Plaza Cuartel is one of the historical tourist destination every visitor of Puerto Princesa. Located along Taft street in Baranggay Liwanag, adjacent to Immaculate Conception Cathedral and Rizal Park is a small park of a great history. Plaza Cuartel has a colorful history because of the events that happened here during the World War II.
After the world war, the Americans took control of the place once again until it was passed on to the Constabulary. Later on, it was given to the National Police. In 1997, it was renovated and became a leisure park.
The once stronghold became a prison and a place of suffering and pain. 150 American POWs were imprisoned and was eventually burned in an underground tunnel under this park. Behind these steel bars is the narrow opening of the underground tunnel where the American soldiers were kept, starved and burned alive. Many Americans died but eleven (11) of them survived. Some people say that they escaped through the other ends of the tunnel.
In the middle of the park is a bronze marker engraved with the names of eleven prisoners of war (POW) who managed to survive the horrible massacre that happened in this place. The bronze marker is placed above the area where main underground bunkers existed. These bunkers became the cage for the unfortunate prisoners. The words engraved on the bronze marker are:
“Sa pook na ito na dating tanggulang militar noong Ikalawang Digmaang Pandaigdig naganap ang pagsunog ng mga sundalong hapon sa humigit kumulang 150 Amerikanong bihag ng digma noong 14 Disyembre 1944. Ilang nakaligtas ay lumangoy sa dagat patungong Iwahig. Ang mga labi ng nasawi ay dinala at inilibing sa St. Louis County sa isang panlahatang libingan sa Jefferson Barracks National Cemetery, Missouri, United States, 1952.”
The English translation of these words is:
“In this place which was a military fort of World War II, the burning of more or less 150 American POW was done by Japanese soldiers on December 14, 1944. Some managed to survive by swimming their way out from the sea to Iwahig. The remains of those who died were brought and buried in Jefferson Barracks National Cemetery, Missouri, United States, 1952.”
This tragic event happened when the World War II was about to end. The Plaza Cuartel was a garrison of Spaniards, overtook by Americans and then by Japanese. When the Japanese soldiers realized that they were losing the war, put all its prisoners in the dungeon, poured out drums of petroleum over them and lit them up alive. The eleven survivors who escaped narrated the story.
It is near the wharf of Puerto Princesa so one can get a good view of the blue ocean. It has well-manicured lawn and garden which is ideal for strolling and enjoying the scenery of the plaza free of cost. The park is open daily from 8:00 AM – 6:00 PM.