Philippines 2011: Day 1 — Manila American Cemetery and Memorial, Fort Bonifacio

Date: 17th April 2011

Technically yesterday was day one in Philippines, but today was when I would officially begin my sightseeing.  After a good hearty sleep, I woke up in time for breakfast at Kabayan (they start serving really early).

Kabayan hotel Pasay reception Manila Philippines
The reception
Kabayan hotel Pasay Pinoy Star cafe Manila
Where they serve breakfast and lunch

The breakfast and lunch isn’t your usual buffet offering. You queue up and get served your choice of dishes. No seconds.

Kabayan hotel Pasay breakfast Manila Philippines
Still, they give you a mouthful

It was enough to kick-start my day.

Filipino animal expert TV show Kabayan hotel
Although, I went back to my room and ended up watching TV for some time. This Filipino Steve Irwin was showcasing the natural wonders of Palawan, a place I was going to. So I considered it 'research' (even though he spoke mostly Tagalog).

As per my trip itinerary, I was going to be leaving Manila tonight for Banaue, but thanks to Aimee who already bought the bus ticket for me, it freed me up today to go see the Manila American Cemetery and Memorial — which wasn’t far from where I was staying.

I had to check out by noon — and I duly did so by noon. I kept my luggage at the reception and told them I would collect it in the evening. Since it was already 12pm, I had lunch from Kabayan before leaving.

Kabayan hotel pasay lunch Manila Philippines
My first taste of Filipino cuisine. First impression: dry. Not a whole lot of varied flavour. Unlike Singapore, Malaysia and Thailand, I guess curry isn't common here. I only had chicken stock to flavour the hard sticky rice.

Done with lunch, I made my way to a very busy Pasay MRT station. Bought myself a one way ticket to Ayala station (as that’s where Aimee told me I needed to go first).

Pasay MRT terminal Manila Philippines
Ticket cost ₱10
Ayala MRT station Manila
It was a short 5 minute ride to Ayala
SM Glorietta mall Ascott Taguig city Manila
This stop is is a popular shopping hub because of SM and the Glorietta malls here

I also saw a Convergys office here, not that I was surprised to know big Indian BPOs have offices here in the Philippines.

Manila Taguig city road
I took a taxi because the cemetery was to be a short drive from here

But the taxi driver in his broken English started hinting as though he had no idea about the cemetery, its existence or how to get there — which I knew was just an act. The cemetery is quite famous and located in the posh Fort Bonifacio area in Taguig. Plus, its freaking huge!

Manila Taguig city office buildings
I was getting a little irritated by the taxi driver as we were slowly driving around business parks with the cemetery nowhere in sight

Fortunately, there was a traffic policeman up ahead and I forced him to stop so that I could ask the officer as to how to get to the cemetery. The officer gave the taxi driver instructions and I could see a smile on the driver’s face as if he was thinking “yeah, yeah, I know where it is. Fine, I’ll take him there!”

A few minutes later, I arrived at the cemetery. The fare: ₱135 ($3/€2.2). Way too much!

Manila American war cemetery entrance gates
Anyway... phone camera in, time for the DSLR to begin its usage

There isn’t an entry fee for the memorial. The security guard only asked me to sign my name in and advised me not to step on the grass or walk through the first two lanes (don’t know why).

Manila American War Cemetery and memorial view from entrance
Didn't look like there were many people inside

Manila American War Cemetery Memorial lawn

Manila American War Cemetery Memorial left trees
Stuck to the left side
Manila American War Cemetery War Memorial big tree
With over 17,000 graves, this is the largest war cemetery outside the United States

Manila American War Cemetery Memorial left roadManila American War Cemetery tree no leavesManila American War Cemetery Memorial graves panoramaManila American War Cemetery Memorial graves tree panorama

Manila American War Cemetery Memorial tombstones Taguig panorama
I shot a lot of panoramas because there was no other way I could capture the scale of the cemetery

