Manila1945: Death at De La Salle

As the Battle of Manila raged on with bombings and killings happening around the city, some people sought refuge at the campus of what was then known as the De La Salle College. Throughout the war, the school was allowed to operate despite the fact that a portion of the campus has been taken over by Japanese forces, thanks in part to its location which at that time was already considered the city outskirts, away from the activity going on in Intramuros and Downtown Manila. It also helped that some of the Christian Brothers were of German nationality, whose country is allied with Japan, giving them and the school a safe pass.

When the battle first began, the Christian Brothers (the Catholic teaching congregation that runs De La Salle) gladly took in some families who hoped that being in the campus would insulate them from the bloodshed and destruction going on outside. They, as well as the Christian Brothers, believed then that given the free rein the Japanese gave to De La Salle throughout the war, the campus and the people taking refuge there would not be touched. Sadly, that would not be the case.

Continue reading


Manila1945: Wrecked and Rebuilt

The Battle of Manila that raged from February 3-March 3, 1945 decimated a lot of structures in the city. With the limited resources available for disposal in those times, not all of them managed to be rebuilt after the war, some of them even took a long while for them to be completed. As we continue the #Manila1945 series here, we will be taking a look at some of these structures that were destroyed and have managed to rise again from the ashes of war, though some of them never looked the same way as before. Continue reading


Manila1945: The UST Standoff

When the Japanese occupied Manila in January 1942, they took control of the then-newly established campus of University of Santo Tomas in the city’s Sampaloc district. With such a large tract of property and the large structures there that were already standing by that time, notably the UST Main Building and the old Education Building, (now occupied by the UST Hospital) the Japanese decided to convert the campus into an the Santo Tomas Internment Camp.

the open area at the UST Main Building was filled with makeshift shelters made by the internees (from Wikipedia)

The Japanese rounded up about 4,000 foreign individuals, mostly American and British nationals who were deemed as “hostile aliens” by the Japanese and isolated them in the different buildings in the campus, most notably the Main Building. With that, the Santo Tomas Internment Camp was the largest internment camp the Japanese set up during the war; the internees organized themselves as an effort to make do of the situation. At first, the internment wards gave the prisoners some relative freedom so visitors could come and give them needed goods, not to mention some intelligence information, along the way.  But as the tide of war was turning against Japan, the prisoners were given harsher treatment which was coupled by a shortening food supply which has resulted into malnourishment, if not death, among the internees. Such were the state of things as February 1945 entered. Continue reading


Manila1945: An Introduction

Not many realize it but this year marks the 70th anniversary of one of the darkest and most devastating chapters in the history of Manila and of the country as a whole, an event we know today as the Battle of Manila in 1945 in which American and Japanese forces fought in a bloody, devastating battle in a bid to liberate Manila from Japanese control that lasted for about a month.

(courtesy of Wikimedia Commons)

This was the singular event that would change Manila forever as the city once known as the “Pearl of the Orient” became one of the most devastated cities during World War II.  Hundreds of thousands of lives were lost  and many of the city’s important infrastructure and landmarks were heavily damaged, if not totally destroyed, many of which would not be rebuilt ever again.

In commemoration of this event, the Urban Roamer will be having a special feature “Manila1945.” From time to time from now until early March, we will be dedicating some entries here to the sites and landmarks that have figured in the Battle of Manila of 1945 in one way or another. I hope that these entries will, in some way, help bring about a better understanding of what happened then and how it has affected Manila and the people since then. And what better way to begin our understanding of these events by a little history lesson of how it began…

Continue reading