Numerous photographs, maps, videos, and documents depicting the horrors of the Battle of Manila 70 long years ago appear on a government website commemorating this grim part of Philippine history. The battle, whose objective was to liberate the capital from Japanese forces during World War II, was a month-long conflict, which reduced buildings to piles of rubble and lives to mere memories for both civilians and soldiers alike. Manila, the second most devastated Allied country during WW II, would never regain the beauty it once possessed.
The Battle of Manila was only a part in a bigger bleak picture WW II had painted. The atrocities of the war extended beyond the borders of the capital and left a trail of dead bodies and fractured lives in the process. Scenes of destruction, guerilla warfare, systematic rape, the Death March, and even babies killed by the Japanese’s bayonets dominate the idea of how WW II was like in the Philippines. But buried in all this tragedy is a touching tale of kindness of compassion not known to many people, not even to Filipinos themselves.
No one would probably connect the events of the Holocaust to the Philippines but there is, in fact, a deep link between the two. During the early stages of the War, in 1939, the Philippines became a refuge for some 1,300 European Jews who were trying to escape the Holocaust. Colonel Dwight Eisenhower; Paul McNutt, US High Commissioner; five business owners, the Frieder brothers; and Philippine Commonwealth President Manuel L. Quezon, had devised a plan to provide these Jews safety and protection from the persecution that they were experiencing back in Europe.
A film called Rescue in the Philippines: Refuge from the Holocaust documents this piece of hidden history. A preview of which can be viewed below:
Why this part of Philippine history not mentioned in school textbooks is baffling. It deserves recognition and appreciation. Many people are familiar with Germany’s Oskar Schindler and Japan’s Chiune Siguhara and their efforts of helping thousands of Jews escape the Holocaust. It’s only proper, too, that the world know about this particular magnificent gesture of moral courage. But more importantly, the Filipinos themselves should be acquainted with the events of this special mission, so that when they look back in the past, they may appreciate the fact that the country might had been plunged in a time of darkness, but it was still also strong enough to be a source of light and hope even for others.
Special exhibits, film showings, and mini-conferences about the Battle of Manila titled “Manila, My City at War!” are held at the Ayala Museum from February 3 – March 3, 2015. The documentary Rescue in the Philippines will also be screened here. For details, visit the Filipinas Library page.
Learn more about the documentary Rescue in the Philippines.
Watch a preview of another film documenting the Philippines’ Open Door Policy.
Rescue in the Philippines’ premiered last August at the Malacañang Palace. Watch its special coverage.