A view of Leyte Gulf from a coconut grove
The placid-looking Leyte Gulf is known for the so-called the “Battle of Leyte Gulf,” considered to be the largest naval battle of World War II and also one of the largest naval battles in history (from Wikipedia).
The battle took place from October 23 to 26, 1944 between naval and naval-air forces of the Allies and those of the Japanese. US troops invaded Leyte Island as part of a strategy aimed to isolate Japan from the countries it had occupied in South East Asia. Leyte is one of the strategic strongholds and entry point for the Allied Forces.
The Battle of Leyte Gulf is also notable as the first battle in which Japanese aircraft carried out organized kamikaze attacks. Despite the valiant defense mounted by the Japanese forces their navy suffered heavy losses and thousands of planes, ships and boats are buried in the waters of the Gulf, making it a veritable graveyard.
Today, Leyte Gulf retains its serene view where tourists can enjoy the balmy Pacific breeze, wonderful tropical sunsets, belying the violence and mayhem it witnessed in one of the world most brutal naval battles.
Mabuhay ang Leyte Gulf!
Fort Santiago, located in Manila’s Intramuros district, was the symbolic seat of Spain’s military complex during the colonial era. Built for Spanish conquistador, Miguel López de Legazpi, Fort Santiago was the site of the palace and kingdom of Rajah Suleiman, a Muslim chieftain of pre-Hispanic Manila.
Built as a wooden fort in 1571 by the Spaniards after they won the battles with the Islamic tribes who originally settled in Manila, the fort was constructed with hard stone in 1589 . The famous Manila Galleon trade to Acapulco, Mexico, which thrived for nearly 350 years, also begun from the fort or what the Spanish called “Fuerza de Santiago.”
In World War 2, the fort served as one of the main defense and prison headquarters of the Japanese Army. Hundreds of American and Philippine soldiers and civilains were imprisoned in the original Spanish-built complex of dungeons and died either of diseases, starvation or by drowning when the banks of the adjoining Pasig River overflow.
Philippine national hero Jose Rizal was also imprisoned in one of the buildings in the fort which still stands up to this day. The two-storey building has been converted into a museum and memorial shrine, showing the last days of Rizal through a detailed audio-visual display of his books, photographs, letters, paintings, dioramas, period furniture and some personal belongings.
With its wonderful gardens, quiet walkways, Spanish era defense walls and a nice view of the Pasig River, Fort Santiago is well-loved by park enthusiasts and visitors for its serene ambiance and historical significance.
Mabuhay ang Fort Santiago!