Replica Weapons of War: “Total Distortion of History”

ATTRACTION IN THE BAY | The statue of former Manila Mayor Arsenio Lacson appears to watch over World War II cannons unveiled June 12 as part of the Manila Bay Rehabilitation Project. One historian, however, claims that these artifacts should not have been removed from their original location on the island of Corregidor. (Photo by MARIANNE BERMUDEZ/Philippine Daily Inquirer)

MANILA, Philippines – “A total distortion of history,” is how a history professor from the University of the Philippines (UP) described the transfer of two World War II gun barrels from the Corregidor Island at Baywalk near Dolomite Beach in Manila Bay to create a replica of Fort Tambour and its heritage cannons.

Ricardo Jose, the country’s foremost scholar on World War II in the Philippines and Asia-Pacific, told the Inquirer in an interview on Monday that the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) project unveiled the June 12 was “foolish and a waste of time, effort and money.

According to him, the guns unveiled on the beach were two different guns from separate artillery batteries at Corregidor – Battery Hearn and Battery Cheney, according to the draft marker – and placed in a turret.

“The fact that these are spare barrels and not being used does not mean that they could just be taken away like that,” the historian said, noting that they were relics. histories that should not have been touched.

“They were used in World War II and are signs of courage on the American and Filipino sides,” he added.

Removing the barrels from Corregidor and placing them in Manila – which had no batteries during World War II – was a “senseless” transfer that took away the context of historical artifacts, according to Jose.

“There never was a turret in Manila Bay [so there is] no historical significance. It’s a total distortion of history,” he said.

Fort Drum, also known as El Fraile Island, was one of four islands located at the mouth of Manila Bay that served as a line of defense protecting the city of Manila from the naval invasion of Dominion Spanish colonial until World War II.

Above the heavily reinforced, battleship-shaped island, four 14-inch, 356 mm, Model 1909 guns were placed on turrets. By contrast, the spare guns recovered from Corregidor were 12-inch, 305 mm, Model 1895 guns.

Attract visitors

In a text message, Undersecretary Ernesto Carolina of the Philippine Veterans Affairs Office (PVAO) defended the project, saying there was no historical distortion.

“Only the spare barrels, which were already rusty and covered in foliage, were refurbished and brought to Baywalk for people to see and enjoy,” he said.

According to the PVAO official, since the Spanish period, all attempts to invade Manila were made through Manila Bay, so the colonial powers that occupied the country’s capital improved their port defenses by placing cannons, cannons and mortars on surrounding islands, including El Fraile (Fort Drum’s original name) and Caballo.

“However, very few Filipinos are able to visit these islands to see and appreciate the historical role of these weapons in the defense of Manila,” Carolina said.

By bringing the two spare barrels and setting them up along the Baywalk area, “I hope tourists, local and foreign, would be enticed to visit the islands with their children and see the many other guns and cannons” , he added.

But Jose said that if the government tried to develop interest in Corregidor, all it had to do was develop the tourist route to the island, have a replica gun in the bay Manila and say, “If you want to see more, go to Corregidor.

“The people who moved it there don’t have a sense of historical accuracy…it’s so expensive to move these original guns, take them out of context and then put them in a place where there is no meaning,” he said.

A replica of Fort Drum's heritage guns have been installed along Manila Bay so that people can appreciate the role of these guns in the defense of Manila.  One historian, however, says the project is

WAR RELICS | A replica of Fort Drum’s heritage guns have been installed along Manila Bay so that people can appreciate the role of these guns in the defense of Manila. One historian, however, says the project is “foolish and a waste of time, effort and money”. (Photo by MARIANNE BERMUDEZ/Philippine Daily Inquirer)

“In Singapore, they restructured the remains of an old fort into a tourist attraction but they didn’t touch the cannons themselves and they were kept in their historic position,” Jose said.

Ill-conceived idea

For another military historian, the DENR project “was an ill-conceived idea that ignores the historical significance of the weapons and creates a myth that does not accurately describe what the weapons actually did. [were] on.”

“It is ironic that at a time when the country and the people are reeling from massive inflation and economic hardship, this costly, costly and yet totally ill-conceived project has been undertaken by top amateurs who do not know anything about history and historic preservation,” Jose Custodio, a former curator at the Armed Forces Museum of the Philippines, told the Inquirer.

“Instead of restoring what it should look like, they created a mythical thing to make it look like the weapons came from Fort Drum, which they didn’t. It’s like a historical distortion,” Custodio said.

Former Environment Secretary Roy Cimatu, who came up with the idea to build a replica of Fort Drum, said at the unveiling that he wanted to let people know it existed.

“There are no visitors so we don’t see him. And there was a memorandum of understanding between the DENR and the Department of National Defense to provide [barrels from Corregidor] because they are not useful there,” said Cimatu, a former AFP chief of staff.

“That’s why they are here today. It is a manifestation of Filipino nationalism and patriotism,” he said, adding that the project also represents the continuation of the “battle for Manila Bay.”

In 2019, President Rodrigo Duterte issued Administrative Order #16 to expedite the cleanup of the bay. Of the estimated 397 million peso cost of the rehabilitation project, around 28 million pesos has been allocated to the controversial dolomite beach which was first opened to the public in September 2020, amid the COVID-19 pandemic. 19.

The beach has been criticized by concerned groups and individuals, calling it a waste of public funds and a potential health risk.

This prompted the Ministry of Health to assure that “no untoward incidents [would] occur as a result of exertion.

Other environmental watch groups such as Greenpeace Philippines have also expressed concern that the project was a waste of money as backwashing would wash the synthetic sand into the bay, while the group of Pamalakaya fishermen denounced it as “whitewashing the government’s failure to rehabilitate Manila Bay”.

In November 2021, the beach was temporarily closed for further rehabilitation until reopening on June 12.



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Edward K. Thompson