The Battle of Manila: A Reflection and A Hope

By Mark Anthony Cabigas
3rd Prize Winner, Battle of Manila Essay Writing Contest 2019


The Battle of Manila of 1945 is one of the many bloody encounters between the American forces and the Japanese Army during the World War II in the Philippines. It lasted for 29 days and it devastated the City of Manila that cost 100,000 innocent lives and millions of pesos of invaluable heritage structures. Hence, it is considered to be the most brutal conflagration in the history of the Philippines. Nonetheless, despite the bad memories it left to millions of Filipinos, this battle is an important battle in Philippine History because this paved way to the attainment of actual independence. After the victory of the Americans in the Battle of Manila, the Commonwealth was eventually revived back in control of the Philippines. The revival of the Commonwealth was essential in the fulfillment of the transitory provisions of the Tydings-McDuffie Law – the concession law recognising Philippine Independence on 1946. Meaning to say, without the Battle of Manila, Philippines could have still been an exclave of the Japanese empire and Filipinos could have not able to establish their own de jure republic. Thus, the Battle of Manila was the key event that opened the opportunity for the Filipinos to finally actualize their dreams of independence and sovereignty from foreign control and even dependence.

However, despite its importance in our history, the Battle of Manila; the World War 2 and the rest of wars in Philippine history are taught in class apathetically — i.e., usually in knowing who were the leaders and whether who won and who lost in the battlefield. I claim because I experienced it myself. Textbook are even on that context. The leaders of war are the focus of the study but little empathy is given to every child’s broken future, to every woman who shattered their dignity, to every father who lost their moment to say even a farewell to their families. The people’s stories of pain, their stories of loss, their stories of eternal trauma are what more valuable than the leaders themselves, than the dates they fought, than the buildings they burnt. Indeed, I may know who Tomoyuki Yamashita, Sanji Iwabuchi and Douglas McArthur, but it is only today that I came to know the story of Julia Lopez who had her breasts sliced off and raped by the Japanese soldiers and had her hair set on fire; the story of the Manila Martyrs — Rev. Peter Fallon, Rev. John Heneghan, Rev. Patrick Kelly, and Rev. Joseph Monaghan, who were kidnapped and killed by the Japanese army; and of all the other terrible stories of loss and suffering during the infamous Manila Massacre and Rape. 

Personally, it is important to me because this war is a reminder that I shall foster and cherish my freedom; protect the State’s security from invasion and from its downfall from corruption; and help in sustaining the Republic that our veterans of war have fought for before. Without the Battle of Manila and the eventual recapitulation of the city from the Japanese, I may be suffering the same way other Filipinos had experienced up until today. Moreover, as a future social science teacher, this battle is important to me because this urges me to teach and inspire my future students to love their country more than themselves, to protect and foster their independence and democracy but this time in a way that is diplomatic than through arms and ammunition. I also want to promote the ending of the culture of war and violence as an advocacy and rather promote diplomacy in any form of conflict. The Battle of Manila reminds us that in war, there is no winner, all become losers. And lastly I want to teach history to my future students with empathy and depth to the real victims of war. Today, we are commemorating this unpleasant history through monuments, shrines and markers. But memorares and markers of the Battle of Manila will remain concrete and steel markers and monuments respectively unless we are able to express our empathy and support to the victims and veterans of the war and to realize the fact that wars fruit no good to anyone.

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