Sunday, April 18, 2010

Detour

So last weekend, we went to check out the places where we'll have the book club discussion that I will be moderating. After, we decided to drop by the American Cemetery, which is located just at the heart of the metro, an open field of lush green and marble crosses that mark the resting places of American soldiers during the Second World War.




This got me to thinking of all the books -- fiction and nonfiction -- that I've read about war. I've read Hemingway's A Farewell to Arms, Hosseini's A Thousand Splendid Suns and The Kite Runner -- novels that are beautifully written and show how the war affects soldiers and citizens. I've also read Keegan's brilliant nonfiction books about war.

I've enjoyed these books and they provided me with insight on the reasons we go to war, regardless whether these reasons make sense or not. But I wasn't prepared for the feeling I would get during our visit to the American cemetery. Just looking at those rows and rows of marble crosses makes you question why we still go to war.




These soldiers were never even buried in their home country. Some of them are still even identified. Just walking along these rows feels heartbreaking. And these memorial structures don't even include those who have never been found after the war. Their names were simply engraved on the walls of the central building of the cemetery.

There were also several names of Filipinos who died fighting during that great war with their American counterparts. I was even reminded of my grandfather, who was a war veteran. He was one of the lucky ones -- he got to live and raise his family even after that terrible period.



We'll forever be grateful to these people who have unwillingly gave their lives. It is up to us, the present generation, to make sure that they didn't end their lives in vain.

I'm happy that I was able to visit the American Cemetery. I've always passed by that area and never really thought about visiting. That detour made me realize that reading about war is one thing, and that seeing the effects of it is another probably more important thing.

Again, thanks R for taking these beautiful pictures, and for suggesting that we visit this place.

21 comments:

Portobello's coffee said...

This place also reminds me of my grandfather. He fought during WW2 and was in the Bataan death march.

Diane said...

Peter, I loved this post and the photos. I love the uniform look of the cemetery grounds -- just crosses or Jewish stars --very nice. Have a great day.

Peter S. said...

@Portobello's coffee: We will always cherish their memories. Come to think of it, I think the generation that fought during WW2 is almost not amongst us anymore. We need to preserve what they told us -- their stories, their anecdotes.

@Diane: Thanks, Diane!

StephanieD said...

My grandfather died during WWII as well.

The cemetery looks so immaculate. It reminds me of Arlington in Virginia.

Peter S. said...

Hi, StephanieD! Yes, it's very well-kept. You should visit it when you find yourself back in Manila!

Vivienne said...

I would have gone to see it too. Sometimes reading about something is just not enough. It makes you realise how lucky you are.

Peter S. said...

Hello, Vivienne! Yes, sometimes, reading about something is not enough.

josbookshelf said...

I never knew we had an American cemetery in Manila. It's so pristine. Wonderful photos!

All those crosses make me think of the immense suffering in WW2. I hope and pray there never will be another in the near future. Our generation is so privileged to be able to live in peace now.

Charlie said...

Peter, thank you SO much for the beautiful photos and your commentary. You are a very special person.

When my wife and her sister went to Hawaii, they visited the monument to the U.S.S. Arizona—which can be seen clearly sunken in the water. She said she'd never been more moved in her life.

Seeing the results of war does have a life-changing effect.

Cynewyn said...

What's amazing and terribly sad at the same time is how similar this place is to the cemeteries in Normandy as well. I visited one last year, and it was incredibly moving to see Muslim, Jewish and Christian graves in the same place...that terrible war destroyed so many lives, all around the world, of all races and religions. Please God don't let us make the same mistake again.
I had no idea either Peter that there was such a cemetery in Manila - I hate to admit I didn't even know the Philippines was involved in the Second World War...we're taught such a blinkered and prejudiced version at school in Britain, and I'm sure it's the same in all countries.

Mac! said...

Hi, Sir Peter!!!

Cynewyn: In fact, the Philippines was so involved in the war that Manila was declared the war's 2nd most devastated city after Warsaw. People had to start rebuilding the city from the ruins, thus the chaotic city we live in today. The original plan for the city, made nonetheless by Daniel Burnham, was thrown out the window. Too sad.

Peter S. said...

@josbookshelf: Yes, the cemetery has been around for years. It's not that visited by people though.

@Charlie: Thanks so much, Charlie. I was just glad that I visited the cemetery.

@Cynewyn: I guess the similarity has something to do that the US maintains both cemeteries. Yes, the Philippines was so heavily involved in WW2. The gruesome Bataan Death March happened here.

@Mac: Hey, how are you? Thanks so much for the info! I didn't know about that. Well, you really learn something new every day.

Mirek Sopek said...

The books you mentioned about war are on top of my favorites...
Particularly Hosseini's books.

I also did not know about this Cemetery, and I also was pleased to see the Star of David among crosses there.

It is like in Polish Katyn - most were Christians - but there were hundreds of Jews who were Polish soldiers, among them Chief Rabbi of Polish Army...

Why we go for wars ?
When will we stop ?

Peter S. said...

Hi, Mirek! Those questions you posed -- exactly my thoughts!

Jess - A Book Hoarder said...

These are incredible photos, thanks for sharing. They make me think of my grandma, when I was little she told me that her brother went to fight in a war and went missing. I remember being so confused about how she didn't know what happened to him, I couldn't wrap my brain around it.

Peter S. said...

Hello, Jess! Thanks! My friend R, the most talented photographer ever, took those!

ToryB_He231147 said...
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stacybuckeye said...

Thank you for posting this. I've never really thought about all of the soldiers that were never brought home. It's nice to see that they are well respected in their final resting place. Great pictures.

Peter S. said...

Hmmm... Too many spam comments. I think I should moderate the comments soon.

Tina said...

Peter - thank you so much for such a beautiful and thoughtful post. I'm not surprised that there is such a place in Manilla, and only wish I'd had a chance to visit it 30 years ago when I was there.

Military cemeteries are special places, and it's very rewarding to know this one is there. I've just started reading "On Hallowed Ground" by Robert M. Poole. It's the story Arlington National Cemetery here - just across the river from D.C. I've been there often, but am finding it fascinating to read about the history of the place.

Peter S. said...

Hi, Tina! Not too many people know about this cemetery as well. When we went there, there were fewer than 10 people inside the cemetery.