Mars Rivera Phillipines Manila was called the Pearl of the Orient before the war. The boulevards along the bay were lined with coconut palms, the streets were clean, there were modern buildings, we had all the conveniences of any Western country. Our economy was good because we were a commonwealth of the United States. I remember as a young boy I would go to the seawall and watch all the boats on Manila Bay. I could see the lights of Corregidor across the bay. It was a beautiful city. When the Japanese came to Manila, I was just a high school student. That was in 1942. In fact, the day after Pearl Harbor was bombed, Japanese planes began bombing air bases and military installations around the city. I can remember hearing the planes, watching the dogfights. We watched almost as if we didn’t know that they could be harmful to us. MacArthur left with the president and promised to come back. “I shall return” is his famous quote. He actually did not return for four years, and so we were left for that time with the Japanese occupation. Most of us who were of school age simply decided not to go because they were teaching Japanese and whatever they wished; in fact, they were controlling everything. There was a lot of resistance to the Japanese. I witnessed a lot of suffering. Men were herded off to forced labor at the airport. I was one of those taken to work, carrying big stones, given only water, no food. I was lucky because I could return to my home. A lot of them continued working or were taken to concentration camps with the Americans. I think the worst part of our war experience was the liberation. During those ten or twelve days, a lot of horrible things happened. We were hiding in trenches, covering ourselves with corrugated sheets from the destroyed houses. As people ran from their burning homes, they were shot. One hundred thousand civilian Filipinos were lost. History is complete with suffering all over the world during World War II, and Manila was not spared My brother and I were trapped in the last part of the city to fall. We realized after so many days of violence that our lives were in great danger. We prayed and prayed hard: “Why don’t we ask the Lord not to take both of us, at least spare one, and whoever that is will pledge to dedicate his life to God, and live in service to his fellow man.” Miraculously, I was the one who survived. He was executed in front of my eyes. To this day he has no marked grave. A memorial was built in Manila, and that is his final resting place. So this February 14 will mark the sixtieth year since the liberation. I think of it as my sixtieth year of bonus life. I hope what I have done in the Philippines and in all the places I have been will make good on that pledge I made to my brother.