that showcase important military campaigns and battles in the Pacific Islands during the second World War. I highly recommend that those who intend to visit the Memorial spend a good time looking at and reading information on the maps to have a better understanding of what happened during WWII.  Personally, I was struck by the impact of  our Filipino soldiers' gallant stand in Bataan on Imperial Japan's conquest of other islands in the Pacific, particularly Australia.
The Chapel's tower

The Memorial's focal point is the Chapel, with a tower decorated by sculptures in relief.  The sculptures represent, among other things, liberty, justice, and country.  The Chapel's doors (partly seen in the photo) were made of bronze while its walls were made of blue mosaic with texts set in gold.  The altar, on the other hand, features the figure of a woman scattering flowers with the following inscription:


TO THEIR MEMORY
THEIR COUNTRY BRINGS ITS GRATITUDE
AS FLOWERS FOREVER LIVING


Also in the Chapel is a Carillon, which rings every hour and half hour, between 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. I was fortunate enough to hear its melodic toll during the tour, and we were told that at the end of the day, at around 5 p.m., the Carillon plays the National Anthems of the Philippines and the United States.

These are just some of the remarkable things I saw and discovered during the tour of the Manila American Cemetery and Memorial.  With the unrest and violence happening in the world, a visit to this memorial is a good way of reminding us of the beauty of peace and the consequences of war.  Let me leave you with an inscription that I saw in the Memorial:


...LET US HERE HIGHLY RESOLVE THAT
THE CAUSE FOR WHICH THEY DIED SHALL LIVE.


__________________
Thank you to Mr. Silva for the tour! You can check his blog for tour schedules and fees. The   Visitors' Building  of the Manila American Cemetery and Memorial, located near the cemetery's entrance, also provides information and assistance for those who wish to explore the place on their own.

1 comment:

Got something to share? Leave a comment.(Just make sure it's not nasty.)