It was early Monday morning, the 8th of December, 1941. Only hours after the Pearl Harbor attack, the notorious Zero fighter warplanes of the Empire of Japan flew in tight formation from the north, bombing the resort capital of Baguio, then directed their attention to Manila, bombing strategic military targets such as Nichols Field, Pier 7, and ships in Manila Harbor. Panic quickly surged through the city of 800,000 souls; banks were mobbed, stores were quickly emptied of canned goods and supplies, school classes at the American School were cancelled and would not open again for another three years. Wanting to spare further destruction, Philippine Commonwealth President Manuel Quezon quickly declared Manila an "Open City". American troops and Filipino Scouts were ordered to hold off the enemy at Bataan and Corregidor. The civilian population prepared for the worst. On January 2, 1942, the Japanese Army marched down the main streets of Manila: Dewey Boulevard and Taft Avenue, on bicycles, trucks, and tanks. Manila's citizens peeked through closed shutters at the imposing army. Japanese sentries were posted on every other corner. The American flag at the U.S. High Commissioner's residence was torn down and replaced by the red sun of the Empire of Japan.
Thus began an ordeal for both Filipinos and Americans which neither believed could have happened only a year ago. Manila was considered the "Pearl of the Orient" and the most beautiful city in the Far East. Manila was a city that had been under American rule since the Spanish-American War of 1898. It reflected both the beautiful architecture of old Spain as well as the modern technology and culture of a benevolent United States government. There were over 7000 foreigners living in Manila at the time enjoying a pre-war "colonial" life served by staff in starched white uniforms, cocktails and dinner at exclusive clubs, the latest Hollywood movies and musicals at modern theaters. The newspapers described the war front in Europe and the onslaught of Japanese forces in China but either through arrogance or ignorance, few people gave these matters much thought.
Described in photos, old film footage, and personal interviews of survivors, this is the "definitive film" of life behind the walls of a prison called "Santo Tomas Internment Camp". At first an annoyance and inconvenience, the internees became involved in a desperate struggle for survival as the Japanese systematically starved their inmates over three years. By Christmas of 1944, it was obvious that their time was running out - how long could they hope to last ?
Running time: 2 hours
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