The Battle of Manila through monuments, markers

MANILA, Philippines – Seventy years ago, on March 3, 1945, the battle for the liberation of Manila from Japanese forces ended. It was a month-long battle near the end of World War II that came at a steep price.

Several buildings, churches, and historical structures lay in ruins, destroyed by heavy artillery. The city was so heavily destroyed that it was considered the second most devastated capital of any allied country during the war, next only to Warsaw and Poland in Europe. Many innocent civilians, caught in the crossfire or massacred by the Japanese, also perished.

The memory of this battle lives on through these monuments and historical markers, as reminders of the fight for the freedom we enjoy and cherish today.

'Memorare-Manila 1945' Monument

The memorial, featuring a sculpture by Peter de Guzman, serves as a "gravestone" for over 100,000 civilians who died during the Battle of Manila. They were mainly victims of heinous acts at the hands of Japanese forces, as well as casualties due to the barrage of heavy artillery by American forces.

It was erected at the Plaza de Santa Isabel in Intramuros in 1995.

Liberation of Manila monument, Freedom Park (Plaza Aviles)

Outside the Malacañang Palace compound, at the center of Freedom Park or Plaza Aviles, is a monument dedicated to the Liberation of Manila.

Its accompanying marker also commemorates the restoration of the seat of the Commonwealth government in Malacañang on February 27, 1945.

The last part of the inscription on the marker reads, "To all these innocent victims of World War II, the most important legacy they bequeathed to us is the real meaning of peace and freedom."

Santo Tomas Internment Camp marker

Among the major objectives of the American troops sent to Manila by General Douglas MacArthur, was freeing around 4,000 civilian internees (prisoners of war) at the University of Santo Tomas (UST) internment camp.

With Captain Manuel Colayco serving as guide, the American forces reached the camp on February 3, 1945. It was successfully liberated. A bronze plaque at the UST main building commemorates that event.

Unfortunately, Colayco was mortally wounded in an enemy grenade blast, and died a week later. A marker in honor of Colayco can be found at one of the gates of UST.

'In Memory of the Victims in Fort Santiago'

Inside Fort Santiago, near Baluarte de Santa Barbara, stands a white cross. It marks the final resting place of around 600 Filipinos and Americans whose bodies were found in a nearby dungeon. They were victims of atrocities by Japanese imperial forces during the last days of February 1945.

Manila City Hall markers

Three markers related to the Liberation of Manila can also be found in front of Manila City Hall. One marker is titled Sa Mga Bayani ng Lungsod ng Maynila (To The Heroes of the City of Manila), thanking the city's heroes who have "left a great legacy with dignity for helping the innocent, defending the oppressed, defending the city's patrimony/heritage, and fearlessly sacrificing their lives in a holy and respectable manner."

The second marker recounts the participation of Filipino in the war. The third and final marker summarizes the Battle of Manila.

'Ang Pagpapalaya ng Maynila' (The Liberation of Manila)

The marker with Filipino inscription can be found at the annex building of the Commission on Elections (Comelec) on Postigo Street, Intramuros. –

Michael Bueza

Michael Bueza is a researcher and data curator under Rappler's Research Team. He works on data about elections, governance, and the budget. He also follows the Philippine pro wrestling scene and the WWE. Michael is also part of the Laffler Talk podcast trio.