For the first time ever, my Mother and Father are in Asia. The occasion is my Father’s 70th birthday, and I am thrilled to spend it with him in my new country.
I am the child of migrants following WW2, an Irish Father and Polish Mother. This heritage meant the history of the war in Europe was always a part of our family story, but until I lived in the Philippines, my knowledge of the Pacific War was sketchy.
So, seizing the opportunity, I took my parents to visit the Manila American Cemetery and Memorial, not perhaps the most joyful of family outings, but a meaningful one all the same.
In an eerie coincidence, we made our visit on October 20 – the 70th anniversary of U.S troops landing on Leyte. Within that following week, the Japanese Navy is defeated and President Osmena is reinstated to office.
The cemetery is over 150 acres large, overlooking now BGC and what was McKinley Fort. It is the largest American cemetery of casualties of WW2, with a total of 17,201 soldiers laid to rest, most of whom were killed in action in New Guinea and the Philippines.
Carved into large limestone slabs are the names of those missing in battle, 36,285 in total. Within these hemicycles there are painstakingly created mosaics detailing each of the battles which took place in the Pacific, China, India and Burma.
At the centre of the memorial is the Chapel, an extraordinary interior of blue mosaic tiles and a traditional psalm on the left wall.
It is a beautiful and sad reminder of a terrible time, but also gives great hope and has an extraordinary sense of calm about it. And seeing the rows upon rows of Crucifix lined up, one realises the sheer scale of the war which changed our world forever.