By Gerico Sabalza
TACLOBAN CITY – Leyte province will mark the 76th anniversary of the historic Leyte Gulf Landing by Gen Douglas MacArthur and his Allied forces with simple rites on Tuesday (Oct. 20) since mass gatherings remain restricted due to the Cpvid-19 pandemic.
Leyte Gov. Leopoldo Dominico Petilla said traditional activities at the MacArthur Landing Memorial Park in Palo town would be held with a limited audience in strict compliance with health protocols, but would be live-streamed on Facebook,
“This year’s celebration will not be as grand as it was in previous years where different socio-cultural activities are lined up days before the anniversary. But we should never forget this historic event, 76 years ago, to honor the valor of our heroes,” Petilla said in a virtual press conference on Friday.
The traditional flag-raising, wreath-laying, and 21-gun salute rites will be followed by the presentation of commemorative video messages of ambassadors of the United States, New Zealand, Australia, and Japan.
“No foreign and national officials will be physically present, including the World War II (WWII) veterans, who are particularly vulnerable to the pandemic,” he said.
Eastern Visayas region has 92 living WWII veterans, 50 in Leyte, 21 in Samar, 13 in Biliran, and eight in Southern Leyte, according to the Philippine Veterans Affairs Office. Petilla said they plan to lock down the memorial park during the anniversary to avoid large gatherings.
“What is important now is we honor and also pray for the heroes who fought for our freedom. Because of them, we learned how to fight and be brave, as we now face a battle against the coronavirus,” he added.
Aside from the provincial government, the town of Tolosa has also prepared a simple ceremony to commemorate the Signal Day on October 18. Tolosa Mayor Maria Ofelia Alcantara said the activity will start with a thanksgiving mass and will be followed by a flag-raising ceremony and a short program with messages to be delivered by the relatives of veteran Scouts Valeriano Abello, Antero Junia Sr., and Vicente Tiston.
Abello, Junia, and Tiston were the young scouts who warned the incoming Allied Forces on October18, 1944, using the semaphore signal to spare the shorelines from bombing because of the thousands of residents in the area.
Dulag town has also announced that all live activities for the Hill 120 Commemorative Event on October 19 to honor the first hoisting of the American flag on Philippine soil after it was lowered in Bataan in 1942, is canceled.
The local government, however, also has prepared a video presentation that will be live-streamed on Facebook.
On Oct. 20, 1944, Gen. Douglas MacArthur, together with President Sergio Osmeña and Gen. Carlos P. Romulo, again set foot on Philippine soil after leaving Corregidor in 1942.
Their arrival started a battle that spanned 100,000 square miles of sea and was fought for three days, from October 23 to 25, during the invasion of Leyte by the Allied Forces.
The battle signaled the fulfillment of MacArthur’s famous “I shall return” vow after departing for Australia to muster support from the Allied Forces in the quest to liberate the Philippines from Japanese occupation. (PNA)