03 Feb A Light for the Filipino People
By Lea Athena Molina
1st Prize Winner, Battle of Manila Essay Writing Contest 2019
Our civilization is founded on the belief that every human life has equal value. What makes each of us human is our capacity for selfless love, and our sense of duty towards those who are incapable. Each person has an intrinsic dignity, inherent to themselves, and humans consequently have to treat one another equally with dignity. With such an intrinsic value, it is hence unimaginable for a person to take the life of another. Ergo, it is more appalling when hundreds and thousands of lives were put to an end with barely any consideration towards their intrinsic dignities. The Battle of Manila in 1945 is a stark example of such disregard towards not only human life, but the humanity of our countrymen during this grim period of our history.
The Battle of Manila is described as “a fight unlike any other in the Pacific War.” The month-long confrontation between what was primarily the Japanese and the Americans forever altered the city known as the “Pearl of the Orient.” It resulted in a catastrophic destruction of the capital: landmarks were demolished, bridges were wrecked, and houses were reduced to ashes. It terrorized the civilian population: women were assaulted, and men and children were murdered. It is through the lack (and eventually, loss) of humanity in the Japanese leaders that such a rampage resulted from their decisions and actions. Much greater than the destruction of public and private property, of economic and cultural bastions, however, was the destruction of the humanity of the Filipino people.
History teaches us that the past not only impacts the present, but also shapes the future. Knowing that such events happened in the past helps the Filipino people understand why our country is the way it is today. Children are still starving, houses and poverties are still tattered, and many are still in poverty. The ruin is still apparent, and it is seen in the faces of our countrymen. The morale of our people are as damaged as the structures that make up our cities. Such devastation is not easily forgotten, especially by the survivors of events such as these. However, it is not our task to forget this point of our history, but to cherish the lessons that come with it. Being able to see for myself the places where the Battle of Manila took place shaped my view on such an event, and changed it forever.
It was, by coincidence or by fate, exactly 10 days before the talk that I was able to visit Intramuros for the first time in my life. Incidentally, I passed by that memorial, and there was even a banner commemorating its establishment. As a symbol of the heinous crimes that befell the Filipino people during this part of our history, it is also a beacon of hope for the humanity left in our countrymen and ourselves, who are not only surviving, but thriving despite the ruin that war and invasion caused us. We are reminded through this memorial that we are resilient as a people. We survived, and we shall continue to survive and grow even stronger.
Such a memorial from the past talking about our invaders’ lack and loss of humanity reminds me as an individual, a student who appropriately is Mastering in Humanities, that I must use my humanity, my humanness and human nature, as well as my freedom for the good. The “rampage” in the Battle of Manila only proves to remind us that such a gruesome event in our history is not enough to destroy the humanity of the entire Filipino people. On the contrary, we must exemplify the humanity that we have today, in order to revere and preserve that which was lost to our countrymen decades ago. From their darkest days, we must become a light, a fire burning with and for the goodness and humanity of the Filipino people.