History & Lessons: Manila’s American Cemetery & Memorial
Written by Jaillan Yehia
If you have only a short time in which to experience Manila you might think that a visit to a cemetery shouldn’t be at the top of your must-do list?
But a trip to the sobering and thought-provoking American Cemetery and Memorial in Manila will pull The Philippines’ part in world history sharply into focus and underline how privileged we are to be free to travel for fun and to know we’ll make it home to friends and family in one piece…
It was under drizzly, grey and suitable overbearing skies that I visited the Manila American Cemetery and Memorial, a short yet typically traffic-choked drive through Manila’s roads towards the Global City area.
The cemetery itself occupies a large site which is home to 17,201 graves – of soldiers who lost their lives in operations in New Guinea and the Philippines during World War II – a roll call which tragically includes 20 sets of brothers who died in action.
There is also a wall to commemorate over 36,000 personnel who are missing in action.
As you drive through the cemetery the rows of stark white crosses are punctuated by Stars of David to represent the Jewish soldiers, and the sheer numbers and scale of the losses can’t fail to leave a lasting impression on you.
There are also 25 mosaic wall maps which depict the key battles and theaters of war , and a knowledgeable and helpful member of staff can show you around the grounds, helping you find specific plots should you be here on a deeply personal journey, or simply give you some background information and an overview if you’re a more general visitor or history buff.
Even if you know little about war or history or have no friends or family in the armed forces, this is one aspect of Manila that is well worth a visit, and that will remain with you long after you leave The Philippines.
The cemetery is open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m, every day of the year except December 25 and January 1.
The land was given by The Philippines Government free of charge and in perpetuity and is the largest overseas site to be administered by the American Battle Monuments Commission.
A leaflet specifically about the Manila American Cemetery is available on arrival, or online here
A staff member is always on duty in the visitor building to answer questions and escort relatives to grave and memorial sites.
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