A visit to the Manila American Cemetery and Memorial

A week before undas*, we visited the Manila American Cemetery and Memorial at Fort Bonifacio. Not to visit any particular grave — we don’t know anyone who’s buried there — but to take photos. We were supposed to go there a week earlier but it was a little after 5.00 p.m. when we got there and the place was already closed for the day to the public. So, we went back. Early enough to take photos unhurriedly. And the results were very interesting.

We were all looking at the same things. We were all taking photos within a few meters of each other. But what we considered “interesting” subjects and angles varied.

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The photos above and next two below were taken by Alex with her Canon PowerShot SX20 IS. I really love the photo above. Perfect symmetry (well, almost), perfect foreground, perfect elevation, perfect background.

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In this second photo, I like how Alex isolated one cross beside Sam to serve as the foreground.

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Four crosses on the foreground work too.

I took the next three photos. Not very inspired, I must admit. My dSLR was still at the service center at the time getting a good cleaning and I took these photos with the Canon Powershot G10. And I just couldn’t get the right depth of field.

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There were a number of Stars of David among the crosses, we wondered if there were any other symbols aside from the Star of David and the cross but found none.

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The photo above was… well, I was capturing a reflection of the crosses on the pick-up’s rear.

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Some crosses had names on them…

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… others didn’t. The photo above and next three below were taken by Speedy with his Olympus Stylus 720SW.

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Most of the photos that Speedy took feature the large old trees that dotted the landscape of white crosses.

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Then, Sam’s photos taken with her Canon EOS 350D and a Sigma 24-70mm F2.8 EX DG lens.

Playful, as usual. Shadows. Alex’s, mine and Sam’s.

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It’s like looking at truth from different perspectives. And it does make one wonder if there is such a thing as objective truth or whether truth is, like everything else, a mere interpretation of what we perceive through our senses and how our minds sort out and arrange those perceptions to come up with our version of the truth.

More photos with live people in them?

In alphabetical order…

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Moi. The sun was in my eyes. So, I was squinting.

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*Note: For non-Filipinos, undas means Day of the Dead. In the Philippines, it is celebrated on November 1, All Saints’ Day, and is followed by All Souls’ Day on November 2.


  1. says

    Overheard … “So where did you have your family day?” “At the Manila American Cemetery, taking photos of graves of people not at all related to us.” “Say what?!” ;)

  2. says

    Wow, family bonding time at the cemetery? ha ha, why not?
    I love the photos and I cant decide which ones I like best but i think I would go with Sam’s. Great shots!

  3. says

    Great shots! I prefer to shoot in our town cemetery here in Silang, Cavite. Yesterday was another exhibition of old traditions and culture clashing with the modern.

    When I was in highschool, we young ones kept ourselves busy with collecting molten wax and making a huge ball out of it. I always thought that our deceased grandparents and relatives had were delighted to see us have fun around their final resting place.

    Yesterday, very few wax balls were being made as most of the kids and young ones had PSPs, digi-cams, iPods and cellphones in hand. Now I wonder what our dearly departed ones think of this? ;)

  4. says

    Dinah, doesn’t matter where, ‘di ba. It’s all about enjoying a shared activity. :)

    Jhay, Speedy and I were just talking about old cemeteries yesterday. There was one in Malabon where some headstones were very strange — devils and gargoyles. If those headstones still exist, wouldn’t it be grand to take photos of them hehehe

  5. Miguk says

    Despite the graves, that is really the nicest park in Manila. Very quiet, peaceful and well maintained. I am sure if the dead there were able to speak they would not object to us enjoying their final resting place also.
    There is an identical one in Hawaii called the Punchbowl.

  6. says

    Yes, I think it would be grand to take photos of these very strange headstones in Malabon, Connie… but at the same time, I believe that you must exercise a bit of caution in places like these. Parang nakakapanindig balahibo ang experience siguro, just thinking that you will be surrounded by very negative energy…

    By the way, just like Dinah, I think I enjoyed best yung playfulness ni Sam… but overall, lahat naman kayo ay very good ang eye for the subject at ang galing ng angles…
    Thanks for sharing your new photo adventure.

  7. says

    Regarding “it’s like looking at truth from different perspectives.”… I have come across a line which comes back to me every now and then: “There is no actual reality. There is only perceived reality.” Something to think about very seriously, right? It is just so sad that I cannot recall from which book or film I got this… basta nag-stick na lang sa head ko and from time to time makes a strange visit. And the statement that you said here once again makes this line ring true.

  8. H says

    I used to rent a house near Southside Brgy Hall, walked past the cemetery from “gate 2” (jeepney stop ayala-fort bonifacio) and I actually found it calming, not scary. I don’t know why, I just feel at peace. Kind of disappointing now to see those buildings/condos popping up in the background.

  9. says

    Re buildings in the background. I agree. Ruins the landscape. But considering that many of those are residential condos, well, abode for the living has to take precedence over abode for the dead.

  10. d0d0ng says

    It is really odd to see that crosses are used in the Manila American Cemetary. Just as the Stars of David signify the dead American had Judaism faith. But other Christians can go with the cross too.

    See in Arlington National Cemetary, it is very rare to see crosses but it is all headstones with the faith symbols engraved at the top (Catholic cross, Presbyterian Cross, Orthodox Cross, Muslim star/crescent, Judaism star of David, and for atheist – symbol of atom). The exception is the grave for the Kennedy brothers both senators (Bobby and Edward) which are the only 2 crosses you can see.

    Usually the unknown American soldier has a marker “A Comrade In Arms Known But To God”.

    Yes, the American cemetary is one of the best places to pause and feel the refreshing tranquility.