Thursday, January 31, 2008

Courage and freedom

“Courage and freedom” will be the theme of  Mayor
Alfredo Lim’s commemoration of the 63rd anniversary of
the Battle for Manila which took place in February
1945. For many decades, we Filipinos have referred to
that month-long battle as the “Liberation of Manila”,
celebrating the return of General Douglas McArthur.
However, as post-war research deepened, some
historians discovered that no mention was made in
American war records of February 1945, call it
liberation or battle.

As a result, many Filipinos started putting
liberation between quotation marks-- “Liberation” of
Manila-- and about five years ago, after
validating new studies and military documents, and to
the consternation of certain sectors, the National
Historical Institute (NHI) officially declared that
what occurred in February 1945 was the “ Battle for
Manila”. The word “liberation” when referring to
February 1945 was scrapped totally from all NHI
communications. Please take note that the preposition
is not “of” but “FOR” which implies that US
advancing armed forces and defending Japanese imperial
forces were fiercely fighting over Manila, during
the strategic island-hopping campaign of the USA,
aimed at Tokyo.

Japanese and American casualties were minimal
compared to the one hundred thousand (100,000)
non-combatant Manila civilians who were burnt and
tortured to death and who perished in the carpet
bombings. Moreover, the destruction of Manila is
considered the worst in the WW II Pacific Theater.
Gone was the ‘Pearl of the Orient’, a uniquely
beautiful city that boasted of cultural influences
from four continents.

Like other turning points in our history, the
commemoration of the Second World War specially the
“Battle for Manila” is in danger of being distorted,
if not forgotten. Because Japan has become an
indispensable economic force in the Philippines, it
has made deliberate efforts to obliterate residual
anti-Japanese feelings by promoting ostensibly
cultural activities precisely in February , our month
of national bereavement.

When Mrs. Bing Roxas ( may she rest in peace)
was the head of the Cultural Center of the Philippines
(CCP) , she was so incensed when the Japanese Embassy
wanted to hold a kind of flower and kimono festival
at the CCP, precisely in the month of February.
Senator Richard Gordon, when he was secretary of
tourism, was insensitive enough to hold a saki
festival in February, in Intramuros, close to Fort
Santiago where hundreds of Filipinos were
incarcerated, tortured and killed by Japanese forces.
During commemorative rites at San Fernando, Pampanga
many attendees (myself included) were so furious at
the sight of Japanese flags brandished mindlessly by
Filipino participants of the re-enacted Death March.
The mayor had to intervene and the Japanese flags
were taken away. What about that scandalous monument
to a kamikaze in Mabalacat, Pampanga?

That is why Mayor A. Lim will lead the
commemoration of “Courage and freedom” to remember
that Filipinos fought bravely to end Japanese
occupation and those who survived miraculously went
on to rebuild their lives and this country. However,
in his opus CONTINUING PAST, historian Renato
Constantino wrote that during the Second World War,
most Filipinos were fighting the Japanese not to
free themselves and this country from any type of
foreign domination, but because they were longing to
return to America’s smothering embrace. I
remembered Dr. Constantino’s unflattering yet
telling conclusion when I happened upon a family
friend in California, some years ago. Now a US
citizen, former Manilena Mrs. Benjie J. Kosloff
told me that during the “Battle for Manila” a cousin
tearfully reported that an aunt of theirs had died.
“But, at least…,” sobbed the grieving relative “…
tita was killed by an American bomb!” (The public is
invited to the Freedom Triangle of Manila City Hall on
3 Feb, Sunday, at 8 a.m.)

1 comment:

anton joaquin said...

Dear Mimi,

May I quote in my blogsite parts of your report on this critical moment in our Manila-dweller's lives?

And I do admire your signal contribution to Philippine history and congratulate you for it for plaing such a sensitive role in it.

Tony Joaquin