Battle of Manila, Miguel Miranda – Review

I’ve been living in Manila now for over five years. In that time I have visited Corregidor Island (thank you for the tickets Craig), looked out over Manila Bay (and the scene of Dewey’s victory over the Spanish fleet), seen the American Cemetery in Fort Bonifacio (Bonifacio Global City – BGC), Taguig, but never managed to get around to some of the areas where there was fighting during the Battle of Manila in 1945.

The Japanese attacked the American (and Filipino forces) in the Philippines in 1942. To save casualties to the civilian population and damage to Manila, the Americans declared Manila an open city and the Japanese were able to take control of Manila with little or no bloodshed. Unfortunately, the reverse was not the case in 1945 and the Japanese defended Manila which required the liverating forces to literally move house by house through the city to clear the Japanese. This also meant a lot of artillery support with the resultant damage to buildings. The occupation and the fighting to retake Manila unfortunately resulted in a large number of Filipino casualties. Estimates suggest at least 100,000 civilians were casualties at the time.

Miguel Miranda, a Filipino was a reported and is the author of this ‘History of Terror’ volume. Pen and Sword notes of the author:

Writing about the battle of Manila has been an opportunity for him to confront a very dark period in Philippine history, one that is still misunderstood today. To amass the wealth of research and insight for his latest work he pored over volumes of official histories and archives, assembling a detailed narrative on the topic.

The battle of Manila lead into the total independence of the Philippines in 1946 as well as removing what turned out to be a cruel foreign domination, not that the previous period of Philippines history, the American colonial period (1899–1945) was free of cruelty, quite the opposite. The battle of Manila really was the start of the final movement to independence, ending a long period of conflict and struggle for the Filipinos.

the Battle of Manila — Nadir of Japanese Barbarism, 3 February – 3 March 1945 is one of the volumes in the History of Terror series. Written by Filipino Miguel Miranda and published by Pen & Sword Military on 16 April 2019 (ISBN: 9781526729057), there are about 60 illustrations in this 128 page book.

Miranda’s prose is easy to read, although much of what he describes is disturbing. The book is divided into the following chapters, following from a usefu timeline and Introduction:

  1. MacArthur’s Bitter Defeat
  2. Leyte to Lingayen
  3. Desperadoes
  4. The Angels
  5. Encirclement
  6. The Genko Line
  7. Bloody Hell
  8. Intramuros
  9. A Country in Ruin

The book is then closed with an Epilogue: Facing a Strategic Conundrum; then a list of sources and finally an Index. The Epilogue is a reasonable assessment of the position in the South China Sea currently with the PLAN exercising its muscle as it attempts to dominate the area while the US Naval forces, along with Japan, Australia and the other smaller navies of the region attempting to ensure that the area remains open, international waters, rather than a Chinese lake.

Te timeline commences in 1896 when Filipino revolutionaries in Cavite and Manila launch an uprising to overthrow Spain’s colonial government. This revolution carried over into the period where the US became the colonial overlord and the Introduction discusses that period in more detail.

I must admit that while the book is very well written, and easy to read, it is also a very disturbing work, but one that should be read.

Philippine History

Well, it ain't historical but it is modern Manila - a view along Makati Avenue looking towards Ayala Avenue and Ayala Triangle Park
Well, it ain’t historical but it is modern Manila – a view along Makati Avenue looking towards Ayala Avenue and Ayala Triangle Park

We’ve sort of settled into Manila and after a couple of walks around the Makati City area I thought I would do what I always do when arriving in a new country long term, I had a look for a book on Philippine history. Two bookshops, both large and the only book I could find was on Philippine History after the Cross.

Now I know that there is a rich history in these 7,000 odd islands stretching back a number of years but published works in English on the period between pre-history and the Spanish arrival seem to be rare – or at least hard to find.

Given my hobby and love of Ancient and Medieval History in particular, this is kind of frustrating so I can see I will have a decent chunk of research to keep me amused as I learn more and travel these islands.

So, what do I know about the pre-Spanish history of the Philippines. I can summarize is as follows:

  • Negritos are believed to have migrated to the Philippines around 30,000 years ago (yes, I know, that is pre-history)
  • They apparently came from Borneo, Sumatra, and Malaya
  • More Malayans followed over the years
  • the Igorots display today some of that older Malayan culture
  • a bunch of Austronesians also migrated in and generally took over from the Negritos
  • the ancient Philippines (say, from about 1 C.E. to 1,000 C.E.) were influenced by the Hindu kingdoms, then perhaps by the Chinese and Indonesian states they were trading with. This lead to:
    • the Rajahnate of Butuan and Cebu
    • the dynasty of Tondo
    • the august kingdoms of Maysapan and Maynila
    • the Confederation of Madyaas
    • the Country of Mai
    • the Sultanates of Sulu and Maguindanao
    • these were small maritime states trading with China, India, Japan, Thailand, Vietnam, and Indonesia
    • the remainder of the settlements were independent Barangays allied with one of the larger states
  • the period of Philippine history I am most likely to be interested in is that period following the creation of the Laguna Copperplate Inscription which is the first written document found in a Philippine language
More Historical - Gabriela Silang ("Generala") who was first Filipina to lead a revolt against the Spanish in the 18th Century after they killed her second husband. She was eventually captured in the mountains and hanged.
More Historical – Gabriela Silang (“Generala”) who was the first Filipina to lead a revolt against the Spanish in the 18th Century after they killed her second husband. She was eventually captured in the mountains and hanged.

The first interest in the local history will end about the time to the Spanish colonization and settlement, which began with the arrival of Miguel López de Legazpi’s expedition on 13 February 1565. He established the first permanent settlement of San Miguel on the island of Cebu. We will soon (I hope) be moving into an apartment in Legazpi Village, in Makati City, Metro Manila.

So, a lot of history to research. I expect the military history of the area is likely to mirror that of the Indonesia archipelago.

The hunt begins.