Manila American War Cemetery War Memorial global city Manila American War Cemetary War Memorial tree shadowManila American War Cemetery and Memorial BGC

Manila American War Cemetery War Memorial plaza
The Memorial Plaza

Manila American War Cemetary War & Memorial thousands of graves

Manila American War Cemetery Memorial fountain caretaker
I didn't seem many workers here
Manila American War Cemetery & Memorial airplane flying over
I could see the cemetery from the sky just as I was about land yesterday
Manila American War Cemetery Memorial Jewish tombstone
You find the occasional Jew among the crosses
Manila American War Cemetery Memorial tombstone hill
This cemetery is a symmetrical haven
Manila American War Cemetery war Memorial tombstones wide panorama
(Panorama comprised of 12 shots)
Manila American War Cemetery war memorial uncut trees
I like how they decided not to cut some trees

Manila American War Cemetery War memorial tree among graves

Manila American War Cemetery War Memorial white tombstones wide panorama
Panorama comprised of 11 shots

Manila American War Cemetery & memorial graves trees

Manila American War Cemetery war memorial white tombstones wide angle panorama
Panorama comprised of 13 shots

Manila American War cemetery memorial graves apartments

Manila American War Cemetery memorial chapel panorama
Back of the Memorial Plaza chapel

Manila American War Cemetery war memorial sparrow

Manila American War cemetery & memorial afternoon
I took a break from the circle and decided to check out the Memorial plaza

Manila American War Cemetery war Memorial chapel plaza panorama

Manila American War cemetery & memorial chapel front
The chapel

Manila American War Cemetery Memorial chapel sculpture Manila American war cemetery memorial chapel tile artManila American War cemetery memorial chapel mural
Manila American War cemetery memorial chapel inside

I wrote a note in the visitor’s book they have inside the chapel and left.

Manila American War cemetery memorial plaza flag mast panoramaManila American War cemetery memorial plaza hallsManila American War cemetery memorial messageManila American War cemetary memorial plaza entrance panorama

Manila American war cemetery memorial plaza battles
The battles these soldiers fought are all showcased here
Manila American war cemetery memorial pacific battles
Mostly World War II and the other Pacific battles America fought in
Manila American war cemetery memorial plaza soldiers names on walls
The names of the 17,000 plus soldiers buried here are engraved on these walls
Manila American war cemetery memorial plaza Filipino soldiers names
I couldn't help but notice there were a lot of Filipino names on the walls too
Manila American war cemetery memorial plaza filipino soldiers
Ah, that explains it. I was under the impression only American soldiers were buried here.

Manila American war cemetery memorial plaza soldiers medal of honorManila American war cemetary memorial plaza soldiers flagManila American war cemetery memorial plaza Colorado seal

Manila American war cemetery memorial plaza Idaho seal
The have the respective state seal corresponding to the walls with the soldiers from the same state

Manila American war cemetery memorial plaza Illinois sealManila American war cemetery memorial plaza soldiers names wallsManila American war cemetery memorial world war 2 battlesManila American war cemetery memorial pacific strategyManila American war cemetery memorial hall sunlight

Manila American war cemetery memorial gardener
Lone worker

Manila American war cemetery war memorial plaza halls leftManila American war cemetery memorial plaza war historyManila American war cemetery memorial plaza Washington sealManila American war cemetery memorial plaza Virginia sealManila American war cemetery memorial plaza names on wallsManila American war cemetery memorial plaza benchManila American war cemetery war memorial garden trees panoramaManila American war cemetery memorial plaza Guinea battleManila American war cemetery memorial plaza lawnManila American war cemetery memorial plaza veterans

Manila American war cemetery memorial road
I left the Memorial Plaza

Manila American war cemetery memorial plane flying over

Manila American war cemetery memorial sparrows
Took the 70-200mm lens out for this shot

Manila American war cemetery memorial sparrow tombstone Manila American war cemetery memorial tombstones in line

