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U.S. Embassy in Manila
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Since the Republic of the Philippines gained its independence in 1946, the United States government has been represented in the Philippines by the U.S. Embassy. The Embassy exercises many different functions in its official representation to the Philippine government. These include political, administrative, economic, public diplomacy, and consular affairs managed under the Ambassador by counselors from the Department of State. The U.S. Agency for International Development manages bilateral development projects. Military affairs are handled by the Defense Attaché’s office at the Embassy. The U.S. Veterans Administration has its only overseas office at the Embassy in Manila. This office takes care of veterans affairs for the many American and Filipino veterans residing in the Philippines.

The American Residence in Baguio

The American Residence in Baguio is a site of enduring diplomatic, military, and cultural significance in American and Philippine history. Completed in 1940 during the Commonwealth period, the Residence survived the ravages of World War II and a great earthquake in 1990.

Originally conceived of as the summer residence of the American Governor-General, the residence continues to be a favored site for representing America’s broad interests in the Philippines. Though the advent of air conditioning has made it unnecessary for the Philippine Government to formally move to Baguio for the summer months, much of its leadership transfers there for working vacations. The annual post-Christmas reception at the Residence is a highlight of the calendar year with the Philippine President and members of the cabinet in attendance.

Anchored in History

At the turn of the century, the first U.S. Governor General William Howard Taft was oppressed by the heat of Manila and sought a cooler spot for a summer government retreat. Under the eye of the future President, the government began to develop Baguio which author Stanley Karnow described as “a carbon copy of a town back home. ..It remains to this day a charming remnant of the U.S. presence in the archipelago.”

The High Commissioner’s Residence (as the Baguio Residence was then known) was pressed into service by the Japanese high command during World War II. It served for a time as the residence and headquarters of General Tomoyuki Yameshita, the famed “Tiger of Malaya.” As a precaution against allied attack, the Japanese built extensive escape tunnels under the building.

The Residence achieved true landmark status on September 3, 1945 as the site of the unconditional surrender of all Japanese forces in the Philippines in World War II.   Appropriately, the senior American officer present was Lieutenant General Jonathan Wainwright, who had surrendered the Philippines to the Japanese in 1942 after the fall of Bataan and Corregidor.    General Douglas MacArthur chose Wainwright, still haggard from over three years in Japanese prison camps, as his personal emissary to the surrender in Baguio.

Flanking Wainwright at the long dining room table in the bullet-pocked living room were other senior Allied officers, including British General Sir Arthur Percival, who had been forced to surrender Singapore to General Yamashita in 1942.  Directly across was General Yamashita. The swords handed over  by the General and his staff  lay on the table in front of the Allied contingent.

After the surrender document had been signed, the American officer in charge presented the first pen to Wainwright and the second to Percival.  At 12:10 PM, September 3, 1945, the surrender of all Japanese forces in the Philippines was completed and the war officially ended.

Carl Mydans, a famous photographer with LIFE magazine, captured the event in a panoramic photo.  Philippine National Artist Fernando Amorsolo later reproduced the photo in a large oil painting that now hangs over the fireplace in the living room of the Residence.  A few feet away is a post-war portrait of General Wainwright, wearing the Medal of Honor presented to him by President Truman.

An American Outpost

Since World War II, the Residence has been used by the Ambassador and other U.S. government officials for relaxed meetings with Philippine notables. The traditional Christmas and Easter season receptions at the Residence hosted by generations of Ambassadors have become cherished institutions for hundreds of guests each year.  Over the decades, the Residence has reliably provided a dignified and appropriate venue for Embassy officials to work and socialize with government officials, diplomats, friends and  important contacts in a leisurely atmosphere  amid  agreeable surroundings.

The Embassy often hosts book  launches, art exhibits, concerts, lectures, and other cultural events at the Residence.   It also serves as a key  outreach point for the American community in the Northern Luzon area.   The Consul General meets at the Residence  with American citizens and our warden network.

During the great earthquake of 1990 that killed many and leveled hundreds of buildings in Baguio, the solidly-constructed  Residence sustained a few cracks, but stood firm.   Legend has it that the Amorsolo painting of the 1945 Surrender Ceremony not only stayed attached to the wall, but also remained perfectly centered.  Those who admire and respect the history and enduring value of the Residence often take this as a sign that the American Residence and surrounding grounds will continue to flourish under the Stars and Stripes far into the future.

MANILA AMERICAN CEMETERY AND MEMORIAL

The Manila American Cemetery and Memorial in the Philippines occupies 152 acres on a prominent plateau, visible at a distance from the east, south and west. It contains the largest number of graves of our military dead of World War II, a total of 17,202, most of whom lost their lives in operations in New Guinea and the Philippines. The headstones are aligned in 11 plots forming a generally circular pattern, set among masses of a wide variety of tropical trees and shrubbery.

The chapel, a white masonry building enriched with sculpture and mosaic, stands near the center of the cemetery. In front of it on a wide terrace are two large hemicycles. Twenty-five mosaic maps recall the achievements of the American armed forces in the Pacific, China, India and Burma. On rectangular Trani limestone piers within the hemicycles are inscribed the Tablets of the Missing containing 36,285 names. Rosettes mark the names of those since recovered and identified. Carved in the floors are the seals of the American states and its territories. From the memorial and other points within the cemetery there are impressive views over the lowlands to Laguna de Bay and towards the distant mountains.

The cemetery is open daily to the public from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. except December 25 and January 1. It is open on host country holidays. When the cemetery is open to the public, a staff member is on duty in the Visitor Building to answer questions and escort relatives to grave and memorial sites.

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