Victims of Circumstances

Producers: Lou Gopal and Michelle Bunn

Early Monday morning, the 8th of December 1941, just hours after the Pearl Harbor attack, Zero fighters of the Empire of Japan flew to the Philippines in tight formation from the north, bombing the mountain resort city of Baguio and then directed their attention to Manila, bombing strategic military targets. Panic quickly surged through the city of 800,000 souls. The civilians of Manila prepared for the worst as banks were mobbed; stores were quickly emptied of canned goods and supplies. Within a few days, the Commonwealth President Quezon quickly declared Manila an "Open City" to avoid further destruction of what was then known as the “Pearl of the Orient”.

In a futile attempt to wait for help from President Roosevelt, American troops and Filipino Scouts were ordered to hold off the enemy at Bataan and Corregidor. On January 2nd, 1942, the Japanese army marched down the main streets of Manila on bicycles, trucks, and tanks. Manila's citizens peeked thru closed shutters at the imposing army. Japanese sentries were posted on every major street 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 the three year long occupation of the Philippines.

Over 3700 Americans, British, Australians and other Allied civilians would be interned at the centuries-old University of Santo Tomas.   This documentary provides a personal view of life in an internment camp through interviews, photos, and captured film of their three year ordeal under Japanese rule. At first an annoyance and inconvenience, life quickly became a desperate struggle for survival as hunger and disease took over. By Christmas of 1944, it was obvious that their time was running out. How long could they hope to last?

Gate of the Santo Tomas civilian internment camp in Manila during WWII

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* All profits from this film will be donated to POW-Internee organizations as well as the American Historical Collection in Manila which houses the largest repository of artifacts and documents relating to the Santo Tomas Internment camp