Enemy yesterday, friend and ally today

THIRD EYE - Ramon J. Farolan - The Philippine Star

Over the weekend, the Philippine Military Academy Alumni Association marked its annual general meeting and homecoming with a parade and review at Fort Del Pilar, Baguio City. Last Friday, General Rowen Tolentino delivered his first report as PMA Superintendent to the alumni gathered at the Baguio Convention and Cultural Center. The report centered on his work of “providing quality education for the cadets” so as to prepare them for their role as future leaders in the military organization.

The following day saw the Commander-in-Chief, President Bongbong Marcos, reviewing the cadet corps on Borromeo Field. It was an extra special day for the alumni as the usual practice has been for the President to attend the graduation rites rather than the homecoming event of the institution, perhaps an indication of his desire to further enhance the prestige and standing of the Academy in the security posture of the armed forces.

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Two cities in the world suffered the most in terms of death and destruction during World War II. Warsaw, the capital of Poland, was devastated by German forces and more people were killed in this city than in the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. People may ask, why Warsaw? Let us keep in mind that Warsaw had the largest Jewish population of any city in the world and they were the victims of Adolf Hitler’s program to wipe out entire Jewish communities in Nazi-controlled areas, resulting in what is now known as the Holocaust.

Manila, the “Pearl of the Orient,” comes in second among cities that suffered the most during this war. Perhaps, what distinguishes the experience of Manila from that of other capitals around the world is that its death toll and destruction were administered just before liberation by both friend and foe.

Japanese naval forces trapped in Manila went on a killing and burning rampage as attacking US forces laid down deadly artillery fire, oftentimes at point-blank range, in a bid to root out enemy forces in the city. Caught between the crossfire of these opposing armies were unarmed civilians, mostly women and children.

With the Americans already inside the city limits, many believed that liberation was at hand, only to discover that it would come but at a price no one had imagined.

During the Japanese occupation, my father Modesto Farolan worked as board secretary of the Madrigal-owned Jai Alai Corporation. However, for him and Vicente Madrigal, it was not all jai alai business. They found time to get involved in Red Cross work to a point that the Japanese secret police (Kempeitai) became wary of their humanitarian activities. They were secretly passing on copies of short wave broadcasts from the United States to friends in the underground. After a while, Japanese suspicions led to the arrest of several people connected with the Jai Alai office.

In early 1945, my father served as general manager of the Philippine National Red Cross. It was here that he underwent one of the most harrowing experiences in his life, as he came face to face with death at the hands of Japanese marines bent on killing every human being in their line of sight.

On the morning of Feb. 6, 1945, a Tuesday, General Douglas MacArthur announced that “Manila had fallen.” Operational plans for a great victory parade into the city led by the commander himself had been sent out. What MacArthur’s announcement actually meant was that elements of the US First Cavalry Division had entered the city and quickly captured Malacañang Palace and the Sto. Tomas concentration camp where thousands of American and European civilians were being held.

The awful truth was that most of the city was firmly in the hands of Japanese forces under the command of Rear Admiral Sanji Iwabuchi. Before the end of the month, more than 100,000 non-combatants would perish in one of the most brutal episodes in the history of the Asia Pacific region.

Just a few hundred meters behind the Manila Cathedral is a monument of black marble dedicated to all the innocent victims of the war. It reads:

“Memorare-Manila 1945:

Let this monument be the gravestone for each and every one of the over 100,000 men, women, children and infants killed in Manila during its battle for liberation. February 3 – March 3, 1945. We have not forgotten them, nor shall we ever forget.”

A National Historical Institute marker close to the Memorare Monument reads that those who died in the liberation battle “were mainly victims of heinous acts perpetrated by the Japanese imperial forces and by the heavy artillery barrage of the American forces.”

The noted writer Carmen Guerrero Nakpil put it this way: “Those who had survived Japanese hate did not survive American love. Both were equally deadly, the latter more so because it was sought and longed for.”

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In December 1941, some 80 years ago, Japanese forces invaded the Philippines. At that time, we had no quarrel with Japan but we were a colony of the United States and American forces were based in the country. In fact, the largest air armada of the US was at Clark Field, Pampanga. It would serve as a magnet for Japanese attacks.

Our people fought side by side with American soldiers in the Bataan campaign and were the victims of Japanese atrocities and brutality during the Death March. Hundreds of Filipino soldiers who surrendered were summarily executed by their Japanese captors.

Last week, on his state visit to Japan, President BBM announced a possible trilateral defense and security alliance with Japan and the United States. This would include the transfer of more defense equipment and technology as well as joint activities in Philippine waters.

An old saying comes to mind: There are no permanent friends or enemies, only permanent interests.

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