Manila American war cemetery war memorial crosses
Even though it was scorching hot, I chose to come at this time for the lighting: I wanted shadows
Manila American war cemetery memorial road panorama
Panorama comprised of 10 shots
Manila American War cemetery memorial jeep
You can bring your vehicle inside if all you want is drive through

Manila American war cemetery memorial cross starManila American war cemetery war memorial water

Manila American war cemetery memorial water evaporating
You can't really see it but the water was evaporating as soon as it hot the hot tarmac

Manila American war cemetery memorial lawn sprinkler Manila American war cemetery memorial plaza lawnManila American war cemetery memorial plaza steps flagsManila American war cemetery memorial sprinklersManila American war cemetery memorial soldier name engravedManila American war cemetery memorial crosses side

Manila American war cemetery war memorial section panorama
Larger the panoramas, the smaller the crops when making it fit on my website
Manila American war cemetery war memorial section panorama
This and the above photo was one composition that had to be cut into two. It was fun to pan through the original full size panorama though.

Manila American war cemetery memorial road gravesManila American war cemetery memorial sparrow lawnManila American war cemetery memorial sparrow on tombstoneManila American cemetery memorial sparrow on crossManila American war cemetery memorial sparrow graves

Manila American war cemetery war memorial tombstones black & white
Had to try black & white
Manila American war cemetery memorial graves black & white
Added a bit of grain to this one

Manila American war cemetery memorial jewish soldier

Manila American war cemetery memorial lawn graves
It was time to leave
Manila American war cemetery memorial medal of honor tombstone
A recipient of the Medal of Honor
Manila American war cemetery memorial road panorama
All the new construction around Fort Bonifacio (Panorama comprised of 10 shots)

Manila American war cemetery memorial yellow leaves

Manila American war cemetery war memorial tombstones hill road
Took this on the Canon 450D, which I was also carrying
Manila American war cemetery memorial BGC buildings panorama
Panorama comprised of 14 shots
Manila American war cemetery memorial rainbow sprinklers
Cool huh?
Manila American war cemetery memorial plaza view panorama
I walked back to the Memorial Plaza for one final look

Manila American war cemetery memorial message

View from memorial plaza panorama
From a little higher up

Manila American war cemetery memorial big tree shadow

Manila American war cemetery memorial crosses shadows
After 3 hours of sweating it out in the hot sun, I finally walked towards the gates
Manila American war cemetery memorial white lines
I felt satisfied with the photographs I took today. A good start to this trip.

Manila American war cemetery memorial visitors building

American Battle Monuments Commission Manila cemetery memorial info
The memorial is maintained by a US government agency

I went inside the visitor’s lounge and stayed for a few minutes. Not that they had anything to see inside, but the room had air-conditioning and a water cooler. The retired American army colonel who manages the place smiled at me as he walked into his office and said: “Enjoy it”.

Enjoy it I did 🙂

Feeling a bit cooler, I left the memorial. The Manila American Cemetery and Memorial is one among the few attractions in Manila worth seeing. You may not want to spend 3 hours here, that too in this heat, but I found it peaceful and a calm place for a bit of photography. Of course, do keep in mind this is still a cemetery honouring soldiers and not your usual family picnic park. So do show some respect for the dead once inside.

Bonifacio Global City Taguig Manila
I took a taxi back to Ayala station

The taxi ride was through McKinley Road, and I quickly realized how posh this area was. The taxi driver told me very rich people live on McKinley Hill.

McKinley hill road to Ayala Manila Philippines
Passed a few highly fortified houses, which usually implies bureaucrats, individuals with questionable incomes sources and other high profile people live here
Ayala Malls McKinley road Manila
Unlike my rip-off taxi ride to the cemetery, the journey back was through the right path and it only cost ₱56
Glorietta malls Ayala Manila Philippines
Figuring I still had some time (and craving for some more air-conditioning), I checked out Glorietta Mall
Glorietta Ayala mall Marks & Spencer store Manila
This was the only photo I took from inside before the security man came over and told me photography is prohibited. Oh well.
SM Ayala taxi line Manila Philippines
I checked out a few floors and left soon after

I took the MRT back to Pasay, went back to Kabayan, freshened up, collected my bags and called Aimee. She asked me to come to Central station, where she would meet me there.

