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Talk - A Manila Diary: Life and Death in Occupied Manila, 1941 - 1945, Mrs Cornelia (Nelly) Lichauco Fung

  • The Helena May, Garden Room, 35 Garden Road, Central, Hong Kong (map)

"Monday, 9th November, 1942

When the voice of Juan de la Cruz suddenly went of air a few weeks ago, we did not know whether those who were conducting the broadcast had been arrested or decided the chase was getting too hot. Today’s newspaper however announces that the operators of this station, twenty men have been captured, court- martialled and executed”

Marcial Primitivo Lichauco was the son of a leading Filipino independence leader. He was born in 1902 in the Binondo District of Manila and during the Philippine Commonwealth period went to the United States where he studied law at Harvard. In 1926 he gained the distinction of being the first Filipino to graduate from Harvard University. Returning to the Philippines Lichauco was employed as the secretary to two important missions who travelled to Washington DC to lobby the Congress for Philippine independence.

On the 8th December, 1942 Lichauco’s life and career were to be abruptly changed following the Japanese attack on the US Pacific Fleet at Pearl Harbour in Hawaii. Simultaneously the Japanese Imperial Army launched co-ordinated invasions of Malaya and Hong Kong while in the Philippines the Japanese 14th Army landed in Northern Luzon. In four months the main island of Luzon was overrun forcing the remnants of the US and Philippine Forces to make a final stand in the Bataan peninsula. Bataan fell on the 9th April and one month later the island fortress of Corregidor, guarding the entrance to Manila Bay surrendered. For tens of thousands of prisoners-of- war and Filipino civilians Japanese victory meant enduring more than three years of suffering under a brutal occupation. Varying estimates give the number of deaths between 500,000 and 1,000,000 and the city of Manila was utterly devastated.

Throughout this period Marcial Lichauco kept a diary recording his experiences and those of his family and friends at the hands of the Japanese invaders, including some who had been imprisoned or had survived the notorious ‘Bataan Death March’. Lichauco’s wartime diary has now been edited by his daughter Mrs Cornelia (Nelly) Lichauco Fung who has kindly agreed to speak to the Society about her father’s experiences during the Japanese occupation. 

The Speaker

Cornelia (Nelly) Lichauco Fung was born in the Philippines and was educated at Maryknoll before proceeding to the Convent of the Sacred Heart, Kent, England for pre-university studies. She graduated with a degree in History from Wellesley College, Massachusetts, USA and pursued post-graduate studies in the School of Education at London University. She lives in Hong Kong with her husband Kenneth Fung and has been active in community work with the HK Arts Festival, the HK Philharmonic Orchestra and the Society for Hospice Care. She was a Founder and Board Member of the Chinese International School and the ISF Academy. She is also the author of Beneath the Banyan Tree describing her family chronicles.

Speaker: Mrs Cornelia (Nelly) Lichauco Fung
Date: Friday, 11th March 2016
Time: 6:30pm Reception opens, 7.00 pm Lecture starts
Venue: Garden Room, The Helena May, 35 Garden Road, Central, Hong Kong
Admission: RAS Members $100; Non-Members / Guests $150

Please email in advance to to reserve your place, and pay at the door