San Pedro, California – Philippine Expressions Bookshop presents Conversations with Evelyn Berg Empie: A Survivor of the Battle of Manila. This second Book Talk for 2023, which commemorates the Battle of Manila (February 3 – March 3, 1945), will be held on Saturday, March 4, 2023 from 2:00pm to 6:00pm at Philippine Expressions Bookshop, 479 W Sixth Street, Suite 105, San Pedro, CA 90731. The bookshop is located in the historic Arts District of San Pedro, the Port City of Los Angeles. The Book Talk is free and open to the public but RSVP is requested due to limited space.
The Battle of Manila is pivotal in ending the 3-year Japanese occupation of the Philippines during the Second World War. This month-long conflict brought about the complete devastation of the city that was once known as the Pearl of the Orient. Over 100,000 civilians perished as a result of the Japanese forces slaughtering its inhabitants and being caught in the crossfire of the American firepower. A great majority of its architectural and cultural heritage were also reduced to ruins from the Japanese resistance and American artillery. Manila became one of the most ravaged cities by the end of the war.
Evelyn Berg Empie, relives her first-hand experience during this appalling time in Philippine history, as related in her first book, A Child in the Midst of Battle: A Family’s Struggle for Survival in War-Torn Manila, co-authored by her son, Stephen H. Mette. The book features original watercolors and drawings by Xavier Aboitiz.
“Imperial warplanes swarmed in the sky, dropping their loads of destruction on the city at every time of the day and night. The ack-ack of antiaircraft fire was deafening. Tracer bullets shredded the night sky. Whenever we heard the planes approaching we scurried into a large closet beneath the stairs. We held our breath at the sounds of the bombs falling – a horrible whistling sound you don’t forget – and braced for explosions that rocked the earth.” So begins the extraordinary journey of a ten-year-old girl who – along with her family and the people of the country she loved – endured the nightmare of Japanese occupation in wartime Manila. Join her in an unforgettable story of despair, innocence lost and, finally. renewal. A presentation of videos on the Liberation of Manila will be shown as part of the program.
Evelyn Berg Empie is a 5th generation Spanish mestiza born in Manila and went to school at the Assumption Convent. Her mother, Fe Mandelbaum was Spanish/American, whose mother, Carmen Romero descended from old Spanish clans and father, Francis “Cheri” Mandelbaum, was an American architect. He went to Manila in 1904 to work for the American Government, building up the new territory they had just acquired from the Spanish. He also built homes for the wealthy in pre-war Manila, and taught architecture at the University of Sto Tomas. During the war he was interned as a POW because he was an American citizen. Evelyn’s father, Ernest Berg, on the other hand, was born and raised in Germany and came to Manila in the late 1920’s. When war broke out on Dec. 8th, 1941 he had already built 32 Red Star Auto Stores throughout the Islands, and Berg’s Escolta, a well-known modern department store during its heyday.
Evelyn was repatriated in the US after the war and has settled with her family in Rancho Palos Verdes, CA. She has five grandchildren and continues to live to tell her story.
Stephen H. Mette is an award-winning poet. His books include: the novel, The Thanksgiving Trip, and a volume of short stories titled, Wild Life and other Adventures. He lives in Southern California.
Philippine Expressions Bookshop The Book Talk Series is part of the ongoing outreach program of Philippine Expressions Bookshop in order to increase the visibility of Filipino American and Filipino Authors, Performance and Visual Artists in the American scene.
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