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Filipinas Heritage Library remembers Manila at war with mini conference and exhibit

“Now but a valley of shudders was Manila, where the famine had become visible as bloated bodies collapsed on the sidewalks.”

Thus Nick Joaquin describes the city during the Japanese occupation in World War II, from 1942 to 1945. It was a time of hunger, pillage, rape, massacre, and bombing. Children were bayoneted in front of their mothers; bodies hit by flying shrapnel lined the distance from hiding places to artesian wells. Books, paintings, and buildings burned to ashes. It was also a time when American internees created zines and comics; Tagalog was used without being described as “malalim”; and music alternated with air raid sirens and radio propaganda. 

Filipinas Heritage Library (FHL) seeks to recall this period in history with Manila, My City at War!, a commemorative event for the 70th year of the Battle for Manila on February 3 to March 3, 2015 at the Ayala Museum. The event will consist of a mini conference and exhibit that aim to show the various losses brought about by war. It hopes to open a space for awareness as well as reflection: The Battle for Manila was the war of the present generation’s grandparents. What would this generation go to war for, and what would we be willing to risk losing? 


To be presented by academics, cultural advocates, and war survivors, the mini conference will take place on the Saturdays of February, starting at 2 p.m. “Strategies of War” will cover the military aspects of the month-long Battle for Manila, while “Rising from the Ruins” will discuss the challenges of conserving war-damaged built heritage. “Memories of Love” will recall the Manila of long ago in the lives of its inhabitants, while “Memories of War” will feature stories of survival. “Life Goes On” and “The War on Air” will attempt to reconstruct everyday life and culture in the Japanese occupation.

Speakers include Prof. Ricardo Jose, Ms. Gemma Cruz, Arch. Augusto Villalon, Mr. Juvenal Sansó, and Mr. Nick Deocampo. Among the topics to be discussed are the rise of The Aristocrat, one of the oldest restaurants in the city; Japanese-occupation literature, music, and cinema; and recollections of the battle that ended a three-year period of famine and fighting. The event will also display a sample of the library’s Roderick Hall Collection on World War II, along with artworks, photos, maps, and other artifacts from various sources. 

The month-long exhibit will open in February 3 with a talk by Mr. Roderick Hall. This will be followed by filmmaker Uro de la Cruz’s talk on Teodulo Protomartir, “Father of Philippine Photography,” whose photos on postwar Manila will be included in the exhibit. Manila, My City at War! will wrap up with a viewing of several documentaries that aim to contextualize the Battle for Manila in the worldwide course of the war, said to be the most extensive in history. 

A 2014 edition of Marcial P. Lichauco’s 1949 memoir, Dear Mother Putnam: Life and Death in Manila During the Japanese Occupation, 1941-1945, will also be on sale during the event. Also to be sold are the memoirs, Manila Memories: Four Boys Remember Their Lives Before, During and After the Japanese Occupation (edited by Juergen R. Goldhagen), Kobe House P.O.W. # 13 (by A.J. Locke), Surviving a Japanese Internment Camp: Life and Liberation at Santo Tomas, Manila, in World War II (by Rupert Wilkinson); and the groundbreaking Japanese Occupation of the Philippines: A Pictorial History (by Ricardo Trota Jose and Lydia Yu-Jose). 

Teachers, librarians, students, senior citizens, and FHL-Ayala Museum members are entitled to a discounted rate of Php 500 for attending all the scheduled talks, while the regular discounted rate is Php 1000. The admission fee per day is Php 300 for regular guests and Php 150 for teachers, librarians, students, senior citizens, and members.

For inquiries and reservation of slots, and to order any of the books for sale, email, or call 759-8288 local 45.

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