The Passing of Manila

By Marcel Albert Bernard Mallonga
2nd Prize Winner, Battle of Manila Essay Writing Contest 2019


I believe that we, as a nation, had lost a great and integral portion of our written and unwritten history when the bombs and artillery fell on that once great city. In the chaos and bloodshed that ensued, countless cultural treasures and artifacts were lost. Of the seven grand churches enshrined in Intramuros, only the San Agustin church remained standing. The Manila Hotel, home to Gen. Douglas MacArthur and center of city life, was torched and set ablaze. Intramuros, the Walled City, symbol of our Spanish heritage, crumbled and turned to dust under the never-ending bombardment of mortars and howitzers. Records of the
Philippine General Hospital and the collections of the National Library consigned to oblivion. These were just some of the important cultural artifacts we lost in the war. Once we lose our history, our past, it becomes difficult to reclaim.

A great number of atrocities had taken place during that month-long siege in which many lost their lives, the details of which are to follow. Crimes were committed against fellow countrymen in a desperate bid to survive and one would be hard-pressed to fault them for the decisions that they had made in a crisis. Echoing this point, Agoncillo wrote, “Morality cowered before the relentless onslaught of economic forces that the war had marshaled and unleashed”. However, the greater sin lies in how some of those actions and attitudes prevailed even after the war was over. An attitude of survival no matter the cost, no matter to whose detriment can be argued to persist to this day.

Amidst the carnage of the Battle, I feel that more than just lives were lost; the moral fiber of the Filipinos themselves started to disintegrate. As Joaquin de Jesus wrote, “The destruction the city’s physical edifices also caused the destruction of the country’s Catholic values, Hispanic culture, and even basic good manners”. Manila was never truly the same after the war. My grandmother always told me that before the war, everyone was always in formal attire but afterward, people started to emerge wearing nothing but sandos—or worse, calzoncillos—but who could blame its residents for not caring quite so much about their appearances anymore when they were forced to play witness to a host of atrocities and forced to commit brutal acts which betrayed their genteel upbringing. Crimes like graft and corruption, robbery and assault, rape and prostitution became widespread once the looming threat of starvation began to rear its ugly head. There are several accounts of people even selling their very own children and how those children were worth even less than a hog.
These alone would cause lasting damage and trauma to any person especially to those who never truly accepted the ongoing situation but all these pale in comparison to the atrocities committed by the Japanese. A British citizen even recalls how many mothers were forced to smother their children to death in a bid to avoid attention from the Japanese lest they face a fate arguably worse than death. Mass rapes and massacres in convents and colleges, men and
women burned alive, babies thrown up in the air and bayoneted—these were unspeakable and even unimaginable deeds, yet these became frequent occurrences in the reality that the Manilenos had to face. The combination of all these events and the swiftness of the pace at which it occurred created an indelible scar in the minds and hearts of many and forever changed the Filipino psyche.

To quote Winston Churchill, “A people who forget their past have no future”. In a country with a government which seems to be rather apathetic with regard to our history, remembering the past becomes a part of our duty. I was admittedly unaware of the details of 1945 before the lecture but now I firmly believe that we cannot let any chapter in our nation’s long history be forgotten no matter how painful or horrific it may have been. As Filipinos, we have a duty to remember this past not only to honor those who had fallen in those dark days but also to safeguard this history that we may pass it onto the next generation. In a country where the past is distorted and the truth is questioned, failure to remember becomes a sin.


Caruncho, Eric S. “Why Filipinos Should Honor the Memory of World War II.” Inquirer Lifestyle. March 09, 2019. Accessed March 11, 2019.

Morales, Ricardo C. “The Americans Destroyed Manila in 1945.” Rappler. February 4, 2015. Accessed March 11, 2019.

Orendain, Joan. “February 1945: The Rape of Manila.” Inquirer Global Nation. February 16, 2014. Accessed March 11, 2019.

Scott, James M. RAMPAGE: MacArthur, Yamashita, and the Battle of Manila. S.l.: W W NORTON, 2018.

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