The American Cemetery and Memorial in Manila, Philippines, is regarded as a tourist spot for the peace and tranquility it provides, the picturesque line of white crosses and headstones, and the history it represents. Of all American cemeteries in other countries outside the United States, the largest number of graves can be found in Manila. The cemetery contains 17,202 fallen soldiers who fought in New Guinea and the Philippines during the Second World War.
The 11 rows of headstones set in a backdrop of trees and shrubs are a sight to behold: one of awe and reverence. Since American soldiers are buried here, family members living in the United States do not come to visit regularly. Filipino culture dictates that the remains of relatives should be visited at least once a year, especially on All Saints’ Day on November 1. This is why Philippine cemeteries are always packed and busy.
The American Cemetery is very peaceful. Visitors here are a few foreign and local tourists, not to visit the remains of a fallen relative but to enjoy the picturesque peace and green tranquility.
Walking inside the cemetery, visitors are welcomed by a large, grassy circle and a plaza with a circular fountain. To the right is the Visitors’ Building. A central mall and a line of beautiful mahogany trees stand between the plaza and the memorial area. Circular roads and straight roads pass through the grave areas and meet at the other end. There are deep wells and reservoirs east of the grave areas. There is also an efficient purification system that provides potable water within the cemetery.
At the center of the lush greenery is a white masonry chapel adorned with sculptures and mosaics. The mosaics represent the achievements of the United States when it went to war in the Pacific, China, India and Burma.
One of the main reasons why an American cemetery resonates in the hearts of the Filipino people is because of what American soldiers did for the Philippines in times of war. The United States Armed Forces assisted in achieving Philippine independence twice. At the turn of the century, the Americans came to fight against Spain and eventually ended the 300-year Spanish rule over the Philippines. The Spaniards left and the United States established a Commonwealth government. Then, in World War II, American Forces came to Asia to battle against Japan.
Japan was pretty much in control of the entire continent until the United States bombed Hiroshima and Nagasaki using nuclear technology.
The war ended in 1945 and in 1946, and the United States recognized the Philippines as a truly independent nation.
In 1948, the Philippine Government granted permission to the United States to build a memorial cemetery at Fort William McKinley, which was then owned by the US. It took 12 long years before the cemetery was finally completed on December 8, 1960.
The area in Taguig surrounding Fort McKinley has undergone tremendous development since then. It is now littered with high-rise buildings, stylish condominiums, modern department stores and a state-of-the-art hospital that make up the popular Global City.
The Manila American Cemetery and Memorial is located inside the Global City, Taguig, Metro Manila. People wishing to visit must take a taxi or drive all the way. There are no jeepneys passing along or nearby.