Traveller, Photographer, Mountaineer, Human

Manila American Memorial and Cemetery

December 8, 2012

The Manila American Memorial and Cemetery is, as the name implies, a cemetery and memorial for American (and some Filipino) soldiers who died during World War II.  It is located in the general vicinity of Fort Bonifacio, Taguig City, Metro Manila.  It is administered by the American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC).  The cemetery is open to the general public but there are of course restrictions to avoid disrespect to those who were buried here.

Last time I went there (sometime in 2011), the guards asked me what I was there for and I unfortunately told them that I’m taking photos for my facebook account.  Because of this, I was asked to talk to the lady administrator who told me that publishing photos of pictures taken inside the memorial is not allowed for some reason which I forgot (something about respecting the dead).  This was around the time when there was a controversy surrounding a prenuptial photoshoot in Libingan ng mga Bayani (cemetery for Filipino heroes) wherein the couple was seen disrespecting the graves.  The couple was shown drinking liquor (with bottles strewn around the graves) and the girl caressing one of the grave crosses.

I was able to take pictures that day after talking to the lady.  When I got home, I researched about the memorial (when I found out that the ABMC administers it) and sent an email to ABMC for clarification on this photo restriction.  Since I did not get a reply email, I posted the photos in my facebook anyway >:)  I guess the restriction was a reaction to the prenup shoot controversy and since my photos are in no way, disrespectful, I was not (and still am not) breaking any rules.

Last Saturday, I went back there with some friends for a photowalk and this time, there were no problems with the guard.  We just had to register and one of us had to give an ID.

The cemetery and memorial is located on a big expanse of land.  It is divided into several plots of land on which the soldiers were laid out and the graves marked by crosses (or star of David for Jewish soldiers) made of white marble (imported from Italy).  The grave markers are wonderful to behold as they are laid out very neatly, in straight rows and columns or in curves following the general shape of the plots of land.

On each of the grave markers is inscribed the name, rank and position of the solder and his state of origin.  For those whose identity are not known, a phrase is inscribed which reads “Here rests in Honored Glory a Comrade in Arms Known but to God.”

In the center of the cemetery are structures known as the hemicycles.  As the name implies, the two main structures are half-circles and are completely made of walls serving as pillars on which are inscribed the names of the soldiers whose body are not recovered and buried with identity.  Those who receive Medal of Honor have their name colored gold with a star beside it while those whose body were later recovered and buried have a small floret beside their names.

On the four ends of the two hemicycles are small rooms (with circular openings on the roof) and on the side of the walls are battle maps of WWII (some here in the Philippines, others for the war in the Pacific).

There is also a small (but very tall) chapel with blue walls and the figure of a lady holding flowers.  I guess the chapel is supposed to be non-denominational as there is a small stone tablet on the side depicting the ten commandments but with the Star of David on the top but there is a crucifix on the main altar.

On the floor of the hemicycles are seals of the 50 states of the USA (plus I guess the seal of Washington DC) and the seal of the colony of Puerto Rico.

The memorial is very peaceful and very well-maintained and there are visitors – both local and foreign (there were several Korean tourists visiting when we went there.

Occasionally, there would be Americans visiting their relatives’ graves and offering flowers.  They can get help from the Information Office and they should.  The cemetery is big and finding a particular grave is difficult (the administration office has a database of those interred and their location).

It would have been a very secluded spot but the development of Fort Bonifacio (now called Bonifacio Global City) resulted in several tall buildings around the cemetery which spoils the view and if you want to shoot a picture depicting peace and serenity, you have to choose your spot carefully.

For those living in Metro Manila, you can go visit the memorial anyday (I think up to 5 or 6pm). It will be worth it. For foreign tourists, you may or may add this to your itinerary depending on your schedule.

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