During World War II, Manila was occupied by the Japanese Imperial Army. In early 1945, American forces and Filipino guerrilla fighters liberated the Philippine capital after a month of battle. Because of the fierce fighting and heavy bombings, Manila became the second most devastated Allied capital (next to Warsaw, Poland) during World War II.
To commemorate the 70th anniversary of the bloodshed in 2015, the Philippine government launched an online portal which features photos, videos, essays, maps, testimonies, and other reports pertaining to the historic battle. The special collection also offers colorized photos of some of the iconic buildings and war scenes in old Manila.
During the Battle of Manila, more than 100,000 civilians were killed and the city’s government buildings were almost completely destroyed. The government briefer sums up the situation in the capital after the battle:
100,000 Filipinos perished, government buildings lay in ruins—and Manila was Pearl of the Orient no more. The once illustrious city and the Orient’s first cosmopolitan hub that merged the East and West now vanished under piles of debris.
The European heritage of Manila (Philippines was a colony of Spain for more than 300 years) was lost because of the destruction of the city. The government briefer adds:
Filipinos lost invaluable articulations of culture and their identity as a people. Government buildings, universities and colleges, churches as well as other institutional landmarks perished along with all the valuables in their possession. Buildings suffered demolition to pave the way for progress. This meant doing away with European architecture in lieu of the functional, American style architecture that inspires some of our buildings today. Only few among the original edifices would remain intact.
Take a look at some of the colorized photos of old Manila after the war. Some photos are also superimposed with how they look today:
This rare video documentary, shot in Kodak color, provides a glimpse of the devastation caused by the war:
While Japanese forces are mainly to blame for killing thousands of civilians, some historians have also accused the American military of bombing government buildings and other infrastructure that destroyed the economy of the country’s capital.