Friday, January 28, 2011

manila and corregidor

the most prominent national hero of the philippines is jose rizal. because of his push for social reforms and calls for revolution, rizal was captured and executed by the spanish colonial government on dec 30th, 1896 (which is now a national holiday.) his execution sparked the revolution that led to the ouster of the spanish. his story is fascinating and well-worth a closer look. here are some pictures of fort santiago where he was kept and some of the memorials built to him.

the following are two picture of the american cemetery in manila. see their website: of the american soldiers that died while fighting in the philippines, the remains of 60% of them were returned to their families. the other families requested that their remains be buried in the philippines, and some were never identified. my uncle art's remains were returned to the us, and he is buried in iowa.

and these are pictures from the island of corregidor, right off the bataan peninsula. (see my previous post.) this is where general douglas macarthur staged the war against the japanese before fleeing to australia. the barracks were heavily damaged by japanese bombing, and in one picture you can see the tip of bataan peninsula. i've included a map.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

death march

i’m almost finished reading one of the books i brought with me, tears in the darkness, the story of the bataan death march and its aftermath, by michael norman and elizabeth norman. the book is amazing. the authors follow the story of ben steele while detailing the historical and cultural factors of world war ii in philippines.

the story is personal for me because my dad’s two older brothers, art and ralph (my uncle who I was named for) served here during that time. here is a bit of the history that i've been reading about:

on april 9th 1942, general ned king surrendered all of the american and filipino troops on the bataan peninsula, on the island of luzon, to the japanese. bataan had been the staging ground for the fight between the american-filipino force and the japanese during the war, after the japanese bombed the philippines within hours after bombing pearl harbor.

the americans abandoned manila to the japanese, and they hunkered down in the jungles and mountains of bataan. initially, the us-led troops fought off the japanese soldiers for about a month, even completely wiping out some of their regiments due to the japanese belief that surrender was not an option, but with no possibility of having their supplies or troops replenished, the americans and filipinos quickly began to show the effects of privation. they were put on half-rations from the beginning, and with the sweltering heat, cold nights, malarial mosquitoes, and no potable water, the troops were not able to withstand the second attack by the japanese at the end of march 1942.

the peninsula is infamous for the death march where tens of thousands of american and filipino troops were forced to walk 66 miles from mariveles on the southern tip of the peninsula to the town of san fernando. during the march they were deprived of food and water, and thousands of troops were beaten, tortured, or killed by the japanese.

read the wikipedia article for the death march for a good summary.

after arriving at san fernando, the troops were loaded into tiny box cars, and they were sent 30 miles by railway to camp o’donnell. countless more died from suffocation during the 4-hour journey in the 110 degree heat of the box cars.
my uncle art, the older of my dad’s two brothers, walked the length of the death march, and he was brought to camp o’donnell where he became one of thousands who died there daily from dysentery, malaria, and starvation. my uncle ralph escaped into the jungle until he was finally captured by the japanese. he was brought to a prison camp where he escaped again, hiding in the jungles with the help of the filipinos until he was finally rescued by the americans.

we drove along the route of the march, and went to the monument created to honor the filipino and american soldiers that fought in the war. on the wall of the memorial they'd engraved the names of those who died there, and I found my uncle’s name, (but not till after i did some searching - i couldn’t find it at first. it was to the side of the memorial; he had been added later along with another 100 or so names.)
I was moved by the care they took to create the memorial and the beauty of the countryside surrounding it. although the fall of bataan was almost 70 years ago, it didn't feel that long ago when i was standing there.

kone helped me make a pencil engraving of my uncle’s name from the wall.

Friday, January 14, 2011

voices from the plain of jars

i have more pictures to post, but i wanted to do this first. well, i didn't bring creating Laos with me to read on the trip like i had posted. i switched books at the last minute and brought voices from the plain of jars, life under an air war. this book is out of print, but apparently it is being reprinted. basically, the book contains narratives and drawings from the survivors of the secret and illegal bombing campaign that the usa carried out in Laos in the last half of the 1960s.

the war was illegal in the sense that the usa had previously agreed that it would not participate in military action in Laos, but then went ahead and did so anyway - training hmong and mien soldiers and then using them to locate villages that were supposedly sympathetic to the pathet lao. the american military would then drop bombs with the purpose of obliterating the villages and many civilians were killed. hence these narrative accounts.

read this blog review of it from tikkun daily blog -

the blog includes an updated introduction by the editor. the original intro was one the interesting things about the book as the editor, fred branfman, provides a summary of the events of the secret bombing campaign, and and sets up the narratives of the survivors that follow. admittedly this is a controversial subject for many people. some defend the american's actions in Laos as necessary in the fight against communism or whatever - just read the comments a the bottom of tikkun's blog post. but it is hard to imagine the justification in dropping so many bombs on such a small piece of land.
the interesting thing about the narratives and branfman's introduction, is that nothing is said about the cluster bombs and the subsequent damage that these munitions would cause for years to come - everything is written in the moment - about what damage was done in 1969. but thousands of these bomblets did not explode and are still killing people today - many of them having been born after the war ended. branfman takes note of the cluster munitions in the updated edition:

And I discovered a new dimension of “nonhumanity.” U.S. leaders had spent over $10 billion on bombing Laos but had contributed virtually nothing to clean up the unexploded cluster bomblets they had left there – even as they were spending tens of millions to look for the bones of U.S. pilots killed while bombing Laos. (The U.S. spent just $5 million on UXO cleanup in Laos for all of fiscal year 2010 – equivalent to what it spent on just eight hours of bombing during the Indochina war.)

see this article about the issue and the recent convention on cluster munitions; the article also reports on the death of a 10 year-old girl in Laos who picked up a bomblet while the convention was being held.

regardless of one's opinion of the bombing, branfman makes a valid point. check out the work of legacies of war, an organization that uses the narratives and drawings from branfman's project to get the message out there that more needs to be done. (in fact, check out the story of how the drawings were rediscovered in 2003 which led to the creation of legacies of war.)

i didn't make it up to the plain of jars on this trip as i had originally planned. but at least that gives me a reason to return to Laos in the future. still haven't made it up there, still need to go.

Thursday, January 06, 2011

luang prabang 2

here are the other pictures i wanted to post but couldn't get the internet to work. well it is finally working again - after a week of it being down...

justin and jerry made some new friends in luang prabang...

my favorite thing ever (well, this and coke zero and mcdonalds french fries and padek)

Monday, January 03, 2011

luang prabang

i had like 5 more pictures from luang prabang that i wanted to post, but the internet is being weird... so this is all i'm doing. (one of them was of a temple, another was of a night market, and then there was one with the monk teaching justin how to wai pha... so just imagine it in your head and it will be enough.