TACLOBAN CITY – Leyte province will mark the 76th anniversary of the historic Leyte Gulf Landing with a simple celebration on Tuesday (Oct. 20) as mass gatherings are restricted due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Governor Leopoldo Dominico Petilla said traditional activities at the MacArthur Landing Memorial Park in Palo town would be held with a limited audience but would be live-streamed on Facebook, in strict compliance to health protocols.
“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,” he said in a virtual press conference on Friday.
The traditional flag-raising ceremony, wreath-laying ceremony rites, and 21-gun salute 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 vulnerable especially this time of pandemic,” Petilla said.
The 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 are also planning 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 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.
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 Scouts Valeriano Abello, Antero Junia Sr., and Vicente Tiston.
Abello, Junia, and Tiston were the young scouts who warned the incoming Allied Forces on Oct.18, 1944, using the semaphore signal to spare the shorelines from bombing because of the thousands of residents in the area.
Meanwhile, Dulag town 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.
However, the local government has prepared a video presentation which would also 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 words, “I shall return,” after going to Australia to muster support from the Allied Forces in the quest to liberate the Philippines from Japanese occupation. (PNA)