Fr. Miguel Selga S.J.’s lamentation on the burning of Manila Observatory by the Japanese in 1945

In 1942, with the occupation of Manila by the Japanese army, all work in the observatory ceased and the following year the building was used as a military hospital. All American Jesuits were taken to concentration camps, and only Selga who was still the Director, remained free, Spain being a neutral country. In 1945 when the American troops were close to Manila, the observatory was destroyed by the Japanese. On the 9th of February four Japanese soldiers poured gasoline on the floor of the different rooms and on the astronomical dome and set fire to them. The dome, all the instruments, and the large library, with more than 20 000 volumes, were lost in the fire. Five days later incendiary bombs destroyed part of the building of the Ateneo where the offices of the meteorological service were located. Selga, his eyes filled with tears, contemplating the ruins of what had been a magnificent observatory and paraphrasing the Spanish poet Rodrigo Caro, wrote: “These, my soul, which you see now as fields of solitude, mounds of rubbish, were, once upon a time, a famous observatory.” (Estos, alma, Ay dolor! que3 ves ahora, campos de soledad, monton de escombros, fueron un tiempo cupula famosa).

Source: Agustin Udias, Searching the Heavens and the Earth: the History of Jesuit Observatories (Kluwer Academic, Dordrecht, 2003), pp. 155-156.

About Quirino M. Sugon Jr
Theoretical Physicist in Manila Observatory

One Response to Fr. Miguel Selga S.J.’s lamentation on the burning of Manila Observatory by the Japanese in 1945

  1. Ma.Teresita Baluis says:

    In the book of Agustin Udias, Searching the Heavens and the Earth: the History of Jesuit, please find out if Fr. Agustin Consunji, S.J. was ever mentioned in the said book. And if ever, what page. Thank you.
    Fr. Consunji entered the Society of Jesus in July 1911. When the war broke up in 1941, he found ways to work with the guerillas in Iligan. He was thereafter assigned as missionary to various places in Mindanao. Fr. Agustin was eventually taken into custody by the Japanese authorities. He was imprisoned at Fort Bonifacio. He was sentenced to death. And on 12 October 1943, he was shot, along with other prisoners, by firing squad.

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