The gold lettering set in black marble partially reads, “On 23 February 1942, some 300-400 Chinese civilians were killed along Punggol foreshore by Hojo Kempei firing squad. They were among tens of thousands who lost their lives during the Japanese Sook Ching operation to purge suspected anti-Japanese civilians…”.
I like watching the waves hurl themselves toward the surf, see the birds fly over and watch recreational fishermen try, mostly in vain, reel in a catch around the shore of Punggol. Little did I know that the beach I’ve been frequenting these past few days was witness to one of the most gruesome massacres during the Japanese occupation.
I live not very far from the beach. Ever since it was developed for recreational activities I’ve visited it a number of times. The water is not good for swimming. I don’t think its good idea anyway, with all those factories across the Malaysian side but there’s plenty of nature to see — enough for me to turn a bad day to a good one.
Our country went through similar experiences during the war. After it was over we had to rebuild from all the destruction and heal from the devastating effects of that cruel occupation. This war is very recent history — just more than 60 years ago. But it seems strangely forgotten. Commemorations are largely ignored by Filipinos these days. Veterans lament how they feel mistreated and unrecognized. Its unbelievable that to this day thousand of Filipino veterans are still fighting for recognition and compensation.
“Countries should never, never, ever go to war”, said my Father who lost almost his entire family during the war; but isn’t it strange that such views are regarded as mere utopian thoughts? I guess that those who have not seen war first hand tends to glorify it. The way the world operates today we’ll always have war in some form or another — some countries are just so greedy, vicious, angry. Werner Herzehog could be right when he said that “chaos, hostility and murder” are the only true “common denominators”. That’s a frightening thought but with all the bad things we’re witnessing today and mankind’s inability to learn from his past mistakes; Werner could be stating mankind’s painful truth — and future.