Sunday, August 3, 2008

Day 3: Fort Santiago and Santo Tomas (Mon, 7/28)

The weather was halfway decent on Monday, so I decided to take advantage of it by cramming in as much sight-seeing as possible. In the interests of my own safety, I decided to be extravagant and pay a taxi driver to chauffeur me around for the entire day. It came out costing more than I planned, but it was worth it to avoid getting lost, mugged, raped, kidnapped, or murdered.

To start my day, I went to Fort Santiago, which was actually a bit of a disappointment, since you can't go in most of the areas of the actual fort. Still, I did find one dark tunnel that wasn't completely roped off...and curiosity got the better of me. No one was looking, so I sneaked down and had a bit of a look around. Bad, I know, but I can't help it. History does things to me!

Fort Santiago, originally built in 1571 (it's been destroyed and rebuilt a few times since then), is where the Filipino national hero Dr. Jose Rizal was held prior to his execution. Dr. Rizal was a proponent of reforms during the Spanish colonial period. He was arrested on trumped-up charges and shot by a firing squad in 1896. His death is considered by many to be the catalyst for the Philippine Revolution. There's a small but interesting museum dedicated to him, as well as footprints marking the path he walked to his execution. During WWII, the Japanese tortured and killed at least 600 Filipinos and Americans at Fort Santiago.

Following my tour of Fort Santiago, I briefly toured the historic area of Intramuros, and forgot to take photos. Stupid Stephanie! I'm mentally kicking myself for that now. I wanted to see the National Museum next, but found to my dismay that it was closed. So, I decided it was time to fulfill another dream and visit the University of Santo Tomas.

The University of Santo Tomas, a Catholic university founded in 1611, is the oldest university in Manila. Some of its more notable alumni include Dr. Jose Rizal (remember him?) and four Filipino presidents. That, however, is not why I wanted to go there.

During the Japanese occupation of the Philippines from 1942 to 1945, the University of Santo Tomas was transformed into a concentration camp for American and other foreigners deemed enemies by the Japanese. At least ten thousand people were held prisoner on the sixty acre campus. Among those held at Santo Tomas were the American nurses captured from Corregidor and the twelve Navy nurses who were abandoned in Manila and captured. A number of war crimes were committed against those held here - for instance, the daily diet of the prisoners was so meager that near the end, there were approximately five deaths each day from malnutrition alone.

The building in the pictures, known as Main Building, was where the hospital and nurses quarters were located. Later, the Navy nurses voluntarily transfered to another camp, Los Banos, which did not get liberated until three weeks after Santo Tomas's liberation.

I had to get a special pass in order to walk around the campus and take pictures, but it was worth it. Once again I had the amazing opportunity to be in a place I had spent years studying. Having never before seen the campus, I already knew my way around!

No comments:

"Passage—immediate passage! the blood burns in my veins! Away, O soul! hoist instantly the anchor!
Cut the hawsers—haul out—shake out every sail!
Have we not stood here like trees in the ground long enough?
Have we not grovell’d here long enough, eating and drinking like mere brutes?
Have we not darken’d and dazed ourselves with books long enough?

Sail forth! steer for the deep waters only!
Reckless, O soul, exploring, I with thee, and thou with me;
For we are bound where mariner has not yet dared to go, And we will risk the ship, ourselves and all.

O my brave soul!
O farther, farther sail!
O daring joy, but safe! Are they not all the seas of God?
O farther, farther, farther sail!"

~Walt Whitman, "Passage to India"