By :Cristina Osmena
When I think of Manila past, I picture fields of cogon grass, growth unchecked, and fertile soil teeming with creatures long since displaced—snakes and bats, large incomprehensible insects, invisible dwarves, jungle rats, prehistoric roaches, and khaki slugs. I imagine a place nature-wild and breezy, where the country’s elite clustered to beat back the overwhelming weather-driven oppression typical of the Tropic of Capricorn. In their mutual company and consolation, they could emulate the happy post-war boom of 1950s America. This was the image of my mother’s childhood that she shares with me, a Manila where she and her group of preteen friends could ride their bikes unattended across EDSA as if it were just a wide empty road across a long stretch of Idaho cornfields. I rarely stop to think that just the decade prior, my mother’s bike would have traversed cracking bone and putrid air, dense with fear and shock and the particulate residue of Japan’s tenure in the land of our ancestors, that time of terror that ended so violently on February 12, 1945 and left a hundred thousand of our ancestors dead before their time.
This, among other things, is what the Bataan Legacy Historical Society, Memorare Manila 1945 and the Yuchengco Philippine Studies Program of the University of San Francisco coordinated to present on September 9, 2017 (coincidentally, my great-grandfather’s 139th birthday) in a series of panel discussions featuring speakers who came from as far away as the Philippines and Canada.
- Published in Cristina Osmeña