Since we have a couple of hours between our arrival of the bus from El Nido and the departure of our flight, we decide to explore a little bit of the capital city of Palawan, Puerto Princesa. We first head to Plaza Cuartel in the west of the city. We leave the whitewashed Immaculate Conception Cathedral standing in the sun, and walk to an old gate on the south side of the square. This is the entrance to Plaza Cuartel, once a military garrison. In the Second World War, on December 14, 1944, the Japanese sent their American prisoners of war into a tunnel and set them afire. Out of 154 soldiers, only 11 managed to survive: the others were burned alive. One of the survivors has written a book about the atrocity. It reminds the European visitor that the war theatre of the Pacific was immense, and often overlooked in the history books of the old continent.
The central path divided the square in two, and a line of old and colourfully decorated tricycles is parked in the middle. Opposite, we find several boards with descriptions of what happened here near the end of the Second World War. As with many war memorials, it brings questions to mind about war, about hatred in men, about how otherwise perfectly friendly mortals can turn into savage persons committing cruel atrocities. The setting does not remind of war: Plaza Cuartel now is a peaceful square, with old trees, benches, pathways, a bridge over a pond. But then, in the middle of the square: a statue on a pedestal, of a man standing in flames, while his arms are tied. On the side of the pedestal are inscriptions of the names of those who perished here, and those who survived.
We walk to the far end of the square, with views across towards Puerto Princesa bay to the west and south of the Palawan capital. We take another walk around the park, but no matter how many times we do, the reminders of its grim past are there, not to be missed. Even so, we see young couples holding hands, whispering sweet words in each others ears. Perhaps, one day this will be a normal park, where people do what people do in city parks. But is this really possible? Should history be forgotten? When we leave the park, we are impressed and silent, and pick up our luggage from a police checkpoint just around the corner. We pay a visit to the Palawan museum after which we have a delicious Vietnamese lunch before heading to the airport, off to new adventures.
Around the World in 80 Clicks
Personal travel impressions both in words and images from Plaza Cuartel (Philippines). Clicking on the pictures enlarges them and enables you to send the picture as a free e-card or download it for personal use, for instance, on your weblog. Or click on the map above to visit more places close to Plaza Cuartel. Read more about this site.