Whenever asked to prepare an itinerary for my friends or couchsurfers visiting Manila for a few days (or even just a few hours), I always instinctively include a tour of the Manila American Cemetery and Memorial.
Located at Fort Bonifacio in the district of Taguig, the cemetery and memorial is one of the twenty-three military cemeteries on foreign soil being maintained by the American Battle Monuments Commission of the United States government.
A walk through the 152 acres of land (which was donated by the Philippine government) and developed as the Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific at Manila, you will see neat white crosses (and stars) of those 17,206 American military whose remains were interred there.
(white Stars of David represents that the soldiers' who have died in combat is a Jewish)
Among those represented by the white crosses are 3,744 servicemen from the US, Philippines, Guam,Panama, Puerto Rico, Canada, China,Costa Rica, England, Finland, Honduras, Jamaica, Mexico,Peru, and New Zealand, whose identities are "Known Only To God" which is inscribed in the Memorial Hall.
Also inscribed on the walls at the Memorial Hall are the names of 36,285 Americans whose remains were never found or identified. This inscription reminds one that not all who died in World War II are buried in quiet fields of green. Many slipped beneath the waves of the oceans on which they sailed and on which they died.
The Manila American Cemetery and Memorial is open as early as 6:00am until 4:45pm daily. Because of its close proximity to the airport and charging no entrance fee, I have given many of my foreign and local friends alike a tour of this hallowed resting place.
For this month's Pinoy Travel Bloggers Blog Carnival, seasoned blogger Gael Hilotin a.k.a thepinaysolobackpacker will host the topic "Dark Tourism: Philippines in Focus". She defines Dark Tourism as the act of travel and visitation to sites, attractions and exhibitions which have real or recreated death, suffering or seemingly macabre as a main theme (e.g cemeteries, war memorials, century old churches, mausoleums).
As a Latter-Day Saint traveler, I see a big connection with death and traveling. In the words of LDS modern day apostle Elder Russel M.Nelson, he said: “This life [was to become] a probationary state; a time to prepare to meet God.” (Alma 12:24.) But we regarded the returning home as the best part of that long-awaited trip, just as we do now. Before embarking on any journey, we like to have some assurance of a round-trip ticket. Returning from earth to life in our heavenly home requires passage through—and not around—the doors of death. We were born to die, and we die to live. (See 2 Cor. 6:9.) As seedlings of God, we barely blossom on earth; we fully flower in heaven".
"Meanwhile, we who tarry here on earth have a few precious moments remaining “to prepare to meet God.” (Alma 34:32.) Today we have a little more time to bless others—time to be kinder, more compassionate, quicker to thank and slower to scold, more generous in sharing, more gracious in caring".
Some of those friends I brought to the Manila American Cemetery and Memorial.
Other thoughts on Death and Dying:
“All that we can know about those we have loved and lost,is that they would wish us to remember them with a more intensified realization of their reality. … The highest tribute to the dead is not grief but gratitude.”- Thornton Wilder
““I have been shown in the files of the War Department a statement of the Adjutant General of Massachusetts that you are the mother of five sons who have died gloriously on the field of battle. I feel how weak and fruitless must be any words of mine which should attempt to beguile you from the grief of a loss so overwhelming. But I cannot refrain from tendering to you the consolation that may be found in the thanks of the republic they died to save. I pray that our Heavenly Father may assuage the anguish of your bereavement, and leave you only the cherished memory of the loved and lost, and the solemn pride that must be yours to have laid so costly a sacrifice upon the altar of freedom.-“Yours very sincerely and respectfully, “Abraham Lincoln.”
Elder Russel M.Nelson
This is my entry to the Pinoy Travel Bloggers’ Blog Carnival for October 2011 with the theme. For previous blog carnival post please click Pinoy Travel Bloggers Blog Carnival