MANILA, Feb. 15, 2015 – In the presence of some two hundred people gathered to mark the 70th anniversary of the Liberation of Manila, some of whom survivors of the massacres and bombings towards the end of World War II, former President Fidel V. Ramos said war “is never a solution.”

Recalling his experiences when he was a high school sophomore at the University of the Philippines High School at Isaac Peral, now known as United Nations Avenue, the former president said he lost close relatives, neighbors and friends during the “Battle of Manila.”

Greatest tragedy

“War is not an option,” stressed Ramos. According to him, the “Battle for Manila” in February 1945 was “undisputedly was the greatest tragedy and worst tragedy in Philippine history.”

He said more than 100,000 lives were lost, non-combatants and civilians killed, on top of irreparable damage to cultural heritage, monuments, churches, libraries, art works, especially in Manila, south of the Pasig River.

“From all these tragic but valuable experiences, we must remember that tragic battle for Manila and the larger campaign for the liberation of Luzon, the earlier campaigns in Leyte and the overall heroic countrywide guerilla campaign against an overwhelming enemy,” he said.

He added World War II resulted to over a 1.1 million deaths from a population of 17 million, which he went on to described as “one of the highest per capital proportional casualty rate in the world.”

Love not hate

He said he lost close relatives and neighbors in a massacre brought about by machine gun fire at the infamous corner of Taft Avenue and Padre Faura.

Speaking in front of a sculpture, called the “Memorare” at General Luna St. in Intramuros, built in remembrance of Filipinos, Americans and Japanese citizens who perished seven decades ago, he called the war “a tragic catastrophe Filipinos knew very little of at the beginning.”

The former head of state said people from all ethnic origins “should now coalesce and consolidate into just one global community, where it is love not hate, friendship and cooperation towards a common vision which must dominate.”

New generation of leaders

Originally clad in his signature barong Tagalog, Ramos donned a black bonnet and later on revealed his fatigue shirt marked with Tagaligtas, a name referring to the Philippine National Police’s Special Action Force, an elite unit which suffered 44 casualties last Jan. 25, 2015 at Mamasapano, Maguindanao.

It can be recalled the commandos died in a fierce firefight with Moro Islamic Liberation Front, Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters and some alleged members of various private armed groups.

“Filipinos have been known for their traits of unity, unity of purpose, our aspiration for a better future, solidarity in values, love of God, country and people embedded in our pledge of allegiance, love for the environment,” he further explained.

He said teamwork in community-building and nation-building “is in progress.”

Ramos also called on young Filipinos to learn from the lessons of World War II that “war is never an option.”

He mentioned several significant historical accounts from the Philippine Revolution of 1896, Defense of Bataan and Corregidor, to the 1986 EdSA People Power that young people should not only remember but internalize.

Ramos said the country needs leaders with vision who can see tomorrow’s brighter possibilities, far beyond today’s political divisions and economic crisis, violent extremism and territorial conflicts around the world.

“We need leaders who can restore hope, especially to the youth,” he added. The former president said the youth must now take over a new brand of leadership.

The former president also lauded the Philippines’ population of a hundred million with more than 11 million employed elsewhere, younger than other countries’ work forces.

“We all have a vision of a better future, where we will no longer encounter the suffering of our forebears 70 years ago and recently, this one (pointing to the image of SAF’s Fallen 44), and so let us make sure we go back where we all came from,” Ramos said.  (Melo M. Acuña/CBCPNews)