“The Nichols airfield (now Villamor) was used to housed the remains before they were brought here,” Mr. Caloud, the American Memorial and Cemetery superintendent on duty said. He recounted so many stories about the history of the cemetery that I felt bad not having my recorder with me. A former Marine from Iowa who’s married to a Filipina he feels sad about the state of our “Libingan ng mga Bayani.” A cemetery a few kilometers away from the beautifully designed and maintained American cemetery. He believes those who made the ultimate sacrifice should be accorded with the highest honors a country could give.
The recent visit by the American Secretary of State compelled me to visit the cemetery. If a busy person like that could spare some time to pay respects to our war dead, what’s my excuse? I practically work a few meters from this cemetery’s fence!
From the administration office I walked all the way to the middle of the circular designed cemetery. There I found 25 maps of the campaigns during the Pacific wars, these maps are around 10 foot high mosaic and are beautifully made using fragmented shiny colored tiles. On the floor are engraved seals of all the American states. The Wall of Missing are these massive tablets where 36,000 names are engraved. Those that are no longer considered missing have these bronze button affixed at the beginning of their names.
I was moved to see the names of Filipinos engraved side by side with their American colleagues. Considering that this beautiful cemetery was constructed in the mid 1900’s makes it all the more impressive.
I was told by Mr. Caloud that the funding for the memorial is sourced from their congress. It’s likely that it does not get a fixed budget. The American Battle Monuments Commission is in charged of looking after the cemetery and others like it all over the world. The Manila American Cemetery and Memorial is the second largest US military cemetery with 17,201 graves of known and unknown soldiers.
While I was walking around the cemetery I saw a small but steady flow of visitors. Mostly foreigners who perhaps were drawn to the hollowed grounds by curiousity. Visitors with family members buried in the cemetery usually gets in touch with the superintendent to have the name checked and the lot located. Dropping by and offering a prayer to these courageous heros who died so we all could live in freedom is worth your free time.
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