Old Bilibid Prison

According to Wikipedia: “The Old Bilibid Prison, then known as Carcel y Presidio Correccional (Spanish, “Correctional Jail and Military Prison”) occupied a rectangular piece of land which was part of the Mayhalique Estate in the heart of Manila. The old prison was established by the Spanish colonial government on 25 June 1865 via royal decree. It is divided into two sections: the Carcel, which could accommodate 600 inmates; and the Presidio, which could hold 527 prisoners.”

Initially used by the Japanese to house POWs, Old Bilibid Prison became the new home for the Baguio internees, as the Allies were invading Luzon. Frederic Stevens has this account in his book, Santo Tomas Internment Camp:

On December 27, 1944, notice was given that Camp [Baguio Internment Camp] would be transferred within twenty-four hours. The first contingent of internees left Baguio in fifteen trucks at 4 o’clock in the morning of December 28th. At Binalonan a halt was made and the party was tranferred to nine of the trucks, the other six returning to Baguio for the other internees. Naturally much of the baggage had to be left in Binalon and some was permanently lost. The first contingent arrived in Manila and were housed in the Old Bilibid Prison at 2 A.M., December 29th. The others followed soon after. Most of the baggage arrived in driblets during the next week. All Camp stores and community supplies were deliberately left behind or looted.

Bilibid offered new problems in sanitation. This place was one mass of filth, lice, bed bugs and rats. There were no broom, no mops, no means except hands with which to clean. An emgency crew was organized for the unwelcomed task. The beds, toilets, room and yard were finally cleaned up as well as possible and a Camp routine set up. Guards were kept at the gate at all times to keep a lookout and advise of any change in the situation. So strict was the Japanese guard over Bilibid that no work of outside happenings reached the internees or the war prisoners, who were located close-by. The internees were in Bilibid for three weeks before Santo Tomas, only two kilometers distant, knew of the transfer.

The food situation at Bilibid became serious. From 300 grams allowed in Baguio, the ration dropped to 200 grams per person per day during January and on February 1st was reduced to the unheard quantity of one hundred grams per person per day! Through the pity of the Japanese sergeant in charge of the food issue, a double quantity was given out, the internees receiving 200 grams. How long this could have continued without detection is a question, but conjectors are unnecessary.

On February 3rd, 1945, came the great day of deliverance, when the American forces, consisting of the First Calvalry, 37th Division, and 44th Tank Battalion, less than 1,000 strong, made their way through thousands of the encircling foe and began the task of rescue. The Japanese at Bilibid took shelter in fortified rifle pits and fought despartely. The first contact of the internees and war prisoners with the rescue troops took place on February 5th and from that time on the captives wwere well taken care of by the Forces of Liberation.

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2 thoughts on “Old Bilibid Prison

  1. Carol (Angeny) Wion

    My parents (Edward and Helen Angeny) and I were interned in Baguio and Bilibid. My mother, Helen Buehl Angeny wrote a book, “Behind Barbed Wire and High Fences” which I would like to see added to the above list of books.

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