Lover’s Lane: A silent witness of deaths and dates

UNDER THE canopy of trees at the Plaza de Benavides lies a pathway, which saw the blossoming and the withering of innumerable relationships.

But the so-called “Lover’s Lane” has witnessed more than just love stories. It was a quiet spectator of the horrors of World War 2 and a resting place of countless souls who had experienced humanity at its worst. Indeed, what is now known as “Lover’s Lane” is more than just a popular dating place.

UST Lover’s Lane. Photo by Ryla Tuazon/ THE FLAME

During the Japanese colonial period, UST served as the largest internment camp in the country. From 1942 to 1945, it housed more than 2,000 captives who experienced dire conditions in crowded steel-fenced prisons.

More than hunger, thirst and mass hysteria, it was a hell although it was populated with the living. Death was always at the doorstep.

“We were ready to claw each other’s eyes out – over nothing at all. We were hungry; we were starved. When I went to bed at night, I felt just on the verge of screaming. I ached to the ends of my fingers and toes, with the most horrible ache that I have ever experienced,” said Red Cross worker and war captive Marie Adams in her eyewitness account titled “Scenes from Hell.”

Liberty came to the Santo Tomas Internment Camp on Feb. 3, 1945. But to this day, the bodies of those who died still remain under the shade of trees. May it be in urban legends that frighten students or in the memories of their loved ones,  they continue to live on. The University and the Manila city government’s tourism, culture and arts department honor the victims of the war during the anniversary of the camp’s liberation.

The Lover’s Lane has transitioned from a mass burial site to a lively aisle bridging not just the Main Building to the Arch of the Centuries but also the hearts of those who are ready to take risks in a battlefield called love. In that well-known spot, flowers are being offered, not for the dead, but for the living. F – R. K. G. R. Reyes 

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