On September 7, 1944, the Japanese warship SS Shinyo Maru was sailing for Manila. The vessel was one of the “Hell Ships” used by the Imperial Japanese Navy and Army to transport Allied prisoners from the Philippines to elsewhere in the Japanese empire. Unaware that it was carrying 750 prisoners of war, mostly American survivors, the American submarine USS Paddle SS263, which was tasked to search for the Japanese ship, attacked it. The US submarine torpedoed the Shinyo Maru about a mile or two away from Sindangan point in Zamboanga del Norte. Of the 83 prisoners of war who made it to the shore, one died after they came ashore and was buried on the hill of the town of Sindangan. The 82 remaining survivors were cared for by the locals of Sindangan.
Now, in the same site, under a grove of coconut trees facing the Sindangan Bay, lies a commemorative marker in honor of the bravery and heroism of the Shinyo Maru passengers and the people of Sindangan. The site in Barangay R.G. Macias is where survivors were sheltered and fed by the locals, and where they were picked-up by another US submarine.
The marker was unveiled by the municipality of Sindangan in partnership with the Department of Tourism Region IX and the Zamboanga del Norte provincial government to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the Shinyo Maru incident on September 7, 2014.
I was fortunate enough to be invited to cover the event along with other members of the media. In attendance was Randy Anderson, the Project Leader for the Hellship Memorial, families of the Shinyo Maru survivors, representatives from the Department of Tourism, and local officials from Sindangan and Zamboanga del Norte.
After a short program, the marker was unveiled. The marker reads:
This Commemoration Marker is dedicated in honor of the residents in the Liloy-Sindangan Area of Mindanao, Philippines whose demonstration of Filipino hospitality and care saved 82 prisoners of war, all citizens of the United States of America, from recapture by the Japanese authorities seventy years ago, when the SS Shinyo Maru Sank on 7 September 1944.
Installed and dedicated this 7th day of September 2014.
According to DOT Region 9, the marker was constructed to serve as a landmark and to recognize the significant contribution of the people of Sindangan during the historic World War II event. An exhibit of historical documents that chronicled the incident was displayed during the the reception dinner hosted in the hacienda of the Macias family overlooking the bay.
The exhibit also displayed proposed plans for a complete Shinyo Maru Memorial designed by Architect Jose O. Martinez III, who also designed the marker. Proposed plans show an art gallery, administration and tourist information center, shrine, museum and memorial square surrounding the marker. The DOT Region 9 hopes to complete the memorial by the 75th anniversary of the Shinyo Maru incident in September 2019.