The first title of this post is “Libingan ng mga Bayani”. The first impression I had when I first entered this place is, “The Libingan ng mga Bayani looks impressive“. The white headstones are unsullied and perfectly aligned. The grass is green and well-manicured. The place is clean. The atmosphere is solemn. This is the kind of resting place that a grateful country reserves for those who died to defend it.
We were coasting from the airport, NAIA 3 to be exact, through Villamor Airbase along McKinley Road. Before entering the heart of Bonifacio Global City, at the side of Taguig City, the gate of a cemetery. We knew it was a military cemetery because the neat lines of white crosses resemble that of the “Unknown” Cemetery in Clarkfield, Pampanga (same type that you see in Band of Brothers and war movies, the cemetery/memorial for World War II heroes).
There were a number of US servicemen visiting the place when we arrived. A US carrier was in town at that time. Then I started to doubt if this is indeed the Libingan ng mga Bayani, which I understand is reserved for important Filipino figures. When we arrived in the middle, where the chapel is found, the huge markings on the wall provide a reminder about the purpose of this place. One of the markings:
Let us here Highly Resolve that the Cause for which they Died shall Live.
Above the marking is the seal of the United States of America. This is not the Libingan ng mga Bayani (“Cemetery of Heroes”), this is the Manila American Cemetery and Memorial, which doesn’t mean that this is not a cemetery of heroes. This cemetery contains the graves — around 17,202 — of American servicemen who perished during World War II.
This cemetery contains the largest number of graves of the US military dead during WWII. The American Battle Monuments Commission has the best description of the place:
The headstones are aligned in 11 plots forming a generally circular pattern, set among masses of a wide variety of tropical trees and shrubbery.
The chapel, a white masonry building enriched with sculpture and mosaic, stands near the center of the cemetery. In front of it on a wide terrace are two large hemicycles. Twenty-five mosaic maps recall the achievements of the American armed forces in the Pacific, China, India and Burma. On rectangular Trani limestone piers within the hemicycles are inscribed the Tablets of the Missing containing 36,285 names. Rosettes mark the names of those since recovered and identified. Carved in the floors are the seals of the American states and its territories. From the memorial and other points within the cemetery there are impressive views over the lowlands to Laguna de Bay and towards the distant mountains.
Except December 25 and January 1, the Manila American Cemetery is open daily to the public from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. The entrance, with the guardhouse, faces The Fort.
Judging from the looks of the place, there is hardly any doubt as to the importance given to it. I wonder if we Filipinos give as much importance to the men and women who died defending our country and our democracy.