Bloody Fe­bru­ary

Sun.Star Cebu - - OPINION - PUBLIO J. BRIONES III pjbri­ones@suns­

When Fe­bru­ary comes, the first thing that comes to mind for most peo­ple is Valen­tine’s Day. But how many Filipinos know that this month has an­other sig­nif­i­cance? A very tragic one at that.

Fe­bru­ary marks the start of the month-long bat­tle to re­take Manila from Ja­panese im­pe­rial forces in 1945.

And when all the dust set­tled, the city’s pop­u­la­tion of one mil­lion lost an es­ti­mated 100,000 to 150,000 civil­ians. Many were ei­ther felled by Amer­i­can shelling or slaugh­tered by Ja­panese forces.

The car­nage prompted his­to­rian Wil­liam Manch­ester to write: “The dev­as­ta­tion of Manila was one of the great tragedies of World War II. Of Al­lied cities in those war years, only War­saw (Poland) suf­fered more. Seventy per­cent of util­i­ties, 75 per­cent of the fac­to­ries, 80 per­cent of the south­ern res­i­den­tial dis­trict and 100 per­cent of the busi­ness dis­trict were razed.”

Four years ago, Joan Orendain of the Philip­pine Daily In­quirer wrote a time­line of bloody events that caused the heart of the once Perla del Mar de Ori­ente to stop beat­ing.

Warn­ing. It’s not for the faint­hearted. Once you start read­ing, you might dis­cover a knot grow­ing in the pit of your stom­ach. Here’s an ex­cerpt: “Wives and chil­dren are or­dered to Bayview Ho­tel where the only water is out of toi­let water tanks, and fe­males are wan­tonly raped. Amid scream­ing when the build­ing be­gins the burn, the Cabar­ruses flee, step­ping over blood­ied bod­ies dead and dy­ing. They run to Judge Felix’s house on Arquiza, where 150 refugees have taken cover. His grand­mother and baby sis­ter lie on a bed, with the rest on the floor. Shelling, ex­plo­sions and fi­nally, a can­non shell, flames, screams and smoke. Older sis­ter Maria Ines and he wait in the gar­den, their mother dashes into the flames for her baby, emerg­ing with the in­fant whose legs are sev­ered, and head blood­ied. She soon ex­pires. An aunt’s head has been blown off, while his grand­mother burns to death.”

That pe­riod of our his­tory has been rel­e­gated to the back shelf of our col­lec­tive psy­che. Per­haps the mem­ory is too painful, too bru­tal to be re­hashed.

A large pro­por­tion of Filipino ca­su­al­ties hap­pened dur­ing the fi­nal months of the war. They sur­vived four har­row­ing years only to die bru­tally with vic­tory in sight.

Per­haps, in this case, we need to keep that mem­ory alive.

So when some­one men­tions World War II, peo­ple won’t t just re­mem­ber Gen­eral Dou­glas MacArthur’s land­ing in Leyte to ful­fill his prom­ise to Amer­ica’s “brown brothers” that he would re­turn, which, iron­i­cally, led to the mass slaugh­ter and the ut­ter dev­as­ta­tion.

They will also re­mem­ber all those who per­ished dur­ing one of his­tory’s dark­est pe­ri­ods.

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