Once at Central, we took a taxi and went to Sampaloc, cost ₱70.

Cayco Street Espana blvd Sampaloc Philippines
We got down here

From there, it was a short walk to the Autobus office. I collected my ticket, paid Aimee back (₱450 for a one-way ticket to Banaue) and we sat a convenient store to chat for some time.

Aimee in front of Autobus station Manila
This is Aimee, and the Autobus office is in the background

I saw Aimee off and boarded my bus, a small one. I’ll talk about how the ride was in my next post but all in all, today was a good start. I had high hopes for the next few days.

Previous post:

Philippines 2011: Flying over South China Sea for the first time

Other posts in this series:

Philippines 2011: Day 2 – Banaue rice terraces; trekking to Batad village

Philippines 2011: Day 3 – Banaue town; heading to Sagada via Bontoc

Philippines 2011: Day 3 – Sagada’s Lumiang burial cave, Sumaguing cave, Hanging Coffins of Echo valley

Philippines 2011: Leaving Sagada for Baguio, and arriving in Angeles city (Days 4 & 5)

Philippines 2011: Day 6 – Good Friday in San Fernando, San Pedro Cutud Lenten Rites

Philippines 2011: Day 7 – Leaving Angeles City for Manila, Mall of Asia

Philippines 2011: Day 8 – Manila tour: Rizal Park, Intramuros, Manila Cathedral, China Town

Philippines 2011: Day 9 – Cebu: Fort San Pedro, Basilica of Santo Niño, Taoist Temple

Philippines 2011: Day 10 – Bohol tour: Chocolate Hills, Loboc river cruise, Tarsiers, churches

Philippines 2011: Day 11 – Arriving in Puerto Princesa, Palawan

Philippines 2011: Day 12 – Puerto Princesa Underground River tour, Palawan

Philippines 2011: Day 13 – Puerto Princesa to El Nido by bus

Philippines 2011: Day 14 – El Nido island hopping tour A and sunset at Las Cabanas beach, Palawan

Philippines 2011: Back to Manila, shopping, and my final thoughts about the country  (Final post)

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6 Comments

  • Bob

    06/12/2011

    Good day! It’s good to know you chose the Philippines as a getaway! I envy you because you have been to places, which I, a local, haven’t been to.

    And yes, we have Convergys in the Philippines. It is the best BPO and the largest private employer in the Philippines. I’m not saying this because it used to be my employer, but it really is. 🙂

    I haven’t read all of your entries about your Philippine travel, but I would suggest you go to the University of Santo Tomas located in España, Manila. It is the oldest existing university in Asia, and is celebrating its (Quadricentennial) 400 years of existence this 2011. UST is the first and only university campus to have been named a National Historical Landmark and the only learning institution in the Philippines as location of National Cultural Treasures. The best time to go to UST is during the Christmas season where the entire campus is being illuminated by jaw-dropping christmas lights and pyrotechniques during the Paskuhan celebration.

    [Reply]

    Mithun Divakaran Reply:

    UST was one of the places my friend Aimee asked me to go see, but somehow I just wasn’t in the mood to go around much when I came back from Manila. I wanted to take it easy after 2 weeks I guess. Another place I read worth checking out is the Chinese cemetery. Both I’ll do if at all I come a second time.

    [Reply]

  • doi

    06/12/2011

    never been inside this place. thanks for the tour! 😀

    [Reply]

    Mithun Divakaran Reply:

    Really? Are you not based in Manila?

    [Reply]

    doi Reply:

    yeah, i’m cebu-based 🙂

    [Reply]

  • marx

    07/12/2011

    Never been to the American Cemetery. I think I should go one of these days…

    [Reply]

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